The benefits of resistance training for weight loss and how to incorporate it into your workout routine
Sep 20, 2023 | by Jennifer Dabbak
In a world where fitness trends change everyday, the journey to sustainable weight loss seems very complicated. Even though weight loss is the number 1 fitness goal, many people don’t know what to do to achieve this goal as there is an overwhelming amount of information online, with an endless array of diets, exercise routines, and miracle solutions.
Often overshadowed by its cardiovascular counterpart, resistance training is a great tool with many benefits that can play a massive role in weight loss. In this article, we will explore the advantages of incorporating resistance training into your fitness routine, shedding light on how it can improve your weight loss results.
But first, to make it simple and clear, let’s understand what we mean by resistance training.
What is Resistance training?
Resistance training, often referred to as strength training or weight training, is a form of exercise that involves using resistance or force. The primary goal of resistance training is to induce muscular contractions against an external resistance/force, which can come from various sources, including:
- Free Weights: This includes dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and other objects you can hold or lift to provide resistance.
- Machines: Gym equipment such as leg press machines, chest presses, and lat pulldowns.
- Resistance Bands: Elastic bands of varying levels of resistance that can be used for a wide range of exercises.
- Bodyweight Exercises: These use your own body weight as resistance, such as push-ups, squats, and pull-ups.
- Functional Training Equipment: This category includes items like medicine balls, stability balls, and suspension trainers like TRX etc…
Resistance training can be performed in different ways, including lifting heavy weights for a few repetitions to build maximal strength or using lighter weights with higher repetitions for muscle endurance and tone. The choice of resistance, exercises, and training frequency can be tailored to individual goals and fitness levels. The different variables that we can manipulate in resistance training are:
- Number of repetitions: how many repetitions you are completing continuously
- Number of sets: how many rounds you are completing
- Amount of rest: how long you are resting between sets
- Tempo: the speed of each repetition
Let’s discuss if resistance training is beneficial for weight loss, before delving deeper into how to choose the correct variables for weight loss.
Is Resistance Training beneficial for weight loss?
The answer is YES!
Yes, resistance training is indeed beneficial for weight loss. While it’s commonly mistaken to only building muscle and strength, and making woman look bulky, resistance training offers several advantages that contribute to weight loss and overall fitness:
- Increased Metabolism: One of the most significant benefits of resistance training is its ability to increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR) which is the amount of calories that your body needs to survive. Muscles require more energy to maintain than fat. By building and maintaining lean muscle mass through resistance training, you can boost your metabolism, leading to increased calorie burning, even when at rest. This can aid in weight loss and help you maintain a healthy weight more effectively.
- Calorie Burn: Resistance training burns calories during the workout itself. While it may not burn as many calories per minute as cardio exercises like running or cycling, the afterburn effect (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC) can extend the calorie-burning process for hours after your workout. This can contribute to a significant overall calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss. Think of it this way: 30 minutes of cardio = 30 minutes of burning calories VS 30 minutes of Resistance training = up to 24 hours of burning calories.
- Improved Body Composition: Resistance training helps you lose fat while preserving or even gaining muscle mass. This results in a healthier body composition, as muscle takes up less space than fat, giving you a leaner and more toned appearance.
- Enhanced Fat Loss: Resistance training has been shown to directly promote fat loss, especially when combined with a proper diet. As you gain muscle and increase your metabolism, your body becomes more efficient at burning stored fat for energy.
- Long-Term Weight Maintenance: Building and maintaining muscle through resistance training can assist in preventing weight regain after you’ve lost weight. Muscle acts as a metabolic “safety net,” helping you burn more calories and maintain your new weight. Which means, it will be okay for you to have a cheat meal here and there as it will not result in gaining weight as easily.
- Functional Strength: Resistance training improves your overall strength, making daily activities easier and more efficient. This can encourage a more active lifestyle, further supporting weight loss and overall health.
Now that we know the benefits of resistance training to weight loss, let’s look at some ways to incorporate it in our training.
How to Incorporate Resistance Training into Your Workout Routine?
