Without trying to stereotype and generalise an entire population, one of the most popular reasons for attending the gym or undertaking some form of exercise is for fat loss. In western society, there is currently an ongoing epidemic surrounding obesity; according to Kuczmarski (1992), in the United States of America alone there are more than 34 million individuals classified as obese. Furthermore, predictions point towards a contined rise in this stated figure.

Each and every year, many individuals place it upon themselves to make a positive change regarding their general health and fitness levels. When embarking upon a fat loss journey, with the sole intention of overhauling your previous physique, it’s important to have confidence in the alterations you are making to your lifestyle and the changes they will ultimately invoke.

One area that will require attention and careful consideration is that of exercise: what exercise should you perform? Should you opt for cardiovascular exercises such as running and cycling or will resistance training such as weightlifting be more beneficial? What are your initial thoughts towards these two exercise disciplines and their ability to bring about fat loss in an individual?

Cardio Versus Resistance Training For Fat Burning

Historically speaking, the general consensus has always favoured cardiovascular exercise as the ultimate training discipline to aid fat loss levels of an individual. More recently, this hypothesis has been challenged and a strong argument put forward in favour of resistance training.

Walberg (1989), through his investigative research, concluded that resistance training may be more effective than cardiovascular exercise at both enhancing fat free mass levels whilst also incrementing an individual’s resting metabolic rate.

In the health and fitness world, it is often hard to obtain a definitive answer for any given topic of conversation. There will always be research investigations that support a claim versus those whom refute it – this topic of interest is absolutely no different. Issues that often make the findings of any one research investigation difficult to fully appreciate revolve around control and the ability to transfer findings to a real world setting.

For example, how were the diets of those involved in the research investigations maintained throughout the testing and measurement phases? It is all well and good trying to demonstrate a correlation between fat loss and one exercise discipline, but if you overlook or omit dietary requirements then a huge extraneous variable creeps into the equation and makes any cause and effect relationship almost impossible to report.

Furthermore, can the results from research investigations that have used obese individuals be applied to that of bodybuilders who are looking to reduce their fat levels leading up to a competition? These two examples are just a handful of the issues and questions surrounding the findings on offer. Often, further research will serve only to create more questions than answers.

With all of the above in mind, the purpose of this article was to consider one of the latest research investigations in to this popular remit of study and to consequently try and determine whether there is an actual winner in the battle of cardiovascular exercise versus resistance training for ultimate fat loss results.

Latest Research Investigation Into This Area Of Study

In 2012, Willis et al. undertook a research investigation aptly titled: ‘Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults’. This research investigation was the largest randomised trial to date and served to analyse body composition alterations resulting from three different exercise types in overweight or obese adults.

Furthermore, it attempted to eliminate all previous investigative flaws and provide conclusive evidence into this widely debated topic of interest.

For this research investigation, 234 overweight or obese adults were selected. Once enrolled, participants were randomly assigned to one of three exercise training disciplines, those being: resistance training, cardiovascular training or a combination of the two.

The resistance training group was required to perform weightlifting activities three times per week, including three sets of 8-12 repetitions. Conversely, the cardiovascular training group performed approximately 12 miles per week of aerobic training. Finally, the combined resistance and cardiovascular training group performed all of the above during the course of a training week.

Results Of The Investigation

Following the training and exercise phase, results were taken from each of the participants involved. Primary findings revealed the following:

  • Participants assigned to either the cardiovascular training group or the combined cardiovascular and resistance training group lost more overall body mass and fat than those participants whom were required to perform resistance training only.
  • There were no significant differences between the participants in the cardiovascular training group compared to those in the combined cardiovascular and resistance training group, with regards to overall body mass and fat loss, despite the later having to train for longer.
  • The cardiovascular training group exercised for less time than that of the resistance training group. The cardiovascular training group spent on average 133 minutes per week exercising whilst the resistance training group completed their exercises in approximately 180 minutes.

So what do the results and findings from this large scale, investigative research comparing cardiovascular exercise, resistance training and a combination of the two, mean for you and your fat loss goals?

Results support previous research findings which state that cardiovascular exercise is the optimal form of training for bringing about fat loss. In this investigation, not only did cardiovascular training provide the greatness results of reducing overall body mass and fat mass, but it also produced these results in the least amount of training time. The cardiovascular training group demonstrated both effectiveness and efficiency throughout.

It is important to acknowledge that this research investigation was primarily concerned with overall body mass loss and fat loss of an individual. Although resistance training, during this investigation, produced lesser results in these monitored categories, that’s not to say it shouldn’t feature within your training regime or serves no beneficial purposes.

In fact, findings from this research investigation highlighted that resistance training can be considered optimal for increasing the lean mass of an individual.

Final Word

So there you have it, cardiovascular exercise can be considered more beneficial than resistance training when looking to bring about overall body mass and fat loss results in overweight or obese adults.

This following quote was taken from one of the authors of this investigation and captures the sentiments of their research findings perfectly: “Balancing time commitments against health benefits, our study suggests that aerobic exercise is the best option for reducing fat mass and body mass. It’s not that resistance training isn’t good for you; it’s just not very good at burning fat.”

If you’re embarking upon a fitness journey which involves fat loss then why not put these findings to good use and structure your training accordingly? When applied alongside a positive outlook on life and a healthy, balanced dietary regime, there will be no stopping you…