When we think of losing weight, the first two things that come to mind are eating less and doing cardio. And while both of those are critical for shedding pounds, strength training is also key. To understand why strength training is important, and for our favorite strength training exercises, keep reading.
It’s generally agreed that intense cardio exercise like spinning, running, and swimming will burn a lot of calories and that doing cardio is a great way to lose weight. While focusing exclusively on cardio may help you drop pounds in the beginning, it alone may not be enough to avoid a weight-loss plateau or keep the weight off. That’s because, in addition to burning fat, cardio can also cause the body to lose lean muscle mass.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Why does that matter? Because lean muscle mass helps your body burn more calories while at rest. In other words, cardio burns calories while you’re doing it but not when you aren’t. In contrast, strength training helps your body continue to burn calories even when your workout has ended. Increasing your lean muscle mass can also increase your metabolism, which will help you break through those pesky weight-loss plateaus we mentioned earlier.
When you incorporate strength training into your workout routine, you may find that the scale doesn’t reflect your efforts as accurately as you may have expected. But that’s because you’re probably building muscle, which weighs more than fat. The better approach is to measure your progress by how your clothes fit.
You probably won’t see results if you just adding strength training to your regimen though. You still need to burn more calories than you take in—it’s simple math. An intense cardio workout will help you maintain the calorie deficit necessary to lose weight, but strength training will increase your endurance and ultimately help your body sustain the weight loss you’ve worked so hard to achieve. And don’t worry if you don’t finish your workout covered in sweat: Sweating and caloric burn don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.
So, how do you incorporate strength training into your exercise routine?
Dedicating three or four days per week to 45-60 minutes of strength training is recommended. You always want to make sure you have a day of rest between strength training sessions to avoid injury. The same goes for taking rests during sets. Give yourself 30 to 60 seconds between each set to catch your breath and give your muscles a break. Your workout should be challenging and you should feel it afterward, but don’t kill yourself. There’s nothing worse than being sidelined by an injury when you’re on the cusp of achieving your goal.
We aren’t encouraging you to abandon your cardio workouts—quite the contrary. Just try mixing in some strength training a few times per week. We’re confident you’ll see the proof in the, err, pudding.
Have you used strength training to lose weight? Tell us about it in the comments below!