Strength Training for Losing Weight

Losing weight mainly centers around "calories in versus calories out": You need to eat less than you burn to lose weight. Obviously dietary management is key in the "eating less" aspect, but strength training plays a crucial role in increasing your calorie expenditure. While many people may go on autopilot and head for the treadmill, bike or elliptical when on a weight-loss plan, thinking that cardio is the best option, strength training can be just as good for weight loss.

Weight Training (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Strength Training Basics

Many people approach strength training by using heavy weights and low repetition ranges, usually two to six reps per set, to build muscle mass, according to the editors at the Muscle and Fitness magazine website. Strength training can also be used to increase muscle strength and endurance by lifting lighter weight in a higher rep range, such as eight to 12, or 15 to 20.

Where Weight Lifting Falls Down

When looking at the effectiveness of weight-loss exercises in terms of calories burned per minute, weight training comes second to cardio. This isn't as bad as it first seems, though. According to personal trainer and strength coach Mike Donavanik, those who just do cardio tend to lose more muscle mass, whereas weight trainers retain muscle while losing fat. Not only that, but adding muscle mass to your frame can speed up your metabolism, meaning you burn more calories throughout the day.

Pitfalls and Perfection

Designing a strength-training routine for weight loss isn't a case of simply switching your running and cycling to biceps curls and leg extensions. For maximum results, pick exercises that work multiple muscle groups, as these burn more calories. If you're an experienced trainer working out in a gym, exercises such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and chin-ups are your best choice. If you're new to strength training, or working out at home, start with compound body-weight moves such as body-weight squats and lunges, pushups and planks.

Amped-Up Strength Training

Your routine should ideally include an element of both strength and cardio training, notes Lynsay Ryan of the IDEA Health and Fitness Association. You could either perform two to three total-body strength workouts alongside two to three cardio sessions, or combine your strength-training exercises in a circuit to get your cardio workout at the same time. According to Liz Neoprent of the Fitness magazine website, circuit training can burn 30 percent more calories than traditional strength training. For sample weight-loss circuits, try dumbbell lunges, elevated pushups with your hands on a bench, and dumbbell rows, a combination of barbell back squats, bench presses and lat pulldowns, or stepups, pullups and side planks.

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