Are Your Favorite Exercises Helping or Hurting You? (part 2: Weight Loss)

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Let’s Talk Weight-Loss.

Thanks to TV informercials, our local gyms and Instagram timelines, we all know a few different fitness methods we could turn to in order to get our blood pumping. For more specific fitness goals, though, it’s best to optimize your workouts to yield the best results for specific objectives; a concept we introduced you to in last week’s article.

This week, we’ll dive deeper into the effectiveness of different workouts in relation to common goals, starting off with America’s number one search term: weight loss. When it comes to burning fat, some methods are more productive than others, and some “weight loss'” exercises have somehow stumbled into the wrong fitness category. Today, we’ll highlight a few of the internets favorite weight loss remedies and expose a few that aren’t what they claim to be.

Just to set the record straight: we encourage all types of fitness, for more reasons than just weight loss (we’ll be focusing on Strength Training and Cardio exercises next)! However, if you’re focusing on dropping pounds, are there types of exercises you should flat-out avoid? Definitely. While we still encourage anyone to give these workouts a shot (in fact, we love all of them!), some of them may not give you the results you’re looking for if weight loss is your top priority.

If you’re trying to lose weight, CrossFit will probably HURT you.

CrossFit has exploded in popularity in the last decade, and it’s also exploded in controversy.  For every person who’s a raving CrossFit fanatic, there seems to be another who openly detests it!

When it comes to things that obstruct weight loss, “CrossFit is number one on the hit list,” Fitness enthusiast Aly R said in an email. “The risk-to-results ratio just isn’t there.” If you’re just beginning your weight-loss journey, you likely won’t have the strength to get an effective workout without injuring yourself. “It’s very popular, and I can see how fun and challenging it is,” she noted. “But the way the exercises are done is very dangerous, especially for someone not in tiptop shape.”

CrossFit combines strength training, endurance training, short high intensity interval training, and various skill based movement training into a comprehensive program, often making unique combinations of stuff from each of these normally separate arenas into single workouts. If straightforward fat loss is your primary and perhaps only goal, then CrossFit probably isn’t the way to go. There are much easier and less time/effort intensive ways to lose weight. Though, that certainty doesn’t mean aren’t allowed to join #TeamCrossFit after you’ve finished your first session!

If you’re trying to lose weight, Interval Training will probably HELP you.

The number one training method the experts turn to again and again for weight loss: interval training. What’s that? “Any form of exercise where your heart rate spikes and then comes down repeatedly,” says Gina Harney, fitness blogger and author of “HIIT IT!.” This type of training keeps your heart rate elevated, which in turn keeps your metabolism humming. When that’s happening, you burn more calories.

One of the many styles of interval training is indoor cycling, though this workout leans heavily toward cardio over strength training, Harney explains. She also notes that cycling requires you to use various muscles in your body—quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core, for starters—which once again translates to weight loss. “The more muscles you have to incorporate, the more calories you’re going to burn because those muscles all require energy in order to work,” she says. “And the more energy you use, the higher those calorie-burning numbers climb. It’s all a cycle.”

If you’re trying to lose weight, Yoga will probably HURT you.

Yoga enthusiast Jade Hunter explains that yoga “has a lot of benefits, but losing weight is not one of them.” Although you’ll gain strength and tone up, if you’re aiming to shed pounds, “you want to work as much of your body as possible to lose weight and to stimulate your metabolism,” and Hunter says yoga is not the most effective way to do so.

While there are some styles of yoga that can help one burn more than 500 calories per hour — such as Vinyasa — overall, yoga doesn’t top the list of calorie-torching weight-loss workouts one can do to see relatively quick results, though some research shows that practicing yoga may work for weight loss when combined with a healthy diet.

If you’re trying to lose weight, Weight Training will probably HELP you.

Consider weight training the mother of all weight-loss techniques, the highest in the workout food chain, the top of the totem pole. Resistance training, whether it’s with your bodyweight alone or with added weights, is an effective method to help you drop pounds, if that’s your goal. Lifting weights has been shown to increase your resting metabolic rate, which means you’ll continue to burn calories even after you finish working out. It’s called the “afterburn effect,” and you can read all about it here.

Harney suggests adding weight training to your routine at least three times a week. And since your body adjusts to workouts after being exposed to the same moves at the same intensity, becoming less effective over time, she says to mix it up about every three weeks to keep your body guessing.

If you’re trying to lose weight, strictly doing Cardio Routines will probably HURT you.

We all know that to get lean you have to do cardio and have a great consistent nutritional diet. But did you know that too much cardio can be counterproductive? Performing too much cardio will put your body in a catabolic state and burn hard-earned muscle. The loss of muscle will not only reduce strength, but it will also slow down your metabolism. If your metabolism slows down too much, you’ll have a tough time burning fat.

Winnie Liong of WinniesBalance says these should be avoided if your only goal is weight loss. Why? The munchies. “Cardio will help burn calories but can often make you hungry, leading to excessive calorie-consuming after workouts,” putting you at a higher risk for undoing your progress. Additionally, if you’re only doing cardio and not balancing with strength training, it can lead to muscle loss. “The loss of muscle destroys your metabolism; if you are going to do cardio, do it in conjunction with a well thought-out weight training workout.”

If you’re trying to lose weight, Boxing will probably HELP you.

At its essence, boxing is really another form of interval training. Another bonus, it also makes you feel insanely badass. Here’s the trick to remember: it’s a common mistake for beginners to punch using only their arm strength, but the majority of your power is going to come from your core and you’ll use muscles that are typically ignored in other workouts (hey there, obliques).

It’s best to log this type of workout in a class, as it’s crucial for beginners to learn proper form from an instructor who can help keep your intensity level high.

If you’re trying to lose weight, Running will probably HELP you.

All you need is a pair of sneakers before you head out the door. But if weight loss is the name of your game, the lackadaisical head-out-for-a-light-jog style of running isn’t the way to go. Instead, find a hill you can sprint up, or crank the incline on that treadmill.

“Running up hills forces you to work your glutes and legs—two of your body’s biggest muscle groups—even more, which requires smaller muscle recruitment and more energy expenditure,” explains ChiRunning founder Danny Dreyer. As noted earlier, the more energy you’re using, the brighter that calorie-burning fire burns. But proper form here is key. “Lean into the hill, and drive your knees as high as you can, striking the ball of each foot down directly under your body,” he says. “Keep your hands open and arms bent at 90 degrees, and drive your arms straight forward up to face level, then backward to the top of your back pocket.”

So, how are you feeling about your workout routine now? Stay tuned, next week we’ll explore the best ways to build-muscle!




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