Whether just starting your weight lifting journey, or a seasoned lifter, these tips will jump start your gains.
How to Build Muscle and Burn Fat Fast
Does it drive you crazy when you walk into the gym and see people casually exercising? Using the aerobic flavor of the month, like a treadmill? Well, if you’re anything like me, you’ve noticed that many of these people aren’t getting much leaner. I mean, how much of a benefit does all this slugging around actually generate?
Oh sure, these people appear to be happy as they lazily pedal along waiting for the timer to expire—maybe 40, 50 or even 60 minutes later. But in your gut, you know instinctively that this may not be the best routine to burn fat fast. If this sounds like you, then your instincts are dead on. Do you want to know why? Of course you do—let me explain.
Setting the Ground Work
You’ve probably noticed the vast difference in the physiques of marathon runners and sprinters. Marathon runners carry just enough muscle and a surplus of fuel (some body fat) going the distance without feeling weighed down. Sprinters pack the maximum amount of horsepower (muscle) with even less body fat to go short distances very fast. Now, then, ask yourself this: Who do you want to look like? Maximum muscle with minimum fat stores, you say?
Well, the type of training you do can have a huge impact on becoming just that. What is the common thread between these stallions of sport? In a nutshell, all of these athletes train intensely! I’m not talking about a walk around the block or playing croquet. I’m talking all-out intensity that only few can truly handle. So, if you’re looking for a way to achieve that ideal physique by the time summer rolls around, the next few paragraphs will introduce you to what I consider one of the greatest, yet most challenging, cardio workouts you’ll ever put yourself through.
The Science of Cardiovascular Exercise
Before we dive in, let me first explain the major differences between the various forms of cardiovascular exercise. Lower to moderate aerobic training represents most day-to-day training. Typically defined by exercise up to about 75 percent of your maximum oxygen capacity, also known as your VO2 max. Beyond that, high-intensity aerobics takes you upward of 85 percent to 90 percent and even possibly closer to your maximum oxygen capacity. Within these so-called aerobic training zones, you can achieve varying degrees of fat burning and cardiovascular adaptations.
So what’s left? Well, it’s been termed “Supramax” training. And it goes above and beyond the “comfort zone” we so often fall into. We’re taking it to the max and beyond. Now this doesn’t mean your heart will be racing at 300 beats per minute or you’ll have to go all-out into a sprint for 10 minutes and pass out. What it does mean, though, is that you will be pushing your body beyond its normal capabilities—well beyond. With all of that said, let me briefly discuss some of the background and physiological implications.
Recommendations from exercise organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
Basing their fat-burning, low-intensity exercise recommendations on research which shows more fat is burned during long-duration, low-intensity exercise.
However, when looking at how many calories are burned during a given activity, you must consider that calorie expenditure comes not only from the activity itself. Also from post-exercise metabolism—what I call the “forgotten factor.” A fancy term called net total oxygen consumption (NTOC) is the measurement used to find the total energy cost of exercise. Includes calories burned during exercise plus calories burned after exercise and beyond your normal resting metabolism, usually measured by excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).
Simply put, a significant difference in either the duration or intensity of exercise may affect how many calories you burn after a workout, which is of key interest to any of us looking to get lean. In fact, studies have shown this calorie- and fat-burning duration has been measured as short as 3 minutes, and as long as 48 hours after exercising, depending on various variables. Of these variables, workout intensity may be the key factor regulating both the amount and duration of your post-exercise calorie burning. Adding muscle building supplements help with building lean muscle and burning fat.
Weight training: Do’s and don’ts of proper technique
Check your technique
You might learn weight training techniques by watching friends or others in the gym, but sometimes what you see isn’t safe. Incorrect weight training technique can lead to sprains, strains, fractures and other painful injuries that may hamper your weight training efforts.
If you’re just getting started, work with a knowledgeable weight training specialist — a physical therapist, athletic trainer or other fitness specialist who’s familiar with proper weight training technique. If you’ve been using weights for a while, consider scheduling time with a trainer to double-check your technique and identify any changes you may need to make.
