High-speed or high-weight lifting to lose weight and look toned?
January 3, 2010 9:11 AM   Subscribe

In order for a male who's 30-40 lbs overweight to lose that extra weight and look reasonably toned by working out 3x/week for 30 mins each, is it better to a) do something like the Spartacus workout (high-intensity circuit training with somewhat lighter weights) or b) do more traditional lifting of heavier weights? Or some combination?
posted by Malad to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but 90 minutes per week isn't enough to accomplish your goals. I would suggest at least adding some kind or aerobic exercise, such as walking, on the other days that you aren't lifting. Focus also on your caloric intake. If you want to lose weight you can't eat more than you exercise. I wish you the best. It can be done.
posted by netbros at 9:36 AM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would say that 3 (or maybe 4) super intense workouts, combined with being pretty strict about dietary stuff would definitely show results. These are the kind of workouts where you feel like you are going to throw up at the end though. Not fun but kind of addictive.

Going to the gym for 30 minutes=not valuable. Running sprints till your heart is beating so hard you think you are going to die for 20 minutes=pretty powerful.
posted by sully75 at 10:05 AM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


check out
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/
http://rosstraining.com/blog/
http://crossfit.com/

You don't say where you are but I just found out that crossfit.com has affiliate gyms. I have no personal experience with them, but my bet is that you would do really well to go to one. They can get you started with basic exercises. It's hard to figure out how to do certain things, and you'd learn a ton by taking a series of classes.
posted by sully75 at 10:07 AM on January 3, 2010


1 pound of fat is 3500 calories. Going by my own measurements, I can burn about 10 calories/minute on the stair stepper. So 30 pounds * 3500 calories / 10 (calories/min) / 60 (min/hr) / 1.5 (hr/week) = 116 Weeks. Or about 2.3 years.

Assuming you go 3 times every week. Assuming you keep the intensity level up. ASSUMING you only eat every day as many calories as you need. That last one is the important one. To put it bluntly, you obviously eat more calories than you burn. Truth is, exercise without the diet isn't going to get you anywhere. Each day you're at the gym you'll burn 300 calories. That's two cans of Coke.

Not to discourage you. Your goal of 30/40 pounds is very reasonable! But you should be honest about the level of commitment it will take to get there.
posted by sbutler at 10:33 AM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Diet to lose weight. Workout for increased health and strength. You have to cut out a lot of calories to get rid of that much weight, as it is a bit of a myth that hard workouts will remove lots of fat.
posted by qwip at 10:42 AM on January 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Changing your weight is all about balancing calories in vs. calories out. It's perfectly feasible for you to meet your goals with ONLY dieting.

At the same time, weight training will help you retain muscle as you run a calorie deficit.

It kills me to say this, but if you're REALLY time-limited, I wouldn't do cardio. There are great reasons to do cardio: subjective well-being, stillness of body, cardio/respiratory health. However, when it comes to losing weight, cardio simply isn't an efficient use of time. A half hour jogging could cost 300-400 calories, which equals a bagel with cream cheese. Easier and faster to just not eat the bagel.

sully75 gave good website recommendations.
posted by dualityofmind at 11:05 AM on January 3, 2010


