I often get asked why I stress so much on strength training when putting my clients on an effective weight loss program. Strength training over the past few years has become increasingly popular and has proven to be more effective than cardio machines, more efficient, and foremost, a lot less boring! I’ve put together some of the best reasons (but certainly not all!) why weight lifting is essential for fat loss and a plethora of other reasons why it’s beneficial for your body and health.
Everyone, young and old, male and female, can benefit from weight lifting. It promotes fat loss, helps maintain healthy bone mass and prevents muscle loss.
While cardio is heart healthy, many overlook the benefits that building muscle can offer our body. In fact, if you are lifting properly, you will find that you will get great a cardiovascular workout as well while lifting weights. Without good muscle tone, we lose the sense of mobility, our bones become weak and frail which becomes hard to achieve as we age. Your balance and coordination will improve, as will your posture. Moreover, if you do not have good flexibility and balance, strength training can reduce your risk of falling by as much as 40 percent, a crucial benefit, especially as you get older.
Weight training is also an excellent resource for losing weight. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will become. Weight lifting and building muscle will enable your body to burn more calories. Most of us want to get lean and reduce fat. As we lift weights we increase our lean muscle mass and our metabolic rate. The more muscle your body has, the more calories you will burn while resting, and throughout the day when you aren’t working out.
- Muscle mass burns fat for energy and you simply cannot build muscle mass with cardio.
The faster your metabolism is, the more food you either get to eat, and/or the more calories you will burn while resting. Yes, you can burn calories while watching TV!
When weight training, calories are burned for up to 36 hours afterwards. So if you train 3 to 5 days a week, your body is CONSTANTLY burning calories. More calories being burned = faster weight loss! Getting the picture?
- Another reason to weight train is to actually CHANGE your body composition. When you perform cardio, you are not building muscle, but rather just becoming a smaller version of yourself. People often don’t eat enough food, constantly chip away on the treadmill, and what they are actually doing is using their muscle for energy. The goal is to use our fat cells for energy, not our muscles!
So when you weight train, you are building muscle, not using it as a way to expend your energy.
- A common misconception is that fat weighs more than muscle. While a pound is a pound and they both weigh the same, muscle is more dense than fat. A pound of muscle takes up less space in your body than a pound of fat, giving your body the appearance of a leaner, tighter, more well defined shape. So essentially 2 women both weighing 130 pounds could look drastically different if one has more muscle mass than the other. (I am basically the same weight in the picture above.)
I recommend NOT stepping on the scale in the first weeks of a new training program. When you begin strength training, the number on the scale does not drop as quickly as if you were only doing cardio (i.e. not building muscle). Your weight may actually go higher, but don’t stress. In essence what you are doing is turning your body into a fat-burning machine by decreasing your fat stores and increasing your lean mass. You are on your journey to become a tight, toned, lean machine!
- Weightlifting enables you to metabolize fat, not muscle.
When people are dieting, they are in a calorie deficit. While its very hard to build new muscle while dieting (except for those new to weight lifting) there is good reason to continue to incorporate strength training into your program. The reason I have clients lift heavy is to preserve their muscle mass. When in a calorie deficit, the first place energy is taken from is the muscle. This is why people who do only cardio become skinny and eventually saggy. They never achieve the look most people strive for (the shapely arms, the V taper back, the small waist and the shapely legs). If you continually lift weights even when dieting, you will hold onto as much strength and muscle mass as possible along the way.
Of course, fat loss comes from a balance of proper nutrition as well as strength training and effective cardio. Make sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet. You will see changes in just a short time.
Weight lifting has been increasing in trend these days and there is a good reason why! I am constantly encouraging my clients to stop with incessant cardio and pick up the weights. We are much stronger than we think, and not only does weight lifting achieve better results when trying to get lean and fit, but they also make you feel empowered and strong, in ways you never thought possible!
As I continually say, to reach any fitness goal, a main component is to be consistent. Working out one or two days a week won’t cut it if you are looking to really change your body.If you do stick to a weight training program I can almost guarantee that you will feel stronger, sexier, more confident (think badass!) than ever!
I can almost guarantee you’ll never get bulky or go back to that endless cardio again!
Have you had success building muscle? I always love love to hear your thoughts and stories!