Do you need to do cardio for fat loss?

When it comes to losing weight, most people imagine that they need to get on a cardio machine for hours at a time. If you walk into a gym at any time during the Spring season, especially before spring break at colleges, you’ll see tons of people running their butts off on treadmills.

Now that science and training have progressed, the common question is if people still need to do cardio to get that shredded body.

The short answer is no, you don’t get cardio to get a lean physique.

However, there are some things you should think about before you add it into your routine or cut it out completely.

How do you prefer to workout?

Knowing how you like to lift and exercise is essential to staying consistent in the gym. For myself, I’m not the biggest fan of cardio, but I do like to add it in for the mental clarity it gives me. Weights are my bread and butter at the gym, but there’s something so calming about doing cardio every now and then.

Most people, however, are not as obsessed with cardio as they are when they’re trying to lose weight.

If you dread cardio, you can keep in mind that it’s not essential. If you like cardio, you can keep it in your routine.

If you don’t like a type of exercise, you’re far more likely to quit. When I was training clients at my gym in college, the biggest thing was finding exercises they enjoyed instead of exercises I tried to force them to enjoy. I mean, some things were necessary (PLEASE STRETCH YOUR HIP FLEXORS, EVERYONE.), but for the most part, they were more likely to keep going if they enjoyed it.

Know that most people who look shredded lift weights

Cardio, while it has tremendous benefits for your heart, will rarely get you that ripped physique you’re imagining in your mind.

Fun activity: go to Google and search for “marathon runners vs sprinters”.

I’d bet a lot of money that the body you most likely have in mind as “goals” looks closer to the sprinter than the marathon runner. Most marathon runners are thin and don’t have a lot of muscles, because having a huge frame over long distances is not beneficial. (Also that much cardio will deplete a lot of your muscles.)

NOTE: I’m not saying all cardio will make you some small, tiny human that as lost all their muscles. A lot of bodybuilder bros are scared of cardio for that reason. It takes INCREDIBLE amounts of cardio over extended periods of time to hurt your muscles that much. Doing a handful of cardio to lose some weight is not going to take your six-pack and turn it into sludge overnight.

With that being said, cardio is not the most efficient way to lose weight.

Anyone who has done cardio and weight training knows that weight training can be far more strenuous. Yes, when you’re starting to get back into the gym, you’ll burn a ton of calories because your body is not an efficient machine yet.

Our bodies were designed to adapt quickly, so over time you need to make your cardio longer and more strenuous in order to receive the same benefits.

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After exercise benefits of cardio vs weight training

Current studies show that weight training helps your body burn more calories for the rest of the day (up to 38 hours!) after one good session. Sprinting is much closer to weight lifting, but rarely are people doing sprints in the gym.

When it comes to weight training, the more muscle you have, the higher your basic calorie maintenance needed to maintain that weight increases.

While building muscle takes time, if you stay consistent with it you’re going to see more benefits over the long term than you would with cardio.

Put simply, when you do cardio, your body becomes more efficient and you have to work harder. With weight lifting, your body becomes stronger and you burn more calories each day.

That’s not to say weight lifting is some easy thing you can breeze through and that it’s not hard, but the long-term benefits when it comes to weight loss are better.

When to use cardio

One reason I like to add in cardio when I’m losing weight is that I’m personally not a fan of sacrificing food to dropdown.

Every human has a certain amount of calories they need to maintain their weight every single day. This is called their basal metabolic rate.

To lose weight, you need to drop your total daily calories burned below that number. You can do this by either cutting your food below that line or increasing your exercise every single day.

I’m not saying that simply adding in cardio will remove the need for restricting food completely, but I am saying that between the two choices, I’m going to work out harder.

However, if you’re a person who is not as emotionally attached to food and cutting out your extra calories in the day through your diet doesn’t sound so bad, then you can go that route.

When you see the scale starting to get stubborn, adding in a dose of cardio here and there can help you move the needle again. A future article will be coming out on what to do when the scale gets stubborn, but for now all you need to know is that cardio can be a good tool on top of a solid program, but it shouldn’t be the entire basis of your program.

Types of cardio to consider

With all that being said, cardio is undoubtedly great for your heart. Just avoiding it completely to curl weights is not a good long-term strategy, either.

