How to Weight Train for Weight Loss

Discover how you can weight train for weight loss!
Photo by: Erik Isakson, Getty Images

Cardio is often touted as the holy grail of weight loss. The CDC recommends 150 minutes a week and the benefits are numerous, but the recommended strength training—two or more days a week—should be taken just as seriously when it comes to losing pounds.

Why? Bodies with more muscle burn more calories, even at rest. That means when you’re relaxing on the couch, you’re still burning calories. If that fact alone doesn’t add more weight training to your exercise arsenal, this next one should.

When researchers at Penn State put dieters into three groups—no exercise, aerobic exercise, or aerobic exercise and weight training—the result was about a 21-pound weight loss across the board. But here’s the kicker; the weight lifters shed six more pounds of fat than the other two groups while the non-weight lifters lost five pounds of muscle. And if we know anything, we know muscles are important, especially if you like to burn calories while watching Netflix.

So are you ready to hit the weight rack? Maximize your weight loss efforts with these four weight training strategies.

1. Go Heavy

I know what some of you are thinking. And the answer is no, you won’t bulk up by following this rule. On the contrary, research suggests that lifting heavy weights versus a lighter load is the way to go when it comes to increasing your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or what you’ve probably heard called the after-burn.

The after-burn is the crucial period post-workout where your body keeps burning calories. To reap the benefits, make sure you are using weights heavy enough that you struggle to complete the last few reps, but not too heavy that your form goes out the door.

2. Work More Than One Muscle At Once

You want to lose weight, but you don’t have lots of time to spend at the gym.

The scenario is all too common, yet the answer is quite simple. To maximize your weight training session and your calories burned, do compound exercises. Compound exercises, unlike isolation exercises, involve more than one joint and muscle group at a time.

For example, bicep curls are okay, but a forward lunge with a bicep curl is even better. Squats are good, but a squat with an overhead press is great. What’s the benefit of “doubling up” like this? Working multiple muscle groups at once burns more calories. So instead of designating a leg day, an arm day, and a chest and back day, turn your weight training time into total-body sessions. Do your best to include more than one muscle group in each exercise.

3. Choose Free Weights Over Machines

If you have the choice between jumping on a chest press machine or using free weights, go with the weights. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that a free weight bench press produced greater muscle activation than a machine.

Along with getting stronger faster and the subsequent rise in calorie burn (thank you, muscles!), free weights require more joint and core stabilization than machine. Also, since your range of motion is not limited with free weights like with a machine, you have more potential to recruit multiple muscle groups producing results in less time.

4. Increase The Intensity

The last key to losing weight while weight lifting is upping the intensity and sweat factor. That means less time resting (i.e. minute long trips to the water fountain in between sets) and more time actually moving.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a way to get your heart racing fast, and no, it’s not limited to cardio and plyometric movements only. Try this total-body HIIT strength workout with a set of dumbbells. Do each exercise for 30 seconds and rest 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. Repeat the sequence two more times.

  1. Plié V-Raises
  2. Sit-Up Presses
  3. Renegade Rows
  4. Squat Curls with Alternating Knee Lifts
  5. Cross-Behind Lunge with Lateral Raises

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