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How to Combine Cardio and Weightlifting for Ultimate Weight Loss

Lifestyle & Wellness

Let's discuss how to combine cardio and weightlifting in order to maximize your weight loss results.

To do that, we're going to break down cardio, which is mostly treadmills and ellipticals, and we're going to break down weightlifting, which is going to be more of your resistance training, and how they affect your body and the most efficient way for you to be able to combine the two in order to get the best results. Watch this video from Short Pump health coach Brandon Rice and read on for more information. 

Cardio and Weight Loss

When we're talking about cardio, we're talking about long duration, moderate to high energy level expenditure. That's getting on a treadmill, getting on an elliptical, taking a spin class, making sure that we're focused on long duration, very limited amount of rest in between, and ways that you can keep that elevated heart rate for an extended period of time.

When it comes to weight loss, I don't think there's any secret, and we're going to quote this, that "continuous movement at a reasonably demanding intensity and volume will outperform intermittent exercise."

And so what I mean by that is long duration. Anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour of energy expenditure is going to outperform being able to squat for 10 or 12 reps with a minute or so in between rest.

It's important to understand that as you keep that elevated heart rate for an extended period of time, it is going to help increase energy expenditure and focus on caloric expenditure as well.

Cardio, like treadmills and ellipticals, are great for energy expenditure during exercise. So while you are actually exercising, being on the treadmill or the elliptical is going to help burn those calories. Make sure that you're focusing on a reasonable balance between calories in and calories out. Cardio is going to be an efficient way to do that over a long duration of time.

If You're Mostly a Weightlifter

Ways you can include cardio if you're mostly a weightlifter and you've had issues trying to lose weight over time:

  • Increase your amount of cardio while weight lifting to increase the amount of caloric expenditure that you have. Decrease the amount of weight and increase the amount of reps will help you go for a slightly longer duration.
  • Instead of squatting 200 pounds for 10 reps, try squatting 50 pounds for 20 or 25 reps. It's going to help increase your heart rate and keep that increased heart rate for a longer period of time.
  • Decrease the amount of rest in between sets. If you usually do your pushups and you rest for a minute, and then you get back to your push-ups again, try to decrease the amount of rest in between each set. This will help keep that heart rate increased for a longer duration and hopefully increased that caloric expenditure as well.

Weightlifting and Weight Loss

Weight training is going to be all about making sure that you increase your metabolic rate. And what I mean by that is your body's expenditure at rest and how efficiently it's going to be burning those calories.

Gaining muscle, there is no secret, will increase your resting metabolic rate. It is not a huge difference. It might be anywhere between 30 or 40 calories a day, but that difference can make up a big amount of calories over an extended period of time.

Increasing that resting metabolic rate is going to help increase your total caloric expenditure and hopefully be able to lose weight over a long period of time.

Also make sure that you've got a healthy body composition, right? When most individuals are losing weight, we typically see a decrease in body fat mass, but also sometimes a decrease in skeletal muscle mass as well. And if you lose weight at an unhealthy rate, so decreasing your body fat mass, decreasing your skeletal muscle mass, that is not going to be a sustainable solution over a long period of time.

So understanding that keeping that muscle intact is going to be important for this to be a sustainable long-term option if you are trying to lose weight.

And also what we call epoch, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. What that means is after you're done exercising, your body is still going to continue to burn calories, what we call the afterburn effect, and what you want to do through weightlifting is increase your body's ability to be efficient in caloric expenditure, even after exercise.

Cardio is primarily dealing with how to burn calories during exercise and increasing your amount of muscle that you have on your body is going to help increase the amount of caloric expenditure that you have even after you're done exercising.

If You're Doing Mostly Cardio

If you are more of a cardio junkie and you want to start including weightlifting on a more regular basis, make sure, if you can, to take breaks during your cardio. So run or bike or be on the elliptical for about 10 or 15 minutes, and then take a five minute break and do some squats, do some stretching. Break up that monotony of being on the treadmill for 45 minutes at a time by doing some squats or doing some pushups in between each 10 or 15 minute time period.

Also try circuit training. You can make cardio exercise out of resistance training. And so decrease the amount of weight, increase the amount of reps, and make sure that you can do these over a sustainable amount of time.

Making sure that you can utilize smaller weights over a long period of time is going to help increase and maintain that higher heart rate, which ultimately the goal of any resistance or exercise program is the higher the heart rate goes, the better benefits you're going to get over the long run.

And once again, the body composition analysis. That's going to be huge to get a better understanding of how your body is reacting to the certain programming that you have and give you a goal or a light at the end of the tunnel in order for you to maintain that weight loss journey over a long period of time.

Health Coaching at PartnerMD

PartnerMD members have unlimited access to our certified health coaches, like Brandon, as part of their concierge medicine membership.

With offices in Richmond, VA; Midlothian, VA; Short Pump, VA; McLean, VA; Baltimore, MD; Greenville, SC; and Atlanta, GA, you can experience primary care built around you, one focused on wellness and prevention to help you stay as healthy as possible, as long as possible. Learn more about health coaching at PartnerMD here