Strength training is important if you’re trying to lose weight. Many people
focus too much on cardio when trying to lose body fat but that approach is
short-sighted. You want to lose body fat, not metabolically-active muscle
tissue. Why is strength training so important? Having a greater proportion of
muscle to fat subtly boosts your metabolic rate. Muscle is definitely your
friend when you’re trying to shed body fat. Ultimately you need a fitness
program that balances cardio with strength training. Here are some tips for
strength training when you’re trying to lose body fat.
Focus on Compound Strength Exercises
Compound strength exercises are ones that target more than one muscle group
at a time. They include such exercises as squats, pull-ups, bent-over rows,
bench press and deadlifts. The more muscle groups you use during a strength
training exercise, the more calories you’ll burn. Plus, using more muscle
groups has a greater metabolic effect. That means there’s greater activation of
fat-burning hormones like growth hormone, testosterone and catecholamines.
Isolation exercises that work only one muscle group are still important for
shaping muscles and building symmetry but they burn fewer calories and have
less of a metabolic effect relative to compound exercise. If your goal is
weight loss, focus on strength exercises that use more than one muscle group at
a time. Make your strength moves compound and dynamic. When doing lunges,
combine them with bicep curls. With squats, do an overhead press. Use as many muscle
groups as possible. This will burn more fat.
Work Large Muscle Groups
You burn more calories when you target the larger muscle groups in your
lower body rather than your arms and shoulders. A compound movement like the
squat targets large lower body muscle groups and burns significantly more
calories than upper body isolation exercises like biceps curls or triceps
kickbacks. Don’t neglect your upper body but focus more on compound, lower body
exercises to increase the calorie burn and activate fat-burning hormones.
Some people who are intent on losing weight are afraid to lift heavy
because they think it will make them bigger. It’s hard for females to build
enough muscle mass to look bulky. Lifting heavy, especially using your lower
body, turns on fat-burning hormones and revs up your metabolism. On the other
hand, lifting light weights will have little impact on your metabolism or the
shape of your muscles. The most it will do is build muscle endurance. You can
suck up a lot of time lifting light weights and get very little return. Go for
the challenging weights and stop worrying about getting bulky.
Make a Portion of Your Cardio High Intensity
Just as lifting heavy weight and targeting multiple muscle groups helps you
burn more fat so will high-intensity cardio. Short periods of high-intensity
cardio forces your body to work harder during and after a workout. After your
workout is over, there’s an after-burn effect that makes your body burn more
energy for hours afterwards. You don’t get that when you do cardio at a
comfortable pace. Losing fat is all about breaking out of your comfort zone.
Think high-intensity interval training when you’re trying to lose body fat.
You’ll accomplish more in less time.
One or two days a week, do circuit strength training. With circuit training
you do strength training sets with little or no rest between exercises. Moving
quickly from exercise to exercise without rest burns more calories and
maximizes the amount of volume you can do during a single training session.
That means it’s a timesaver too. It’s the ultimate in cross-training since
you’re building strength while keeping your heart rate up since you’re not
stopping to rest. Research shows circuit training causes greater release of
growth hormone. That helps mobilize fat. Plus, circuit training has
cardiovascular conditioning benefits as well.
The Bottom Line?
Strength training should be a part of your fitness program even if your
primary goal is to lose body fat. Make sure you’re not putting strength
training on the back burner to focus on cardio.
For more fit tips, contact our fitness director/certified trainer, Noelle Lusardi, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (2011) Sept. 25(4).
IDEA Fitness. “New Insights into Circuit Training”