Hate cardio like the plague? Good news! Unless you're training for a marathon there's no reason you can't replace your traditional cardio with weight lifting . . . and even get some additional bang for your fat loss buck.
It's not even the exercises you incorporate into your routine that make the difference, but rather HOW you perform them. Yes, that's right, you can increase your cardiovascular endurance and burn fat effectively without ever stepping on a treadmill by overhauling your weight-training regimen.
Here are four strategies to take you from zero to fat-scorching hero:
1. Prioritize Compound Lifts.
Recruit as much muscle as possible by incorporating plenty of squats, deadlifts, bench presses, bent-over rows, and other compound movements into your routine. The more muscle area you're using, the more calories you'll burn and the more fat you'll lose. If you're not a fan of the conventional lifts, try tire flips and farmers walks for the same effect.
2. Circuit Train.
By alternating upper and lower body exercises, you're spreading the fatigue across your entire body. Make sure to keep the rest times between sets relatively low. This will up your heart rate and force your body to convert from using the anaerobic system (i.e., the one that supplies energy for lifting) to the aerobic system, which helps burn fat.
3. Do It HIIT-Style.
It typically takes about two minutes for your aerobic system to switch on, which means your sets need to last at least that long. Structure your sets so that you're doing 6-8 exercises for about 10 reps each. Use a controlled, even tempo when lifting and extend each set for 45 seconds. At the end of your circuit, you can take a 2 to 3-minute rest. What this does is mimic the effects of interval training on the treadmill or stationary bike. Bear in mind that you'll require about 20-30 minutes of workout time to see cardio benefits - this equates to 6-10 circuits about 3 times per week.
4. Lift Lighter Loads.
If you want cardio benefits from your weight training, you need to dispense with the ego lifting. Give up on lifting heavy like you would if you were training for strength or mass, and instead lift lighter weights. Also, avoid repping to failure on each set; this will tire you out and make it challenging to complete the full circuit. You should select a weight that will leave you 2-3 reps shy of failure. Don't worry - you'll still be able to gain strength and size training in this fashion, once your endurance and cardiovascular fitness levels improve.