One of my goals as a personal trainer, is to empower people with the knowledge to be able to make their own decisions regarding nutrition and exercise.
Most information out there is aimed at ‘done for you’ meal plans, diets, or training programs, which I do think are great in their own way, they definitely have their place and they do help.
But it can also lead to confusion about the ‘right’ or ‘best’ way to do things.
The fitness industry is a funny one, its definitely in a league of its own when it comes to so many different types of fitness experts with different viewpoints, and even contradicting opinions.
I’m sure every single one of you has heard about 5 different methods of exercise or training which is supposed to be ‘the best’ for weight loss, or ‘toning up’.
Here are a few that come to mind:
– Aerobics (ok maybe not so much these days)
– Pump Class, Body Attack etc
– Spin Class / Bike riding
– Vibration machines
– The latest infomercial gadget
– Boxing, Boxercise
– Interval training
– Weight training
Ok so which one is the best from of exercise? How can it be that we all know people who have gotten results doing all of these things and swear that the training method they used is the most effective for losing weight?
Well to really get an understanding of the situation and be able to make logical, rational decisions and not just blindly jump on the bandwagon of a fad or a late night infomercial, it’s important to understand the concept of:
Principles Vs Methods
There is a little saying I read somewhere a while ago and it has stuck with me over the years… it goes like this:
Methods are many
Principles are few
Methods always change
Principles never do
You might be wondering what the hell I am going on about at this point, hang in there and hopefully this will make sense.
What i’m getting at is this, the PRINCIPLES for how people achieve fat loss, or fitness gains, strength gains, muscle gains etc are always going the same.
But lets just keep things on fat loss for now…
For fat loss the principle that ALWAYS needs to be followed in regards to exercise is this:
To contribute to creating an energy/calorie deficit, by burning energy/calories through movement and activity (exercise)
The METHOD of burning calories/energy can change, but you are always following the same PRINCIPLE for getting the result of weight loss.
So in regards to the list of exercises above, they are all quite different and this often confuses people as to the BEST way to train.
But instead of looking at how they are all different…lets look at the one thing they all have in common…
They ALL require your body to burn extra energy / calories in order to perform the necessary movements involved in the exercise or sport.
So yes they can ALL be effective at helping you to lose body fat as they will ALL require you to burn extra calories
So now that we know the PRINCIPLE we need to follow in order to help us lose body fat (burning energy/calories),it now becomes a matter of deciding which is the BEST method to use to achieve this outcome.
It is at this point where other variables come into play to give us added benefits or drawbacks, things like:
– Whether you maintain, increase, or lose muscle tissue whilst losing weight (ideally we want to lose 100% body fat, and maintain or increase lean muscle tissue)
– Efficient use of time and ‘bang for your buck’ (if a method takes 3 times as long to accomplish the same outcome as another, that’s a big drawback IMO)
– Health benefits (ideally we want to optimize things like joint health, hormonal response to exercise, unnecessary stress etc, so we can live longer)
– Postural, functional and performance based benefits (if you can lose weight whilst improving posture, function & quality of movement, that’s a big benefit. If you lose weight at the EXPENSE of posture, function and quality of movement that’s a drawback.
So im sure you know that I am going to say weight training and interval training is THE BEST method. I have no ulterior motive for this, I don’t own shares in a dumbbell company or anything… and if spinning around in circles whilst patting yourself on the head gave you the best results for losing body fat and adding lean muscle then that’s what we would do with you in the gym (new class starting soon!).
The fact is, all of the above forms of exercise lose out to a good strength training program when scrutinized with the above criteria, I would go through and list every single one with all the reasons but this blog would go on forever. (excluding Crossfit which is great in it’s own right, but just not good for most everyday people, and Kettlebells I would place in the strength training category – just another way to hold a weight)
I do however acknowledge that there’s plenty of ways to weight train and do it ineffectively, dangerously, and WITHOUT meeting the above criteria due to poor technique, effort, or programming.
But assuming you’re not doing that, there’s tons of research and studies and real world evidence that show how effective strength training and interval training is for fat loss, toning up and changing your body composition for the long term.
This METHOD simply allows us to optimize the PRINCIPLES we need to follow to get the best results. (diet principles to come in part 2, the other half of the equation…)
When we break down the pro’s and cons of different methods, strength training, combined with interval training trumps everything else.
Here are my reasons why:
a) It burns more calories than basically anything else during and more importantly after exercising due to amount of muscle tissue being stimulated and the ongoing metabolic effect. (this is the main PRINCIPLE covered, now onto the bonuses…)
b) You stimulate muscle tissue over your entire body. This ensures you’ll keep your muscle when you lose weight (instead of losing fat AND muscle). You’ll look more toned and actually change the shape of your body (rather than just dropping weight and becoming a smaller version of yourself with the same body shape).
Most other forms of exercise won’t stimulate enough muscle to preserve it over your whole body, they generally are limited to training 1 or 2 of the major muscle groups – think bike riding (legs) or boxing (arms, shoulders, core).
c) There is plenty of room for progression and regression with weight training, there’s always a way to make things harder and more challenging as you get stronger and more capable or there are ways to make things easier if needed due to injury, less training experience, mobility or postural issues etc
d) After training consistently for a while, you get the long term benefit of increased metabolic rate as you’ll have more lean muscle tissue on your body. The longer you stay at it, the more you get out of it.
e) Unlke other forms of exercise where you actually get LESS benefit out of it over time. For example as you become fitter & more efficient at running 5km, over time you receive less of a training stimulus and burn less calories with the same investment in time. Sure you can keep running longer and longer, I personally don’t have an infinite amount of free time.
With strength training, you can always make things harder and you actually increase your ability to burn calories as you get stronger. For example, elite athletes can burn an incredible amount of calories in an hour of hard training compared to ‘normal’ people.
f) Its very flexible and adaptable, you can vary/adjust your programming to focus on specific goals like: rehabbing an injury, correcting posture/muscle imbalances, training for a particular sport, targeting specific muscles to train for aesthetics purposes etc
g) It allows you to maintain all your primal movement patterns that we, as humans were born with. A fit healthy human body should be able to squat, lunge, push things, pull things, pick heavy things up and move and maneuver your body with a certain level of competence, for a good quality of life.
Most other exercise or sports are limited to 1 or 2 specific movements done repeatedly, in fact this is how muscle imbalances can develop or be exasperated.
h) There are so many different ways to get your strength training & interval training in, (dumbells, barbells, kettlebells, body weight, cables, bands, sprinting, bike riding, boxing, rowing etc) why limit to one method when you can have the flexibility to change it up?
In fact you’re better off varying your training so your body won’t ever get used to what you’re doing. (You’ll notice that we always change up our sessions at The Fit Stop, this being one of the reasons)
i) So many other health and practical benefits – basically everything in this old blog post – ‘Top 10 Benefits of Weight Training’
So whilst there can be many METHODS that work, they all rely on the same PRINCIPLE. Now you know how best to achieve this principle, so you don’t have to waste your time checking out your local aerobics or Zumba class.
In fact you will get the exact same training stimulus as a Zumba class if you purchased a Wiggles DVD and followed along, PLUS you’ll learn how to make a good fruit salad…. Yum.
Speaking of fruit salad, stay tuned for part 2 where I will break down nutrition principles and the endless amounts of ‘diets’ that are available to you.
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