Who’s The Clown Now?

By Jon Robinson, BSc (Hons) Exercise Physiology

Looking to lose a few pounds? Weight lifting isn’t the answer, says Talk Magazine’s exercise expert Jon Robinson

It was shortly after the luminous green socks craze and 'Frankie say Relax' t-shirts craze that I made a conscious effort to keep a keen eye out, and not to be taken in by the latest fad. Imagine the smug self-satisfaction of a ten year old boy who was so in tune with good taste that he knew white socks went best with slip-on shoes.

How then did I fall for the gym craze that said that weight training was the best way to lose fat (as your body burns additional fat post-exercise while you are resting)? Early 90s studies described something called EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) that measures how much oxygen is needed to recover from your workout. Data from these studies assumed that higher intensities of exercise meant that higher levels of oxygen were required post-exercise, in order to burn additional calories after exercise while resting. And weight training was cited as being one of the main exercises to enhance this process. The EPOC craze is over 20 years old but many trainers and marketers still try to get away with it.

I admittedly fell for it (briefly); after all, building muscle, burning fat and resting at the same time seemed like a winning recipe! Arguably there can be no more intense gym-based exercise than weight training, and therefore, at the time, everyone chanted the same mantra: lift weights, build muscle and burn fat while you're not even working out.

Still, this took time-wasting to new levels not seen since Laurel & Hardy's Piano-up-the-Stairs fat burning workout video (1932). Later I was to find out why.

Sure, EPOC is increased with higher intensities of exercise but a key variable is time, and how much of that is spent reaching your optimum. With weight lifting, if you do an intense weight lifting session of 50 minutes, your actual workou time is approximately 10 minutes, with 40 minutes spent either warming up or resting. In this frame of time you burn around 100-150 calories and the maximum 'afterburn' from EPOC is only between 15-90 calories, depending of course upon how hard you work. Cardio, likewise, even if performed intensely as interval training can only create the same degree of EPOC as weight training.

But with weight training, fact is you are simply not going to see the effects of weightloss from time spent sitting around on your bum after a workout session in which you spend your time predominately standing stationary. 90 calories, which studies show is the maximum number of calories burnt post-exercise through EPOC, simply isn’t enough when you look at the numbers overall.

What’s important is getting your heart rate up and putting the work in during those 50 minutes in order to shake that extra fat. Spinning is a recommended activity as your heart rate averages between 150-170 bpm during a 50 minute session of intense training. Intense cardio sessions that use intervals (football, basketball, squash, boxing, spinning/cycling, running etc.) also use the powerful muscle fibres, accelerating fat loss at the maximum possible rate.

However, here's the important point: during 50 minutes of weight training you will burn at most 150 cals during the session and a maximum of 90 cals afterburn = maximum 240 cals. During 50 minutes of intense cardio you can burn upwards of 1,000 cals + max 90 cals afterburn.

Work smart and don't end up scratching your head like Stan if you can’t shift that stubborn body fat!

Jon Robinson is the co-owner of Spin Shanghai (Rm A401, 525 Fahuazhen Lu, near Dingxi Lu. Tel 139 1804 4705). For in depth instructions on how to do these exercises properly as well as other helpful tips on duration of exercise and routine guidance, check out his blog on www.makethisworkout.com

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