You can skip traditional cardio altogether and still burn calories and fat with this smart strength training routine.
Amy Roberts, CPT 1 / 5
The Anti-Cardio Weight Loss Workout
Conventional wisdom says you have to run, cycle, elliptic-le, or do some other highly aerobic activity if your aim is to burn calories and lose weight. So here’s some great news for anyone who dreads those long slogs: Conventional wisdom isn’t always so wise. While cardio sessions do burn calories (and of course have great benefits for your heart and lungs), they don’t do much to boost your metabolism over the long haul—you basically burn only the finite number of calories during your time on the road or machine. With a smartly designed weight-training circuit, however, you’ll set yourself up for some massive fat-melting “afterburn,” while elevating your heart rate, building muscle, and (most definitely) breaking a sweat.
“When you want to get lean, the goal isn’t simply to lose weight; it’s to lose body fat and not muscle,” says Mike Matthews, CPT, author of Bigger, Leaner, Stronger. His 45-minute ultimate fat-torching workout is like two sessions in one: a heavy weight set combined with a higher rep/shorter rest set.
“The heavy compound lifting burns quite a bit of calories both during and after the workout, and spikes your heart rate,” he says, “It's like a weightlifting version of HIIT—people that haven't tried it before are usually surprised at how freaking hard it is to do heavy squatting and deadlifting back to back.” It’s topped off with a lighter, faster set that burns more calories and creates even more metabolic stress. For this workout, you’ll need to know your one-rep max (1RM) for the deadlift, barbell overhead press, and squat.
Form is key here. Keep your knees soft and stick your butt way back; your torso should be hinged down, back flat without arching or bowing—keep your chest up, as if there was something written on your shirt that you want the guy across from you to read. Engage the glutes and send the hips forward to stand, keep the weight close in to your legs—use your exhalation to help. Take care to reverse the action to lower the weight without losing your good back form.
Do two warm-up sets at 40 to 50 percent of your 1RM for 8 to 10 reps; take a minute between sets.
Then do two sets with 85 percent of 1RM for 4 to 6 reps. Give yourself 3 minutes of rest between sets.
Rack the barbell up on a squat rack so it’s about collarbone height. Grasp it with hands just a bit wider than shoulder width apart. Back off the rack. Inhale, then exhale as you shoot the weight straight up overhead, pulling your head back slightly so you don’t catch your nose on the way up. Lower it slowly back to start.
Do two warm-up sets (40 to 50 percent of 1RM for 8 to 10 reps), with one minute of rest between sets.
Then do two sets with 85 percent of 1RM for 4 to 6 reps, with 3 minutes of rest in between sets.
Load the squat rack at shoulder height. Step under the bar and lift it off the rack so it rests on your shoulders/upper back. Inhale as you squat back and down, keeping your chest up and your weight in your heels. Exhale as you push into your feet to stand.
Do two warm-up sets—you guessed it—at 40 to 50 percent of your 1RM for 8 to 10 reps, with a minute between sets.
Then two sets with 85 percent of 1RM (4 to 6 reps), and 3 minutes of rest in between sets.
Set yourself up between parallel bars, supporting your weights with straight arms by your sides. Inhale and bend your elbows back to lower down, then exhale and press back up. Do two sets to failure with 1 minute of rest in between sets.
Hop up to a bar, hands wider than your shoulders with an overhand grip. Do two sets of pullups to failure with 1 minute of rest in between sets. Can’t do a minimum of eight bodyweight pullups nonstop? Use the assisted pullup machine or loop up a superband to take a little of the load off.