By: Tayler Glenn
Not seeing results from our workouts is one of the most frustrating obstacles to tackle. Especially when you’re spending hours in the gym each week on treadmills, bikes, stair climbers, and ellipticals, you should be seeing results – right? We’ve got news: if you want to start seeing lasting changes in your physique, its’ time to get out of your cardio rut & pick up some weights.
Why Cardio Alone Doesn’t Cut It
Don’t get me wrong – you shouldn’t cut cardio out entirely! It has some incredible benefits for your cardiovascular health, respiratory endurance, and does really help with weight loss. But, if that’s all you’re doing, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.
Your body gets used to the cardio you’re doing. For example, do you remember how hard running a mile was when you first started and how, over time, it started to get easier? Your fitness improved & your body became stronger, but it also got used to the motions which streamlined the process & allowed your body to use less energy to complete the same task!
You’ll slow the process of building lean muscle & can even decrease your lean muscle mass. Muscle is expensive. They’re metabolically active which means that they require calories to simply maintain their size and shape, not to mention to grow! Chronic cardio can cause your body to take what it needs from muscle, decreasing your muscle mass over time. Since we know that muscle dictates metabolism, muscle is not something we want to lose!
It can cause you to gain fat. It sounds counterintuitive, but hear us out. As great as cardio is for your heart & lungs, it’s still a significant source of stress on your body & stress means cortisol. When that stress is constant, it can cause a few reactions in your body over time like increased belly fat, more inflammation, slower recovery, and even suppress your immune system.
Get Out of Your Cardio Rut & Pick Up the Weights
Now, we’re clear on what cardio does & doesn’t do, so what about strength training? Aside from the obvious benefits of increasing strength, it has a pretty large effect on your physique as well!
You’ll see changes in your shape. Cardio is great for slimming down, but you can’t “spot reduce” to reduce the fat in certain areas. You can, however, train specific muscles! By training specific areas, you’ll see an increase in muscle mass which changes the actual shape of your body. Let us be clear – lifting does not automatically mean you’ll end up bulky! You will, however, start seeing definition, tone, & curves in the areas you train.
You’ll increase your metabolism. Pound for pound, muscle burns more calories than fat while your body is at rest. The more you have, the more calories your body is burning on a daily basis just to function!
You’ll increase the health of your bones & connective tissue. Lifting puts pressure on your bones & connective tissue, causing them to build in strength/density over time. This not only helps to increase strength, but also helps to reduce your chance of injury both in and outside the gym!
How Much to Lift to See Results
If you’re just beginning,
- Choose a weight you can only lift 16 times. It’s also okay to start with bodyweight! Form is incredibly important to ensure you don’t end up injured and that you’re working the muscle or muscle groups you’re intending to work. So, make sure you’re choosing weights that push you but allow you to complete the full set without compromising form.
- Focus on gradual progresion. Start with one set, then slowly work your way up to 2-3 sets by adding a set each week. Once you can do 2-3 sets, add a little more weight and see if you can do 10-12. Rinse & repeat!
- Get a trainer. If you have the means, hire a trainer to work with you! Many gyms offer reduced or free training sessions for first-time members.
For intermediate lifters
- Focus on progressive overload. Machines & free weights are a great place to go if you’re not quite ready to work with barbells, but keep track of how much you’re lifting for each exercise. Once that weight has been hit a few times, increase the weight.
- Vary the length of your sets. For sets of 12-20, choose lighter weights and focus on form. For short sets of 8-10, push yourself so that you’re ready for the set to be over by the last 2-3 reps.
- Add compound exercises. Squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and burpees are all great because they work more than one muscle group at a time. THey’re also great for balance, coordination, and functional strength!
Fitness & weight loss are definitely not paths without plateaus. It’s only normal that your progress slows over time, but slow progress is different than no progress. If you’re hitting a wall on the treadmill, adding strength training is a great way to break out of your cardio rut & start seeing the results you’ve worked so hard for!