The most efficient way to strength train

Hope you all had a great weekend!

In the September Reset Challenge, I shared the foods that help and harm metabolism.  Besides what we eat, our physical activity has an impact on our metabolism, too.

In my post about the 7 Reasons Runners Struggle to Lose Weight I mentioned that if we run (and only run) we can hit a plateau and miss the metabolic boosting effects from strength training. Distance running has been shown to create inflammation and can slow the body’s metabolism.  (Learn more about how to reduce inflammation here.)

I’m sure you know by now that strength training and interval training are more effective for your metabolism and create a greater after burn.  Interval cardio, or high intensity training, can burn 3x more body fat than moderate cardio.

So what are the best ways to incorporate strength and intensity training?

First, heavy weights are more effective than light weights.  They help you burn twice as many calories afterward as a session with light weights.

Second, you want to move your largest muscle groups first for a greater metabolic effect for increasing muscle mass and fat burning.  So you would begin with quads, glutes, hamstrings, back and chest and finish with smaller muscles groups like shoulders, abs, calves, triceps and biceps.

And finally, the most effective workout combines high intensity cardio with heavy weights.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning compared two groups who performed the exact same set of cardio and weight exercises.  The first group completed all the weights first and than did their cardio interval routine.

The second group alternated cardio interval training in between weight sets.

The study found that the second group had 10x as much fat loss, plus improved muscle mass gains, increased body strength, and better endurance.

So for example, you would complete a set of squats (weight) and then mountain climbers (intense cardio) and continue to alternate the two types of workouts.  This workout style can be very effective in a short amount of time- even 10 or 15 minutes is enough.  (Ideal for anyone who says they have no time to workout!)

Need a sample workout? Try one of these:

Strength Cardio Ladder


For dozens of interval and strength workouts, check out my pinterest “Strength” board.

Do you incorporate weights or interval training?

How do you balance variety of training with running?

50 thoughts on “The most efficient way to strength train

  1. I’ve just started to get back to doing intervals 1-2 times a week. I’m teaching a 20 minute HITT class following spin on Thursdays so that’s an easy way for me to get it done! I’ve realized that I need my strength just as much as my endurance, to get me though a tough race!
    Allie recently posted..The Rundown: Off SeasonMy Profile

  2. Sigh. I haven’t really been running that much. I like running. Running doesn’t like me right now. SO! I have been doing 20-30 minute strength workouts like the ones you have posted here. Also been hiking, mountain biking, walking and yoga-ing. Thanks for sharing. Definitely pinning.
    Tara Newman recently posted..The Sherpa Wife Chronicles: The BeginningMy Profile

  3. Interesting post… I’ve started teaching barre and the whole weight concept is completely different- their “warm-up” includes arm weights first (the smaller muscles) and they finish with leg exercises (the bigger muscles). They also use light weights, versus heavy.
    But good to know about mixing in cardio. I get too bored just lifting!
    emma @ be mom strong recently posted..RVA Half Marathon RecapMy Profile

  4. Great advice Laura! I try to incorporate your advice into my strength training, but my biggest problem is that I end up trying to rush through the exercises, which is not good as you can do them wrong, or strengthen the wrong muscles. I am at PT now, and they are teaching me new exercises to strength my flutes, hoping this will help! It will also be good for my mind as I am SO bored of my old ones!
    Tina Muir recently posted..Meatless Monday- Spinach and Artichoke PotatoesMy Profile

  5. YES YES YES! This is totally where I’m at right now. I love running, but I hate what it does to my body. I’m really trying to get better about incorporating this stuff into my workouts during my cross training sessions!! I’ve hit a serious plateau and despite eating clean after your reset challenge, I can’t lose these pesky pounds…this is probably the key for me!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted..WIN Detergent Review/GiveawayMy Profile

    • Hey Sue! Yes- when eating is not the issue it often comes down to variety of training (although looking at stress, sleep, etc. is important, too!) I am one of those women who usually puts on a few pounds when I train for distance… I think my body interprets it as stress. I love training and running but I agree, I don’t do it for what it does for my body… if you’re looking to lose weight, backing off distance running can often help. It sounds counter intuitive but for many women it’s true!
      Laura recently posted..The most efficient way to strength trainMy Profile

  6. I chose to stop lifting heavy about 9 weeks ago, as it seemed the third trimester changes were not working fully in harmony with lifting.

    Hopefully within 12 weeks, I’ll be lifting a few times a week again and referencing this post as needed.

    Thank you.
    Wendy recently posted..4th Trimester Food PrepMy Profile

  7. I desperately need to do more regular strength training. This is such a great post with great links and great examples of fitting in quick but effective workout! We have a home gym with weights and a treadmill and I like to do intervals where I jump off the treadmill and do a set with weights. It’s a good workout, but I don’t think it would be easy to execute in a public gym.
    Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen recently posted..Training update: 3 weeks out from Memphis & a two week taperMy Profile

  8. Incorporating strength training into running plans was one of my best running decisions ever. Ironically, this week I’m trying interval and HIIT training for strength training. Needed a change of pace from my workout DVDs.

    Excited to change things up a bit!
    jill conyers recently posted..Recovery With a Detox BathMy Profile

  9. My biggest thing is going heavy on weights. I typically just use bodyweight and I’ve been meaning to get heavier dumbbells than the 5lbs I use occasionally for Pilates but this just reinforced the importance of adding heavy lifting to my cardio intervals! Speaking of cardio intervals, I do a lot of explosive cardio moves which really get me going, but maybe it’s time I switched some of it out for weight lifting…
    Linda @ Fit Fed and Happy recently posted..$1 PALEO BOOK SALE! + The List Of Things I’ll Never Get Done, The List of Things That Go On and On…My Profile

  10. Thanks for sharing – I try to mix up my strength training routine every couple of weeks, and you just saved me lots of workout planning!

  11. The reason why I love CrossFit so much is it incorporates strength and endurance training in every workout, but it is constantly varied so you never do the same thing twice. I’ve experienced so many gains with strength and interval training that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
    Melissa @ Fit ‘n’ Well Mommy recently posted..MIMM – Marvelous Family Time!My Profile

  12. I am bringing back my squats and strength work. I tried to be careful during injury recovery over the summer and not push things too hard … as Lisa wrote above, at my age, I’m learning to approach it differently. I agree that the weights can be so great for strength work. I’m planning to get my higher pound weights back into my post-run routine!
    Christina recently posted..Preparing for winter runsMy Profile

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