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Why weight training not cardio is the key to lasting fat loss

Henry Holland, Pixie Lott, Caroline Flack and Professor Green are just some of the celebrities who have trained with Sarah Lindsay, a three-time Olympian in British speed skating and the founder of Roar Fitness.

The City-based studio is becoming known in the capital for the results of its – in some cases, jaw dropping – 12-week body transformation programmes.

Yet Sarah’s training philosophy is remarkably simple: eat well and train three times per week. And that’s it.

Sarah is adamant that weight training is the only real key to burning fat and lasting weight loss.

“We’re a weight training facility,” she tells me. “Most people come in for fat loss and we do that through progressive weight training principles combined with nutrition – and that gets the job done.

“We don’t do any cardio onsite. I’m not ‘anti’ cardio but I don’t think you should pay a trainer to watch you run on the treadmill.

Cardio is known to be a major calorie burner but Sarah argues it doesn’t deliver the long-lasting results that strength training does.

“Just doing more and more [cardio] is just a calorie in versus calorie out situation which is short term, because as soon as you stop doing it you put that weight back on again,” she says.

“With weight training you’re changing your body composition. If you’re able to gain any muscle at all, that’ll push your metabolism up which will increase the amount of calories you use at rest. So if, for example, you manage to gain three pounds of muscle and you’re using an extra 150 calories a day by doing nothing then if you have a break, go on holiday or just eat a bit extra, you’re not going to gain the weight again straight away.

“It’s a much more sustainable, long-term result,” she says.

Though she adds that alongside strength training, she encourages her clients to be more active in general and to discover other forms of exercise they enjoy. Some of her clients, for example, already do regular cardio sessions and continue to do so throughout her programme for the psychological benefits, but she adds that most of her clients achieve results from the three sessions per week with a personal trainer on the gym floor.

There are three sessions so that her clients can recover properly between each session, she explains.

“If you train back to back you’re less likely to recover in between. I personally only do three or four sessions a week. You build muscle when you rest and recover. If you never allow yourself to recover then your muscles won’t repair and grow.”

During each session every rep, set and weight you do is recorded with the idea being that you gradually increase this each week.

Every three weeks clients also have a consultation with a nutritionist who will adjust meal plans based on their progress. “We test them to see how they’ve responded plan so far then we know how to progress with nutrition and training,” she says.

“The stronger you are the harder you can train in any form of fitness, even if you want to be a faster runner. If you like HIIT, you’re going to be able to jump higher with more intensity doing burpees, for example, and that’ll make it harder for you,” she adds.

“Strength training is very empowering, I know it’s cheesy but it’s true. When you’re physically capable of doing anything, you start to care about performance and it takes away the negative cycle of training because every session you’re just trying to beat your PBs, it’s not just about that boring number on the scales.

“You can always really tell when someone’s earned their body and really worked for it.”