A lot of women are turning to the weights to get into shape. It's a smart move. But for every woman picking up some dumbbells, there's an equal number who avoid them. Some think that weightlifting will make them bulky — which isn't true — and others don't think that pushing around some weight in the gym will help them lose a few pounds. But the truth? Strength training will definitely help you lose weight and is an integral part of how you can shape your body into the lean, fit machine you've always wanted! How does it work? What do you really have to do? What can you expect? Wow, you've got a lot of questions! Good thing we have all the answers!
More Muscle Is a Great Thing
Have you ever heard the phrase "the more muscle you have, the more fat you'll burn"? No? Well, trust us when we say it's definitely true. Let's look at the science: the body expends energy (calories) just to maintain muscle, and the more you have, the more energy your body needs to maintain it. What does that mean for you? Just having muscle burns calories, and having more muscle means burning even more calories. You may not think you'll be using a significant amount of energy and that you won't have a significant caloric loss just by building muscle, but it's enough to make a noticeable difference, as stated in many studies.
And if you think that you'll only be burning calories when you're actually using those new muscles, you're dead wrong. According to certified personal trainer Heather Neff, "You'll be burning fat while you sleep just for the fact that you have muscle to maintain." To put it simply, building muscles can help raise your resting metabolism.
Don't Trust the Scale
First off, you have to know one simple fact: strength training might actually make you gain weight. Let me explain before you freak out. Weight is a vague term typically used to describe how much a person actually weighs and frequently has little to do with your health or fitness levels.
According to Neff, "If you were to take five pounds of muscle and five pounds of fat, place them both in a bucket and compare the two side by side, the fat will take up a significant amount of room while the muscle takes up very little, yet they still weight the exact same. That's because fat cells are large, light, and fluffy, while muscle fibers are small and very dense."
So don't freak out when you step on the scale after a few weeks. Instead, revel in the glory of how well you fit in those new jeans!
How to Use Strength Training to Lose Weight
If you're trying to lose weight, then a good mix of cardio and strength training is the best plan. That's right, you can't just stop doing cardio — but at least you won't have to keep doing endless sessions on the treadmill. And if you double up, you should keep that cardio for after the weights. Why? "Strength training before cardio because cardio can deplete your body of energy and set you up for injury," Neff said. "Especially if you are going to be lifting heavier weights." If you can't see yourself doing strength training and cardio in the same workout, do your cardio on off days or in other venues (go for a walk, play a sport, or even take up LARP'ing — look it up! It's hilarious, geeky fun).
How often should you be strength training? Neff offers this advice: "Do your strength training three to four days per week and make sure you're not doing it back to back, especially if you're doing a full-body routine — always give yourself a day in between training for the muscles to recover and grow."