When you’re contemplating exercises to shift those stubborn pounds, your brain typically won’t think about pumping iron. Instead, you’ll be thinking about cardio-based workouts like running, swimming, and cycling. Endurance activities are great for losing weight, don’t get us wrong, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the power of strength training.
In fact, weight lifting should be at the forefront of your mind for weight loss, and you can even lose fat without losing muscle.
Why weight lifting is fantastic for weight loss
If you’re a beginner to weightlifting or perhaps a senior, weight lifting is a fantastic method to lose body fat. The reason for this is simple: you’re gaining two benefits for the price of one.
Not only are you burning away unwanted fat, but you are replacing it with muscle mass. When you hop on the scales, you might not see much difference in terms of weight.
Yet this can be deceiving, as the crucial change will be in your body composition. Your muscles will be more defined as they grow and become more visible due to the fat you’ve shed.
Another significant advantage is earned when performing weight lifting for weight loss, and that is replacing fat with muscle. You naturally boost your basal metabolic rate with larger muscle mass.
In simple terms, this means more calories are burnt while at rest, which further helps with your weight loss goals on a long-term basis.
The basal metabolic rate is also a reason why you shouldn’t only be focused on dropping weight by dieting or cardio. If you do end up just losing a few pounds, this can also cause your basal metabolic rate to similarly drop as it reacts to your body’s weight change.
That isn’t good. It means you will have to put in extra effort to burn fat, which you might find particularly difficult if you are already going all-out with your running or cycling endeavors.
Incorporating weight lifting into your exercise routine can make all the difference. This doesn’t mean you have to bulk up, either. Simply maintaining your muscle mass will help to keep your basal metabolic rate up, putting you in a greater position of losing weight.
Weight Training for Weight Loss: 7 Top Tips
You should never jump into any exercise routine without a plan. This is particularly the case when it comes to weight training. If you go into it haphazardly, not only can it cause you to be ineffective in losing weight, but it could also result in you suffering from a debilitating injury.
When you’re seeking to perform weight training for weight loss, here are a few top tips to keep in mind:
1. Go with a full-body workout
If the goal is to solely build muscle, a training routine you go for is to focus on just one or two muscle groups per training session. Working the muscle hard is necessary for generating new muscle tissue. Yet if the main goal is to burn fat, forget about only targeting specific muscle groups – the focus should be on a full-body workout routine whenever you visit the gym.
Functional strength training is a new, popular method of strength training, with the idea being you improve your body’s ability to perform day-to-day movements such as picking items off of the floor or moving furniture.
By targeting as many muscle groups as possible each session you will demand greater energy consumption following training. This means that, during the recovery process, your body will keep burning fat. A full-body workout will also increase the heart-pumping benefits. Although for this to be maximized, rest periods should be kept short.
2. Multi-move sets
Extending on from the previous point, your sessions shouldn’t only be based around one or two exercises. Instead, the goal, particularly when the priority is to reduce your waistline, is to put together multiple moves in a set.
A multi-move set can take on many different forms. A popular example is a superset. This involves performing one move after another with little or no rest involved. A superset will often target the same muscle group, but it can deviate where the biceps and triceps (antagonistic muscle groups) or biceps and quads (upper- and lower-body muscle groups) are focused on. Going with the former and targeting the same muscle group can be achieved by doing, for example, a set of 15 squats followed by 15 lunges.
Taking on a multi-move approach increases muscle fatigue and your heart rate, and these are both required when the goal is to strength train for weight loss and force your body to make positive use of your fat resources.
3. Avoid lifting too heavy
Weight training means opting for those heavy weights, right? Picking up those lighter dumbbells will just be counter-intuitive, right? Well, in terms of weight loss, the answer to both questions is no. Reducing the weight lifted puts you in a position to boost your fat-burning rate.
Now don’t get us wrong, you still have to go with weights that are heavy enough to give your muscles that work. Yet by making the weight more manageable, whether this is by lowering the settings on a machine or picking up a smaller set of dumbbells, you are in a better position to burn those calories.
This is because you are given the opportunity to zone in on simply utilizing your muscles to lift. When working with heavy weights, you typically have to rely on momentum to get up and running, and cheating your form will often occur. With less weight to deal with, you can achieve more quality lifting – the type that will burn more fat during your set.
4. Reduce the resting time
Rest is important to recover in between your sets. However, you should try and keep these breaks as short as possible. Having less time to recover will understandably make the workout more difficult, but the rewards are worth it in terms of reducing your weight.
By reducing that rest time, your heart rate will remain high. It also increases the amount of oxygen you require and the number of muscle fibers necessary to move the weights. These continually increase as you progress through your sets, making you more fatigued – a good thing in terms of losing weight.
Trying not to fall into the temptation of an extended rest period is difficult. To stick to a routine and ensure your breaks from lifting are kept to a minimum, it is advised you use a timer to keep track of your workout.
