Heavier weights, fewer reps, to burn more fat

by CynthiaYockey on August 13, 2010

James Joyner at Outside the Beltway links stories from his other blogs, and one about how to burn more fat caught my eye. I’ve been eating fewer calories than my target every day except for two over the last two months, but I’m only doing aerobic exercise so I’m hitting plateaus. It looks like I’m going to have to add resistance training and that it will be the most effective if I use heavier weights with fewer repetitions.

Update, 8/14/2010, Sat.: Yesterday Instapundit linked an article advocating the opposite point-of-view, to wit, that less weight with more repetitions performed to the point of muscle fatigue is the safer way to go and produces weight loss and improved strength as well or better than heavier weights with fewer reps. Apparently it’s the muscle fatigue that burns fat and builds muscle. The good news is that this approach can be used by people who are not in the best of health — the frail elderly, people recovering from strokes, and so on.

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Liz August 13, 2010 at 9:19 am

That’s definitely the case, for both cardio and resistance. For cardio, too many people treat the gym as the only place they are going to burn calories. They’d be better off if they did short, intense bursts of exercise rather than long periods of moderate activity. You burn off fewer calories during the workout, but it speeds up your metabolism for the rest of the day – so as long as you’re fairly active, you’ll lose more weight with less pain.

When it comes to weight lifting, you should be doing it at almost the heaviest you can manage – joint health permitting- or at least at a weight that you can’t do more than, say, 6 reps. If you neglect your upper half, sometimes your body leeches calcium, muscle mass and fat from there to supplement your lower half. (That’s why professional cyclists often have brittle spines.) If nothing else, it makes you look pear shaped. 15 minutes of proper weightlifting burns about 120 calories and speeds up yor metabolism.

Core muscles are important. You said that your weight hurt you, but that could be more down to weaker back and abdominal muscles than your fat. There are stretches, as well as exercises you can do with those inflatable exercise balls that can really help. Properly done, situps and abdominal curls are also good.

I’m sorry if this is condescending, and I’m telling you something you either already know or are finding out, but it scares the hell out of me when people say they’re only doing cardio. It doesn’t work and it neglects other parts of the body.

CynthiaYockey August 14, 2010 at 1:38 am


I appreciate your comment — it’s very helpful and considerate and not condescending at all. I have osteopenia, so I have to do weight-bearing exercises and be careful to take vitamin D and calcium, but I didn’t know that making one part of the body powerful could rob the other parts. Thank you.


I R A Darth Aggie August 13, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I would mix & match. You’ll want to do heavier weights to push your max capacity, but don’t over look the benefits of doing more reps with less weight. Doing one does not preclude doing the other.

Besides, if you move 100 lbs 10 times, or 10 lbs 100 times, you’ve done the same amount of work. That being the mathematical definiton of W=F*d.

Just becareful to a) not cause injuray by trying a too heavy weight, and b) not get a repetitive stress injury.

CynthiaYockey August 14, 2010 at 1:50 am

Bride of Rove,

I hope to explain what I’m doing in a post this weekend — stay tuned! Thanks for the link — it will be fun to trade tips!


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