Trying to lose weight and look better?
Who the hell isn’t these days… And, with the right fat burning workouts, you can do just that.
Yes, that was a cheesy introduction. It’s also not entirely true because getting lean and shredded is actually a result of your diet.
But, you can definitely improve your physique through weight training and cardio. Both of these two types of training methods are huge topics and countless books have been written about them.
Therefore, I won’t bore you with common knowledge. I’ll instead talk about what it takes to develop the Lean Warrior physique which this entire website is based upon.
Let’s dive in!
Can Weight Training Burn Body Fat?
Weight training is a popular ways to lose fat. However, there are different ways to weight train, and they aren’t equally good for everything.
Which type of weight training you choose really depends on your goal – fat loss, muscle maintenance, or muscle building.
This is an article about fat loss, so we’ll assume that’s your goal. In that case, probably also want to maintain the muscle you have.
That can be a challenge, because when your body loses weight, it does so by consuming existing tissue to compensate for a calorie deficit.
That tissue can be muscle or fat – your body doesn’t really care.
So unfortunately, when most people lose weight, they also loose a significant amount of muscle along with the fat because they’re not using the right type of strength training.
What are the options?
Essentially there are two: strength training workouts that cause fat loss, and strength training workouts that preserve the muscle you have.
While both of those will promote fat loss, they do so in different ways, and only one of them also prevents muscle loss.
We’ll talk more about that, but first we need to discuss a common myth when it comes to weight training and weight loss.
High Reps and Low Weight?
Many people have read or have otherwise been taught that lifting heavy weights with low reps builds muscle. But to lose fat, you have to lift light weights with high reps.
However, light weight with low reps is the exact opposite of what you want to do if you’re really interested in losing fat as opposed to muscle – which, of course, everyone is.
To understand why this is the case, you need to understand how the body signals itself to maintain or build muscle.
That signal comes from a concept called progressive overload, which is basically just a fancy term for using slightly heavier weights over time to keep your muscles challenged (without overdoing it and causing an injury).
If you’re eating an excess of calories, progressive overload will signal your body to build muscle.
If you’re in a calorie deficit – which you have to be to lose weight – progressive overload will signal your body to maintain the muscle you have and burn fat to make up that deficit.
If you stop gradually increasing the weight you’re lifting – as is the case in a low-weight, high-rep workout – your body will no longer be getting that signal to preserve muscle and will start burning it instead. Yes, you’ll lose fat, but losing muscle along with it is a bad deal.
What About Metabolic Training?
There’s another type of strength training called metabolic training. This also involves high reps and low weight, but the difference from the standard high-rep, low-weight routine is that metabolic training also requires very short rest periods and a high volume of multi-joint exercises like kettlebell swings, pushups, barbell work, etc., all done in circuits.
The goal of this type of training is to jack up your metabolism and melt fat, which it most certainly does, both during and after a workout.
That’s because metabolic weight training is essentially a form of high-intensity cardio that causes a pronounced hormone response and burns a lot more calories than steady-state cardio like plodding along on a treadmill.
It also burns more calories than the traditional high-rep, low-weight workout described in the previous section.
But, is metabolic training the best approach for fat loss?
In my opinion, no. It’s useful but shouldn’t be relied upon. It has the same problem that comes from traditional light-weight, low-rep training: it doesn’t involve progressive overload and thus doesn’t signal your body to maintain muscle.
Instead, a lot of the massive amounts of calories you burn with metabolic training will come from muscle.
That’s because it’s basically impossible to use heavy weights with this type of training, given the high reps and large number of sets involved.
So if you want to burn fat, metabolic will get you there. But, you may lose plenty of muscle along the way. This could end up lowering your metabolism in the long run, which will likely torpedo your efforts to keep that fat off.
After all, muscle burns calories even when you’re sleeping.
What’s The Best Fat Burning Workouts?
If traditional high-rep, low-weight training isn’t the best approach for fat loss, and neither is metabolic training, what’s the proper way to burn fat?
The answer is strength training that involves progressive overload, so that you maintain the muscle you have as you lose fat.