5. Stick to short sessions
Again, this may seem like a counter-intuitive form of advice. Surely a longer weight lifting session will lead to more calories being burned? While applicable in theory, this isn’t something that works in reality. Forget about counting how long you’re spending at the gym pumping iron. Instead, focus on the intensity during your session.
Simply put, a truly intense workout with weights should never last much more than an hour. The reason: if you’re lifting those weights properly, you will have nothing left after that hour. You’ll be completely fatigued – which should be a key target when weight lifting for weight loss.
The key ingredient for a short weight lifting session is to never waste a second. Your lungs, heart, and muscles should all be performing at full capacity. Forget about spending hours in the gym where you put in half-hearted lifts. You want to get in, train hard with full commitment, and leave once the work is done.
6. The Right Fuel
If weight loss is your main overall goal, the most integral component is your diet. Yes, putting in intense workouts will burn fat quickly, but you can quickly restore those unhealthy calories by consuming the wrong food. This is why having a healthy and balanced diet is the foundation for success.
To support your muscles and enhance physical performance, it’s advised you load up on proteins. However, you also shouldn’t overlook healthy fats and carbs as fantastic energy sources that can keep you lifting for longer.
Here are a few proteins to add to your weekly shop:
- Dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.)
- Nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews, etc.)
- Fish (cod, haddock, tuna, etc.)
7. Be realistic
You are about to buy a gym membership. You’re ready to purchase that home weights set. You are committed, and your mind is set – you will be losing weight by lifting weights. Even though the path is clear in your mind, be prepared to get lost and confused on your journey. We’d all like to melt away the pounds and have a toned physique overnight, but that’s not how it works.
Ultimately, you have to be realistic about your goals and strap in for a long journey. This is particularly important if you haven’t done any serious exercise in a long time. You cannot simply go from 0 to ripped with a click of your fingers. You must start slow, gradually build up your workout efforts, and remain consistent.
There will be days when you cannot motivate yourself to train and give your diet a wide berth. Yet it’s essential you dust yourself down, get back on track, and remember why you started this adventure in the first place.
The best weight training for weight loss
You understand how to use weight training to disperse that unwanted fat. Now it’s about learning which exercises are best for achieving the desired results. Below we have listed a number of exercises to keep in mind when putting together your workout plan:
To those who feel they can only get started with their weight training when they have the appropriate equipment, we present the humble push-up. Now you might feel this is a cheap starting point, but hoisting up your own bodyweight again and again with push-ups can be a useful addition to any workout plan, especially when trying to weight lift for weight loss.
Don’t get us wrong – it’s never going to be the core element of your exercise process. It is said you will only burn between 30 and 60 calories for 100 push-ups. If you’ve ever attempted to do that many push-ups in one go and put your arm muscles through that burning pain, this won’t feel like a great return. However, push-ups are great for both stabilizing your core and building arm muscles.
This exercise also welcomes those of all fitness abilities. If you’re just beginning out, putting together a consistent run of traditional push-ups is likely to go beyond your capabilities. Instead of stretching your legs out, rest your knees on the floor and perform that classic push-up motion. It’s not going to put your calorie burning into overdrive, that’s true, but push-ups can be the first building blocks towards success with your weight lifting routine.
2. Kettlebell swings
Are those machines and larger dumbbells a little too intimidating right now? In that case, the kettlebell can be a welcome sight in your gym. This weight isn’t just a solid starting point. It’s a great tool for putting together a full-body workout. At least, that is the situation if you perform the kettlebell swing.
This exercise is one that activates your legs, glutes, and core muscles as you build the momentum required to swing the kettlebell. As these muscles move and work in sync on a continuous basis, it doesn’t take long for your heart rate to jump up quickly. The result: you burn calories off quickly. The consensus is that one kettlebell swing equates to one calorie. If the average person is capable of performing 22 kettlebell swings in one minute, that means you can burn over 400 calories in just 20 minutes.
Here’s a quick rundown on how to successfully perform a kettlebell swing:
- Stand with your toes pointing out and your feet at least a hip-width apart. Squat, use both hands to grab the kettlebell and pull it up so it’s hanging between your legs.
- Keeping your back flat and core engaged, begin to bend your knees as if you’re performing a squat.
- Now with your arms remaining straight, press down, activate your leg and glute muscles, and explode upwards as you place the kettlebell overhead.
- To complete the rep, take care in placing the kettlebell back in the starting position between your legs.
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3. Walking lunges
Walking lunges are another relatively simple yet effective addition to any weight lifting routine for weight loss. All you require is a pair of dumbbells and a small space to perform your lunges. The average 150-pound individual will burn around 275 calories with a 30-minute walking lunge workout. However, this number can jump up remarkably depending on your intensity and the size of the weights used.
