Strength Training and Fat Loss?

Its pretty common knowledge that to lose fat you simply need to eat less and exercise more right? Most likely of the cardio variety?

Would you be shocked to hear me say no?

Well maybe not a flat out No, but more of a 'not necessarily'....

While it might seem unconventional to some of you, heavy resistance training (think lifting big weights) may be a better way to go.

In this blog post I explain (or at least try too) the large role strength training can play in improving body composition. Although this notion may go against some ‘conventional’ thoughts and opinions on the topic of fat loss, it will hopefully help provide you with a greater understanding of the different tools and training methods we can use to get promote fat loss, without spending hours of our week on the treadmill.


Strength as a Cup

The best analogy I have heard (pretty sure I can thank Dan Jon for this one) is strength being described as a cup.  All of the other fitness components are the liquid inside that cup. By fitness components I am talking about our absolute work capacity, our ability to demonstrate muscular power and muscular endurance and obviously our ability to express force (be stong).

In regards to fat loss, the larger the cup (the greater our strength) the more load we can lift per rep, the more total work we can perform in a session, which in turn increases the amount of total energy we use complete, and recover from, the session.


Strength training builds lean mass

That ‘toned’ look people are always talking about. You know the one - ‘I don’t want to get big, I just want to tone up’ – sounds familiar right?

Interesting fact: you can’t ‘tone’ your muscles. Better muscle definition occurs by building muscle and losing fat around those muscles, making them more visible and ‘defined’.

Heavy resistance training builds muscle. By building more muscle we not only create more lean mass relative to our fat mass (which therefore causes a subsequent decrease in body fat percentage), but as muscle is highly metabolic tissue, we also increase our basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy we burn at rest). By increasing our basal metabolic rate, we increase the amount of energy we burn every day, irrespective of the exercise we perform that day! By adding lean mass you can literally increase the amount of energy you burn when you’re at work, on the couch or lying in bed! All it takes is performing heavy resistance training 2-3 times per week.


Heavy strength training requires muscle mass

Heavy resistance training stimulates high threshold motor units, and therefore recruits a near maximal amount of muscle fibres. This neural stimulus reinforces a need to maintain muscle mass. As decreasing fat mass typically involves an energy deficit, lifting heavy can help maintain muscle mass whilst in this deficit. Adding to the point above, it can help maintain a high metabolic rate whilst still reducing caloric intake, potentially increasing the amount of lean mass maintained during a ‘cutting phase’, so to speak.


Strength training is both hard and rewarding

Heavy strength training is hard. Busting out a new 5 rep max for deadlifts is taxing. Very taxing. Not only does it require physical strength but mental strength too. That ability to push through is important, and necessary. It builds confidence in your strength and ability both inside and outside the gym, and has carry over to everyday life. Once the set is done there is a sense of accomplishment. This sense of accomplishment is important, as it keeps you motivated and drives you to continue training. Arguably the most important thing required to incur significant changes in body composition is consistency. If that sense of accomplishment improves adherence to training it can go a long way to help you reach your physical goals.


I have only touched briefly on the HUGE benefits strength training can provide, but hope to have altered your perspective on training to improve body composition, if even a little.

If you’re not particularly confident in introducing heavy resistance training into your workout, or don’t really know where to start, please feel free to contact me via my about page.

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