What should I do to lose weight — strength and conditioning, or cardio?
Nik Herold: That’s a very popular question, especially at the start of the year! It all depends on how much time you have. If you have one to three hours a week, focus on a full-body strength-training program three times a week. Strength training offers you the most bang for your limited time. It helps you build lean muscle tissue, which increases your metabolism and helps you burn calories, not only during, but also after the training session is done — even while you’re at rest.
A workout that’s structured the right way also helps stimulate two very important hormones to increase fat burning: human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone. You don’t get these same benefits from traditional aerobic exercise.
If you have four to six hours a week, aim for a combination of strength training and cardiovascular training, preferably some high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, to raise your metabolic rate even higher and accelerate your fat loss even more. Instead of traditional interval training like sprints, consider “metabolic” classes like TC 24 or HIGHX, which incorporate strength exercises and equipment such as kettlebell swings, explosive pushups and lunges, and medicine ball throws at a faster pace and for a longer time, to elevate your heart rate. These workouts also help you develop structural balance that’s a nice complement to strength training.
If you have four hours, try for three strength-training sessions and one HIIT session a week. If you have more time, add a low-intensity aerobic session or two, as well. Have even more time? Get outside for an hour-long walk with the family, or go hiking or biking on the weekend. These kinds of activities will help you burn extra calories, but won’t burn you out.
I just joined the gym, and I’m a little nervous about walking into a class for the first time. How do I choose the one that’s right for me?
Melissa Guest-Smith: That’s a great question. Even people who’ve taken classes before find their interests and needs change over time. So find something that you love doing. You really need to find the classes that fit with what you feel successful doing, as well as give you the results you’re looking for.
It’s also helpful to find out about the class before you come in for the first time, especially when classes require equipment. Get there a little early and introduce yourself to the instructor, so that he or she can help make sure you feel successful.
Another thing is to remember to take your time. You don’t want to lose steam because you fail to recover properly from your training — it’s important to have rest days or at the very least alternate between high-intensity/strength classes and yoga classes.
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