Get the most out of every cardio workout with these expert-approved hacks.
Walk into any gym and you’ll find two distinct groups of gym-goers: cardio bunnies and strength junkies.
Generally, if you ask those cardio hoppers what brings them to the treadmill, spin bike or elliptical, it’s their desire to lose weight or, more accurately, fat. However, the strength lovers, by and large, have already hit their fat-loss goals.
After all, in one Journal of Sports Science and Medicine study, people who performed a simple 20-minute, high-intensity strength workout burned an average of 15 calories per minute – nearly twice as many as during a long run on the treadmill.
But, like we’ve said before, even if pure cardio isn’t the ultimate way to lose weight, it does have its pros – from which even weight-room lovers can benefit. And, nestled between all of those people who not-so-fondly refer to the treadmill as the “treadmill,” are people who legitimately love their cardio workouts. Long cardio sessions help them clear their heads or feel more powerful. Maybe they love to explore their cities on the trail. Maybe you’re one of those cardio-loving people.
So how do you make cardio work for your fat-loss goals? Take a lesson from the weight room. Here, experts share the lessons of strength training that can make your cardio routine a veritable fat-fighter.
Focus on Your Form
We worry a lot about form when it comes to strength training, which makes sense: You don’t want your form breaking down when you have dumbbells over your face. But using correct form is just as important during cardio sessions, and not just because it can help keep you safe and injury-free. It can help you burn more calories with every bead of sweat.
Think about it: If you lean onto the handrails while using the stair climber or hang from them as you lean back to power walk up a hill on the treadmill, you are making things easier on yourself. Put another way, your body isn’t working as hard or burning as many calories as it could be.
Try New Forms of Cardio
The more efficient you are at anything, the fewer calories you burn doing it. That’s the beauty of exercise: Your body adapts. But it’s also why most strength programs involve switching things up every four to six weeks.
And so should your cardio routine. To burn more calories, do something that you are not efficient at. That doesn’t mean that you have to give up your elliptical sessions, but what about trying that rowing machine one day per week? Or maybe it’s time to hit up a cardio workout class that you’ve been eyeing? And, of course, if you’re willing to change up speeds, incline, and resistance, your tried-and-true elliptical can still challenge your body in new ways.
Turn Your Cardio Machine Into a Resistance One
When we build lean muscle mass, we increase our resting metabolic rate,” Crockford says. That means we use more calories at rest. And while, depending on how you do it, cardio can actually lead to muscle loss, if you do it the right way, you can build muscle on your favorite cardio machine or on the trail.
A simple way is by increasing resistance. The harder your arms and/or legs have to work during every movement, the more opportunity you have to build lean, metabolically active muscle.
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