One of the longest and hardest fought arguments in fitness is between those who believe that aerobic exercise is necessary for fat-loss and those who believe it is not. The primary reason why this argument rages on is because both sides bring some heavy ammo in substantiating and defending their belief. When it’s time to go to battle these two sides trade blows like a couple of heavyweights fighting for the championship. Just when you think one has the upper hand the other one comes back with an unexpected uppercut to send em’ stumbling backwards.
I have tested both theories at various times throughout my bodybuilding career as well as tested them with clients. There is so much research and empirical evidence for both arguments that one simply has to learn for him or herself. While I tend to lean more towards the “no-aerobics” camp there are specific circumstances under which I believe aerobics are appropriate and would encourage them.
Let me give you an example. In my first year as a competitive bodybuilder I was utilizing a method of weight training called Super Slow™. This particular method of training adamantly opposed the performance of aerobic exercise not just for fat-loss but as a form of exercise altogether.
Through diet and resistance training alone I was able to achieve the “bodybuilder” look I had been after since I first started weight training nine years earlier (I was 13 when I first began weight training). The following year I continued to steer clear of aerobics and simply worked on improving my diet…I looked even better. For the next go-around I decided I would diet exactly the same but add some moderate to high intensity aerobics. Once again, I improved.
For the next few years I would continue the implementation of aerobic exercise during my contest prep, despite my aversion to it. I’m the type that will do things I despise if I know that in the end I’ll get what I want. All I wanted was to get leaner and more muscular each and every year so if that meant getting on that treadmill or elliptical I was all in.
However in 2010 I was put in a position where because of my heavy workload and other obligations I had to be very stingy with my time. This time around I would need to make some adjustments and the first thing I did was revisit my diet to see how I could improve it based on my current knowledge. Next, I decided to hold off as long as I possibly could with performing aerobic exercise. I figured I would use it only as a last resort when I needed to get that last bit of body-fat off and for now put my time and energy towards other important things outside of bodybuilding.
After the first month I was consistently losing body-fat week to week through better nutrition alone. Upon finishing month two I was within 5 lbs. of where I projected myself to be on contest day (2 months away). Having eight weeks to lose the last 5 lbs (the hardest to lose) I decided to continue on without aerobic exercise and would only add it as a last resort if I hit a plateau.
With four weeks until the contest I was ahead of where I projected myself to be at this point. What a great feeling it was being “stage ready” with just a few short weeks remaining and not having performed a single minute of aerobic exercise! By the time I hit the stage I was 3 lbs below my projected weight and was easily the leanest and most muscular I had ever been.
Just as proof that this was not a fluke or a gender issue (yes, men do lose weight more easily). My girlfriend followed a similar diet and lost 29 lbs. in those four months without performing aerobic exercise and competed in her first Figure competition.
So as you see I’ve taken both paths to achieving personal bests. And whether you need aerobic exercise or not is a function of many different factors. Just so that you don’t walk away with only my personal experience on the issue let me leave you with why I believe at times aerobic exercise was needed versus not needed. Please keep in mind that these are MY reasons and may not be applicable to everyone.
- Diet was inadequate and proper adjustments were not made as my body/metabolism changed.
- Too few weekly weight training sessions (2-3/week), not enough to keep metabolism elevated.
- Work schedule was lighter and I was not expending as much energy throughout the day.
- Did not give myself enough time to diet.
NOT NEEDED WHEN:
- Diet was meeting personal requirements and proper adjustments were made as body/metabolism change.
- Performing 3-4 weekly training sessions.
- Heavy workload with long hours.
- Lower stress levels as a result being in a “better place” personally.
- My significant other was also training and dieting for competition as well so I had a great support system at home (she also did no aerobic exercise and lost over 20 lbs in 4 months!).
Michael Lipowski is the author of Pure Physique: How to Maximize Fat-loss and Muscular Development, President of the International Association of Resistance Trainers and a Professional Natural Bodybuilder. Michael can be contacted at MikeL@ExerciseCertification.com or visit www.PurePhysique.com and www.ExerciseCertification.com for more information, articles and books.