If the best way to lose weight is creating a calorie deficit, how exactly does strength training help? Here’s the 101 on strength training for weight loss:
The fitness world often seems split down the middle, with cardio (including endurance sport) and weight training (including strength sports) on separate sides. Endurance athletes, particularly long-distance runners and cyclists, don’t spend a lot of time in the gym. And people who love lifting weights shy away from endurance cardio in case it compromising their muscle gains.
The truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle. As more and more people are coming to realise, strength training has many benefits, including helping you lose weight.
What is strength training?
Strength training has many names, including weight training, bodyweight training and resistance training. It can mean heavy reps with barbells or dumbbells, or working on the weight machines at the gym. It can also mean using kettle bells, resistance systems or even your own bodyweight. The focus is on getting stronger and building or maintaining muscle tissue.
The many health benefits of strength training
However you decide to do it, there are a huge number of reasons to strength train. The most obvious one is creating muscle tissue. After all, it’s muscle tissue which actually creates your shape. So if you want to look slimmer, leaner, have a neater waist, a perkier bottom, or firmer arms, it’s the muscle underneath which will do that for you. Everything else is bone, water or body fat. Muscle adapts, grows and creates the actual shape of your body.
And muscle tissue is more metabolically active than body fat, meaning the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn as you sit, walk and sleep. You don’t need to pack on huge amounts of body-builder type muscle to achieve this benefit. Simply maintaining muscle mass as you age will help your metabolism stay higher.
Muscle makes you strong. Not just for squatting, dead lifting and overhead pressing, but for everyday tasks. You’ll become the person who can move things in and out of the loft without help. If your dog needs lifting over a fence, you can do it. You’ll be able to carry your kids on your shoulders no problem. And the grocery shop will take half the time, because you’ll be able to carry more bags in one go.
A more lean and muscular body is generally healthier body. The more muscle mass (and the less body fat) you carry, the more efficient your circulation, your cardiovascular system and your blood pressure will be. Strength training will help balance your natural hormone levels. You will be able to eat more without putting on weight, or lose weight more easily by eating the same amount.
How exactly does weight training help you lose weight?
On the face of it, weight training itself doesn’t appear to burn as many calories as going for a run or a spin class. That may be true (depending on the intensity of your weight training sessions!) but the after burn effect (EPOC) is significant with strength training. Strength training sessions continue to burn a significant amount of calories after you finish, and this can carry on for around 24 hours. And then your new muscle tissue will demand more calories round the clock. By strength training, you are creating a calorie-burning machine which is always using energy.
Just getting started? It’s best to ask a qualified PT or coach to show you the main strength moves like the squat, bench press, dead lift and overhead press. But you can get started right away by walking into the weights room and heading for the machines. Here is a good full-body session to start with:
- Leg extension
- Lying or seated hamstring curl
- Leg press
- Wide lat pull down
- Seated narrow row
- Pec dec
Try 2 sets of 10-12 reps on each until you are familiar with the movements. From there, the world of strength training is ready and waiting for you!
Take a look at our range of strength equipment including weight benches and machines