Low-resistance vs. High-resistance Exercises to Lose Fat

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Resistance is used to describe the work load or the force of your muscular contraction during an exercise. Typically, resistance training refers to strength-training activities like weightlifting, resistant band exercises or exercises utilizing your own body weight as resistance such as doing pushups. However, you can also change your resistance when doing some cardio exercises like increasing gear while bicycling, running uphill or using wrist and ankle weights while walking.

Fat Burning Basics

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Your body stores all the extra calories you eat as fat into your adipose tissue. Thus, if you are eating more calories than your body needs for energy, you will gain weight. When your body is not getting enough calories from food, it will start burning stored fat for energy. One good way to increase your body's energy demand is to exercise. The resistance you will use in your exercises will affect the amount of fat you burn.

Low- vs. High-resistance Exercises

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A typical way to increase your exercise resistance is to use heavier weights in your workout. This also means you will burn more calories in the same amount of time because the more weight your muscles need to move, the more energy they use. For example, walking uphill at 3.5 mph for 30 minutes will burn 354 calories for a 130-pound person. When the same person does the same exercise while carrying a 10- to 20-pound weight, the expenditure increases to 443 calories.

Resistance and Repetitions

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Typically, the higher your exercise resistance is, the lower your exercise duration is. For example, when you are doing high-resistance weight training, you are using heavy weights and, thus, doing fewer repetitions, whereas the opposite is true for low-resistance weightlifting exercises. The typical number of repetitions for high-resistance weight training is eight to 12 reps, and for low-resistance weight training, it is 15 to 20 reps.

Resistance and Calories

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In general, increasing your exercise resistance will make you burn more calories. This is because the higher your resistance is, the more muscle fibers you need to utilize and, thus, the more energy it takes to do the muscle contraction. However, while it takes less energy to contract your muscles with a lower resistance, you can perform more repetitions and exercise for longer durations, which will add up your total energy expenditure. Doing low-resistance weight training with more repetitions does not burn more fat than doing high-resistance training with lower repetitions.


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The amount of calories you burn during an exercise depends on your exercise intensity, your exercise duration and your body weight. The more calories you burn during your exercise, the more fat you will lose. High-resistance training will burn more calories than low-resistance training done for the same amount of time. If you only have time to exercise few minutes a day, you should do high-resistance and high-intensity exercises to burn more calories and optimize your fat loss.