While just hopping on the treadmill or elliptical is the most common forms of cardio, there are some other types to consider:
Swimming – Swimming is considerably easier on the joints than running, especially on your knees.
HIIT – This is called high-intensity interval training and is essentially where you train at a high intensity (usually with weights) for short sprints at a time. For example, medicine ball throws against a wall for multiple rounds of 30-second spurts.
Team sports – when we’re younger, most of our parents sign us up for team sports. Whether you enjoyed it or not is one thing, but as an adult, they’re 10x more fun. Keep in mind, a lot of adult team sports include drinking, so that could easily damage your fitness goals, but there’s no doubt that keeping that competitive spirit alive can be a lot of fun.

That’s pretty much all you need to know. Cardio, just like other forms of exercise, can be a tool to help you hit your goals. It’s not an end-all-be-all to weight loss, so if you think you need to slave over your treadmill while watching GOT reruns, you can breathe easy knowing there are other ways.

Can You Balance Fitness and A Fun Life?

Americans are obsessed with a “balanced” life.

Recently I was browsing through the new books section at my local bookstore and almost every single self-help title was along the lines of:

  • “Work-life balance for the busy professional”
  • “How to balance it all as a mom”
  • “Work hard and have fun”
  • “How to balance it all”

While work-life balance is a great goal, the problem is that most people feel incredibly guilty all the time for not balancing everything.

They feel bad they don’t have enough time to meditate in the morning, that they skip breakfast, that they missed a night out with their friends due to a project needing to be finished, or any other guilt that sits in the back of their minds.

Everyone is stressed out. Look at any single day time television show: it’s about balance and how stressed we all are.

Sure, it’s important to make time for what matters, but understand that we’re all simply doing the best we can at any given moment.

My 27th birthday was this past Friday and instead of feeling bad about not having some “exciting” night out, I decided to finally say: Fuck it.

For years I went out with friends, whether I was in the mood for it or not, because of some idealistic reality-TV-driven standard of go big or go home. Instead, I just read some books, watched some movies, and got in some quality family time. I ate an entire pizza and tub of ice cream because fuck. it.

I don’t have time to meditate right now (that can also be read as: It’s not a priority right now), and I’m going to stop feeling bad about that. I skip breakfast often and I’m not going to feel bad about that either.

I don’t have it all balanced, and I’m going to keep trying to instill better habits but the guilt has to go. I’m done with it.

I’ve decided to stop feeling bad about not being able to balance it all.

Life is a spectrum. Sometimes you’re 100% all-in and dedicated to a goal. Sometimes everything is thrown off balance. Sometimes you just need to put in 14+ hour days on a project to hit your deadline and you miss your workouts.

Fuck. It.

You’ll catch up later.

You’ll put in extra cardio next week.

To be honest, I don’t know anyone who has it all balanced.

Even celebrities with hired help still operate in different levels of the spectrum.

If you’re feeling guilt over not having everything perfectly balanced, please take a deep breath. Right now.

Keep trying to balance everything, but if you miss something, STOP FEELING BAD.

Sometimes I’ve forced myself into the idea of “balance” and hung out with friends but the whole time I’m thinking about the work I need to stay up all night to finish.

I’m in a period of my life where I need to work harder than I ever have before and I am simply not going to feel bad about it.

When I worked at my old gym, not balancing everything was the top guilt-inducing feeling.

When a client was clearly plagued with guilt about missing a workout, bingeing over the weekend, or thoughts about not spending enough time with their family: their workout suffered every single time.

They were slower, less enthusiastic, and wanted to be done way earlier than they should have.

People walk around with these feelings all the time.

Sometimes you don’t even realize how pervasive guilt is until you stop and realize how often you beat yourself up over it.

Take a deep breath, know you’re trying your best, decide on your top three priorities, and don’t feel guilty about anything outside of those priorities.

Also, I’m going to start posting more videos on YouTube, so come subscribe: Here.

Why You Should Dominate Fitness First

In the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, the first chapter discusses at length why it is important to focus on your circle of control.

The circle of control are the few things in life you have complete and full control over: your actions.

You can’t control the weather.
You can’t control the news.
You can’t control other people.
You can’t control your boss.

The only thing you can control is you and your actions.

This is why anyone who wants to change their lives should focus on health first. You have full control over what you eat as well as when you work out.

Exerting yourself each day toward a healthier life gives you back control of your life.

Every day we wake up with new decisions to make. Every day we have the choice to choose better. If you feel crushing doubt or worry, that’s because you feel like life is happening to you instead of you happening to life.

Psychologists agree that the number one contributing factor to happiness is, “The feeling that your life – its activities and habits – are self-chosen and self-endorsed.”

