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I have found that lifting heavy helps with pain in my joints. As such I have no particular goal like muscle gain or endurance, etc. Its just that I don't go for too low reps and rapid progression so that my joints have enough time to adapt to higher resistance.

Lifting heavy increases my appetite. I don't eat a lot, only as per my appetite. So, I have gained some amount of muscle but also some disproportionate fat deposition around my lower abs and hips (because of a certain medical condition I have) which I am supposed to avoid.

I do compound lifts 4 days a week, 3 sets of 10 reps. I don't have much time or equipment for cardio.

Is there a way I can tweak my workout regime in terms of reps, etc. so that it causes greater fat burn and I can do without much cardio?

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The number one defense against body fat is controlling your diet. Everything else supplements a proper diet. Most recommendations on diet are fundamentally the same, and the differences are often overstated. One thing is true: you can't out-exercise a bad diet. Always start with how much you eat, and then the types of things you eat.

There are several ways to use exercise when you are emphasizing burning fat. Here are a few examples:

  • Minimize rest between sets. If you normally take 2-3 minutes resting between each set, try to get down to 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Use circuit training. High reps with moderate weight will work best. Try to involve lunges and push ups in your circuit if you can.
  • Do something outdoors. Walking a couple miles in your neighborhood can help give you a time to think and clear your mind as well as provide some active recovery. Swimming and bicycling are other options if it is available to you.
  • Do loaded carries. Strongman has activities like farmer's walks, sandbag carries, etc. All you have to do is carry something heavy and try to cover 30-50 feet as quickly as possible, and repeat a few times. Short quick steps usually work best for these.

Each of these get your heart rate up, and the goal is to maintain an elevated heart rate for 30 minutes to an hour. The time for rest between circuits can be from when you are breathing really heavy to when you can speak in sentences again. If you have a heart rate monitor you can keep your heart rate up between 120-150 BPM for most of the workout.

The good news is that by being creative you can balance conditioning work and strength work well. You can do your main work normally in the beginning of a training session, then superset all the assistance work. You can also choose to take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators when you can. All these options pack a lot of work in a little time.

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  • Given that I aim for fat burn and also load progression, is it a good idea to employ both circuit training and minimising rest between sets with 3 sets of 10 reps (and not exactly high reps) of each main lift? If so, what rest time should I aim for while switching from one exercise to another and one round of circuit and the next? – Swati Priyadarsini Sep 14 '14 at 6:05
  • Provided that you do your main work first and you are doing your assistance work in circuits you won't have any problems. Alternatively you can have a day dedicated to 1 big grueling circuit. – Berin Loritsch Sep 15 '14 at 11:35
  • Just remember, reducing rest increases fatigue during training. Be patient with yourself while you get used to it. – Berin Loritsch Sep 15 '14 at 11:40
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My favorite uses of weights for cardio are heavy twenty-rep squats, dumbbell/kettlebell swings, and complexes. Essentially, more reps with less weight and continuous effort. Making circuits using weights plus bodyweight (e.g. the magic 50) works well too.

Putting five to fifteen minutes of high-intensity cardio at the end of the workout doesn't take much time or equipment.

In the end, though, the best method for controlling fat gain while lifting is to control diet.

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  • so is it best always to lift weight and then do cardio for burning fat? Or why did you suggest that? – Jack Twain Sep 11 '14 at 18:00
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    In order to maximize performance and progress in each domain, the order of the workout should go skill, power, strength, conditioning. This takes advantage of the fact that conditioning requires less motor recruitment and allows for more slop than strength work. – Dave Liepmann Sep 11 '14 at 19:21
  • this is poor advice. firstly high reps of lifting weights is still not cardio it is simply high reps of weight lifting. This can be beneficial for some lifts but not all lifts. Higher repetitions is good for hypertrophy which is expanding the size of muscles which gives you an easier time building strength when you lift for the number of reps for strength building. There are a wide variety of views on what lifts benefit from higher reps and which ones do not. There is lots to be said about the many subjects you have incorrectly touched on but I don't have the time or space to write a book here – Dude Mar 18 at 17:29
  • @Dude Thanks! Your kind words mean a lot. However I'm not sure what to tell you if you think something like 10 minutes of swinging a kettlebell or a 20 minute circuit of burpees and snatches doesn't get your heart pumping and develop endurance. – Dave Liepmann Mar 19 at 8:59
  • Developing endurance is great. Endurance isn't cardio either nor is endurance how to lose weight. The only effective way to lose weight is through diet. – Dude Mar 19 at 10:39
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Add an extra set or two, increase your reps for all sets except the heaviest one.
Shorten rest times between sets.
Shift to an even stricter diet.

You may find that a little cardio is worth not going on a very strict diet.

If you don't have the time, having the equipment or not doesn't matter.
If you don't have the equipment, I'm sure there are some questions out there on cardio without tools.

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In the words of every trainer out there: cardio, cardio, cardio.

Weight training will give you strength but only cardio will burn fat.

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    I couldn't disagree more. Eating less is the number one way to lose fat. Cardio is a fine supplement but it isn't necessary. – John Kugelman Sep 10 '14 at 16:37
  • @JohnKugelman You are correct in your first sentence but not so in your second. Cardio is body movement. If the OP lives a sedentary life (as most people do today) lowering her food portions without cardio will only weaken her and make her sick. – MikeV Sep 10 '14 at 16:43
  • Where do you get this idea that people who diet and do not exercise get weak and sick? That's bunk. They're not improving their cardiovascular fitness, sure, but that doesn't mean they'll get sick. You're making things up. – John Kugelman Sep 10 '14 at 16:47
  • @JohnKugelman Making it up? Ohio State University reference. See "sedentary lifestyle". – MikeV Sep 10 '14 at 16:50
  • Mike. The question is how to lose fat. You say only cardio will burn fat. That is false. You also say that lowering food portions without cardio will weaken you and make you sick, as if dieting causes sickness and cardio cures it. Why don't you just leave the "lowering food portions" part out of it? "Cardiovascular fitness is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, independent of diet"--if you said that, it'd be pretty uncontroversial. – John Kugelman Sep 10 '14 at 17:12

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