The idea of weight training for weight loss is to build muscle, which increases your resting metabolic rate so your body burns more calories at rest.
There’s a lot of emphasis put on aerobic exercise as a means of burning calories as part of a weight loss program.
You can find out more about aerobic exercise to burn fat elsewhere on this site.
But you musn’t ignore the second element of your exercise program, which is resistance training with weights.
Now, let’s clear something up straight off the bat. You will not develop huge muscles by working out with weights or on a weight machine a couple of times a week.
Weight Training For Weight Loss
Many men want to do just that and are disappointed. Most women don’t and are relieved.
Weight training will, however, build muscle tissue. It will also improve muscle tone and density.
It will firm up your muscles and given them some added definition. Weight training for weight loss will improve your overall shape.
Building a body like Arnie’s in his prime is beyond the scope of this site and for most people, is well out of reach.
However, nothing comes close to exercise for increasing your metabolism, so let’s take a look at weight training for weight loss.
The Aim of Weight Training For Weight Loss is to Build Muscle…
Building muscle tissue is the best way to increase your metabolism so your body burns more calories. Both whilst exercising and at rest.
Aerobic exercise is the best – only – type of exercise for burning fat. Now you can train aerobically with weights, but primarily, weight training is anaerobic.
Anaerobic means ‘without oxygen’. It’s exercise that you can’t do for long before your muscles get tired, start burning and you have to stop.
Sprinting 100m is a good example. Lifting a heavy weight is another.
A pound of muscle burns 14 calories a day at rest. Build 10 pounds of muscle and you’ll use another 140 calories a day at rest.
That’s around 1,000 calories a week or nearly a third of a pound lost.
Doesn’t sound a lot but that’s nearly 14 pounds in a year.
Weight lost while you rest, simply because you had that extra 10 lbs of muscle.
Add that to the calories you burned doing the exercise in the first place and we’re talking tremendous weight training for weight loss potential.
What’s more, whilst you’re training you’re not eating!
How Do You Build Muscle with Weight Training…?
Weight training, or any type of resistance training has two main aims:
- To break down muscle tissue
- To cause the damaged muscle tissue to repair itself and grow stronger and bigger
Remember the principles of training:
- Overload – cause the muscles to do a bit more than they’re used to
- Adapt – so they repair themselves a little bigger and stronger to be able to cope with the additional stress of moving the weight.
- Progress – give your muscles a bit more to do next time so they continue to adapt and build
So, How Do Muscles Grow?
When you lift a weight repeatedly, you stretch the muscle and as the muscles fatigue, they are damaged and become inflamed. Much as would happen in response to an infection, strain or tumour.
The signals caused by this inflammation lead to muscle cells called satellite myocytes joining the damaged muscle fibre and enlarging it.
You don’t actually grow more muscle fibres, the number of muscle fibres you have is genetically fixed. Your fibres actually get thicker through a process called ‘hypertrophy’.
Any exercise leads to oxidation, which further damages muscle cells.
This damage can be minimised by eating protein after exercise and eating a diet rich in antioxidants. Plenty of fruit and veg for instance.
As muscle tissue is made primarily of protein, eating protein within 60-90 minutes of exercise and at every meal will help to encourage the tissue repair process.
It maximises the benefits of your weight training for weight loss program and also reduces aches, pains and discomfort after exercise.
Now, something to bear in mind. Muscle is heavier than fat so if you start a weight training for weight loss program, you may find that you stop losing weight. You may even gain weight!
We often get calls from disgruntled clients who are a couple of months into an exercise program and are not losing weight.
We normally monitor their body fat – in fact, we monitor all of our clients’ body fat levels. Much better than the scales.
This demonstrates to them that they’re losing body fat even if the scales don’t budge.
They also notice their shape changing and their key measurements like waist, hips and thighs reducing.
Perhaps weight training for weight loss is a bit of a misnomer in this instance…!
Getting Started Weight Training For Weight Loss…
Ok, this is not a ‘how to weight train’ website, it’s a weight loss site.
As such, we’ll give you a few pointers but would suggest you buy a fitness magazine or a book on weight training to really learn about how to weight train, the exercises you can do and so on.
Before starting a weight training for weight loss program, check with your doctor. Particularly if you’ve any health problems or have a history of health problems in your family.
If you’ve never weight trained before, we want to give you a few basic pointers to follow.
We’d also recommend that if you want to take weight training seriously, you join a gym or leisure centre. Then find a good instructor to teach you the basics of good form – how to do the exercises properly and safely.
So, here are a few tips that you might want to follow.
1. Stick to a few basic exercises
Exercises that involve the major muscle groups:
- Thighs and glutes (bum) – the upper leg is composed of the quadriceps at the front of the thigh and the hamstrings at the back
- Arms – the front of the arm is the bicep, the back is the tricep
Ok, so that’s a little basic, but will do for now.
2. Choose one or two exercises for each muscle group.
The bench press is good for the chest, the squat or leg press for the upper leg and glutes and so on.