When you have control over your life, you feel happier. Everyone wants to claim that fitness and making healthier choices is hard, but it’s not. What’s hard is worrying about things you can’t control and can’t do a damn thing to change. That will wear your soul in ways that simply working out never will.

While you can’t wake up one day and have control over your entire life, if you start with the easiest areas to control, you might find that every other area of your life falls together as well.

Here are some ideas to start:

  • Remove all soda from your diet
  • Commit to eating another cup of vegetables with dinner
  • Start riding a bike to work instead of driving
  • Eat eggs instead of sugary muffins for breakfast
  • Bring a protein shake to work
  • Start a muscle building program
  • Stretch every evening before you go to bed

Simple, small actions can mean all the difference in your day to day life.

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The Edge of Tomorrow – Emily Blunt Workout

Another movie starring Tom Cruise fighting aliens?

You might be eye-rolling, and to be honest, I did too. However, after just finishing the movie I have to say it far exceeded my expectations. Let me explain why.

First off, Tom Cruise is not the main badass role.

Emily Blunt is.

She plays Rita Vrataski, or who everyone in their world calls both “The Angel of Verdun” and “Full Metal Bitch”.

This is her:

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Yeah, that’s her suit.

Instead of just a tank top and short-shorts like 99% of female-lead action movies, she actually has serious armor.

I won’t go into too many spoilers, but we learn that she is quite the tough ass.

For once, it was nice to see the woman be the badass who had a no-apologies approach to everything. She sacrifices at every turn and takes constant risks.

What really got my attention was that Emily Blunt actually looks believable as a warrior.

Most movies with a female-lead are always running around with not a single ounce of muscle to their frames.

They climb walls with ease and supposedly are strong enough to take down really buff dudes? Please. They rarely have any muscle, so it’s hard to believe they just overhead pressed 150 lbs. and threw that guy across the room.

Emily Blunt clearly worked insanely hard to add some size to her frame. I actually believe she is the badass character, Rita Vrataski. She has the physical frame to lift heavy weights, run through alien-infested fields, and throw around the huge sword she carries.

She looked pretty ripped, but there’s one scene where we really see her impressive size:

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Shout out to Emily Blunt for putting in that much hard work. I rarely ever see women with actual built traps or shoulders in movies. Ever.

The suits they wore could weigh anywhere between 85 to 125 lbs. That’s a serious amount of weight to be carrying around.

According to Emily Blunt, she trained 6 days a week for 2 and a half hours every day doing everything from yoga, Krav Maga, gymnastics, weight training, to sprinting. She was able to accomplish her transformation in 3 months. Even Tom Cruise said he never had worked with anyone else who came to set that prepared and in shape.

“I wanted her to look lethal,” she said about her character Rita.

She mentioned that she also wore a weight vest to prepare for the giant suit she was going to wear in her action scenes.

The best part about Rita is that she doesn’t need anyone to “save” her like we all see in most movies. She can hold her own. She doesn’t spend any time feeling sorry for herself or whining over her circumstances. I have to applaud Emily for bringing such a real soldier spirit to Rita and making her a warrior to her core. We don’t see her have any emotional breakdowns or need approval from anyone. She does her job and fights like hell to the end, and is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice at any moment.

There’s no time for romance and there’s none of that “Oh let me assist you because you might not be strong” element. She is the strong one and she is using her gun more than anyone else in the movie. (Emily also said she laughed every time she shot Tom Cruise, which is funny to imagine.)

Of course, I don’t know her actual workout, but here would be my closest guess to her weight training routine. (Keep in mind, she worked out for over 2 hours every single day. This would not be a easy workout by any stretch of the imagination.) The workout I’m creating will not be that intense since most of us do not have that kind of time.

Also, I couldn’t find the actual workout online, just what people assume it is.. The trainer is hush hush so he can keep his business going. 100% understandable. I’ve heard that it’s a three-part circuit workout, but I’ve heard a few conflicting articles out there about the specifics, but we do know she trained for two and a half months. She also did all of her own stunts.

We do know her cardiovascular endurance was impressive, but so are her muscles, so we’ll look at a combination of both.

FYI: “sets” mean do the exercise three times. “reps” means how many you do.
So, 3 sets 12 reps mean do the exercise 12 times, then rest, then do it 12 times, then rest, then do it 12 times.

Also, if you want to burn fat, keep the rest times between workouts short. If you want to build muscle, keep the rest times a little longer. It’s been said that Emily’s trainer kept her at around 60 seconds of rest, so you can use that if you want.

