Shouldn’t I be Doing Cardio Exercises?
This is one of the biggest misconceptions in the gym and if you ask most people using the cardio machines such as the treadmills, the stationary bike or the elliptical trainer they will tell you that losing weight is their number one priority. Doing cardio exercises are a great way to increase your fitness levels but when it comes to losing fat then there are much more effective ways to use your time that you should be doing first before you even think about getting on the treadmill.
Why Weight Training is Great for Weight Loss
One of the main benefits of training with weights is that as the amount of muscle in your body increases so too does the amount of calories your body burns when resting (your basal metabolic rate or BMR). Add more muscle or lean mass to your body and you will burn more calories each day even if you haven’t had a workout. Let’s say your body uses 2000 calories per day just to function. If you start increasing the amount of muscle your body contains then this number will increase meaning that you can either eat more food without putting on weight or eat the same amount of food as before and lose weight as you will be in a calorie deficit. As fat loss comes down to calories in vs. calories out the more calories your body uses means you are much more likely to lose fat. As there are many factors that come into play such as your weight, height, diet and fitness levels it is impossible to give a general number for the increase in calories burned but as a rough guide for every three pounds of muscle you add, your body will burn an extra 120 calories per day.
Apart from the increase in your BMR there is also the calorie burning properties of the workout itself. Estimates state that an average 30 minute weight training session can burn 240 to 300 calories or eight to 10 calories per minute. When compared to a 30 minute cardio workout which on average uses around 300 to 360 calories they compare quite favourably but when you factor in the increase in your BMR and also that weight training gives your body a metabolic spike which lasts for about an hour after you have finished you can see that lifting weights is the best way to lose fat in the short and long term.
Other Reasons You Should be Training with Weights
Apart from the increase in the amount of calories your body burns on a daily basis and the calorie zapping properties of the workout lifting weights has many other great advantages. Increasing your strength is just one of them and although it might not be at the top of your list of goals it does bring benefits, making day to day life easier and more effortless. Plus you never know when you might need to win that arm wrestle or lift that heavy box or open that jar of pickles! Increasing your strength is a great secondary goal to achieve. As you train with weights your bone density increases which is a good thing as it strengthens your bones. This can have immediate positive benefits but in the long term, when you start to get old and frail your increased bone density can keep those bones strong and healthy minimising the risk of breaks and fractures.
But I Don’t Want to Get Big!
A lot of you reading this might be concerned about adding too much muscle and starting to look like a bodybuilder. This is something you should not worry about at all. To get to the stage where people are commenting on your muscles and size takes years of heavy lifting and serious dedication. Not only do you have to lift heavy weights but in order to become big and bulky you also need to eat lots of food so that your body can convert the extra calories into muscle. If you train at a medium intensity and stick to a sensible diet then the chances of you starting to look like you should be on stage are next to nothing. If it was that easy to get big and muscular then there wouldn’t be so many men grunting and huffing and puffing in the gym!
I Just Want to Get Toned, Not Build Muscle
Getting toned just means you have a decent amount of muscle or lean body mass and also have low body fat levels. This means that you don’t look too skinny and don’t wobble about when moving even if you have a small build. In order to get the toned look you have to lift weights to build your muscles. Just doing cardio and losing fat that way won’t get you toned. You might lose weight from doing cardio but once the fat starts to go there won’t be any muscle tone underneath and you won’t get the look you’re after. Getting that layer of muscle under your skin keeps you firm and toned to give you that healthy, athletic figure.
Even Women Must Lift Weights
So far this article has been aimed at men and women who are serious about fat loss and getting in great shape. All the above applies to both men and women but as we get near the end of the article I want to make it crystal clear that for women to get in shape both in terms of losing fat and getting that sporty, athletic toned figure they need to start weight training as their number one priority. Yes diet and cardio vascular exercise are important but starting a weight training program should be your main focus if you want to transform your body composition and boost your body’s calorie burning abilities. You won’t get big and muscular unless you really want to and even then it will be a real struggle to achieve the bodybuilder look so don’t worry about that happening.
What Exercises Should I Do?
Even if you are a regular gym goer who uses the cardio and fitness machines, making the transition to weight training can be a daunting prospect. Like the first day at school, crossing the invisible line into the free weights section of the gym can be a nerve wracking experience but once your first workout is underway you will be wondering what all the fuss was about. Sure there might be some big guys waddling around but overall they are a friendly bunch. If you are nervous ask a gym employee to show the ropes on some of the free weights and then start off with a basic workout and then add more exercises as time goes by until you have a rock-solid weight training schedule you are happy with.
Alternatively you could always train at home which is easier than it sounds due to the plethora of home weight training equipment on the market. To get started you only need a set of dumbbells or a single kettlebell and you can start performing a full body workout in the comfort of your own home. This is another advantage over cardio training as the size a treadmill or exercise bike takes up can’t be compared to the size of a small set of free weights.
Check out our Home Weight Training section for more ideas on training at home.
To summarize weight training is the best way to lose fat because:
- The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns on a daily basis
- Weight training workouts burn a comparable amount of calories to a cardio workout but your body continues burning calories at an increased rate for the next few hours as well
- Adding lean body mass or muscle to your body will give you that healthy, athletic and toned look
- Increasing your strength has many practical applications
- Weight training at home is far easier, cheaper and takes up less space than doing a cardio workout at home