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Strength training for weight loss

For the majority of people across the world, when they think about exercise for weight loss, cardio is the first thing that springs to mind. Exercises like running, cycling and swimming, the kind of workouts which raise your heart rate, make you break a sweat and leave you out of breath. While cardio certainly has its place in a weight loss regimen, strength training is often overlooked, despite its incredible potential for weight loss. In this guide, we'll explore the benefits of strength training for weight loss, debunk common myths, and provide practical tips for incorporating strength training into your fitness routine.

Squat rack for strength training exercises

What is strength training? 

Strength training, also known as resistance training, involves performing exercises that challenge your muscles against resistance. This resistance can come from various sources, such as dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, or even your body weight. The goal of strength training is to stimulate muscle growth, increase strength, and improve overall body composition. To get a fuller picture of strength training and what exercises are involved, take a look at our guide to strength training

The benefits of strength training for weight loss

Building lean muscle mass

One of the primary benefits of strength training is its ability to increase lean muscle mass. Unlike cardio exercises, which primarily burn calories during the workout, strength training continues to burn calories long after your session is over. This is because muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, meaning that the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns whilst resting.

Retaining muscle mass

When you reduce your calorie intake to lose weight, your body may break down muscle tissue for energy in addition to burning fat, which is often counterproductive to achieving your goals. Strength training helps preserve lean muscle mass during periods of calorie restriction, ensuring that the weight you lose comes primarily from fat rather than muscle.

Improves insulin sensitivity

Strength training has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for regulating blood sugar levels and preventing insulin resistance. By enhancing insulin sensitivity, strength training helps control hunger, reduce cravings, and promote fat loss.

Personal trainer in Barnstaple demonstrating strength training exercises

Will strength training make me bulky?

One of the most persistent myths about strength training is that it will make you ‘bulky’, whilst cardio will help you to slim down. In reality, building significant muscle mass requires a specific training plan, a huge increase in protein intake, and often, supplementation. Most individuals, particularly beginners, will experience lean muscle growth and fat loss without becoming ‘bulky’, unless that is the goal and what your training and nutrition plans have been designed for. 

Is cardio better for weight loss?

While cardio exercises can certainly burn a significant number of calories during a workout, strength training offers unique benefits for weight loss that cardio alone cannot provide. By increasing muscle mass and metabolism, strength training helps create a sustainable calorie deficit and promotes long-term fat loss. That said, it is good to integrate both strength training and cardio training into your overall fitness plan for the best results, especially as it is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health. 

Can you spot reduce fat? 

Many people believe that they can target specific areas of the body for fat loss through exercises like sit ups for the stomach. However, spot reduction is a myth. Fat loss occurs throughout the body in response to a calorie deficit, and the distribution of fat loss is largely determined by genetics and individual factors. It’s important to train all areas of your body as part of a well-rounded training program. 

Cardio for weight loss

Where to start with strength training for weight loss

Start by adding 2-3 strength training workouts into your weekly routine which last for between 30 and 60 minutes. By working with one of our personal trainers in Barnstaple, we can support you in finding a program that works for you and helps you to achieve your goals. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us about our online personal training programs if you’re not based locally. Here are a few other tips for you to think about: 

Include compound exercises

Compound exercises are those which involve multiple muscle groups and joints and are highly effective for burning calories and building muscle. This is movements such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, bench presses, and rows. You should focus on mastering these foundational movements in form and technique at a low weight before progressing further to avoid injury. 

Progressive overload

To continue seeing results from strength training, it's essential to understand the importance of progressive overload. This is done by increasing the resistance, volume, or intensity of your workouts over time. It may take many forms, from adding weight and performing more repetitions to reducing rest intervals between sets.

Include HIIT workouts

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) combines strength training with cardiovascular exercise to maximise calorie burn and fat loss. You could incorporate HIIT workouts into your routine 1-2 times per week to accelerate weight loss and improve overall fitness.

Prioritise recovery

Adequate rest and recovery are essential for optimising the results of your strength training workouts. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night, stay hydrated, and fuel your body with nutritious foods to support muscle repair and growth.

Pay attention to your nutrition

Weight loss is ultimately down to consuming less calories than your body burns in a day. Therefore, by adding strength training into your workouts, you can maximise the calories burnt each day. It is important to remain consistent with your training and eating habits for long-lasting results, as perfecting your workouts and ignoring your nutrition may lead to frustration at not reaching your goals as and when you feel you should. We’re here to help you with all aspects of training and nutrition, so don’t be afraid to reach out to us for advice.

Nutritious food for weight loss

Strength training is a highly effective and efficient way to achieve weight loss and improve your body composition. By increasing lean muscle mass, boosting metabolism and preserving muscle mass during calorie restriction, strength training offers numerous benefits for those of you looking to shed pounds and sculpt a lean, toned physique. Remember, consistency is key, so stay committed to your strength training regimen and celebrate your progress along the way. Need some help? Get in contact with our team of personal trainers today.


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