Weight training do’s
When you’re weight training, do:
- Lift an appropriate amount of weight. Start with a weight you can lift comfortably 12 to 15 times.
- For most people, a single set of 12 to 15 repetitions with a weight that fatigues the muscles can build strength efficiently and can be as effective as three sets of the same exercise. As you get stronger, gradually increase the amount of weight.
- Use proper form. Learn to do each exercise correctly. When lifting weights, move through the full range of motion in your joints. The better your form, the better your results, and the less likely you are to hurt yourself. If you’re unable to maintain good form, decrease the weight or the number of repetitions. Remember that proper form matters even when you pick up and replace your weights on the weight racks.
- If you’re not sure whether you’re doing a particular exercise correctly, ask a personal trainer or other fitness specialist for help.
- Breathe. You might be tempted to hold your breath while you’re lifting weights. Don’t hold your breath. Instead, breathe out as you lift the weight and breathe in as you lower the weight.
- Seek balance. Work all of your major muscles — including the abdomen, hips, legs, chest, back, shoulders and arms. Strengthen the opposing muscles in a balanced way, such as the fronts and backs of the arms.
- Add strength training in your fitness routine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends incorporating strength training exercises of all the major muscle groups into a fitness routine at least two times a week.
- Rest. Avoid exercising the same muscles two days in a row. You might work all of your major muscle groups at a single session two or three times a week, or plan daily sessions for specific muscle groups. For example, work your arms and shoulders on Monday, your legs on Tuesday, and so on.
Weight training don’ts
Follow these tips to avoid common mistakes when you’re weight training:
- Don’t skip the warmup. Cold muscles are more prone to injury than are warm muscles. Before you lift weights, warm up with five to 10 minutes of brisk walking or other aerobic activity.
- Don’t rush. Move the weight in an unhurried, controlled fashion. Taking it slow helps you isolate the muscles you want to work and keeps you from relying on momentum to lift the weight. Rest for about one minute between each exercise.
- Don’t overdo. For most people, completing one set of exercises to the point of fatigue is usually enough. Additional sets may take up extra time and contribute to overload injury. However, the number of sets that you perform may differ depending on your fitness goals.
- Don’t ignore pain. If an exercise causes pain, stop. Try the exercise again in a few days or try it with less weight.
- Don’t forget your shoes. Shoes that protect your feet and provide good traction can keep you from slipping or injuring your feet while you’re lifting weights.
- Remember, the more you concentrate on proper weight training technique, the more you’ll get out of your weight training program
Go Intense or Go Home!
In previous studies, most people who experienced this increased rate of calorie burning after working out usually had done some sort of high-intensity exercise. But there seems to be an intensity threshold before this highly sought exercise after-effect occurs. If you only exercise at 30 percent of your VO2 max, even for hours, you’re out of luck. Usually you’ll need to reach at least 50 percent of your VO2 max for a long time just to achieve minimal effects
In other words, as your workout becomes more and more intense, you’ll start burning more calories once you stop. For example (as we often forget), it has been shown that high-intensity weight training increases the post-exercise calorie burning much more than just riding a regular old exercise bike at a low intensity. So what physical factors are responsible for these post-exercise benefits?
Once you finish a high-intensity workout, you might be resting, but your body is going through a lot. Your temperature is raised. Breathing’s a bit heavier. Blood is pumping through your veins at a faster rate. Your body’s trying to find glycogen to replenish your fuel stores. The list goes on and on.
The bottom line is that a combination of these mechanisms is activated to a higher degree in high-intensity exercise compared to low. The end result is more calories burned and less body fat covering your hard-earned muscles. In addition to intensity, how long you work out makes a difference. Some studies show you need to work out for at least an hour at a moderate intensity to reap the benefits.
Fortunately, the more intensely you work out, the less time you have to do it for. And, studies show your post-exercise benefits skyrocket when you do sets of sprints or similar high-intensity exercise. What’s even better is that these post-exercise calories you’re burning are coming straight from your fat stores. In other words, go intense, or go home.