Get Lean While Lifting Weights

How many people really know what they are doing at the gym? Many go to the gym, do a few weighted exercises (think beach muscles) and leave. Did they get a workout? That depends on your definition of a “workout.” How much more could they have accomplished if they had an actual plan? What if the plan included more than just weight lifting? What if it maximized the hour by also incorporating cardio, core training and more in the workout?

To achieve the maximum results from a workout, you need to head to the gym not just with a sense of purpose– but also with a plan. In the next few blogs, I am going to focus on simple things you can do to get more out of your time spent before, during or after lifting.

Add Cardio to Your Weight Lifting Workout
Get your heart rate high during and in between sets in order to burn more calories and to build cardiovascular endurance.

While weight lifting will help you develop muscle, and muscle will help you burn calories all day long, adding a short burst of cardiovascular activity will help you burn more calories during your one-​​hour workout. You can do this regardless of what your weight routine may be (I will address this in a different blog).

I have two suggestions for maximizing your workout.

First suggestion: Add bodyweight exercises to your weight routine.

Not only will body weight exercises add an extra challenge to your workout, it will also decrease the amount of time sitting, waiting to do the next set. By performing the circuit with no break, you will increase your heart rate.

Here is an example of a full body circuit:

- Jumping Pull-​​ups with negative resistance (although the videos show jumping and the negative resistance separately, I suggest combining the two exercises into one motion– jump up and slow down.)
Lat Pull Down
Seated Row
Plank Hold with Hip Rotation
Dive Bomber Push-​​ups
Tubing Bicep Curl

Second suggestion: Add a short burst of cardio between sets.

At the end of this circuit, try adding a jog around the track, running sprints in between cones or two to three minutes on a treadmill at the highest pace you can handle for that duration of time. You may normally jog at a level 6 on the treadmill for a mile. Try pushing it up to a 7 or a 7.5.

By trying these suggestions your weight workout will turn into a calorie burner and you will also give yourself a challenge by mixing things up!

If you find these suggestions helpful, please post a comment below or email me at Stephanie@​startfitness.​com. HOOAH!


Need some new exercise ideas? Try our free fitness video clips. Or, if you prefer a full workout, try our fitness DVD set, Operation Living Fit. Military​.com subscribers can get $4 off the trilogy by entering the promotional code, “military”.

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  1. Vinny Veteran says:

    You can\‘t build muscle without a calorie surplus and heavy *** weights.…cardio defeats that purpose

    • Stephanie Weichert says:

      Thanks for your comment Vinny Veteran. Your comment refers to building large muscle mass. That is not what this blog is about. This blog caters to the person who is looking to build and contour a moderate amount of muscle. Otherwise, you are correct– heavy weights + low reps = muscle mass. Additionally, will you be able to build strength? Yes. Strength as defined by the National Academy of Sports Medicine: the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce internal tension (in the muscles and connective tissue that pull on the bones) to overcome an external force.

      The best answer would be, train for your goal. That doesn’t mean you can’t do cardiovascular exercise during or post weight workout. it does mean that if you are looking to really build mass you need to lift heavier. If you are looking to maintain or build a moderate amount of muscle you would shoot for less weight and higher reps. When the workout is properly planned, adding “cardio” does not diminish either goal.

      • Luc says:

        Very well put. I teach the Lean phase of P90x in California and this article helped me explain a bit more why it\‘s important to have cardio in any workout to get lean.

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Stephanie Weichert

Published author, Strategic Director of START Fitness and military wife. Stephanie Weichert became the Strategic Director of START in 2001 and developed and co-produced the Operation Fit to Fight™ fitness series. She has written health and fitness articles for GX® magazine (circ. 375,000), Foundations (circ. 400,000), Hooah! (circ. 6.5 million) and Military Spouse Magazines (circ. 60,000). She co-developed a tactical fitness instructor training and testing program for the Army National Guard. Stephanie comes from a strong Water Polo background where she achieved the All-Valley goalie, co-MVP and Coaches Award. She is certified in Personal training through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and has a B.A. in marketing from SFSU.