Q&A: “Why is resistance training important for long-term fat/weight loss?”
I was recently asked:
“Why is resistance training important for long-term weight loss?”
In this article, I unravel the answer to this very common fitness question.
Hamster wheel fitness is not the ideal path to weight loss
Many people think more is better when it comes to losing weight. I see it all of the time – cardio-hungry men and women who, in robotic-drone fashion, bypass the weight room to jump on treadmills and ellipticals…and they do this every day. Their goal? Cram as many long and uncomfortable cardio sessions into the week as possible.
Often, these people skip weights and focus on the cardio because they think it is the cardio that will produce a greater sweat and burn more calories in the least amount of time. They may think,
- Why fling dumbbells around the room when you can blast calories by running your ass off?
- After 1-2 hours of cardio, who has time for resistance training?
Do these questions sound familiar to you?
Cardio addicts think this is the answer to losing weight. Sadly, this is not an efficient method to losing nagging muffin tops.
It’s not about more. It’s about efficiency.
In fact, this pattern can lead to over-training, muscle and joint dysfunction, injury, and fatigue, all of which ork against losing pounds and inches. To have lasting results with fat/weight loss, it is important to make your workouts smart, varied and practical…and resistance training needs to be a part of your fitness program.
Efficient strength training sessions that focus on building muscle mass will aid in producing long-term weight loss success.
So back to the question,
“Why is resistance training important for long-term weight loss?”
Resistance training is crucial for long-term weight loss and here are some reasons why.
1. Maintains metabolism
Resistance training is very beneficial when it comes to burning fat. Your muscle tissue is very metabolically active (it is one of the biggest contributors to metabolic rate) and when you lift weights, your body is forced to maintain its muscle tissue. This helps to maintain your metabolism, even if your calorie intake is reduced.
When you sustain, or even slightly increase your metabolism with resistance training, take in less calories, and keep your hormones in check, the body has to rely on stored body fat as fuel. Over time, this should make you leaner and more toned.
…but if you lose muscle mass (especially by overtraining with cardio and avoiding weights) you will slow your metabolism and impede weight-loss.
2. Burn calories long after your training session
Some studies have proven that a strength training workout can burn calories for up to 12-48 hours AFTER your training session!
Starvation leads to sabotage
A lot of people try to starve themselves into weight loss because they feel that if they control calories and do cardiovascular exercise as much as possible, the weight will shed. Even some health professionals promote dieting with calorie restriction. Unfortunately, there are dieticians and nutritionists who do not fully understand how strength training works, think that weight loss (or gain) is dictated by calorie-control, and push this thought onto others.
Sadly, this theory has become so mainstream. Calories in, calories out. If you have a calorie deficit, you’re going to lose weight, if you consume extra calories, you will gain body fat.
While this is true, it is only part of the picture.
Remember, if you perform too much cardio, avoid strength training and restrict calories, you will break down your muscle tissue. Less muscle mass leads to a reduction in your overall metabolic rate and this will make sustaining weight-loss very difficult.
3. Muscles burn calories
Sure, you need a calorie deficit to lose weight, but how does your body actually use calories? It is your lean body mass, that muscle mass underneath your body fat, that burns calories 24/7, allowing you to actually eat more nutrient-dense calories without gaining significant weight.
Mike Adams from www.naturalnews.com does a great job explaining this further:
“Let’s say you happen to be quite obese and you have a high percentage of body fat. Underneath that body fat you actually have a very strong skeleton and strong muscles. Your body has built up those muscles in order to carry all of that extra body fat when you move your body. Just the very act of standing up, walking across a parking lot, going up a flight of stairs or lifting your arms requires more effort when you’re overweight, especially if you’re obese. So the heavier you are, the stronger your muscles have to be just to allow you to do basic, everyday things.
Now this can actually work to your advantage — if you manage to keep all of that muscle mass and bone density in place while you are losing body fat, then you can maintain the high metabolism that’s associated with that lean body mass even while you are dropping body fat. But if you starve yourself, you’re going to LOSE all the MUSCLE resources you already have. It’s a mistake a lot of people make. They try to lose body fat by starving themselves, and as the body fat vanishes from their body, their muscle mass also disappears. Why would the body get rid of muscle mass? Because, frankly, it doesn’t need it.
