If you pick up any fitness magazine like Men’s Health or Muscle & Fitness, you are used to reading the following advice:
If you want to look good and add muscle, lift weights.
If you want to lose weight and benefit your heart, do long, steady-state cardio.
The vast majority of people at the gym are slavishly obedient to this advice. If you visit the gym after work, you’ll have to wait to get on an elliptical machine or a treadmill. But it is unlikely that you will have too much problem getting a set of dumbbells in the free weight section.
P.D. Mangan thoroughly debunks this “cardio is best for weight loss” advice in his book Muscle Up.
For those of you who are not familiar with him, P.D. Mangan is the manosphere’s resident health and fitness expert. He blogs over at Rogue Health and Fitness.
Mangan does not regurgitate out-of-date advice from popular magazines—he reads cutting edge scientific studies, and synthesizes the information for his readers. I’ve been a regular reader of his blog for nearly a year and half.
Cardio may help you lose fat. Even if it does, it is less than ideal.
Mangan opens his book with a quote by noted exercise scientist Steven Blair. Blair wrote that he was short, fat, and bald when he started running, and that even after years of running almost daily, he was still short, fat, and bald.
No one wants results like that.
While it is probably safe to say that there must be something wrong with Blair’s diet that enabled him to keep his fat despite exercising so much, it also must point to a problem with running’s effectiveness as a mode of weight loss.
This problem is evident whenever you look at long distance athletes. Even when you combine running with a good diet, the result is not pleasing to the eye. Marathon runners are the best example. They are highly trained athletes, but they have emaciated muscles.
Compare this to Olympic weight lifters who have a low percentage of body fat (probably much lower than the marathon runner) but who also have a lot of muscle mass. Who would you rather look like? Which athlete looks healthier?
Of course, not all weightlifting regimens are equally effective. Muscle Up tells you exactly what type of resistance exercises are the best at turning your body into a fat burning furnace—and how to use it to keep your metabolism performing at peak efficiency.
I tried to use cardio alone for weight loss—and failed.
My own results confirm P.D. Mangan’s advice. I never noticed dramatic weight loss from aerobic exercise when I was doing only 30 minutes, three times a week.
The one time I did lose a lot of weight from aerobics, I was doing one hour of cardio, six times per week.
But I was not able to maintain this pace for very long. After a couple of months on this program, I started to feel very fatigued. It wasn’t long after that I that I came down with the flu, which put me out of commission for a couple of weeks. When I returned to the gym, I was smarter: I dialed my cardio back to two or three sessions per week.
It is not just about weight loss.
But it turns out that weightlifting has more benefits than just being the optimal method for reducing fat and gaining muscle. It also has numerous other benefits that I had never guessed at.
Weightlifting can actually help prevent cancer. When I read this assertion on the book’s cover, I was skeptical, but Muscle Up explains exactly how weight training can almost cut your risk of cancer by 40%.
It’s the same with heart disease. Conventional wisdom has it that only cardio can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But few people know that strength training may be an even better way of reducing your chance of getting a heart attack. Again, he backs up his assertion with scientific research.
The optimal way to work out.
According to Muscle Up, you can drop long, slow cardio entirely without suffering any ill health effects. In fact, dropping plodding cardio may even help prevent injuries caused by exercises like jogging.
The best way of staying fit involves a combination of High Intensity Interval Training, also known as HITT, and the weightlifting and diet regimen that Mangan prescribes in Muscle Up.
Working out this way will make you look good and aid in staying healthy. It is also a good program for someone who wants to stay in shape for martial arts.
My experience with Muscle Up.
The information in Muscle Up changed the way I train. Between work, writing for this blog and ROK, and being a dad with two young boys, I have very little time for working out.
I was using what little work out time I did have to do some long, slow cardio. My reasoning was that at least I would keep my heart in shape and that I could maintain my weight.
I didn’t gain weight, but I was probably losing muscle mass. My wife looked at me one day and said, “Your arms are smaller now than they ever have been since we started dating.” She frowned.
And all this time I didn’t realize that my wife liked my arms. Who would’ve guessed?
After getting Muscle Up, I put its advice to the test. After about three months on the program, I’m down only about five pounds, but my body composition has changed. My body fat percentage has dropped several points. My waist is smaller and my arms and shoulders are bigger. This is a program that I plan to stay on.
If you are interested in all the ways that weight training can benefit your body, pick up a copy of Muscle Up. It serves as a great motivator to never give up pumping iron.
I just recently discovered Mr. Mangan, through your link to his site.
I don’t feel the need to get quite as ripped as Mr. Klokov, but sure as heck want to look more like him then the running dude.
I am seeing the same results in my own life. I’ve always tended to be “skinny-fat”, and occasionally move into the “fat” category. I couldn’t do more than about 2 pushups.
I’ve tried to deal with this by cutting back on my calories (still had a poor diet, lots of sweets, and soda pop – just less of it), and cardio (biking for me). Sure, I could lose weight doing this. I’d bike 20 miles a day, all summer long. That is about 90 minutes of biking a day.
I’m 6’4″ and dropped from 227 down to 197 in about 4 months. I still had a similar body composition, just a smaller one. I still had a fat little tummy. Then winter came, and I didn’t bike as much. My weight went right back up again. That regimen wasn’t sustainable, and didn’t give the results I wanted anyway.
This winter, I got up to 240 lbs., and finally decided to take a different approach. I started weightlifting a couple years ago, but have recently gotten serious and consistent with it. I also dramatically increased my protein intake while greatly reducing my intake of sugar, grains, carbs, and alcohol.
I’m still biking some (maybe 10 miles a day), but mainly focus on diet (high protein, and lower carbs), and heavy compound weightlifting (deadlift, squats, incline row, floor press, overhead press, pushups, barbell curl).
I’m seeing substantial improvement. I’ve dropped 17 pounds in the last two months, and am still increasing the weights I lift. My stomach is shrinking. My love handles are shrinking. My arms are growing.
Just yesterday, my wife mentioned that my arms look bigger and stronger than before.
I still want to lose quite a bit more fat, but want to do it the right way.
Great article! Already ordered my copy and looking forward to implementing it.