In the constant battle against weight gain and for weight loss many people out there would not consider resistance training for weight loss as a viable option. To many, cardio workouts are the only way in which they can shed those extra pounds. While it is true that a good dose of daily cardio will cause you to burn calories and drop those pounds, including resistance training for weight loss exercises will give your weight loss goals that boost that they need to help you lean out faster than, say, running every day would.
Is Resistance Training Good For Weight Loss?
Yes, it is, but this is not all that it is good for.
According to a 1999 review, this format of exercising is effective for developing fitness (it helps with the growth of muscle mass, endurance, and strength), health, and for the prevention and rehabilitation of orthopedic injuries (4).
Another study done in 2012 of the effects of resistance training on the body showed that 10 weeks of these types of exercises may lead to an increase in the resting metabolic rate by 7%, a reduction of fat weight by 1.8 kg and an increase in lean weight (aka a combination of the weight of muscle tissues, bones, connective tissues, water, internal organs, as well as essential fat (3) by 1.4 kg (5).
If this was not enough, not only does strength training also improve physical performance, movement control, walking speed, functional independence, cognitive abilities, and self-esteem, but it also helps with the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes, enhances cardiovascular health, by reducing resting blood pressure, decreasing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (aka ‘bad’ cholesterol) and triglycerides, and increasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (5).
The answer lies in your muscle growth and the speed of your metabolism. We all know the importance of metabolism in weight loss. The lucky ones with a fast metabolic rate burn more calories at rest and during activity, while those with a low or slow metabolism burn fewer calories at rest and during activity.
If you have a slow metabolism (and thus tend to gain weight faster) some of the things you can do to speed up your metabolic rate include:
- Drinking more water
- Eat more times during the day i.e., consume 5 to six meals a day or eat small healthy snacks in-between your 3 large meals
- Add more chili to your diet
- Opt for high protein foods
- Drink more caffeine through options such as green tea, coffee, and oolong tea
- Invest in a standing desk
- Exercise more through cardio or HIIT workouts
- Build muscle.
When it comes to building muscle, this is where resistance training for weight loss shines the most. While cardio and HIIT workouts will boost your metabolism and build some muscles, they are not as effective in the latter as weight lifting or strength training.
Muscles are referred to as fat-burning machines and they do this through the increase of your BMR. The Basal Metabolic Rate (aka BMR) is the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest. While you may be unaware of it, your body is constantly burning through calories all day through simple and unconscious functions such as breathing, circulation, digestion and nutrient processing, cell production, etc.
There are even several studies to back up the fact that resistance training positively affects your BMR and RMR (resting metabolic rate).
- A comparative study done in 2015 compared the effects of resistance training, moderate aerobic exercise, and high-intensity intermittent aerobic workouts on post-exercise oxygen consumption. At the end of the study, researchers found out that resting metabolic rate was much higher after resistance training than it was in the other two forms of exercise (2).
- A study done in 1993 on male subjects also showed that weight lifting can boost your post-exercise metabolic rate by up to 15 hours after your workout (1). This goes to show that resistance training for weight loss men is a good idea.
- A study published online sought to see how long excess post-exercise oxygen consumption – ‘EPOC’ – would last after a heavy strength training exercise. The seven men who participated in the experiment had their body’s oxygen consumption measured before and after their workouts. The results from this study revealed that the resting metabolic rate can remain elevated for up to 38 hours after weight training.
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Research suggests that a pound of muscle burns six to seven calories a day, which is about three times more than what is burned by a pound of fat.
All forms of strength training exercises will impact the body positively in some way and can lead to fat loss and muscle gain. However, not all such exercises are made the same. For effective and efficient resistance training for weight loss results, it is advisable to incorporate workouts that require the coordination and movement of multiple joints.
Commonly known as compound exercises, these are workouts that work multiple muscle groups at the same time or exercises that combine two exercises into one move to target even more muscles. E.g. dumbbell squats with a bicep curl or planks with shoulder touches. Unlike isolation exercises that put a strain on one muscle group, compound exercises strain multiple muscle groups and joints at once.