Your body adapts to the need
You see, the body is an adaptive system. It will adapt to whatever loads you place on it. So if you are a heavier person and you’re carrying around body fat, then your body will adapt by creating stronger muscles to lift your body. It’s almost like doing a leg press every time you get up out of the chair. If you weigh 300 lbs you’re doing a 300 lb leg press, you see? Now if you were to drop 150 lbs of body fat and end up at 150 lbs, your body wouldn’t need the same amount of leg muscle to lift you. It would eliminate those leg muscles through catabolic action. You see, the body is an adaptive system. It will adapt to whatever loads you place on it. So if you are a heavier person and you’re carrying around body fat, then your body will adapt by creating stronger musc
While it eliminates this muscle mass, your metabolism begins to slow. Remember, it’s the lean body mass that’s burning calories day in and day out, even when you’re doing nothing. If you reduce that muscle mass by allowing it to go away (by not challenging your muscles), then your metabolism is going to slow. A lot of people end up at a place where they’ve lost the body fat and they’re lighter, but it’s suddenly so much easier to put on body fat. They don’t have the muscle mass they once did, they’re not automatically burning calories, and if they overeat just a little bit, they’ll start packing on the body fat again.” – Mike Adams
Improve your lifestyle by adding resistance training to your routine
If you are not already incorporating resistance training into your workouts, start by adding it to your routines this week. Not only will it help with weight loss, but strength training will also:
- improve muscle strength and tone
- protect joints and ligaments
- increase bone density and prevent osteoporosis
- elevate “feel-good” hormones and act as an anti-depressant
- improve balance, mobility and coordination
- reduce risk of injury
- help you move better/more efficiently
- improve lifestyle
- manage pain related to chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, depression, back pain and heart disease
- improve posture
- boost stamina/endurance
- improve focus
- increase self-confidence, self-esteem and body image
- reduce insomnia
- enhance performance of everyday tasks
Equipment is unnecessary – use your environment
Using strength equipment (barbells, free-weights, kettlebells, etc.) is great, but is not always necessary. Don’t have dumbbells? No problem. Use the resources around you and use your own body for body-weight exercises.
Kick off your shoes, lift a log, carry a large rock, throw a sandbag. Do not be afraid to lift something heavy once in a while. Heavy lifting aids with muscle growth.
When done properly, a resistance training workout combines cardiovascular elements with movement skills. This gives you cardiovascular benefit, helps with endurance and provides you with long-term toning and weight loss success…and you don’t have to spend hours in a gym completing the workout.
Incorporate natural movement skills into your routine
Work on improving your natural human movement skills. When you move naturally, you strengthen your muscles. If you train with me, you are familiar with natural movement. If you don’t, here is a quick overview of some basic human movement skills. The three categories of movement skill are
- Locomotive (walking, running, balancing, jumping, crawling, climbing, swimming)
- Manipulative (lifting, carrying, throwing, catching)
- Combative (striking, grappling)
For me, this type of fitness is MUCH more interesting, challenging and fun than the human “hamster wheels” found in gyms.
Break away from conventional cardio and start lifting, crawling, throwing and carrying
Examples of movement skills
- Foot-hand (bear) crawls
- Stepping over and under
- Natural movement mini-combo workout
- Tripod transitions on 2×4 board with sandbag
- Tripod transitions on 2×4 board without sandbag
Including natural movement skills in your fitness routine is very effective in shedding weight. I cannot even remember the last time I stepped onto a treadmill or elliptical or counted calories. For me, there is no need to do so and my body and sanity is much better without conventional forms of cardio, exercise and calorie restriction/obsession.
Get started with strength training today!
Adding muscle mass to your body is critical for long-term success with weight loss. Resistance training, in the form of bodyweight, free-weight, or natural movement training is essential for this outcome. Strength training sustains and increases your metabolism, burns calories and provides your body with so many health benefits.
If you tend to skip weight training and obsess over cardio, I urge you to tear yourself away from your cardio addiction, add resistance training to your exercise programs, eat more cleanly and rid yourself of that muffin top for good!
If you are having trouble getting started, please contact me and I will help you create a kick-ass program! 🙂
To learn more about fat/weight loss visit:
- “End Your Love Affair With The Scale” : This is why you should get rid of your scale. Learn alternate methods for tracking weight loss and body composition.
- “On Pound Of Fat Versus One Pound Of Muscle – Clearing Up The Misconceptions” : Are you struggling with weight-loss? Read this article to explore the myth, “muscle weighs more than fat.” Learn why the scale numbers may not be decreasing.
- “Q&A: Where Does Fat Go When You Lose Weight?” :This article unveils the truth behind fat loss and explains in great detail what happens to fat when you lose it.
I want to hear from you
- What do your workouts look like?
- Do you include resistance training in your fitness program(s) and has it helped you get positive results?
- If you don’t include strength training in your program, why not?
Let me know your thoughts by commenting in the comment box. I look forward to hearing from you.
Take care…now go lift something heavy!
When she is not helping others to slay fat, build muscle, and live amazing lives, Jennifer can be found exploring the outdoors with her dogs, cooking, traveling and playing/coaching lacrosse. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.