Exercises like these are called compound exercises. They employ all the muscles around a joint to move the weight and are the best exercises to build muscle.
They’re also the most time effective as you only need to do the one exercise to give the whole muscle group a workout.
3. Only train each major muscle group once a week
We would suggest that you work your whole body over two or three workouts to begin with.
Your chest, shoulders, triceps and quadriceps are pushing muscles. They push the weights away from your body.
Your back, biceps and hamstrings are pulling muscles. They pull the weights towards you.
You could work all your pushing muscles in one workout and all your pulling muscles in another.
Or you could divide them over three workouts, for instance:
- 1st Day – Chest and triceps
- 2nd Day – Back and biceps
- 3rd Day – Shoulders and legs
Or you could do a variation of a three day workout where you largely work opposing (push and pull) exercises in the same workout:
- 1st Day – Chest and back
- 2nd Day – Shoulders and arms
- 3rd Day – Legs
The variations are endless and the merits of different combinations beyond the needs of all but the most advanced weight trainers!
Remember, you really only need one or two exercises for each muscle group in your weight training for weight loss program. That way you’ll be done in 20-30 minutes max.
4. Keep the weights and repetitions in the mid-range
A repetition is one full movement of the weight. Take a bicep curl. Lift the weight up and then lower it. That’s one rep.
The heavier the weight, the lower the number of repetitions you’ll be able to do. And vice versa.
Heavy weights and lower reps tend to be for building strength and size. Higher reps and lower weights for toning and endurance.
As far as weight training for weight loss is concerned, keep the weight moderate and reps at around 10-12.
Except for abs and calves where you should aim for around 20-25 reps.
5. Work up to three sets of each exercise
A set is a group of repetitions. Pick the weight up, do your 10 reps and that constitutes a set.
Start with one set per exercise and work up to three sets for each exercise.
When doing multiple sets, keep the rest in between sets at no more than two minutes.
That way your muscles have enough time to recover from the set you’ve just completed but you maintain the intensity of the workout.
6. Concentrate on good form
Learn how to do the exercises properly. When executing a rep, do it at a moderate pace, exhale when lifting the weight and inhale when lowering it.
Don’t allow the momentum of the weight to take over. Keep the weight under control.
If you can’t control it, it’s too heavy so lift a slightly lighter weight.
Don’t pause in between reps. The last one or two should be difficult to complete. That’s when you overload the muscles.
Don’t drop the weight. Lower it under control. This ‘eccentric’ motion actually stimulates muscle growth so don’t miss out on this benefit by dropping the weight.
7. Do a little bit more when it gets easy
It amazes me how many people lift the same amount of weight week in week out.
If the last rep or two become manageable, then add a bit more weight the next time.
That’s the only way you’ll progress and improve your strength and build lean tissue.
Remember, overload, adapt, progress. These principles should underpin your weight training for weight loss program.
8. Warm up, cool down and stretch
Proper warming up and stretching prepares your body for exercise and helps to prevent injury.
Practice each exercise with a warm up set before doing your first work set.
Then at the end of the workout warm down and stretch again. Stretching after exercise speeds up recovery and helps to prevent muscle soreness.
9. Weights first, aerobics second
If you’re doing your weights workout and aerobics in one session, as I like to do, then warm up and stretch. Do your weights, then your aerobics, cool down and stretch.
You won’t be able to lift as much weight and weight train properly if you’re knackered from your 30 minute session on the treadmill, stairmaster, or whatever.
10. You can’t spot reduce
You can’t eliminate fat from one part of your body. So forget about trying to do so at the exclusion of other parts of your body in your weight training for weight loss program.
Doing lots of ab crunches will not get rid of that spare tyre.
Working your large muscle groups by concentrating on compound exercises will burn lots of calories whilst you’re doing it and the muscles you build will burn lots of calories whilst you rest.
The result? A lean, toned midsection that no amount of crunches will give you.
Weight Training For Weight Loss – the Bottom Line…
Weight training for weight loss is an essential component of your weight loss program. Build some muscle, increase your metabolism and you’ll lose weight and keep it off.
It’s not enough to go to the gym, stand around and chat, pick up a few weights and go through the motions.
You need to work hard at your weight training for weight loss program.
You need to feel a burn in your muscles. It needs to be difficult. You need to strain a bit and sweat a lot.
If you want good muscle tone and definition, a lean, firm body then it will cost you a little bit of time and a lot of effort.
Sorry, there’s no easy way to get the body that you deserve.
Work hard and you’ll get it. Slack off, make excuses, play at it and you won’t.
You do not have to set up a camp bed in the gym and spend every spare moment there. You do need to commit an hour or so three times a week and spend that hour or so engaged in a spot of hard graft.
How much do you want to see the back of the flabby stomach, the wobbly thighs and saggy triceps?
Add some weight training for weight loss into your diet and exercise regime and you’ll be a lot closer to achieving your weight management goals!