One thing I get asked quite a bit is “Why should I lift weights if I just want to lose body fat? Why not just do tons of cardio or only reduce my calorie intake?”
Rather than just say “because I told you so – I’m Sean Flanagan dammit!!!”, I figured I would outline some of the major benefits specifically for fat loss.
What do I mean when I say “strength training”? At the risk of starting a violent revolution, I define “strength training” as training that actually makes you stronger. I am guessing you can already lift 3 lbs with ease. If so, lifting 3 lb weights does not count. It counts for SOMETHING, sure. But it’s probably not building strength and thus not getting the same benefits. For the ultimate in simplicity’s sake, the weights should feel heavy to you and you should be working on being able to lift heavy things more times and incrementally making your heavy things into even heavier things.
Sorry, Shape Magazine. There’s nothing good about who you are, what you do, and what you call strength training.
Here are the top 6 reasons why you should strength train if your #1 goal is fat loss, loosely as a countdown towards more awesomeness.
6) Calorie burning – this isn’t an advantage to just cardio. You can definitely burn a ton of calories doing only lots of cardio. It’s CERTAINLY an advantage over just reducing your calories though. Call me crazy, but I think you’d probably enjoy your day a little bit more if you can eat 2,000 calories and lose a lb a week than if you have to eat 1,750 calories to lose that lb of week. (random common numbers: don’t read into them too much)
5) Low Impact – knees hurt when your feet hit the ground thousands of times when you run? Join the club. With resistance training, you’re going to be using less repetitive motions compared to most forms of cardio and certainly less impact unless you’re doing some crazy jumping around nonstop workout.
4) Increased confidence – why wait until your 20 lbs lighter to feel awesome about yourself? Fat loss will go a lot smoother if the whole time you’re basking in the rays of empowerment.
3) Muscle Preservation – safe assumption: you’re trying to lose fat, not muscle. Resistance training helps you keep your muscle, which is a benefit not just in terms of body shape – but also long term for daily calorie output. Muscle burns more calories than fat.
2) Greater Percentage of Body Fat Lost – this is an extension of #3. If two people are both losing 2 lbs a week and one person is losing 1 lb of muscle per week and the other person is losing only .1 lb of muscle per week, who is losing more body fat? Of course it’s the individual retaining more muscle.
1) Feedback on rate of weight loss and nutrition status – at first glance, this benefit isn’t as sexy as the previous two. But it’s the glue that binds them together. If you’re working on increasing or at least maintaining your strength, then you have a low tech feedback tool on whether you’re losing too much muscle (and therefore, too little fat). If your strength is going down despite your hard work, there’s a good chance you’re losing muscle tissue! If this happens, step 1 is to look at your protein intake and make sure it’s up to snuff. Step 2 is to look at your total calorie intake – are you on pace to lose too much weight each week? As a general rule of thumb, 1 percent of weight lost per week is the limit for how quickly you can lose scale weight and see only a tiny decrease in muscle.
I’m sure I left some great reasons out – but by now I’m sure you’re sufficiently motivated to go lift something heavy.
If you’re looking for a simple to follow strength training program, check out my 4-Week Home-Training Program (you can still use it at the gym, by the way).