Oh, my dear cardio… How I loathe thee…
This is easily the most common question I’ll get from men & women wanting to lose weight:
“Yo JT! Hook me up with a cardio exercise that’ll burn all this fat and get me losing weight!”
It doesn’t matter your background: weight lifter, office jockey 9 to 5er, athlete, etc. — learning how to burn fat through cardio is what I hear all the time.
Because all you hear over and over again is that you need to do some sort of activity to burn calories and lose weight.
It’s the only way to burn fat, they’ll say. It’s the only way to shed that fat belly and thighs.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth — you can do ZERO exercise and still burn fat.
You can sit at your desk all day long and shrink your waist several inches.
So, if anyone tells you that you need to do cardio to lose weight, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Here’s the truth:
Cardio is great for a healthy heart. It’s great to relieve stress and get the air flowing through your lungs.
Cardio Is NOT Something You Need To Do
Instead, cardio should be something that you WANT to do.
If you’re like me and absolutely hate doing cardio, then fear not — you can still melt fat without cardio.
How is this done, you say?
By getting yer azz in the gym!
You want to be a Lean Warrior? Then you need to push weight and pull iron over and over again.
Lifting weights for 60 minutes in the gym can burn anywhere from 250 to 500 calories depending on how many sets and reps you’ve completed.
But what if you like doing cardio? Maybe you like the site of a spin bike or a boxing bag.
In that case, pick one that you want to do.
If I’m to do any cardio, it usually involves putting on some boxing gloves and hitting the bag for a good 15 minutes or so.
By the time 15 minutes are up, my arms are burning (especially id I do that after I’ve been lifting weight for an hour).
Cardio Exercises For A Specific Sport or Activity
Your approach towards cardio should change depending on what sort of goals you have.
For example, if my goal is to add 10 pounds of lean muscle mass onto my frame, I’m going to avoid any sort of slow, steady state activity.
This is because these low intensity cardio exercises don’t put any stress on your muscles.
You’ll burn calories doing these slow cardio activities, but your body may use your muscle for energy (this isn’t guaranteed to happen, but it’s not worth the risk in my opinion).
Therefore, I believe it’s best to stick to more intest forms of cardio — like hitting a bag for 10-15 minutes.
Or rowing 2000 meters on the row machine. Or jump roping for 15 minutes.
These are more intense forms of cardio, and you will activate a lot of your muscles in the process.
But like I said, it depends on what you’re training for.
If you’re a soccer player who wants to lose weight and have more stamina, then your best cardio exercise will be running for long periods of time, as well as sprints.
Try to replicate what you’ll do on the field into your cardio exercises.
If you’re a tennis player, then sprinting forwards, backwards and side to side will be the best exercises you can do.
Burning Fat and Losing Weight Requires a Caloric Deficit
Regardless of your goals, if you want to lose weight and burn fat, you need to put yourself in a caloric deficit.
With that said, I do believe that certain cardio exercises are better depending on your goal.
For example, if you don’t really care about your muscle mass, then by all means hit the spin bike for an hour and burn through 500+ calories.
If you want to keep your muscle, then I recommend hitting a boxing bag for 15 minutes. You’ll burn around 250 calories doing so.
There is also evidence out there that suggests low-intensity cardio lowers your testosterone levels.
Obviously, this bad for many reasons if you are a man who lives a sedentary life — the last thing you want to lose is your much-needed testosterone!
Regardless of what you’re doing for cardio, if you’re consuming too many calories you won’t lose weight.
On the same token, if you do no cardio at all while being in enough of a caloric deficit, you will still lose weight.
The Stair Climber
One of the best steady-state cardio exercises for fat loss is the stair climber.
I’ve known several people over the years who have been in competitions, and they all would use the stair climber as their cardio exercise of choice.
Why the stair climber and not the treadmill? Or anything else?
If you’ve never used a stair climber, you’ll be surprised at how quickly it wears you out if you don’t do a lot of activity with your legs.
It’s a leg workout by itself in that regard. I’m usually breathing heavily and sweating like crazy after just 10 minutes on a stair climber at a slow to moderate speed.
A Youtuber I like watching is Christian Guzman, and his cardio exercise of choice for competition prep is the stair climber (so much so that he has when his own machine in his garage).
When he’s on his fat burning routine, he hits the stair climber 3 to 4 times per week for 30 minutes at a time.
He is also in a calorie deficit as well during his prep.
I’m not saying that the stair climber is the way to go. However, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
The best cardio exercise for you is going to be the one that you’re able to do over and over again for a certain amount of time.
Don’t limit yourself to just one specific exercise simply because some “expert” said so.
Inlince Treadmill Walking
Another great way to get some cardio in is to get on that treadmill, increase the incline, and start walking.
This exercise is so effective that I wrote an entire article about power walking for weight loss. Check it out if you want more information on this.
Power walking is great if you have knee problems. It’s also great if the stair climber wears you out within 5 minutes which can happen if your legs aren’t strong.
A lot of people who have been slaves to the couch for many years have difficulty with the stair climber. Therefore, I always recommend these people to spend at least 10-15 minutes for the incline treadmill.
Three to four times per week is all you need. It’s a great fat burner once you commit to it. You will notice results after a few weeks with this sort of routine.
Burning Fat and Being Lean In A Lifestyle
All too often, I see men and women jump into fitness with a goal to lose weight for a wedding that’s a few weeks away.
Not only will you burn yourself out in the process, but you’re going to be starving yourself and feeling horrible once the event arrives.
You may find yourself doing two spin classes perday, burning 1,000 calories in the process.
This is terrible unless you’re consuming such a large amount of calories throughout the day that burning 1,000 calories is fine…
However, from what I’ve seen over and over again, most people are already in a deficit to lose weight AND burning 1,000 calories.
Getting yourself into this type of routine will never give you long-term results.
For one, it’s simply not sustainable — these types of cardio and diet routines are not something that you’ll be able to do for the rest of your life.
“But I know that, Jeff! I’m only doing it to get slim for the wedding in a few weeks!”
I understand, what you’re not going to have that much fun at the wedding because you’ll have drained all your energy leading up to the event.
Plus, I can guarantee that you’re going to gain all that weight back, and probably add MORE fat to your body in the process, once the wedding is over.
Therefore, you need to make your cardio and diet goals fit into your lifestyle.
Something that you can do day in and day out for the years to come so you can look great at every future event.
That’s what LeanWarriors.com is all about — being a lean mean sexy machine for the rest of your life!
Therefore, pick the cardio exercises that you feel are best for the lifestyle you want to live.
Don’t get yourself into too much of a caloric deficit.
If you’re burning too many calories per day, you will end up burning off the muscle that makes you look tone.
That’s the opposite of what you want because you’ll then appear thin, but still flabby.
This is the problem that ‘skinny-fat’ guys have — they don’t weigh much, but they have hardly any muscle on their frame.
It’s the problem I had for severa years. Not good!
The key to your success will be consistency.
Accept that you’re in this for the long haul.
Make it a goal to lose 1-2 pounds per week (and no more than that) and you’ll be on the right track.
Choose the cardio exercise that you enjoy the most and track your calories.
And, make sure you’re avoiding the common weight lifting mistakes that beginner gym goers make.
Questions? Comments? Write them below and let’s get the discussion going.