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May 28, 2018

How to Use Cardio and/or Weight Training for Fat loss

how to use cardio and weight training for fat loss

FORGET the debate about whether cardio or weight training is best for fat loss. Science is best for fat loss. Okay?

Both weight training and cardio can be used to attain fat loss. There are ways to use both. That’s what I bring to you today. I will mention that with both options, weight training is involved. Does this mean you need it to lose fat? Not necessarily, but it is highly beneficial because of the following.

Weight training builds muscle. Having more muscle mass increases your resting metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories throughout the day at a resting state.  Yay for weight training. Weight training is not defined by being a powerlifting. I think this is a non-spoken assumption sometimes. When I refer to weight training, I am talking about moving weight around with your body – resistance training.

That’s why weight training can be so effective for burning fat. We already determined it builds muscle, and having muscle is helpful in the burning fat.  Weight training can also kill two birds with one stone. Lifting weights at a high intensity is a magical thing for busy people trying to burn fat. Ever heard a meat head say “I don’t do cardio, I just lift weights faster”?  That meat head has a legitimate point. This is where exercise forms like crossfit come into play.

You know I am not huge fan of crossfit. We cannot however, deny it’s ability to build muscle AND burn fat.

Lift weights faster

This may be the best bang for your buck option with wanting to burn fat. Especially if you’re not a standard cardio fan. You can absolutely manipulate the intensity of your workout without doing cardio. I have an entire blog post on three ways to increase intensity without cardio here. Here are a few ways to get it done in a nutshell:

  • Lower your rest periods
  • Go all out (hello crossfit) for time or in an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)
  • Increase time under tension (use a slower tempo, YES, I said slower).
  • Pair a cardio based exercise like burpees, box jumps, or mountain climbers with weight training exercises.
  • Do FULL BODY compound movements like the thruster or squat to press.


I do very little cardio and maintain a lean physique through lifting heavy with short rest periods. It’s effective and time efficient. Plus I don’t have to cardio…so, winning.

Add cardio before and after weight training

This is my favorite and what I find to be the most effective tactic for losing fat. I go into more detain in this post on when to do cardio, but for now, here is the down and dirty version. Adding cardio (see options below) before weight training will increase the overall intensity (how high your heart rate is) of the workout.  That’s a bonus in and of itself.  Now add cardio AFTER the weight training session and you’re winning. Why?

During a decently intense weight training session, you will have used carbs and stored glycogen for fuel. By the end, those stores are depleted and adding some cardio will up your chances of using FAT as fuel.  Pretty sweet deal if you’re trying to lose fat ay?

Cardio with no weight training for fat loss

This is an option. It’s not my favorite. If you’re going to choose this route, I suggest switching it up so that your body doesn’t plateau and become stagnant. You’ll also want to note that with any of these approaches but MOSTLY with this one, your biggest concern is just getting into a caloric deficit. If standard cardio methods are the only thing you’re using to lose fat, make sure to do:

  • Sprint intervals (1:1 for instance)
  • High intensity continuous training (15-20 minutes hard in the paint)
  • Steady state (low intensity long distance)
  • Cardiac output power intervals or thresholds (longer intervals 1.5-3 minutes at or above lactate threshold).


Switching it up will give your body a different stimulus to adapt to.  And if no weight training is involved I at least encourage you to use cardio forms that use resistance of some kind. Think about hill sprints, stairs, or just increasing resistance on the bike. Airdyne (assault) bikes are intensely and painfully good for this. Add some extra work for those legs. Trust me, your lungs will feel the burn as well.

Take your pick and get after it my friend.

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use cardio and weight training for fat loss with Annie Miller

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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