How to Start Weightlifting for Weight Loss

by Evelyn Valdez

Strength training has numerous health benefits outside of just building muscle, but unfortunately, many women who want to lose weight neglect to see them. They believe the strength training myth that lifting heavy weights is "manly" and will make you bulk up like a bodybuilder – well, we got news for you! Lifting heavy weights isn't going to make you build copious amounts of muscles in a month, nor in a few months!

Building muscle takes a lot of time, patience, consistency, and an adequate nutrition plan. Plus, you don't have to start weight training to build muscle, you can tailor your training program (and nutrition) to fit your fat loss goals. As a matter of fact, it's much more effective weight lifting for weight loss than only focusing on cardio.

So, we're going to tell you why you should lift weights, but most importantly, how to start implementing a weight training routine that will help you achieve your weight loss goals!

How effective is weight lifting for fat loss?

To achieve weight loss there's one thing you have to do - be in a calorie deficit! A calorie deficit is the key to fat loss, not cardio. Cardio can help put you in a calorie deficit because you're able to burn a lot of calories in a short period of time, but it's not necessarily what's causing the weight loss. It's still great to do for many reasons, weight loss is one of them,  but if you want to really maximize your efforts at the gym and get effective, sustainable results start prioritizing weight lifting.

Why?

One of the biggest benefits of weight lifting is that it helps maintain and build muscle mass and although it may not seem like it, muscle tissue is denser and burns more calories than fat. So, when you're weight training and building muscle, you're increasing your resting metabolism rate. Doing that helps you burn calories hours, and even days after your workout without having to do any additional activity! Basically, muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than any other tissue in your body, so increasing it can help you burn enough calories to put you in a deficit and help you achieve sustainable fat loss.

The way to look at weight lifting for weight loss is to look at it as more than just a scale on the number. Muscle is more dense than fat, therefore you might not hit the magic number you're aiming for, but you will notice a difference in your total body fat percentage and the size of your clothes.

Tips to help you start weight lifting for weight loss

Typically when lifters are trying to increase muscle mass they go on a bulking diet that requires a calorie surplus, but if you're trying to lose body weight and fat then your strategy has to be slightly different...

Here are 6 key tips to follow if you want to implement a weight training routine that will help you achieve your weight loss goals and then some 😉

Find the right type of strength training to do

You may not know this but there are various types of strength training. Each type places a greater focus on a specific goal. For example, hypertrophy training places a greater focus on building muscle, while muscular endurance training focuses on improving endurance.

When it comes to getting leaner focus on these three types of strength training...

  • Maximum muscular strength training: This is the most common and popular type of strength training to do. It involves lifting heavy weights (like really heavy) for a set number of repetitions, typically between 1-5. Although it may not seem like this type is ideal for fat loss, it is. Lifting heavier weights at a lower rep range helps improve your strength, but also builds serious muscle mass and burns a lot of calories due to the amount of effort exerted. However, it's important to note that 'heavy' is different for everyone. What's heavy to a beginner may be different to an advanced bodybuilder. That said, with this type of training you want to focus on going really heavy on compound exercises, like deadlifts, squats, bench press, barbell rows, and more. Pick the appropriate weight that fits your fitness level. You want it to be challenging enough that you're exerting a lot of effort and struggling a bit, but not so challenging that your form is starting to take a dip. The key is to do 1-5 reps with good form, never sacrifice your form to push through more repetitions.
  • Hypertrophy training: Start your training sessions with heavy compound sets, and finish it up with hypertrophy training! It gets its name from muscle hypertrophy which describes the increase in the size of muscle cells. Aside from lifting heavy weights, you want to stimulate muscle hypertrophy by creating repetitive stress on the muscle and fully fatiguing it. This is done by lifting a lighter weight for a higher number of repetitions and by placing the load on a specific muscle. Opposed to its counterpart, you'll be focusing on isolation exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, lateral raises, and more. These are single-joint movements which means you won't be able to lift as heavy as you would if you were doing a multi-joint movement like a deadlift. For example, after doing barbell rows which work, primarily your back and biceps, sprinkle in some dumbbell bicep curls, rear delt flyes, and other isolation exercises to further fatigue the muscle and stimulate better muscle hypertrophy.
  • Circuit training: Circuit training is unlike a regular weight lifting training session. The main difference is instead of doing a set of exercises for a certain number of repetitions, you're quickly cycling through several exercises one after the other and then repeating the sequence for a few rounds. This helps challenge your strength and endurance because it involves doing common weight lifting exercises with little rest in between thus improving endurance and cardiovascular health. You also get a full-body workout because circuits typically alternate between upper body and lower body exercises, targeting multiple muscle groups at once. As great as circuit training is, it shouldn't be your main focus. Focus on the above training methods, and sprinkle in circuit training to change things up and give your body a different challenge to tackle! And if you want to learn the how here's how to create your very own circuit training routine!

