At first it seems a strange concept – lifting weights, to lose weight. However regular weight lifting encourages fat loss and, most importantly, helps keep it off! Weight lifting, or resistance training, may seem like the domain of lumbering body builders, or guys trying to get ‘beach muscles’ but it’s actually one of the most beneficial activities you can do in the gym. Rather a sweeping statement you might think but resistance training is so variable and valuable that I have yet to train someone who wouldn’t benefit from it. But what exactly is it?
Resistance training isn’t all about lifting heavy weights and grunting. The basic principle is that you simply use resistance when performing a movement. This can be your own body weight, elastic bands, dumbbells, anything. It improves muscle tone, strength, stability, co-ordination, posture and bone strength - need more? Okay one more, since it’s the subject of this article – weight loss or, more accurately, fat loss. So, with the aid of some sciencey stuff (sorry), this article explains why resistance training is so important for fighting the flab.
Resistance training raises your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Your RMR is the number of calories you burn each day while resting – on average this is around 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men. Training muscles regularly raises the amount of energy burned while at rest because they require more calories to sustain themselves. A simple analogy – if you have a large engine in your car, you will use more petrol if you leave the engine running in neutral, compared to a smaller engine. So a woman who regularly lifts weights could increase her RMR from 2,000 calories a day, to 2,300. While maintaining a daily intake of 2,000 calories, she would burn 300 calories without even having to get out of bed. This is obviously great for losing fat initially but it is also essential for maintaining the fat loss as well. And don’t worry girls, you won’t get huge muscles.
We’ve all heard about the ‘yo-yo’ diet when you lose weight by simply eating less food, which is downright unpleasant if maintained for any length of time. You pile the pounds back on again when you start eating normally. By raising your metabolism, you can still lose weight while eating a normal healthy diet. It also means that if you don’t eat healthily for a couple of weeks you won’t automatically put all the fat straight back on. This is also an advantage over jogging, cycling and other “cardio” exercises. The problem with only doing cardio exercises is that, as soon as you stop the daily work out that burns 500 calories, the fat builds up again. This isn’t the case with resistance training because your muscle mass and RMR are maintained even if you stop training for a month. Additionally, weight training can burn up 500 calories an hour in men, and 400 calories in women, which is more efficient than cycling at 10mph for an hour.
Be warned that you may not actually lose weight on the scales when you begin weight training because muscle weighs more than fat. So it is important to take your measurements with a tape measure, around your chest, waist, hips, thighs and upper arms as well as getting your body fat % checked. This can be done in most gyms with a body fat analyser or with body fat callipers. And, above all, look in the mirror and appraise what you look like regularly and check how your clothes fit.
So how can you modify your current training regime? Any resistance work will help but there are ways to make it even more effective. Firstly ensure that you work every major muscle in your body at least once a week – particularly the leg and back muscles as they are large muscle groups and will burn a lot of fat. The next thing to do is to develop your regular routine to include at least two lower and two upper body exercises. This must be performed at least twice a week and, between each exercise, you should rest no more than 90 seconds, preferably less. This will help the production of a hormone called Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which helps to regulate body fat naturally. Training in this way should also raise the heart rate, making your heart stronger and healthier too. If you need ideas for developing a resistance programme to aid fat loss get in contact.
So start lifting it and losing it in conjunction with a healthy diet and soon you’ll start looking and feeling just the way you want!