Weight Training for Fat Loss
Program Development: Matthew Rice, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss
The scale does not tell the whole story. Losing 10 pounds of fat is much
different from losing 5 pounds of fat and 5 pounds of muscle.
Muscle is needed to burn fat. If muscle is lost, fat burning ability is
reduced. Exercise affects metabolism in two ways:
Burns calories while exercising, as well as increasing metabolism for several
hours after exercise.
Weight training can cause an increase in lean muscle tissue, which raises your
resting metabolic rate.
Women should not be afraid to gain muscle. Muscle occupies less space than fat,
provides tone, and also burns calories at rest.
The Bottom Line
Calories In vs. Calories Out will determine if you lose or gain weight.
One pound of fat = 3,500 Calories. In order to lose one pound of fat per week,
you must burn 500 more Calories per day than you are taking in. The most
effective way to create a Caloric deficit is to decrease Caloric intake while
increasing energy expenditure.
Spot reduction is a myth. You cannot lose fat from one particular area of your
body by doing a certain type of exercise. Everyone is different genetically,
and will lose fat from different areas at different rates.
Fat loss, not weight loss, should be the goal of an exercise program.
If you haven’t been physically active, build up gradually. Any increase in
your physical activity can make a difference. Do not have an "all-or-nothing"
mentality! Consistency in your exercise program will be the long-term key.
back to top
Gradual progression of stimulus is the key to maintaining improvements. Only an
overload to the muscle will cause it to adapt to the training stimulus.
Changing variables such as frequency, intensity, and duration will ensure
Anaerobic Exercise (Weight Training)
Anaerobic exercise, or weight training, is vital to maintain or even increase
lean muscle mass.
Beginning goal: 2-3 days per week of total body weight training. Between 6-9
exercises, as little as 1 set per body part, 12-20 repetitions per set. Work up
to 3-4 days per week, up to 3-5 sets for certain body parts, 8-15 repetitions
Work all of your major muscle groups:
Biceps (front of upper arm)
Triceps (back of upper arm)
Quadriceps (front thigh)
Hamstrings (rear thigh)
Don’t exercise the same muscle two days in a row. Muscles need time to
recuperate and get stronger between weight training sessions.
Perform the last repetition of sets to fatigue. If you do not, your body will
not receive the full stimulus from the set. Always perform sets with correct
Increase weights when you can attain your repetition goals relatively easily.
Change your routine every 6-8 weeks. Changing variables of your routine
(exercise order, number of repetitions, etc.) will keep the body from reaching
a plateau. Periodization is the most efficient technique for continued
Strength Training: What’s In It for You
A regular, moderate program can bring these benefits:
Stronger muscles, which in turn mean stronger bones, thus reducing the risk of
osteoporosis and fractures.
An improvement in blood cholesterol levels. Lifting weights may also help
control blood pressure and blood sugar.
Less risk of injury during other activities. It may help correct muscle
weakness and imbalances and joint instability.
Improved self-esteem and self-confidence. Added muscle and bone strength will
benefit you in your daily activities, including other exercises and sports.
May help with weight control. Even if you don’t lose weight, you’ll
become trimmer and fitter.
Reduced arthritis pain and lower-back pain. (Note: if you have osteoarthritis,
you may need special advice about a strength-training program.)
What Weight Training Can Do for You
We all have different reasons for wanting to lift weights. Undoubtedly, many of
these reasons have to do with looking better. Sculpted arms and tones "abs"
have become somewhat of a fashion statement. But there are more compelling and,
ultimately, more satisfying reasons to lift weights. Here is a reminder of what
training can do for you.
Keep your bones healthy. The average woman loses about 1 percent of her bone
mass each year after age 35. Men are susceptible to brittle bones, too. Lifting
weights can drastically slow the rate of bone loss and may even reverse the
process. With strong bones, you won’t become hunched over as you age, and
you’ll lower your risk of life-threatening fractures. No matter what your
age, it’s never too late to start strengthening your bones.
Help control your weight. When you lose weight through dieting and aerobic
exercise (such as walking or bicycling), you lose muscle along with fat. This
can be a problem: When you lose muscle, your metabolism slows down, so
you’re more likely to regain the weight. By adding weight training to the
mix, you can maintain (or increase) your muscle and thereby maintain (or even
boost) your metabolism. Although weight training is no magic bullet for weight
loss, many obesity experts consider it to be an essential part of any
Increase your strength. Lifting the front end of a fire truck may not be among
your goals in life, but a certain amount of muscle strength does come in handy.
Weight training make sit easier to haul your stacks of newspaper to the
recycling bin and drag your kids away from a video game. Studies show that even
90-year-olds can gain significant strength from lifting weights.