This makes your nervous system work harder to coordinate your muscle activation and movement, and your cardiovascular system to provide more blood and oxygen to different areas of the body. Such efforts lead to more calorie burning and an increase in strength and muscle hypertrophy in short periods of time causing both fat loss and weight loss.
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Now that you know the importance of weight lifting for weight loss, here are some sample workouts that you can incorporate in your routine. Please note that exercises are perfect for a resistance training at home for weight loss routine. They can also be done at the gym with machines, or from the comfort of your home using free weights or just body weight.
This resistance training for weight loss exercises are compound workouts which will intensify calorie burning and strain multiple muscle groups and joints at the same time.
This is a great workout for the lower body as it targets the muscles in your glutes and hamstrings. It is also great for your core muscles.
- Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor under your knees.
- Tighten your abdominal and buttock muscles by pushing your low back into the ground before you push up.
- Raise your hips to create a straight line from your knees to shoulders.
- Squeeze your core and pull your belly button back toward your spine.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then return to your starting position.
- Complete at least 10 reps for one set.
Push-ups work the muscles in your chest, arms, shoulders, and core.
- Get on the floor on all fours, positioning your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Extend your legs back so that you are balanced on your hands and toes. Keep your body in a straight line from head to toe without sagging in the middle or arching your back.
- Contract your abs and tighten your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine. Keep a tight core throughout the entire push-up.
- Inhale as you slowly bend your elbows and lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
- Exhale as you begin contracting your chest muscles and pushing back up through your hands to the start position. Don’t lock out the elbows; keep them slightly bent.
Step-Ups With Bicep Curls
Step-ups work your quads, glutes, and hamstrings while bicep curls work your brachialis, deltoid, extensors, and flexors.
- Stand in front of a step or a box and hold dumbbells in your hands. You can fold your hands at the elbows, that way the dumbbells’ are on either side of your chin, or keep the weights hanging on either side of your body.
- Step up with the right foot, pressing through the heel to straighten your right leg and bring the left foot to meet your right foot on top of the step.
- Bend your right knee and step down with the left foot and the right foot down to meet the left foot on the ground.
- Engage your core, spread your feet about hip-width apart, and lower your arms to rest at the sides of your body with the palms facing forward.
- Keeping your upper arms stable and shoulders relaxed, exhale and bend at the elbow, lifting the weights so that the dumbbells approach your shoulders.
- Lower the weights to the sides of your body, before doing another step up.
- This is one rep. Do this for 8 to 10 repetitions for one set.
Dolphin planks are a full-body workout. They help strengthen the muscles in your arms, legs, core, chest and lower back, while also stretching your shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and feet. They also strengthen the muscles around the spine, which helps to improve posture.
- Start on your hands and knees, placing your knees directly below your hips, and your wrists directly below your shoulders.
- On an exhale, lower your forearms to the mat, keeping them parallel and aligning your elbows below your shoulders. On an inhale, tuck your toes, and lift your hips toward the ceiling.
- Keeping your shoulders over your elbows, gently let your head drop, walking your toes slightly forward. Eventually, lower your heels closer to the mat.
Burpees are a full-body workout.
- Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart
- Squat down with your back straight and your hands on the floor between your feet.
- With your weight on your hands, kick your feet back so you’re on your hands and toes, and in a pushup position.
- Do one push-up before jumping your feet back to their starting position.
- Push strongly from this position and jump, reaching your arms over your head.
This compound workout targets your glutes, hamstrings, abs, and hips.
- Stand with right foot forward, left foot back about 3 feet apart.
- Hold weights in each hand and stretch both arms in front of you.
- Bend the knees to lower the body towards the floor. Keep the front knee behind the toes, and be sure to lower straight down rather than forward.
- Once you are in lunge position, twist your upper body to the right, then twist back to the center
- Keep the torso straight and abs in as you push through the front heel and back to starting position.
- Do this 8 to 10 times for one set.
These are a full-body workout that targets the muscles in your hips, glutes, hamstrings, lats, abs, shoulders, pecs, core and grip.
- Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart as you hold a kettlebell in front of your body with both hands, arms straight.