The workout:

Monday: Chest, Lats, and Back

Dumbbell Bench press – 3 sets 12 reps

Reverse-grip bent-over row – 3 sets 12 reps

Dumbbell flyes – 3 sets 10 reps

Wide-grip lat pulldown – 3 sets 12 reps

Push-up variations particularly the dive bomber/Hindu push-up – 3 sets of however many you can do. If you’re not strong, do them on your knees until you build up the strength.

Seated Cable Row – 3 sets 12 reps

Planks – hold them as long as you can or up to a minute. Keep your back straight and clench your butt (that’ll help keep your back straight). If you feel any part of your head, back, or hips start to get out of alignment, stop.

Prone cobra – Hold for 10 seconds, relax for five seconds, and repeat four more times.

End the workout with HIIT – high intensity interval training. This means you work out really hard for a length of time, then go slow, then push yourself, then go slow. It’s up to your current endurance on what you can handle. Ideally, you do between 15 and 30 seconds of intensity and between 30 to 60 seconds of rest, then rinse and repeat. Push yourself, but don’t hurt yourself. Do it for just a few minutes and leave the gym like a champion.

(You can read why HIIT is better than long-form cardio: click here.)

Tuesday: Shoulders, Trapezius, Abs, Booty

Dumbbell arnold press – 4 sets of 10 reps

Dumbbell bent-over lateral raise – 3 sets 10 reps

Dumbbell shrug (Do not skip these, these are the magic behind Emily’s shoulders looking so good in her famous push-up scene) – 4 sets 10 reps

Hanging leg raise – 3 sets to failure. (Meaning, for every set do it until you can’t any longer.)

Incline sit-up – 3 sets 15 reps

Single-leg glute bridge (or do regular bridge if it’s too hard) – 3 sets of 10 reps

Glute kickbacks (you can do these with or without cables. It’s up to you and what’s available) – 3 sets 10 reps

P.S. if you’re not a fan of either of the above two exercises, here is a list of more glute exercises and the rating for how well they work.

End the workout with HIIT

Wednesday: Quads and Calves

Squats (I prefer front squats, but do what you like) – 4 sets of 12

Walking lunges (you can do regular standing lunges if you don’t have space) – 3 sets 8 reps

Standing calf raise – 3 sets of 10

Bonus calf exercise (I have chicken legs so I add on extras for the people out there in the same position): Donkey calf raise – 3 sets of 12

Leg Extensions (if you don’t have this machine, switch it for a rear foot elevated split squat or a natural standing leg extension) – 3 sets of 10

I don’t end leg days with any HIIT because normally my legs are jello and they’re like “pls stop”. However, I absolutely make sure to foam roll and stretch after leg day. Actually, you should do that every day, but especially on leg day. Get to know the foam rollers at your gym, they will be your best friend to combat any soreness.

Thursday: Biceps, Triceps, Forearms

Wide grip dumbbell curls – 3 sets of 10

Tricep rope pulldown – 3 sets of 12

Hammer curls – 3 sets of 10

Dumbbell tricep extension (you can do lying, seated, or standing) – 3 sets of 10

Bonus tricep exercise (Emily’s are great and you can see that in her famous yoga pose) Reverse-grip cable pressdown – 3 sets of 10

Wrist curls – 2 sets of 10

Reverse wrist curls – 2 sets of 10

End the workout with HIIT

Friday: Hamstrings, Abs, Obliques

Step ups (be sure to do it like: this so it targets your hamstrings and butt better) – 3 sets for each leg, 10 reps

Romanian deadlifts – 4 sets 12 reps

Oblique cable crunch – 3 sets 15 reps

Dumbbell hamstring curl (or, lying leg curl on a machine) – 3 sets of 10

Sumo deadlift – 3 sets of 8

Weighted cable crunch (or planks) – 3 sets of 15

End the workout with HIIT


Saturday: Optional

Anything you want. If you like yoga, do that. If you want to sign up for Krav Maga (we’ll cover it below), do that. This is her famous pose, which is a result of strength training and flexibility:


Alternatively, you can work on your speed and agility. Running up hills, ladder work, anything that works your speed, basically.

Bonus: wear a weighted vest while you do so (like this one: click here).

The Ultimate Move:

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If you want a video how to do this, this will help: click here. Every time I’ve tried to do it my face smooshes into the mat, so I can’t provide a lot of help there. And yes, Emily said for the longer shots she needed foot wires to hold it, but she can absolutely do the pose.