As discussed earlier, when it comes to resistance training, there are many variables that we can manipulate which leaves many beginners lost, confused and unsure where to start. Incorporating the right variables of resistance training into your workout routine can be highly effective. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started.
The number of sets, reps, rest and tempo, can vary based on your individual goals and fitness level when incorporating resistance training into a weight loss program. However, here is a general guideline that can help you get started:
I) Sets, Reps, Rest and Tempo:
- For Fat Loss and General Fitness: Aim for 2-4 sets of 10-15 repetitions It’s important to choose a weight or resistance level that challenges you within this rep range. Rest: 30-60 seconds between sets.
- For Muscle Toning: Aim for 3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions. This rep range leans more towards muscle hypertrophy (growth) while still promoting calorie expenditure. Rest: 45-90 seconds between sets.
- For Strength and Muscle Building: Aim for 3-5 sets of 6-8 repetitions. This is predominantly for advanced people who have a minimum of 18 months of resistance training experience. Rest: 2-3 minutes between sets.
To keep it simple, and to avoid having an overwhelming amount of information, let’s keep it simple for the tempo. A tempo of 2:2 , which means 2 seconds on the way down (eccentric) and 2 seconds on the way up (concentric) has proven effective to all kinds of goals and fitness levels. As you progress, you can slow down the movement and add a pause.
II) Other important variable and factors to consider:
- Choose the Right Exercises: Focus on compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, as they are highly effective for both strength building and calorie burning. If you do isolated exercises, where only one muscle or joint is moving, the calories burnt are less than when doing a compound movement where multiple joints and muscles are moving. Examples include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, rows, and lunges. Include both upper and lower body exercises in your routine for balanced development.
- Determine Training Frequency: Aim for at least two to three resistance training sessions per week. Allow your muscles 24-48 hours of rest between sessions to recover and grow.
- Plan Your Routine: Create a workout plan that you can follow. Having a set program, and knowing what you will be doing gets you more motivated to do it and ensures you are following the correct training.
- Progressive Overload: To continue making progress, gradually increase the weight or resistance as your strength improves. This principle of progressive overload is essential for muscle growth and strength development. Make sure the increments are small, and only when you feel that the previous weight is accomplished easily.
- Use Proper Form: Maintain good form during each exercise to minimise the risk of injury. If you’re unsure about your form, seek guidance from a fitness professional.
- Combine with Cardiovascular Exercise: While resistance training is valuable for weight loss, combining it with cardiovascular exercises (e.g., jogging, cycling, or swimming) can enhance calorie burning and overall fitness. For ultimate results, aim for 20 minutes of continuous or intervals AFTER the resistance training workout.
- Track Your Progress: Keep a workout journal to record your exercises, weights, and repetitions. Tracking your progress can help you stay motivated and adjust your routine as needed.
- Rest and Recovery: Adequate sleep and recovery are essential for muscle growth and overall well-being. Ensure you get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night and prioritise rest days in your workout schedule.
- Stay Consistent: Consistency is key to achieving your weight loss goals. Stick to your workout routine and dietary plan, even when progress seems slow.
- As you progress in your resistance training program, you may need to adjust these variables to continue challenging your muscles and promoting weight loss. Consider periodically increasing the weight or resistance, altering your exercise selection, or modifying the number of sets and reps to keep your workouts effective and engaging. Lastly, listen to your body, and if you experience any pain or discomfort, consult with a fitness professional to ensure you’re using proper form and avoiding injury.
Key things to remember
Remember that weight loss results can vary from person to person. Be patient and stay committed to your routine, and over time, you’ll likely see significant improvements in your weight, body composition, and overall fitness.
It’s important to note that while resistance training is a valuable component of a weight loss plan, a balanced approach that includes both resistance training and cardiovascular exercise, along with a healthy diet, is often most effective. Resistance training should be part of a comprehensive fitness program that aligns with your goals and is adapted to your fitness level. Consulting with a fitness professional or personal trainer can help you design a safe and effective resistance training program tailored to your weight loss objectives.