A combination of both types of thing would be best, although I personally wouldn't do a workout from Men's Health. 3x a week is not really enough, and 30 minutes is probably not long enough if you're really talking from the moment you hit the gym floor to the moment you leave. But 4-5X a week giving yourself 45 minutes a go should be plenty. If you really can only manage 3X a week for only 30 minutes you would be best just focusing on your diet and doing some simple weight training in the little time you have, but your results are not going to be fast or fantastic.
Weighted high-intensity circuit stuff (referred to other places as "met-con" or "metabolic conditioning") is an intense fat-burner (and almost entirely removes the need for other straight cardio work). But if you try to do this without weight training you run the risk of burning yourself out, injuring yourself due to not learning the movements properly and stalling your progress from a lack of strength.
My advice to a novice looking to cut weight, look good, and do it safely would be to start off with a focus on basic weight training moves (a la starting strength) with a couple of days of moderate met-con work. So, if you're like me and work out every day monday - friday, you'd lift with a focus on form MWF and do met-con, sprinting, HIIT, something like that, T-R, and REST over the weekend (and you must must must rest). In addition I would focus on finding the right diet to support your goals, probably focusing on a paleo/primal-style low-grain/sugar high veggie moderately high protein kind of thing. I'm glossing over it, but make no mistake, you will not get very good results if you ignore the diet portion of this.
When you are strong enough to squat your body weight comfortably for reps, do 5 strict pull-ups, 20 strict push-ups and sprint a decent mile (arbitrary numbers chosen here but I think for a man these should not be too challenging), then you should know enough to mix things up. If you still want to lean out more you could start doing more met-con type work, if you feel like you enjoy the strength then you could focus on that. But I personally believe that building up a base of strength before you start going nuts on any sort of high intensity plan (and this goes TRIPLE for crossfit) is essential to injury prevention and success.
posted by ch1x0r at 11:07 AM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


as it is a bit of a myth that hard workouts will remove lots of fat.

Actually, they will. That they won't is a common misunderstanding, debunked in plenty of places, like Joe Friel's book Total Heart Rate Training:
[Misconception 2: To Lose Weight, Exercise in the "Fat Burning Zone]

The myth of the "fat-burning zone" has been around for a few decades now, and like most myths, it has an element of truth to it. It's true that when you exercise at a low intensity your primary source of fuel is fat. So why isn't going slow always the best way to shed blubber? Let's examine what happens during exercise.

. . .

As the intensity of exercise increases—for example, going from walking to running—the body gradually begins to use more glycogen and les fat. At very high intensities, such as long sprints, most of the energy is supplied by glycogen, with relatively little coming from fat.

Still sounds like slow exercise is the way to go, right? Read on.

The confounding factor has to do with how many total calories are burned during low-intensity and high-intensity exercise. When you are going slow, fewer calories are used per unit of time than when going fast.

Let's say, for example, that there are two 150-pound people, each with 30 minutes to exercise. One walks and the other runs. Our walker covers 2 miles and burns about 200 calories. Of these, 70 percent come from fat, for a total of 140 fat calories used. The runner covers 3 miles in the same 30 minutes and consumes 330 calories, with 60 percent of them derived from fat—198 calories.

The higher intensity exercise increased the amount of fat burned by more than 40 percent. . .
Ulysses Press 2006, p 33.
posted by The Michael The at 11:34 AM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would lift free weights and eat whole foods. A diet like this works wonders.

Basically: high protein, low carbs, and supplement with fats and oils as needed. (Maybe fats and oils are the same thing...)
posted by dfriedman at 12:17 PM on January 3, 2010


@The Michael The: I hear ya. My point being that you are still talking about small amounts of calorie reduction compared to reducing calorie intake. You will have trouble losing lots of fat through hard workouts alone, especially just weight training.

For example, in your research the runner consumes a total of 330 calories in 3 miles, perhaps running 3 times a week. A dieter could reduce 500 calories a day by limiting intake. You can see how quickly that can add up (for better or worse).

I think my original point holds true, but I'd be happy to differ to more specific information.
posted by qwip at 1:27 PM on January 3, 2010


Try cutting out gluten (and maybe dairy). I lost 30 lbs by accident once upon a time while travelling through China for a few weeks (where they don't eat gluten or dairy stuff much).
posted by rumbles at 1:29 PM on January 3, 2010


Listen to ch1x0r.

My advice to a novice looking to cut weight, look good, and do it safely would be to start off with a focus on basic weight training moves (a la starting strength) with a couple of days of moderate met-con work.

