Strength Training for Fat Loss

‘There’s more to life than training, but training is what puts more into your life’

When it comes to starting out on a weight loss journey most people start with Cardio based activities such as running, swimming or cycling and some form of dieting, usually focused around reducing their calorie intake. While it’s true that Cardio based workouts get your heart rate going and burn calories, in many cases a programme purely based around Cardio won’t get us the best results. Strength training often gets overlooked, however it is what can give your weight loss goal an extra boost.

Defining Weight loss. First of all, lets define weight loss. When we say we are looking to lose weight, what we mean is that we want to keep our lean muscle and reduce our fat stores. Ultimately get rid of the wobbly bits. Unfortunately, too much cardio training and fad dieting can have the opposite effect; you can start to burn fat and muscle. So what happens, you lose weight on the scales, but you become skinny and keep the wobbly bits you didn’t like.

Why? When you restrict your calories for fat loss purposes your body reduces its total fat stores to stay alive, it goes into survival mode, this in turn slows down your metabolic rate to conserve energy. This is the opposite of what we are looking to achieve with a fat loss programme. To promote healthy fat loss, we are looking to use our exercise activities to preserve and build muscle, which will in turn accelerate fat loss. The metabolic demand on a pound of muscle is much more than the demand on a pound of fat. We want to increase your metabolic rate so that your body becomes more efficient at burning energy even when you are at rest. And to do this we need to build lean muscle.

But I love Cardio? Love your weekly cardio fix, I do too! I’ve always been a runner, prior to changing my programme I was running 3-4 times a week. I lived for my twice-weekly spin class but my shape didn’t change and I still couldn’t do more than one push up without collapsing. I think its important to say you definitely shouldn’t stop doing what you love, I still run but only once a week and I’ve just bought a road bike. Cardio based training is still important particularly if you have a very sedentary lifestyle or perhaps a desk based job, however the truth is when including some strength into your weekly programme you will find you don’t need to do half as much cardio as you think.

Combine Strength with Cardio. Try to do 2-3 strength-based sessions per week, focusing on different muscle group and combine this with some cardio. When we lift weight we overload the muscle, and the muscle adapts to allow us to lift more weight, strength training stimulates this growth, which leads to an increase in lean muscle mass over time. Strength training has been shown to promote EPOC. You may have heard of the term EPOC before, ‘Excess Post Exercise Consumption’. This means that our body continues working long after we have finished our exercise session, which elevates metabolism and burns fat. Big compound exercises, such as deadlifts and weighted squats are fantastic examples.

It’s fun. Strength based training is challenging and fun. It’s not just about deadlifts and squats. Incorporate bodyweight moves like push-ups, kettle bells, weighted bags. It’s a great feeling when you gradually start increasing the weight that you can lift, swing or press. And don’t be worried that you won’t break a sweat either; you definitely will. You can move faster between sets, decrease your rest time and even add a 3-5 minute cardio blast in between sets if you need your fix!

Strength training improves performance. The good news is, strength based training will actually help to improve your performance in your cardio based activities because overall you are building a stronger body. For example, building stronger glutes, should assist you with your running. Working on your core strength, can help to maintain better form when you are cycling. It’s also important to mention that strength training has been shown to have many benefits for overall bone health, posture and injury prevention.

Eat right – So many fad diets out there do not promote good nutrition. Remember, we are looking to build a strong, lean body. Good nutrition goes hand in hand with your programme, you must make time for food shopping, cooking and meal preparation. Look to increase your protein intake and that doesn’t have to be in the form of protein shakes, just look to add protein into your breakfast, lunch and dinner. This can be in the form of eggs, lean meats and chicken, greek yoghurt or handful of nuts. Also try and consume some form of protein within 1 hour of working out. Watch your portion sizes and try and choose un-processed quality fresh foods. Try and make quality food choices, ensure you are getting adequate sleep and drinking plenty of water.

Ditch the scales – Don’t panic if you don’t see instant results on the scales, go by how you feel and how your clothes fit. If you’re not losing as much weight as you think you might be, it’s because you are building muscle as your losing fat and that’s a good thing. And no, if you are a woman reading this you wont get bulky.

Reformer Pilates compliments strength based training programme perfectly, particularly as you become more advanced with the movements. Reformer Pilates offers a low impact strength based workout, helping to increase the flexibility of your joints giving you a better range of movement, helping to improve posture, strength and protecting against injuries. A stronger body will aid your strength-training programme allowing you to go deeper into a squat, maintain good form in a deadlift or hold a core exercise for a longer period. You will also be much more body aware.

Consistency is Key. This is the final thing to remember, if you want to see lasting changes in your body composition over time you need to be consistent. Constantly remind yourself of your goals, why you started your programme in the first place. Continue to challenge yourself and progress the difficulty of your workouts.

By Emma Parry

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