How to Use Strength Training For Weight Loss

Based on research!

By: Jessica Migala

If your goal is weight loss, your first thought might be to incorporate more cardio. After all, cardio gets your heart rate up and is an efficient way to burn calories. However, we’re sharing a little secret: strength training is key! While both are important for a well-rounded fitness routine when you’re looking to lose weight, there’s research to suggest strength training can help boost your results.

Read on to learn why strength training is a key to weight loss that lasts, how to incorporate it into a routine, and what you can do to get started.

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Why Strength Training is Important For Weight Loss (According to Research)

First, for your overall health, there’s a reason why the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to do at least two days of full-body strength training: It builds muscle, strengthens your bones, and makes performing everyday activities — like hoisting a carry-on suitcase into the overhead compartment — an easy feat. When you’re looking at your long-term health, strength training twice per week protects your health in the long term, decreasing the risk of obesity by 30% compared to people who skip it altogether, according to research.

When it comes to weight loss, strength training is by far the best type of training to change your body composition. In a meta-analysis of 114 studies, people who were overweight or obese who combined resistance exercise with a calorie-restricted diet were most successful in reducing their body fat percentage and overall fat mass compared to control groups. It was also found to decrease both subcutaneous fat–that is, the “pinchable” fat underneath your skin–and visceral fat–the dangerous fat around your middle that hugs organs and causes inflammation. Resistance training has also been shown to boost your post-exercise calorie burn by nearly 12%, a bump that persists for 14 hours after a workout.

Another perk to keep in mind: When you’re losing weight, some of that weight will be from fat–but some will be from muscle, too. The amazing thing about muscle is that it’s more metabolically active compared to fat, so the more you have, the more calories your body naturally burns. But if you lose muscle during weight loss, your metabolic rate goes down, making it challenging to keep that weight off. Strength training (and eating enough protein) helps preserve your muscle mass as you lose weight, allowing you to keep your calorie burners turned up as high as possible, according to research.

How to Use Strength Training For Weight Loss 

First, if you’re aiming to lose weight, you may have areas of your body where you’d like to lose fat. But keep in mind that you can’t “spot-reduce fat.” Meaning, things like sit-ups or planks won’t specifically target belly fat to trigger weight loss there, for example. Instead, it’s overall fat loss that will make a difference, which is why there’s such an emphasis on doing full-body strength routines.

Although resistance exercise is impressively effective at building muscle and decreasing fat, it’s not the only type of exercise your body needs. Strength training should also be part of a well-rounded exercise routine. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise alongside at least two days of full-body resistance exercise per week. Having two days of both upper and lower body exercise paired with brisk walking, the stair stepper, elliptical, or jogging a few days a week will get you there.

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Top Tips For Getting Started With Strength Training 

Aim for a Full-Body Routine 

Be sure to incorporate moves that hit on all of your major muscle groups, such as those in your lower body (legs, glutes), upper body (chest, back, shoulders, arms), and core. As for exactly what exercises to do to hit all these major spots — The FitOn app is filled with workouts in the strength training category that build muscle and strength, so you don’t have to worry about creating a well-rounded weight loss routine all on your own.

Learn The Important Moves

Beginning with the basics is excellent for newbies starting strength training, and it’s often a less intimidating entry. Moves like squats, push-ups, lunges, and planks are all great for starting a routine and can give you a base for when you add weights.

Decide What You’re Using

You can get this resistance from weight machines, free weights, resistance exercise bands, or bodyweight exercises. What’s important is that you choose what you’re most into so that you stick with it. For example, if you like the burn you get with free weights, grab those. If you prefer the no-frills of body weight exercises, then start there. And don’t discount resistance bands, either. Research has found that these bands were best in decreasing body fat compared to free weights and body weight.

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Add Weight When Needed

If you’re using free weights or machines at the gym, you can start with 8 to 12 reps. When you feel as if you’ve perfected your form at that number of reps — and the weight is even feeling a bit easy — go ahead and add weight.

When You Lift, You Lose

Cardio is great, but strength training helps your body build muscle, torch more calories, and burn fat. Aim for two days of strength training per week, starting with beginner-friendly exercises, like squats, lunges, and push-ups. It’s often helpful to schedule these workouts (which can easily be done in the FitOn app!) so that you get into the habit of doing them every week. After all, consistency will pay off in results.