Boost your energy. Forget about hokey dietary supplements: One of the best
energy boosters around comes not in a bottle but on a weight rack. When you
lift weights, you have more pep in your step. You can bound to the bus stop or
sail through your company’s annual charity walk-a-thon.
--Weight Training for Dummies
Building Muscle And Bone At Home, On Your Own
If you feel shy about starting a strength-training program, it may help to sweep
a few myths from your mind.
Myth: Strength training is only for the young. Older people might injure
Fact: Older people need it even more than the young, in order to counteract the
decline in muscle strength that usually comes with aging, due to decreasing
activity. If you’re over 50, strength training can be your new best
Myth: Strength training is only for body builders.
Fact: A moderate program that confers health benefits isn't going to make your
biceps bulge. Strength training not only builds muscle, but also helps reduce
body fat and increase bone.
Myth: Strength training is only for men.
Fact: Women, perhaps even more than men, can benefit from strength training.
Women are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, which strength training can
help to prevent.
Myth: Women need a different strength training program from men. For example,
they should not lift barbells.
Fact: Women and men can follow the same program of exercises designed for their
body size and level of strength, not for their gender. Women can lift barbells.
What you do depends on your level of ability. There’s something for
Myth: Strength training is very time consuming. It takes hours every week.
Fact: Strength training can be one of the fastest workouts ö less
time-consuming than aerobic exercise like running or walking. Three 20-minute
sessions a week (preferably not on consecutive days) will do the job.
Myth: If you lift weights, that’s all the exercise you need.
Fact: You still need to do aerobic exercise. One type of exercise is not a
substitute for the other. Doing both aerobic exercise and strength training
pays real dividends.
You need little space and only a few inexpensive pieces of equipment. Any store
with a sporting goods section should have a selection of dumbbells. Women
should start with a pair of 2- or 3-pound weights, men with 5- or 10-pond
weights. Light weights that can be strapped to your feet or ankles are
convenient, too. You can also buy adjustable dumbbells, to which you can add or
remove metal disks.
Some strength training routines (push-ups and sit-ups) require no equipment.
You can also use exercise bands. If you don’t want to buy anything, you
can even use heavy objects from the pantry, such as soup cans.
The following exercises are an excellent way to get started. Getting some
formal instruction (at the local Y, for example) is also worthwhile. Weight
machines at gyms are easy to use, but for safety’s sake, beginners should
always get some instruction. Note: Although working with light weights is very
safe, if you are over 40 or have heart disease or another medical condition,
you should check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Warm up before each workout for instance, run or march in place for a few
minutes. Then do some gentle stretches.
Start with light weights, -ones that you can lift comfortably 8 to 12 times.
This is called a “set”. Doing one set is beneficial, but you can
work up to two or three sets. Gradually increase the weight; you may have to
reduce the number of repetitions at first. Vary your routine by adding new
exercises. This is called progressive resistance training. Lifting the weights
should not be effortless. The goal is to tax your muscles somewhat, but
don’t overdo it: if you can’t repeat an exercise eight times, the
weight is too heavy.
Rest between sets -for one to two minutes.
Work slowly and smoothly -through the entire range of the muscles. This reduces
the chance of injury and soreness. Lowering the weight in a slow, controlled
manner is also important. Don’t "lock" (fully straighten) your knees or
elbows when these are involved in an exercise, since that puts excess stress on
the joint itself.
Exhale while you lift -and inhale when you bring the weight down. Breathe
evenly with every repetition: holding your breath when lifting can raise blood
If you feel any pain -during an exercise, stop immediately. Continue only if
the pain subsides, but reduce the amount of weight. Soreness the next day is
normal when first starting to exercise or when increasing the amount of weight
Avoid arching your back- when lifting a weight.
Work large muscle groups first,- such as those in the legs, chest, and back,
which require heavier loads.
Pair your exercises.- Each muscle group has an opposing (or antagonist) one
with which it works, so it is important to work both ö for example, the
quadriceps and hamstrings (on the front and back of the thigh), or the biceps
and triceps (on the front and back of the upper arm). An imbalance between
opposing muscles increases the risk of injury.
Cool down- after the workout. Repeat part of your warm-up and stretching
routine to help muscles recover. Note: A good resource for beginners, men and
women, is Miriam Nelson’s Strong Women Stay Young (Bantam Books).
Why Women Need Weight Training?
