Isn’t Cardio Better for Me?
For you? Nah, man. You need both! Cardio is just part of the equation. Any good exercise program should include Resistance Training. Whether lifting weights, using resistance bands, or finding new ways to injure yourself on a Bowflex, increasing muscle mass has a substantive effect on your overall fitness. Sure, some people can go overboard, unable to scratch their heads or change their shirts without help. Too often, however, it is discounted in favor of a cardio-centric plan.
Cardio is important, but it isn’t everything. It’s not even close. I know that many of you want to lose weight, and by weight, I mean fat. I do, too. I’m sick of being fat. My gut is always in my way. It weighs down the front of my torso when I walk or run, straining my lower back. It pushes against my diaphragm when I tie my shoes, making it so I have to hold my breath and race the clock. It slows me down.
Now, I know what you’re thinking (because I’ve mastered telepathy): Won’t adding muscle mass just make you heavier and slower than you already are? It can, but it won’t. Here’s why:
Resistance training typically burns far more calories than cardio. It does this by creating a calorie deficit by more than just raising your heart rate. By lifting weights, you are carefully and systematically damaging your muscles so that they’ll rebuild stronger than before. If calories are your body’s currency for completing tasks, damaged muscle is expensive. Damaged tissue will prompt your body to allocate some of the calories that would otherwise be stored as fat to repair itself. This heightened state of caloric burn has been known to last as long as 38 Hours after the exercise ends.
Your progression, recovery time, and fat loss from resistance training are also powerfully affected by your diet. Your muscles want the protein and oils from lean meats. They don’t want soda, pasta, or apple juice. Those all have calories, and they will be put to use, but with less efficiency. In fact, diet is usually the most powerful force for weight loss. You don’t have total control over the number of calories you burn, but you do have control over the number you ingest.
For resistance training, I focus on weight lifting, and even then, only on the upper-body. I save my lower-body exercises for my Interval Training, Tae Kwon Do, and Plyometrics. My main objective isn’t to bodybuild , but to increase my raw ability. That’s why I’ve chosen exercises that work multiple muscles.
I do three sets of each exercise, lifting for five reps each set. There are other methods that people have recommended that I’ve tried (5 x 5, 10 x 4, etc.). In my experience, this regimen substantially increased my strength in comparison to the others, while keeping my total workout under 45 minutes. However, my gym is in a spare room of my house, having acquired equipment over decades of donations. This allows me to treat each set as a lap, doing 5 reps of each exercise before moving on to the next set. In a public gym, you will not be afforded this luxury. I’m not aware of whether or not this has affected my progression, so be warned that your mileage may vary.
I will be increasing the weight for each exercise by 5% every two weeks. Many people will find that they want a healthy equilibrium when it comes to muscle mass in relation to their overall fitness, so they will find a personal amount of bodily strength acceptable and stop increasing. That’s perfectly reasonable. I, however, want to really find out what I’m capable of. If a human can pull down a mountain under his own power, then I’m going to find out for myself.
None of this happens with lifting alone. I’ve already given up soda, and I’ve cut down on unnecessary carbohydrates. The drop in daily calorie and caffeine consumption was dramatic and difficult. The fog has cleared, though, and it’s time to get to work.
P.S. A few of you have indicated an interest in eventually using these rules for a real tabletop game. I find that idea immensely attractive, and I have some experience in creating traditional game systems. If the community gets large enough to warrant this site having its own forum, I would like to make that a reality. It won’t be ready for some time, but I am taking notes.