The best workout for weight loss? The one that fits your goal

July 02, 2019 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

It’s that time of the year again. We see the days are getting longer and warmer. We’re at a point where we want to shed our winter clothes and perhaps some of that winter weight.

For many, this means planning to come into the gym and immediately head toward the cardio section to burn as many calories in the shortest amount of time possible.

“Too often we’re racking up miles on that one favorite treadmill, but the floor harboring the free weights and strength equipment remains unused,” says Eric Bishop, fitness supervisor at Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness in Woodridge.

For many, the goal of maximizing calories burned to eliminate body fat can go unchecked. But which energy pathway is being engaged? And what’s the appropriate heart rate zone at a particular intensity of exercise? Without this understanding, calories are burned without much fitness gain when we go home at night and look at ourselves in the mirror.

According to the American Council on Exercise, we need a continuous supply of energy. Based on what we are doing, this energy comes from three systems:

  • The phosphagen system gives you about 30 seconds of energy, like when you need to sprint to the bus stop before the bus leaves.
  • Next, your body shifts into anaerobic glycolysis for sustained moderate-to-high intensity activity using glycogen or stored carbohydrates for a longer burst, something akin to running up and down the basketball court.
  • Finally you switch over to aerobic glycolysis, burning energy from stored fats with the kind of activity you see when you go for a steady-paced jog or uphill hike. Because the body has to select a particular “transmission” to get it going, we have to shift gears into the correct heart rate zone as well.

The American Heart Association states that there are four heart rate zones anyone can be in, depending on the demand and duration of an activity as well as the conditioning of the surrounding muscles and organ systems.

These different zones can be determined based on the maximum heart rate zone of each individual, which is calculated by subtracting your age from 220. For example, a typical 40-year-old would be 220 – 40 = 180.

  • For this individual, the healthy heart rate zone would put his heart rate (HR) at 90 or below Beats Per Minute (BPM) and allow him to do most daily acts of living.
  • If this person wanted to move into the next zone, the Fat Burning Zone, their heart rate would range between 90-126 BPM to predominately burn fat stores.
  • Pushing past this zone would put an individual in the cardiovascular zone and would have their heart rate around 126-154 BPM to focus on the conditioning of the heart, lungs and surrounding vessels.
  • Finally, if an individual wanted to push beyond that point, they would enter into the power zone, or any BPM over 156 to work on speed, power, athletic performance and fat-burning effects.

“Keeping both the heart rate zones and the energy systems in mind, the most effective workout is going be one that fits your specific goal,” Bishop says. “You need to put yourself in the ideal zone of your choice using a particular energy system, and maximize the time you use to exercise with a balance of BOTH strength-training and cardio.”

If you’re looking to focus on weight loss through strength training:

  • Perform a series of compound (or multi-joint) exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, overhead presses, bent-over rows, pull-ups, etc.
  • Spend between 30-60 seconds per station with little to no downtime in-between each movement.
  • Shoot for an intensity that hits your target heart rate zone between 50-70 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum, your best bet for weight loss from cardio would involve:

  • Interval training, where you fluctuate your intensity on the cardio equipment
  • Stay in different heart rate zones. For example, you might stay in the moderate heart rate zone (50-70 percent) for 60 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of being in the vigorous heart rate zone (70-85 percent) before cycling back again.

Bishop recommends people spend a total of 20-30 minutes continuously exercising, or at least 10 minutes straight, working up to 30 minutes continuously. All in all, you will want to practice both to magnify the metabolic demand on the body and help achieve your goals for both strength and cardio.

“Something I have always said to my clients is: Your fitness foundations are like a three-legged table.  Your foundation is your well-being and stability in your life through wellness. One leg is strength-training, one leg is cardio, and the last leg is nutrition. In order to succeed, you must support all three or the table won’t support you,” Bishop says.

The best workout is the one that is best for you. Find one that is fun, enjoyable, sustainable and consistent. The workout should support your three legs and allow you to see results when followed diligently around your own individual parameters.

The fitness team at Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness is ready to help you with your fitness journey. Learn more.


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