The Diet:

You can read details on her diet: click here.

That might work for you, that might not. Just off ballpark without looking it up that sample meal plan would come out to 1,400-ish calories, which simply isn’t enough.

Knowing that Emily Blunt is around 5’7″ and around 120(ish) lbs, it appears she did a mini bulk for this program. That might have made her a little closer to 130 lbs with that lean muscle.

(I know because I’m 5’8″.)

Giving that she’s active and that she was adding a little size to her frame, she was maybe roughly around 1,800-2,100 calories. Maybe. Only because I hover around 2,200 when I’m bulking and she stayed pretty lean.

Plus, she’s incredibly active with her work/interviews/filming so I can imagine she needs more calories than someone who works a desk job (like I do) just to maintain her weight.

You can use my post: here to find your macros and why that’s a good approach.

Basically, find your maintenance calories/macros, then if you want to lose weight, subtract about 200-400 calories. If you want to build muscle, add about 200-400 calories.

Good job, Emily. You are definitely setting the bar high for action movies here on out.

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LOOK AT THOSE TRAPS. (For those who aren’t aware, traps refer to the muscle – trapezius – that connects your neck to your shoulders.)

For my own nerdy mind, I also love to dive into the lifestyle and daily life of the characters I imagine workouts for. Not that you’re going to become Rita, but if you wanted to, this will get you closer.

So, let’s dive in.



In the Edge of Tomorrow, Rita is a war hero. She single-handedly won the previously huge battle before we meet Tom Cruise, giving her the nickname of “Full Metal Bitch”. She’s been hardened by the years of war before her and the years of war ahead. She’s lost loved ones and you can see that in her overall attitude because she doesn’t get too close to people.

At the same time, her reputation is much tougher than we find out she is as a person. Although she’s tough, she’s not completely heartless. She just wants to win the war.

Like a true warrior, she also is mentally prepared to sacrifice her life at any given moment. She trains hard, but knows if it comes down to it, she’ll do what she has to do.

Every day, she focuses solely on how she can improve herself. She focuses on the tasks at hand and what she can do to survive.

Anyone can apply this to their own life: focusing on what needs to be done today and getting on with it. There’s no need to overanalyze or plan everything out perfectly. Focus on dominating the day and finishing what you need to do.

As Emily said about preparing for her role, “Put your head down and do your work.”


Weighted vest. In most of the scenes, we see Rita walking around with a weighted vest, probably to prepare for all the gear she wears in every battle. If you’re looking for one: this one is a great option that’s not as heavy and bulky as others.

Helicopter blade for a sword. Apparently, real helicopter blades run in the $4,000.00 ballpark, but you could possibly find some in a junkyard or government sale (if you’re lucky). Keep in mind, they might be hard to swing around, but if you do it I need to see a video of this.

Badass suit. I, unfortunately, can’t find much about the suit she was wearing but give technology a few more years and I might have to come back and update this post.

Tactical outfits. This is a pretty thorough breakdown of her pants, gear, clothing, guns, and other accessories.


Hand-to-hand combat. Although there are a lot of guns at her disposal, she also uses her quick combat skills to overpower a lot of enemies. Any local Krav Maga classes could get you started on this path. Here’s a good post to get you started.

Sword fighting. What she does is a little different than regular fencing, because her sword is insanely huge and heavy. She also swings it around while spinning and running through the field.

General war-time and tactical skills. To say Rita is extremely versatile is an understatement. She can fly planes, drive speeding cars, take down enemies with ease… These are not easily attainable skills, but I love all the articles the Art of Manliness has on tactical skills.

Endurance. She rarely gets tired or worn out and can handle hours and hours of combat. This requires years and years of training, but if you want to train like an athlete and keep your body in top shape, it’s important to build your endurance to the point where hours of strenuous activity won’t exhaust you for days.

Of course, this is a much deeper look than just a workout behind a movie role, but like I mentioned earlier, ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated by fictional characters and how they operate. There will be a lot more posts to come like this, so if you’re interested, feel free to bookmark this site or sign up to receive e-mail updates when new posts are released.

(Generic disclaimer: *As always with any fitness program, talk to your doctor first / see a trainer / it’s not my fault if you hurt yourself / please don’t sue me / you assume all risk / etc etc. Also, if any exercise ever hurts in a bad way, stop doing it immediately.)

What superhero workout do you want to see next? Leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list!