You may wonder why you would want to do strength training for weight loss.
We hear it all the time.
- “Won’t I gain weight if I build muscle?”
- “I’m doing so much cardio, so why can’t I lose weight?”
- “I spend hours on the elliptical, but I can’t lose that extra ten pounds.”
These are common myths that are just not true.
If you want to lose weight, you must build muscle; if you want to build muscle, you need to start strength training.
Strength training – not cardio – is the secret to weight loss.
In this blog, we will discuss the ins-and-outs of strength training and why it’s such a powerful tool for losing weight and keeping it off in the long term.
Why Cardio Doesn’t Work
For years, the wisdom in fitness circles was that if you want to lose weight, you need to do cardio. And sure, if you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll lose some weight.
The problem, however, crops up when you look at the mechanisms and the longevity of that weight loss.
Here are a few of the reasons cardio doesn’t work as a weight loss tactic for most people:
- Cardio can increase hunger. Excessive cardio boosts your body’s cortisol levels. When cortisol levels are chronically elevated, they cause muscle breakdown and can even disrupt natural hormone balance. Even worse, cardio can ramp up your appetite, which causes you to consume more calories than you’re burning.
- Cardio doesn’t build muscle. In fact, doing too much cardio can actually limit muscle growth or even eat away at muscle tissue. When you lose muscle, your resting metabolic rate (RMR) declines, which means your body burns fewer calories. When this happens, you need to exercise more or eat fewer calories to bridge the gap.
- Too much cardio can make it harder to recover. When you exercise too much (no matter what kind of exercise you’re doing), it makes it hard for your body to recover sufficiently between training sessions. Excessive cardio, specifically, can reduce your recovery capacity and put you at a higher chance of injury.
- Cardio is unsustainable. To lose weight via cardio, most people would need to perform a few hours of it every day. For most of us, this isn’t sustainable or kind to our bodies.
Meet the Alternative: Strength Training
While cardio is inefficient and impractical as a weight loss strategy, cardio is the exact opposite.
In fact, if weight loss is your goal, strength training is exactly what you should be focusing on.
Strength training allows you to lose weight and keep it off in the long term by focusing on building muscle tissue, not burning calories.
This works because muscle requires more energy than fat. The more muscle mass you have in your body, the higher your metabolic rate becomes and the more calories you burn even when sitting or resting.
More muscle also helps your body burn more fat, which is critical for anyone who wants to lose weight but maintain strength.
As you build muscle, your metabolism speeds up. This means that, eventually, you start burning more fat when you exercise, making each workout session even more potent and efficient than the last.
How to Incorporate Strength Training for Weight Loss
If you want to use strength training as a weight loss tactic, we recommend trying to do some sort of strength training for an hour at least 3-5 times each week.
The type of strength training you choose depends on what you like and could run the gamut from lifting weights to using resistance bands to work out.
Like cardio, you shouldn’t lift weights every day, and we recommend at least one day of rest between every two days of training. You could also alternate different body parts like legs one day and arms the next day.
If you don’t want to bulk up or are worried about a new or existing injury, focus on doing more reps with lighter weights rather than the other way around. You don’t have to lift heavy weights to build muscle mass. You also don’t have to bulk up like a body-builder either.
Should I do Any Cardio?
Don’t get us wrong – cardio has a place in every good workout routine – it just shouldn’t be the only thing you focus on.
The majority of fitness experts will advise you to do the cardio after the weight training, because if you do cardio first, it uses up much of the energy source for your anaerobic work (strength training) and fatigues the muscles before their most strenuous activity. This same view holds that strength training first will deplete the muscles’ stored carbohydrates (glycogen or sugar), and therefore, it will enhance fat burning during the cardio workout because of the lack of available sugar for fuel.
For maximum fat loss, we recommend combining cardio and strength training. Here’s a mock example of a weekly workout routine that combines strength and cardio:
- Monday: Walk for thirty minutes, then do thirty minutes of the cardio workout of your choice.
- Tuesday: Lift weights for an hour (or complete a resistance band workout), then walk for 30 minutes.
- Wednesday: Play an aerobic game like tennis or pickleball for an hour.
- Thursday: Do 30 minutes of strength training, switching between push-ups, sit-ups, and squats, then finish with 30 minutes of light yoga.
- Friday: Walk for an hour throughout the day.
- Saturday: Do one hour of strength training and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.
- Sunday: Take a rest day or enjoy a leisurely 30-minute walk.
As with any form of exercise, find strength training and aerobic workouts you actually like. The more you enjoy working out, the more likely you are to make it part of your day and to look forward to incorporating it into your schedule.
Not sure where to start? We recommend working with an Alloy personal trainer who can help you create customized workouts that suit your schedule and will actually help you work toward (and crush) your goals.
More Efficient Weight Loss Starts Here
If you want to lose weight, it’s all about working out smarter, not harder.
When you combine strength training and cardio into an intelligent workout program, rather than relying totally on cardio to help you burn calories and lose weight, you wind up with a smarter, longer-term weight loss strategy.
Best of all, this strategy actually helps you improve your functional fitness, increase your resting metabolic rate, and enjoy a happier, healthier life.