One cannot deny the benefits of regular aerobic exercise. The extent of benefits will vary between each individual, but include: decrease % of body fat, decrease blood pressure, reduce stress, increase in cardiac output (endurance), etc.
However, I have been asked by a few people lately why they can’t reach their fitness goals, so I decided to address some important facts about aerobic exercise and weight loss that you may not know.
Now let me start off by saying that I am by no means ‘bashing’ aerobic exercise. Your exercise mode should match what your ultimate goal is. We have many types of muscle fibers in our bodies, but for the purpose of this topic I am going to talk about the two main types: Type I and Type II. Type I Muscle fibers are very aerobic in nature, and are the muscles that help you perform aerobic exercise such as steady state walking, running, cycling, etc. Type II muscle fibers are what I like to call your ‘strength’ muscles fibers. These muscles contract when you are strength training and lifting weights. The fact is, when we perform chronic high volume aerobic exercise such as running, it creates a catabolic (breakdown) response that can lead to a breakdown of the Type II ‘strength’ muscles and a reduction in power.
Now if your goal is to run a 5k or marathon, high volume aerobic exercise is then warranted. But I have a lot of people tell me they are struggling to lose weight, and then when I ask them what they are currently doing they usually tell me that they are just running every other day. Don’t get me wrong, any type of running is burning calories, and can aid in the weight loss process, however it will only do so up to a certain point. If you are trying to lose weight, high volume aerobic exercise will hinder your efforts, as you are breaking down those type II ‘strength’ muscle fibers that help BOOST your metabolism, burn more calories, and thus lose pounds. Increasing your metabolism in the long run is the key when it comes to weight loss, because losing weight requires you to be in a negative caloric state. This simply means your caloric intake needs to be less that what is recommended to maintain your current weight, whether that be through eating LESS calories or burning MORE calories.
Take Action: For weight loss or to preserve the ‘strength’ muscle mass you have, focus on low volume high intensity aerobic workout sessions. 20 minutes or less will suffice. In addition incorporate at least 2-3 resistance workout sessions a week to increase and preserve your ‘strength’ muscle mass.
So just as I stated that chronic high volume aerobic exercise can breakdown that good lean muscle mass, you can change the intensity of your aerobic exercise to help preserve that lean ‘strength’ muscle mass that you have or to increase them. Intervals are short bursts of high intensity exercise ( running, biking, etc), followed by short rest/active rest periods. This method of aerobic exercise actually targets and contracts those ‘strength’ muscle fibers, instead of breaking them down.
Take Action: Perform no more than 2-3 interval aerobic workouts per week. For example, run HARD for 30 seconds, and then jog slow/walk fast for 1 minute and repeat for 20 minutes. You can play around with the work to rest/active rest ratios depending on your fitness level.
We all hear the word plyometric this, plyometric that. Plyometric exercise refers to activities that enable the muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest time possible and include movements such as: Jumps in place, standing jumps, multiple hops and jumps, box jumps, skipping, etc. These movements not only get your heart rate up FAST, but again they target those ‘strength’ Type II fibers that you need to have a healthy metabolism. To an extent, you are working the same muscles with plyometric exercise as you would with lifting weights.
There are various levels of plyometric exercises on a difficulty scale. For beginners, try the following: Squat jumps, High Knee Skips, Backward Skips, Box jumps. For the more seasoned fitness enthusiast try the following: Lunge Jumps, Tuck Jumps, Jumping over barriers, single leg hops, lateral box jumps.
Take Action: Add in some lower body plyometric movements on the days you weight lift with just your upper body. Try adding 3 sets of 3-4 of the exercises listed above. To determine the amount of repetitions, use the appropriate volume guide that measures volume in foot contacts to the ground ( example- 1 squat jump would be 1 foot contact)
Beginner: 80-100 foot contacts
Intermediate: 100-120 foot contacts
Advanced: 120-140 foot contacts
So the next time you are planning you workouts for the week, really think about what your specific fitness goal is and if excessive aerobic exercise will help or hinder your efforts.
If you are having trouble losing weight or plan on running in a race and need to build up your endurance, you can check out my 6-Week Online Training Program or contact me and we can discuss coming up with your OWN custom program!
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