Push yourself a little more each training session

There's actually a term for this, progressive overload. Progressive overload is a fitness principle that involves overloading the stress placed on your muscles enough to drive progression. For example, someone completely new to strength training is already practicing this technique because they're placing a new challenge on their body to overcome. More experienced lifters will have to try various techniques to drive more progress and avoid hitting a workout plateau.

To continue driving better progress you have to push yourself a little more every week. The simplest way to do this is by increasing the resistance, aka lift heavier than you did last time, or increasing the volume (number of reps and sets). However, those focusing on fat loss can benefit from two other techniques that place a different type of challenge on your muscles. One of those is circuit training, which we mentioned earlier. The other way is by performing supersets!

Supersets involve going from one exercise to the next without resting in between which helps stimulate muscle hypertrophy and increase muscle endurance. There are different ways to perform supersets, but if you want to use it as a way to stimulate muscle hypertrophy then practice post-exhaustion supersets. This involves performing a compound exercise with an isolation exercise. For example, after doing lunges perform glute bridges using a short resistance band to help target your glutes even further! You'll further exhaust the glute muscle group to stimulate better hypertrophy, but also work your endurance since there's no rest in between the exercises. You can do this with any exercise to exhaust any specific muscle group.

Lift at least three times a week

How often you lift weights will depend on your schedule, but to maximize results, do it at least three times a week! Remember, your priority should be strength training. So, instead of doing cardio 3-4 times a week, lift weights.

A higher training frequency is ideal because you want to work on a muscle group enough to promote muscle growth. A lot of lifters choose to work out 4 or more times a week to extensively work for a muscle group and give it sufficient rest in between sessions. They're able to do this by implementing appropriate training splits.

However, those who have busier schedules can get away with three full-body workouts a week! Combine your favorite upper body and lower body compound exercises and incorporate post-exhaustion supersets to help get you effective results. Just remember to rest 24-48 hours between workouts! Muscle recovery is so important, and neglecting to let your muscles recover properly can increase your risk of an injury.

Add cardio into your routine

Just because your weight lifting doesn't mean you should throw away other forms of exercise altogether! Aerobic exercise helps burn calories, maintain your endurance, and overall, helps keep you healthy. So, keep a regular cardio routine!

There are two ways to ensure you're doing cardio to burn fat and not muscle. You can either do steady-state cardio at a moderate intensity. This could be walking on an incline for 30 minutes, cycling, or jogging at a moderate pace for 30 minutes. The key is to keep the pace steady, the intensity at a moderate level, and for a longer duration. 

The other option is increasing the intensity and decreasing the workout time, also popularly known as high-intensity interval training. HIIT workouts are loved because of their fat-burning benefits, and time efficiency! With HIIT, you're able to do a 10-15 minute workout and burn an insane amount of calories during and even after your workout! Similar to resistance training, HIIT increases post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) which helps you burn calories even at rest.

Whatever aerobic activity you enjoy, do it! Those are just the two effective ways to do cardio for weight loss, but it really comes down to what you enjoy doing.

Track your macros

Don't forget to put in the work outside of the gym too! Remember, weight loss comes down to a calorie deficit. To make sure you're in one, clean up your diet, and track your macronutrients.

Tracking calories seems to be common weight loss advice, and it's not necessarily a bad one, but if you want to be smart about your diet, tracking macros is better. When you track your macros, you're prioritizing that you're eating enough protein, carbs, and fats in your diet, not just calories. Nutrient density in the foods you eat is extremely important for muscle recovery, increasing energy levels, keeping you full, and overall, helping your body function at optimal levels. 

So, calculate your macros using a macro calculator, input your information including your weight loss goal to get a good estimate of the number of macros you should be eating to achieve your desired results. 

Supplement wisely

Lastly, use supplements to help you hit your macros, improve recovery, and even keep you full and happy! Protein powder is one of the most popular workout supplements there is, and for good reason. To put things simply, protein keeps you full, and it's also responsible for everything muscle-building related! Having a protein powder handy can help you meet your protein intake, which in turn helps improve your recovery and get you better results. Plus, having one that tastes good, like this Cold Brew Latte Protein Powder by 373 Lab, and combining it with other tasty and healthy ingredients can help keep you full and keep your cravings at bay.

Other popular supplements, like pre-workout for example, can help improve your training performance and other training-related benefits. But it's important not to rely on supplements. At the end of the day, when it comes to weight loss or attaining any type of fitness goal, you need to eat healthy, have a proper training routine, and rest properly - supplements aren't the magic pill for results!

Now you have the information you need to start weight lifting for weight loss! Follow these tips and you'll be on the right track to achieving your fat loss goals sustainably! 

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