Again and again, research has shown that women who maintain a regular, moderate
strength training program enjoy a long list of health advantages. Some women
still fear that weight training might bulk them up in unfeminine ways. However,
as women of all ages realize the benefits of resistance training, negative
attitudes about women in the weight room are rapidly fading, according to
renowned strength training researcher William J. Kraemer, PhD, of Ball State
University in Muncie Indiana.
Weight training expert and researcher Wayne Westcott, PhD, from the South Shore
YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, gives 10 important reasons why women need to
take strength training seriously:
You'll Lose More Fat Than You'll Gain in Muscle. --Westcott and his colleagues
have done numerous weight training studies involving thousands of women and
have never had anyone complain about bulking up. In fact, Westcott’s
research shows that the average woman who strength trains two to three times a
week for eight weeks gains 1.75 pounds of lean weight, or muscle, and loses 3.5
pounds of fat. Unlike men, women typically don’t gain size from strength
training, because compared to men, women have 10 to 30 times less of the
hormones that cause bulking up, explains Kraemer.
Your New Muscle Will Help Fight Obesity. -As you add muscle from strength
training, your resting metabolism will increase, so you'll burn more calories
all day long, notes Westcott. For each pound of muscle you gain, you'll burn 35
to 50 more calories daily. So, for example, if you gain three pounds of muscle
and burn 40 extra calories for each pound, you'll burn 120 more calories per
day, or approximately 3,600 more calories per month. That equates to a loss of
10 to 12 pounds in one year!
You'll Be a Stronger Woman. -Westcott’s studies indicate that moderate
weight training increases a woman’s strength by 30 to 50 percent. Extra
strength will make it easier to accomplish some daily activities, such as
lifting children or groceries. Karemer notes that most strength differences
between men and women can be explained by differences in body size and fat
mass; pound for pound, women can develop their strength at the same rate as
Your Bones Will Benefit.- By the time you leave high school. You have
established all the bone mineral density you'll ever have ö unless you
strength train, says Westcott. Research has found that weight training can
increase spinal bone mineral density by 13 percent in six months. So strength
training is a powerful tool against osteoporosis.
You Will Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes. -Adult-onset diabetes is a growing
problem for women and men. Research indicates that weight training can increase
glucose utilization in the body by 23 percent in four months.
You Will Fight Heart Disease. -Strength training will improve your cholesterol
profile and blood pressure, according to recent research. Of course, your
exercise program should also include cardiovascular exercise and flexibility
You Will Be Able to Beat Back Pain and Fight Arthritis.- A recent 12-year study
showed that strengthening the low-back muscles had an 80 percent success rate
in eliminating or alleviating low-back pain. Other studies have indicated that
weight training can ease arthritis pain and strengthen joints.
You'll be a Better Athlete.- Westcott has found that strength training improves
athletic ability. Golfers, for example, significantly increase their driving
power. Whatever your sport of choice, strength training may not only improve
your proficiency but also decrease your risk of injury.
It Will Work No Matter How Old You Are.- Westcott has successfully trained
numerous women in their 70s and 80s, and studies show that strength
improvements are possible at any age. Note, however, that a strength training
professional should always supervise older participants.
You'll Strengthen Your Mental Health.- A Harvard study found that 10 weeks of
strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than
standard counseling did, Westcott says. Women who strength train commonly
report feeling more confident and capable as a result of their program. This
information is courtesy of IDEA, the leading international membership
organization in the health and fitness industry.
Which Exercise is Best for You?
If you or someone or in your family is mostly sedentary, we’d like to
encourage you to get going and if you’re already active, we want to offer
some reinforcement. Take a look at the chart if you are trying to get started,
or looking for variation, or not too sure what your current program is doing
Charting Your Exercise
Expending 2,000 calories a week in leisure-time activity may sound like an
impossible goal. Yet that’s only about 300 calories a day, or an hour of
yard work or brisk walking each day. You have a wide choice of activities, from
free to expensive, from gregarious to solitary, from competitive to laid-back,
from high impact to low impact. If you carefully evaluate who you are, what you
have time for, and how you prefer to begin, there will certainly be a range of
activities to suit you.
||E, S, (F), B
||E, (S), B
||E, (S), B
|Golf, with cart
||(E), S, F, B
|Mowing, push mower
||E, S, B
||(E), S, B
|Running, 6 mph
||E, (S, F), B
|Running, 8 mph
||E, (S, F), B
||(S, F), B
|Skiing, cross-country, light
||E, S , F, B
||(E), S, F, B
||E, S, F, (B)
||(E), S, F, B
||(E, F), B
||E, (S, F), B
|Walking, 4 mph
||E, (S, F), B
||(E), S, (F)
||S, F, B
|Parentheses around letters on the chart mean "to
Calorie expenditures are averages for a 155-pound man.