Justin Lascek implemented just such a program at the Wichita Falls Athletic Club, which is Starting Strength author Mark Rippetoe's gym. It includes two strength days and two metcon days. The program is laid out here, and a bunch of sample metcon workouts are posted in this thread, starting with the 9th comment.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:26 PM on January 3, 2010


You're going to need at least three hours a week if you want to build a decent program around weights. Is your goal specifically to lose thirty pounds or so? Or lose the weight and get some muscle? Are you a beginner? Reasonably toned is kind of subjective and is usually connected to some kind of cultural norm. Ten years ago it was Brad Pitt in Fight Club. These days it may be more along the lines of Gerard Butler in 300. Both of them have an athletic body type but Butler is packing quite a bit more meat and that would dictate a bit of difference in both diet and workout. Your Spartacus link requires a signup but the workout was designed by Rachel Cosgrove and if she's as smart a trainer as Alwyn Cosgrove I would be hard pressed to say it doesn't do what it claims. Also the page urls are named after the exercises, and it looks like an alright setup. Doing interval training or strength training either separately or together is up to you, but if your main goal is fat loss then you should concentrate on that first and then work on gaining muscle or strength or whatever else you set as your next goal.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:33 PM on January 3, 2010


Thanks for all the help so far! I definitely get that diet is critical, and it's good to know that I need to budget a bit more workout time realistically

Is your goal specifically to lose thirty pounds or so?

Yeah, that and the Brad Pitt body style is what I'm going for rather than the Gerard Butler look, if not necessarily quite as extreme.
posted by Malad at 11:44 PM on January 3, 2010


If you want the slim and trim Brad Pitt look then make sure your diet is in order and concentrate on High Intensity Interval Training. You could probably get away with doing forty five minute workouts four X week but make sure you have a solid plan when you walk into the gym. Always have at least three to five stations available at a time, so you can jump from one to the next.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:58 PM on January 4, 2010


Regarding the Spartacus workout: Gerard Butler looks like this these days.

My story: I lost 45 pounds over a period of 9 months, and increased my muscle mass, by
1) reducing calorie intake, especially carbs
2) weight training (2-3 hours a week)
3) interval cardio training (running, spinning and/or outdoor cycling, 2-3 hours a week)

During the same period, one of my friends gained about 40 unwanted pounds. He's a competitive weightlifter and lifts weights several times a week.
posted by iviken at 1:42 PM on January 4, 2010


@The Michael The: I hear ya. My point being that you are still talking about small amounts of calorie reduction compared to reducing calorie intake. You will have trouble losing lots of fat through hard workouts alone, especially just weight training.

For example, in your research the runner consumes a total of 330 calories in 3 miles, perhaps running 3 times a week. A dieter could reduce 500 calories a day by limiting intake. You can see how quickly that can add up (for better or worse).

I think my original point holds true, but I'd be happy to differ to more specific information.

I suppose the devil's in the details here: the fact that hard workouts remove fat is true, period, and to imply otherwise is misleading. And, as the example from Friel above illlustrates, harder workouts remove more fat on balance than lower-intensity workouts. Your point is that one can re-consume those burnt calories easily if one isn't careful.

The 330 calories burnt while running is a facile example in Friel's book. In contrast, I've burnt, conservatively, about 5000 calories in the past three days from aerobic exercise (HRM says 6200). So, yeah, it's easy to burn calories if you have the time to dedicate to it.

What you're trying to say, I think, is that diet control is more efficient, or maybe easier, than only working out. This may or may not be true depending on the individual, their motivation, and how much time they have to devote to exercise. If one is only going to devote 30 min 3x per week to working out, yeah, diet is way more important than that 1.5 hours. If one will be on their bicycle for 7-10 hours per week, diet is relatively less important.

What we can agree on is that both diet and exercise are important inputs into weight loss, and weight gain or less is dependent on the net of calories in minus calories out.
posted by The Michael The at 4:46 PM on January 4, 2010


Regarding the Spartacus workout: Gerard Butler looks like this these days.

And? That picture has no bearing on the Spartacus workout. That's like putting up a picture of Arnold and saying lifting weights doesn't work at all.

I'm often amazed at how people don't think dieting works because people gain weight back after they stop. Your body is in a constant dynamic state, and unfortunately is in a persistent downtrend trend after the age of 25 or so. Diets and exercise work as long as you do them (correctly).
posted by P.o.B. at 5:33 PM on January 4, 2010


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