The Best Cardio for Burning Fat & Lengthening Muscles

Stretching helps improve range of motion, but doesn't change muscle length.

Stretching helps improve range of motion, but doesn't change muscle length.

The idea that exercise can lengthen muscles is a bit of a misnomer. The only way you could actually lengthen your muscles is to disconnect one end of the muscle and then reattach it at a different site farther down the bone. Many exercise programs geared toward women falsely promise to produce lengthening and slimming results – your muscle fiber type and body composition play a larger role in your body’s ability to look long and lean.

Muscle Fiber Types and Appearance

Your muscles are made up of varying ratios of two types of fibers: slow twitch and fast twitch. The ratio of these fibers your muscles are composed of is determined by genetics. Slow twitch muscle fibers favor aerobic types of endurance activities, whereas fast twitch fibers favor powerful, sprint-type exercises. Muscle fiber type plays a role in the aesthetics of your muscles. Individuals who have a higher content of slow twitch muscle fibers tend to have muscles that are smaller in girth. This is because slow twitch fibers are used more in endurance activities like jogging for extended periods of time. Individuals who have a larger percentage of fast twitch fibers may have an easier time “bulking up” because they're characteristically more adept at power-driven activities like power lifting or sprinting.

The Role of Body Composition

The amount of body fat you carry tends to dictate your shape. The less body fat, the more lean you look. One pound of fat is approximately 3,500 calories. To lose 1 pound of fat per week you would need to cut 500 calories per day through diet and exercise.

Torch Body Fat

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that healthy adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week. To burn body fat more quickly try interval training. Interval training allows you to burn a larger number of calories in a shorter period of time, getting you the most out of your time in the gym. Since interval training is a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity cardiovascular exercise, your metabolism stays at a higher rate for an extended period of time following your workout.

Training Outside or in the Gym

If you enjoy working out outside, use mailboxes or other landmarks to gauge interval changes. Depending on your current fitness level you can vary your pace between speed walking/sprinting and your normal pace. If you work out in a gym, some cardiovascular equipment has preprogramed interval training options that you can choose from. If equipment at your gym does not offer preprogrammed interval training, increase your speed or resistance every few minutes.

 

About the Author

Kate Richey has been active in the health and fitness fields since 2005. Following completion of her M.S.Ed in exercise science and wellness from Old Dominion University, Richey obtained her physical activity in public health specialist certification and health fitness specialist certification through the ACSM.

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