FAQ: strength training

October 5, 2015

Strength training isn't just for men. In fact, it could be your best strategy for losing weight. As these tips will show, strength training bonuses involve lifting weights (or doing resistance exercises), staving off bone loss and improving balance.

FAQ: strength training

1. Does strength training burn more fat than aerobics?

Strength training is better for weight loss than walking or running. And you'll see the results in the mirror before they show up on the scale. Strength training boosts metabolism by increasing muscle mass, which leads to weight loss. A cardio workout will burn calories, for sure, but the body's metabolism quickly returns to pre-exercise levels, usually within about 40 minutes. Not so with strength training, also called resistance training.

Strength training leads to increased calorie burn for up to two hours after the workout ends. It also builds muscles you won't get otherwise, and maintaining muscle mass is key to keeping your metabolism from dipping while you diet. Working with weights also helps people jiggle less and fit back into clothes that were uncomfortably tight, since muscle takes up less room than fat. Research shows that strength training leads to less blood sugar being stored as fat, making people who strength train less likely to develop the belly fat that leads to diabetes and heart disease.

2. Does lifting heavier weights build more muscle?

If you're looking to burn calories, you have a choice: you can lift heavy weights and be done with your workout quickly or lift lighter weights for a longer period of time. Either will burn the same number of calories. If big muscles are your priority, go with the heavier weights if you can safely handle them.

Compare the physique of a marathoner with that of a sprinter. The sprinter with huge, powerful legs probably does leg presses with heavy weights. The marathoner, more concerned with endurance and overall toning, probably doesn't — and has the lean look you'd expect.

3. Do free weights provide a better workout than machines?

Yes. Unlike weight machines, free weights require you to stabilize your core muscles, such as your abdominals, before you can perform exercises. Not only do you have to work harder (which burns more calories), you also strengthen muscles beyond those you're specifically targeting.

On the other hand, if you're new to weight training, or if you're trying to strengthen a specific muscle or rehabilitate an injury, machines are a better bet. They require less coordination and allow you to increase weight gradually in small increments.

4. Will spot training shrink problem areas?

No matter how many crunches, leg lifts or torso twists you perform, shrinking trouble zones won't happen with spot training alone.The problem is simple: fat. Though situps, leg lifts and the like will certainly tone the muscles under your problem spots, it won't get rid of the fat that hides those muscles. If you have a layer of fat surrounding rock-hard abs, all you'll see is flab, not the six-pack. To lose fat, you need to cut calories and gain muscle mass all over your body to increase your metabolism.

According to the American Council on Exercise, the best way to reshape a problem area is to incorporate strength and toning exercises with aerobic exercise to burn calories.   According to guidelines set forth by major health organizations, people should do strength exercises at least twice a week. Short on time? Work the big muscles first — your thighs, calves, butt and biceps — to get the greatest metabolic boost, since larger muscles consume more oxygen and burn more calories.

Follow these guidelines to start strength training and reap the benefits of the results.

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