- With a slight bend in your knees and a flat back, hinge at your hips and swing the kettlebell back through your legs.
- Use that momentum to stand and swing the kettlebell out in front of your body, up to shoulder height. Thrust your hips forward, and engage your glutes and core as you stand up straight.
- When the kettlebell hits shoulder height, your knees should be straight, and glutes contracted in a full hip extension.
- Allow the kettlebell to swing back down through your legs.
If you do not wish to go to a gym and you do not have free weights at home, resistance bands are great weight loss accessories that can help with strength training. Here are some workouts that you can use with them.
Band T Plank
Planks are a full-body workout that strengthens your core, chest, arms, back, legs, and glutes.
- Hook your thumbs through a resistance band and loop it behind your back.
- Assume a pushup position with your arms completely straight and brace your core by pulling your navel to your back. Ensure to keep breathing.
- Rotate your body to the right as you reach your right hand toward the ceiling.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat with your left arm.
Squats With Resistance Bands
- Stand on the band with feet shoulder-width apart, and loop it around the tops of your shoulders.
- Cross your arms in front of each other to keep the band in place.
- Squat down just as you would with a barbell. Keep your elbows up throughout and your weight over your heels.
Here is another variation of this:
- Tie a resistance band around your ankles.
- Begin standing with feet directly underneath your hips, abs and glutes engaged, and hands on your hips.
- Squat halfway down, and sidestep to the right as far as you can manage without splaying the knees inward. Bring the left leg toward the right with enough space to keep some resistance in the band.
- Step to the right 10 times, then reverse, stepping to the left 10 times. This completes one set.
They are a full-body workout that also emphasizes on your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, lower back, and trapezius.
- Stand on the inside of the band and keep it looped around your feet. Your feet should be a little wider than your shoulder-width.
- Lean forward and grab the top of the band at the center with both hands.
- Extend at the knees and push the hips forward while breathing out.
- While in this upright position, be sure to stick your chest out and squeeze your glutes.
- Breathe in as you bend down and keep your back straight.
- Repeat this 8 to 10 times for one set.
If you wish to make this workout harder, grab both the top and bottom of the band. This gives you double the resistance, thus working your muscles even more.
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Glute Bridges With Lateral Leg Extension
Glute bridges work core, glutes, and hamstrings while leg extensions are great for your quadriceps.
- Loop a mini band just above your knees around both your thighs.
- Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
- Squeeze your glutes and core and lift your hips a few inches off the floor.
- Extend your right leg until it’s straight, keeping your knees in line with one another.
- Return your right leg to your starting position. Gently lower your hips to the floor.
- Lift your hips again. This time, extend your left leg until it’s straight.
- Return your left leg to the starting position and gently lower your hips back down to the floor.
- That’s 1 rep. Continue, alternating sides, to complete all your reps.
How Much Resistance Training For Weight Loss?
It is recommended that you should aim to do strength training exercises two to three times a week. This prevents overtraining and gives your body time to rest and repair itself.
Can You Combine Resistance Training And Walking For Weight Loss?
Yes, you can. Combining strength training and cardio exercises in the perfect way to maximize fat loss. While weight lifting builds muscle and raises your resting metabolic rate, cardio works best for energy expenditure during the workout session.
Both options maximize your heart rate while helping, again, burn calories during and after the workout. Walking is not the only cardio that you can pair with resistance training. Other options such as jogging, running, swimming, hiking, and cycling are also good options.
The Bottom Line
Resistance training for weight loss is a great workout option for anyone looking to lose some extra pounds. The process helps build muscle which burns more calories during the day than fat, and boost your Basal Metabolic Rate ensuring that you keep burning calories long after your workout session is complete.
If you wish to attempt any of the above-mentioned workouts, please first consult your doctor, especially if you have any underlying condition, chronic or otherwise.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Effect of acute resistance exercise on postexercise energy expenditure and resting metabolic rate (1993, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- EPOC Comparison Between Isocaloric Bouts of Steady-State Aerobic, Intermittent Aerobic, and Resistance Training (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Lean Body Weight (n.d., sciencedirect.com)
- Prescription of resistance training for health and disease (1999, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health (2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)