Low Resistance Vs. High Resistance Exercises to Lose Fat

Sprints are a high-resistance form of fat-burning exercise.
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To lose fat, you must be in a calorie deficit. This means burning more calories than you consume. A proportion of this calorie deficit should come from diet, while the rest needs to be attained through exercises. There is much debate over whether low-resistance or high-resistance exercise is better for burning fat, and while both can be useful, there are certain pros and cons to both approaches.

Low-Resistance Cardio

Low-resistance, or steady-state, cardio consists of working at a low to moderate intensity for a sustained period of time. At a low intensity, a higher proportion of the calories you burn come from fat -- around 60 percent, according to the American Council on Exercise. However, overall calorie burn for a low-resistance session such as walking or jogging won't be as high as if you were working at a higher intensity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity cardio each week for health and weight-loss benefits.

High-Resistance Cardio

High-resistance cardio is more commonly referred to as high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, and comprises short periods of very high intensity exercise interspersed with shorter periods of moderate work. Only around 35 percent of the calories burned through high-resistance cardio come from fat, says the American Council on Exercise, but overall calorie burn will be much higher. High-intensity cardio creates a higher metabolism boost too, making it superior for fat loss and muscle preservation, according to nutritional scientist and bodybuilder Dr. Layne Norton. The CDC recommends just 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio each week.

Weight Training

Weight training can be considered a high-resistance exercise too. While it's most commonly associated with building strength and muscle mass, it also has a powerful effect on fat burn. Resistance training causes a further metabolism boost known as excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, claims Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico, which causes your body to continue burning calories after the session has finished and leads to greater fat loss. There is a common myth that light weights lifted for higher reps are better for fat loss, but this is untrue. You'll burn more fat by training harder, not by performing more repetitions.


The intensity of your training depends on a number of factors. Beginners may fare better with low-resistance training, building up a base level of endurance with steady-state cardio and keeping the weights lighter to begin with. Conversely, advanced trainers may find better fat-loss results in keeping the intensity high. Dr. Norton advises basing your training plan around high-resistance work, and adding in low-resistance training to increase your calorie and fat burn when you're lacking in energy, as constantly performing high-intensity work can take its toll on your body. Experiment with different methods and find what gives you the best results.

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