There is a common misconception that sweating it out with cardio is the best way to burn fat.
The truth is, you need a workout routine that uses resistance training to build muscle to really lose fat. Cardio is great. I’m not knocking it. In fact, I own two great Precor machines, an EFX and a top-of-the-line AMT for cardio training.
When you build muscle, you also burn fat for as long as 38 hours after you finish the workout. Cardio only burns calories as you are doing it. The amount of sweat involved is not a good measure of how much you are burning.
Why is this? Because muscle demands fuel from the body 24/7. It will burn calories and fat to get it, even while you are sleeping. The more lean muscle you build, the higher your metabolism. Muscle is your body’s engine. It needs fuel.
So what is the best workout routine to build muscle? It’s not about constantly increasing the amount of resistance you use.
The Purpose? It’s about focusing on specific muscles and taking them to exhaustion. Muscle builds as a result of purposefully doing microscopic ‘damage’ to the fibers. With good nutrition and proper rest, that micro damage will be repaired as you sleep and result in an ever so slightly stronger muscle, gaining more over time.
We’re not trying out for the Olympic team, we just want to look, feel and be better. So, you want to focus on a Mind/Muscle Connection as you perform each rep.
Try to keep constant tension on the target muscle through the range of motion. Feel it in the target muscle. Do clean reps until you can’t repeat another without cheating.
It’s about a quality feeling, not the numbers. Feel the pump. I recommend staying on each specific exercise until you’ve completed your 3 – 5 sets and then move on. As you become more adept, you can get fancy with variety. Remember, the biggest key is showing up and doing the workout.
Devices? It does not matter how you create the resistance: Bands, Free Weights or Machines. They all work individually and in combination with one another.
How Heavy? You want to choose a resistance level that allows you to do 8 – 12 clean reps for each set with no cheating. 3 – 5 sets per specific exercise. As you progress through your sets, you can reduce the number of reps or the resistance as needed to stay in that 8 – 12 rep range. Focus on how the muscle feels, rather than just numbers.
This method has been proven to work . Dr. Marcas Bamman, Director for Exercise Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was recently quoted in the New York Times saying that men and women in their 60s and 70s who began a weight training program developed muscles that were as large and strong as those of your average 40 year old.
“Our lab and others have shown repeatedly that older muscles will grow and strengthen,” he said.
In their studies, volunteers used weights calibrated so that the lifters could barely complete a set of eight to 12 repetitions before the target muscles grew tired and had to rest. In the weight training wolrd, we call that ‘failure.’
Dr. Bamman says you should push your muscles in this manner until they are exhausted because this is what triggers the biomechanical processes that lead to larger, stronger muscle fibers.
I recommend blocking out each workout day to focus on an area of the body. You need to build a workout schedule that fits your lifestyle. The most important thing, like just about anything else in life, is showing up. And consistency doing the workout, week in and week out.
If you did 4 days per week, an example might look like this:
- Arms, Forearms and Wrists:
- 3 Types of Bicep Curls — 3 – 5 Sets of each.
- 3 Types of Triceps Pushdowns or Extensions — 3 – 5 Sets of each.
- Finish with 3 Sets of Wrist curls, 3 Sets of Gripper exercises (requires some gear: a ball, or a spring gripper)
- Shoulders and Back:
- 3 Types of Shoulder Moves — 3 – 5 Sets of each (Front Raises, Laterals and Side Extensions)
- 3 Types of Back Moves — 3 – 5 Sets of each (Lat Pulldowns, Seated orÂ Standing Rows, Rear Flyes)
- 1 Type of Chest Press — 3 – 5 Sets of each (Bench Press or Chest Press)
- 1 Type of Pec Deck or Cable Crossover style move — 3 – 5 Sets of each (can use Bands or various machines)
- 1 Type of Flye move — 3 – 5 Sets (Bands or dumbbells lying on a bench).
- Lower Body:
- 1 Type of Knee Extension — 3 – 5 Sets (Bands or Machine)
- 1 Type of Hamstring Curl — 3 – 5 Sets (Bands or Machine)
- 1 Type of Glute Kickback — 3 – 5 Sets (Bands or Machine)
- 1 Type of Leg Press or Squat — 3 – 5 Sets (Band or Machine)
Multiple variations are possible, depending on what types of equipment you have access to.
If you’re just starting out and have none, I’d suggest looking into Resistance Bands as a starter, or to agument whatever equipment you may currently have.
If you’re considering joining a gym, here is my review of several and what sets them apart.
And if you’re looking for starter workout program you can do at home with minimal equipment, check out this post on how to build a simple home gym and put it to use.Â It includes some dimple diagrams on how to do the exercises.
In future posts, I’ll go into more detail on how to perform specific exercises and devise your own workout plan.
I’ve been at it for more than 48 years now, and I’m still going strong. I found the method discussed here out of necessity. As I got older, my shoulder joints could no longer take the punishment of using super heavy weights. To my surprise, lighter weights works even better.
I think that will be true regardless of your age, but it’s especially helpful for us older folks who’ve got to be mindful of aging joints.
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