Or if you’re lucky (and genetically gifted), even building a little muscle along your fat-loss journey. That means lifting heavy weights with low or moderate reps in each set, and resting longer between sets for proper recovery.
What I always recommend people who want to build the Warrior physique is to make the overhead shoulder press their number one exercise.
If you can get strong lifting heavy weights over your head, your body will work very hard to maintain your muscle mass. Therefore, hit the shoulder press twice per week with a focus on building up your strength.
You can also focus on other multi-joint exercises like the bench press, squat, and deadlift, which recruit more muscles and give you more bang for your workout buck.
Finally, to maintain muscle in a calorie deficit, you’ll have to work hard – really hard.
There’s a problem with this type of training, however. At least, it might seem like a problem until you think about it for a minute.
The “problem” is that “regular” strength training like I just described is the opposite of metabolic training – meaning that while it will maintain (or even build) strength, it won’t burn much fat. At all.
Yes, it will burn calories, and burning calories necessarily entails burning fat. But the rate of fat burning will be far less than, say, doing kettlebell complexes or some other type of metabolic training.
But whatever calories you burn with regular strength training, they’re kind of beside the point. The point, again, is to maintain or build strength.
If you want to burn as much fat as possible in the shortest amount of time, metabolic training is clearly the way to go. But realize that as you’re doing that, you’ll almost certainly be losing muscle – and therefore strength – along the way.
By contrast, if you want to lose fat more gradually but without losing muscle, regular strength training is not only the best route, it’s essential. Anything else simply won’t cut it, unless you’re really overweight or obese.
If that’s the case, you really should focus on losing weight as your first priority. But for everyone else, strength-focused weight training is the way to go.
Can You Do Both Metabolic Training and Weight Lifting?
If metabolic training is good for quick fat loss, and regular strength training is good for retaining muscle, why not do both? That would be a win-win, right?
This approach can definitely work if you’re prepared to bust your tail like you’ve never busted it before. Lots of professional and semi-pro athletes do both types of training regularly, for example.
But there’s a problem.
The problem is that you, like everyone else, have a finite amount of energy. Both metabolic training and regular weight training, done correctly, are very demanding on the body.
We’re not talking about a casual spin on the elliptical machine while watching Sports Center here. After a proper metabolic or regular strength training workout, you will feel it. If you’re a beginner or recently increased your workout intensity, you will feel it.
And that’s where the concept of workout recovery comes in. Everyone needs time off from intense workouts to recover, or the result will be a loss of strength, constant fatigue, a compromised immune system, and possible injury.
Being in a calorie deficit while losing weight will mean your body needs longer recovery periods than usual.
So, while you should always pay attention to your body and not do more work than your safely capable of doing, that’s especially important while dieting.
As a result, all forms of exercise other than regular strength training reduce the amount of time you have to recover from strength training.
It’s not that you shouldn’t do these other types of exercises – it’s just that your body is only capable of so much total work.
Trying to fit in metabolic training along with regular strength training will dramatically increase the likelihood that you will overwork yourself.
My advice is to have no more than one high-intense cardio day per week. It’s really all you’ll need while in a deficit if you’re lifting heavy weights.
The Bottom Line on Fat Burning Workouts
I recommend that you rely on regular strength training to maintain or build muscle, and rely on moderate calorie restriction to lose fat.
Although this approach won’t produce fat loss as quickly as metabolic training, it’s more sustainable over the long haul. Plus, it allows more time for recovery and maintaining muscle.
There isn’t any specific fat burning workouts and I can recommend. As long as you’re hitting the weights hard and heavy, you’re on the right track.
As I said earlier, I most recommend the barbell shoulder press because it is the ultimate form of strength. Most people can’t even lift half their body weight overhead.
For women, I highly recommend the classic squat. The stronger in this exercise you become, the larger the booty you’ll get.
Naturally, cardio can be used for fat loss, and some people have had success with it. But for most people, the best approach is to simply use weight training to build strength.
Other forms of exercise (metabolic training, cardio, etc.) can be added in later if decide that you’re not getting lean enough or otherwise aren’t achieving your goals.