Instead of regular lunges, adding continuous walking to proceedings helps with making them more efficient in burning fat. Here’s how to successfully perform a walking lunge:
- With your feet together and standing upright, have your hands down by your side with a dumbbell in each one. Step forward with your right leg, and bend both knees to a 90-degree angle to lower your hips towards the ground. Remember to keep your back left knee off the ground.
- Press your right heel into the floor and propel your left leg forward by pushing off with your left foot. Continue the motion until you perform a lunge onto the other side. This completes a full rep.
4. Weighted squats
Squats should always be part of your workout arsenal when weight lifting for weight loss. They are one of the best methods to target your lower-body muscles and develop your glutes, thighs, and calves. Yet once you add weight lifting to proceedings, the process also calls on your upper body to put in the work. This type of full-body workout pushes your calorie-burning efforts to the next level.
In fact, there is research that suggests barbell squats are at the top of the list in terms of how many calories they burn on average. The average person can burn 35 calories a minute with this exercise. This means just a ten-minute barbell squat workout will eat up 350 calories.
Of course, don’t feel the pressure to begin with a barbell when starting your squat adventure. To get a feel for the form, you might initially perform the exercise without any weight added. Then you can gradually build up with kettlebells and dumbbells before moving on to a barbell.
If you think about weight training, one of the first exercises that come to mind will be the deadlift. Yet if you’re seeking a full-body exercise to maximize your weight loss efforts, how can a movement as simple as a deadlift help? Well, you might be surprised at just how impactful this exercise is for engaging your whole body.
It’s not just about your legs. A deadlift positively targets all of your major muscle groups, including your back muscles, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. A straightforward motion, yes, but a deadlift is one of the best weight-based exercises you can utilize.
You may feel a deadlift is off the table if you don’t use a barbell. However, it is possible to perform this exercise with lighter weights like a kettlebell or dumbbells. It won’t have the same calorie-burning impact, of course, yet using these lighter weights can help you to achieve and feel confident in your form. You can then gradually add more weight to your deadlift when ready.
Pull-ups are not for beginners. While even those starting out could pull off one or two pull-ups without too much difficulty, good luck trying to sustain this effort – and that’s the only way to effectively burn fat with this exercise. Although if you can perform continual pull-ups, this is the ultimate exercise for your upper body. It boosts your upper back, lats, core, and arms.
A single pull-up will also burn approximately one calorie. As a result, if you can string together a long succession of pull-ups, you can eat up a lot of calories in a short space of time.
7. Bench press
Another classic weight lifting exercise is the bench press. If you have never performed a bench press before, it’s easy to mistake it as simply an upper-body routine. That isn’t the situation. If you are performing a proper bench press, you also have to involve your legs. When pressing the weight away from your body, you actively utilize your legs, driving down to the floor, to make it happen.
As you will know by now, a full-body movement is key to expending the most energy – and by extension, fat – with your weight lifting workout. Because of this, the bench press should be an exercise added to your repertoire.
A bench press is also an accessible exercise because you don’t have to perform it with a barbell that has hundreds of pounds attached. It can be achieved with a set of dumbbells. Simply lay back on a workout bench, have a dumbbell in each hand, and extend these straight up to perform a rep.
8. Renegade rows
A renegade row involves putting your body into an upward plank position and utilizing two dumbbells. The body is kept stable by having one hand on the floor while the other hand is used to lift a dumbbell. The routine is repeated on the opposite side to achieve a full-body workout.
Due to the motion and position of your body in a high plank, renegade rows target your back, biceps, and entire core. As further evidence of its effectiveness, the average 160-pound person is able to burn upwards of 500 calories by performing renegade rows for 30 minutes.
If you’re a beginner, you don’t have to go all-out with this exercise. You can perform renegade rows with light weights and your knees on the floor.
Weight training is undoubtedly one of the best methods to burn off fat. Your weight won’t necessarily drop as much as performing cardio, but it can result in a drastic change to your body composition. For instance, an equal swap of muscle for fat could keep your scales displaying the same number. Yet make no mistake, you will be a lot healthier with a sustained weight lifting workout.
To successfully hit your weight loss goals, you have to commit a significant portion of time to your exercise routine. To produce weight loss, it is recommended to go with over 150 minutes of exercise per week. That’s effectively three extended weight training sessions each week.
If you hit those numbers, perform the most effective exercises, and consume the right diet, your weight lifting for weight loss routine will be a successful one.
Editor-In-Chief at Recovatech. Dr. Ben has been a Doctor of Chiropractic for over 10 years, specializing in structural and neurological imbalances with an emphasis in functional movement patterns, exercise performance, and muscle recovery. He has been the team chiropractor for professional baseball and soccer organizations, as well as collegiate athletes. In his personal life, he’s always been driven when it comes to athletics and personal performance. His mornings start by lifting something heavy and end spending time with family.