The other day I received a great question submission at StraightforwardFitness.com. In fact, I thought it was so good that I decided to share it, along with my response, in this month’s newsletter.

The question went a little something like this: “I was wondering what the best effective workout to burn fat is? I have been starting out with a 5-minute warmup on the elliptical, doing weight lifting that is low in weight and high in reps, and then finishing with a lot of cardio. Is this ok, or do I need to change my routine?”

My response went a little something like this: Your question is a great one! Most people miss out on many of the benefits of a great workout due to not understanding the answer to that question, or better put, never asking that question.

First of all, let's revisit and dissect the question a bit.

First question: I was wondering what the best effective workout to burn fat is?

Answer: My knee-jerk answer to that is cardio. But as I listened to you further, I realize that maybe you really want to know how to structure your whole routine in order to burn the most fat while in the gym. So with that in mind I will digress.

You went on to say: I have been starting out with a 5-minute warmup on the elliptical, doing weight lifting that is low in weight and high in reps, and then finishing with a lot of cardio. Is this ok, or do I need to change my routine?

So, while, fundamentally, the best way to burn fat from any part of your body is through cardiovascular exercise, you still need to strength train in order to have more lean muscle mass. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism and the more calories you burn even at rest. You stated that you are strength training and that is awesome; however, it does matter HOW you are doing that. More on that a bit later.

And last, but certainly not least, you need proper nutrition to fuel your body and your workouts. No matter how complicated we all try to make our nutrition plans, the bottom line really is: You must eat less than you work off in order to lose weight. It's energy in/energy out. Isn't it crazy how complicated we tend to make that simple little equation?

You are starting out with a 5-minute warmup, which is great. I usually do a 5-10 minute warmup on the elliptical. There are many factors to consider when planning a workout regimen. Things like specific goals, your level of fitness, how many days a week you want to train and how much time you are willing to commit.

Generally speaking though, here are a few tips to follow.
  • I would say for you to do at least 1-2 exercises for every major muscle group. That's chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and don't forget your core.
  • I would keep the rep range between 8-12 unless you are elderly or have bad arthritis; then, you'd do a rep range of 12-15.
  • Choose a weight that makes the last two reps very challenging yet still doable in good form. If you can't do at least 8, it is too heavy. If you can do more than 12-15, it is too light.
  • Of course, your rep range for core work may be higher.
  • Rest about 30-45 seconds between sets then go for a second set. Rest another 30-45 seconds and move onto the next exercise. (Short rest between sets keeps the heart rate up and burns more calories while strength training; hence, killing 2 birds with 1 stone.)
  • Always do large muscle groups first and biceps and triceps last for upper body exercises.
  • Never do the same muscle group 2 days in a row.
  • Use slow and controlled form whilst lifting.
  • Exhale on exertion, making sure to never hold your breath.

    Once you are done with your strength training you can finish up with your cardio. I like to use my best energy for strength training.

    Your entire workout should last no longer than 60-75 minutes tops. If you are going longer than that, it can be counterproductive. If you start burning into your muscle during your workout for energy, instead of stored glycogen or fat, then can you see how that is counterproductive?

    I'll take an excerpt from my book, “SO YOU JOINED A GYM...NOW WHAT Workout Tips for Beginners—How to Exercise & Train Smart” to explain that concept: (I know you think I am a big fat liar and the book doesn’t even exist, but I promise it does. One of these days I just may shock everyone and release it!)

    Excerpt from page 51 of "So You Joined a Gym...Now What"
    The theory behind this reasoning is: Once you go past your glycogen stores (stored carbs for effective exercise) your body begins to strip the protein (ouch!) from the muscle to use it for energy instead of being used for its intended job of building tissue, enzymes, hormones, etc. That is so NOT what we want to do!

    For this reason, I often tell people to divide their workouts up. Do cardio on one day and strength train on another. Or if you are truly ambitious, you can do cardio in the morning and strength train later or whatever works for your schedule, putting enough time in between to give your body time to replenish its carb stores.

    You need to be strength training at least 2-3 times a week and up to 5 or 6 according to the muscles you are working per workout. You need to be doing cardio 3-6 days a week according to the aforementioned info and what your goals are and such.

    If you are physically capable and fit enough, you should incorporate a couple of HIT (high intensity training) sessions a week. Go to cardio modes for more on that. You should also be doing interval training for your cardio sessions and you can check that out at beginning cardio. Also, be sure and read the cardio guidelines and strength training guidelines at Straightforwardfitness.com to be sure you are being safe and effective.

    Plus, don't forget to stretch. Flexibility is important, especially as we age.


    This is the part of the newsletter where I picture an exercise and give explicit instructions on its proper execution. I randomly chose this month's exercise out of the blue. If you want arms that turn heads, you need to pay particular attention to strict form on this exercise. Drumroll, please... I give you the...EZ bar biceps curl! (The crowd goes wild!)

    Primary Muscle Group Worked:

    For a video demonstration of this exercise go to youtube.com/lpburke

    Starting Position: Stand in good body alignment (abs tight, chest up, back straight) with feet about hip width apart and knees slightly bent and locked. Position your hands so they are on the curve that causes your palms to face inwards. Keep upper arms back and in close to body and stationary. Keep elbows in direct alignment below shoulders throughout this exercise.

    Execution: Exhale as you bend elbows and raise bar as high as you can without moving your upper arms forward. Pause and squeeze your biceps and inhale as you slowly lower weight to start position. Repeat for desired amount of reps.

    1) Do not swing bar or body. Do this move very slowly and keep upper arms back and in.
    2) Perhaps most importantly so it's worth repeating, be sure and keep elbows in direct alignment beneath shoulders throughout exercise. In other words, do not allow any movement with the upper arms.
    3) Keep wrists straight throughout the execution of this exercise.
    4) Keep a slight bend in elbows between reps, allowing tension to remain on biceps throughout the set. Now that's the way to sculpt guns to die for, baby!

    I see people doing these so poorly it makes me want to cry. Follow my tips and directions till the burn makes you wanna slap your mama! You'll thank me when you see how effective these are, I promise! Good luck!

    Okay, peeps! This is the inspirational part of the newsletter known as the "Ponder Pond" where you're welcome to take a swim in the sweet waters of inspiration that can only come from things that make you go, "OMG!"

    This video came to me through Karma Tube and I am passing it on to you to share the love, baybee! Grab a hankie and purge those pent up emotions with me again this month, people! I started crying as soon as the song started playing. This is beyond touching!!

    Well, it was good for me, as usual, how bout you? (sob, sob!)

    Well, that's about it for this month! I hope you enjoyed this month's newsletter and until the next issue, may the wind be at your back and improved health and vitality your new reality!

    If you enjoyed this newsletter, please feel free to pay it forward to anyone you think would like it too. That is the best compliment you could ever pay me, and I appreciate it very, very much.

    And don't forget to tell everybody about. Straightforwardfitness.com where they can get all the free fitness info their heart desires and sign up for this newsletter while they are there.

    From my heart to your health,

    Linda Burke, CPT

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