I’ve been saying for years that cardio is ineffective.
I’ve also said that resistance training like lifting weights IS cardio. And if you can’t understand the preceding sentence, read my in-depth article on it here.
Today I want to share a study on ‘weight training vs cardio’ for changes in waist circumference, but first…
Here is the bottom line, guys (and don’t let anyone ever tell you any different)…
The way to lose body fat and get ripped is with 3 methods and, in order of their importance, they go like this:
(2) Weight Training
CARDIO SUCKS & DIET RULES
Cardio is the least important and least effective strategy for losing body fat.
Most calories you burn in a day come from just keeping you alive. This is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and it makes up most of your energy expenditure i.e. the calories you would burn in a 24hr period if you just lay down and didn’t move all day.
People are usually incredulous when you tell them that the majority of their calorie-burn comes from their BMR as they’ve been feed so much nonsense over the years from the fitness industry as to the best way to lose fat (P90X, Insanity, and so on).
If most of your daily energy expenditure comes from merely existing, and exercise doesn’t burn as many calories as people think, it follows that when seeking to lose fat, most of the caloric deficit you create must come from your diet, not exercise; sorry but you really can’t “cardio away” those calories.
So I’ve covered 2 of the points above, diet and cardio. Why is weight training better than cardio, even for losing fat?
For a start, you’ll build some nice muscle and look good after you drop all that fat (losing a lot of fat when you have no muscle underneath is just not a good look).
But the fact is that weight training is actually going to burn more calories than cardio. Cardio burns energy only when you’re doing it. After the session is over, your metabolic rate slows to normal and that’s it.
Weight training is a different story…
You burn energy while training and your heart rate is elevated (especially after sets of squats to failure). For this reason alone, don’t let anyone tell you that weight training isn’t a form of cardio – it is!
But it gets better: Because you’ve been tearing up muscle fibers, a lot of repair work needs done in the body. This costs energy/calories. 2 sets or so to failure on each body part will take around 36-48hrs to repair. So you have an elevated metabolic rate for about 2 days from weight training. You don’t get that from cardio.
One last point on weight training’s supremacy. A study…
Published in The Obesity Society, this long-term study  sought to find out whether weight training or moderate to vigorous aerobic activity (MVAA) was more favorable for changes in waist circumference.
“A significant inverse dose-response relationship between weight training and waist circumference change. This benefit was significantly stronger for weight training than for MVAA”
This means the more weight training, the better the results in terms of waist circumference.
“Substituting 20 min/day of weight training for any other discretionary activity had the strongest inverse association with waist circumference change”
When you break it all down, it’s your diet that will cut fat. Weight training will help burn extra calories and will also sculpt muscle at the same time.
If you like, some brief cardio can be added. That’s why on my fat-loss program, Total Six Pack Abs, diet and weight training are mandatory, and cardio is optional (I personally don’t do any cardio, and many guys and girls who got ripped with T.S.P.A. did zero cardio).
Why can’t you just do more cardio to help accelerate results anyway?
When you do too much cardio in addition to weight training while on a caloric-deficit diet, you’re almost certainly going to lose muscle. So many people experience this, and there’s just no need. By the time they get to 8% body fat, they look awful.
Also, you need rest between workouts to allow for optimal muscle growth. High intensity cardio interrupts the recovery and growth process and you short-circuit your gains. So a high volume of moderate-high intensity cardio is simply a bad strategy, not to mention unnecessary.
Again, cardio is optional on T.S.P.A., and you’ll do 10-20 minutes at an absolute maximum. You can start to see why guys get such amazing results on that program.
Just to recap. If you are serious about losing body fat and getting ripped, the 3 methods in their order of effectiveness are:
(2) Weight Training
Science has repeatedly proven that the combination of correct diet and weight training is THE SINGLE BEST way to lose fat and improve body composition.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask and I will help you.
If you don’t need to focus on fat loss now and just want muscle gains in the fastest way possible, download THT training below. After inputting your email, you will be taken directly to the download page for instant access to the workout. You don’t need to log into your email to confirm anything.
Train With Intensity!
Reference:  Weight training, aerobic physical activities, and long-term waist circumference change in men.
Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Feb;23(2):461-7. doi: 10.1002/oby.20949. Epub 2014 Dec 19.
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This is truth. I know because it wasn’t until I did TSPA and lost my fat the right way that I didn’t look like I had been in starvation for 3 months! Before when I got lean people would always comment on how thin I was! Mark your advice changed all this. Thank you!
@Chris. My pleasure, buddy. And thanks for the kind words 😀
I love this. I have been doing crossfit for about 10 months now and I have completely changed my mindset on cardio and running. I used to run a lot and I thought that that would help me lose fat– no no no. Once I committed to changing my diet and eating clean I was able to drop weight rather quickly, and in with crossfit and the Olympic weight lifting I shed 30 pounds in 5 months. I mean we still run occasionally, but not as much as I used to. Now, I am able to focus on building muscle and gaining weight which is a huge stepping stone for me mentally! Thanks for sharing!!
Just when someone mentioned crossfit what is ur opinion Mark on crossfit???
I have trouble resisting an invitation to grab a beer. Is cardio suitable for burning these extra calories (on top of the daily lifting workout, and assuming these calories are not accounted for in the diet)?
I’m no expert, but what about us endurance athletes? I understand your program is constructed with the premise of body building, but dosent the overall muscle and physique gain affect endurance? Why can’t you combine all 3 in a structured way to keep physique plus cardio gains? All comes down to diet? I’ve been trying to find the perfect fit with your exercise regimen and long distance training. Diet is a huge factor imo. Thanks Mark!