How To Shed Fat With Strength Training

A well-designed strength-training program can keep you burning calories and fat post-workout.

While, yes, there is a purpose for dietary changes and cardio, the truth is that lean muscle cannot survive on the treadmill alone. Weight training still seems to be the biggest-kept secret for fat loss.

You won't get bulky unless you take supplements to enhance muscle growth. Your body doesn't have enough of the hormones necessary to get there naturally. 

Cardio only burns calories while you're performing it, but strength training has what is known as the afterburn effect. Thanks to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), your metabolism remains elevated even after exercising.

 A well-designed strength-training program can keep you burning calories and fat well after your workout. Here are four things your fitness regimen should include, plus a sample workout schedule.

Pure Strength Training

True to the way it sounds, this part of the program is explicitly designed to build or maintain muscle mass. 

Building and maintaining muscle is essential as we age because we lose muscle faster as we age. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be, and the more calories and fat your body will burn. And the good news is that studies show that increasing muscle strength is still possible as we get older.

Your body type and level of expertise will determine how much weight you should be lifting and for how long. You can get away with lifting heavier loads if you're more advanced. If you're just starting out, start with lighter weights (or no weights) and then add on once you've mastered the movement. 

Strong is the New Skinny has a step-by-step guide for each fitness level, plus tons of strength training exercises to choose from to keep your mind and body guessing. You can also incorporate these bodyweight exercises. If you can only get to the gym three days a week, use those days to do your strength training.

A tip for strength training: Don't weigh yourself. When you lift weights, the numbers on the scale may fluctuate. You may be losing fat but gaining toned muscle. 

Would you rather see the number on the scale go down, or would you rather lose inches and have your clothes fit better even if you weigh a little more? It really should be no contest.

Metabolic Resistance Training

Metabolic resistance training (MRT), also known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), incorporates periods of intense work followed by a short rest period. 

A small study published in 2019 showed that interval exercise was more effective than moderate-intensity continuous exercise for increasing energy expenditure, or calories burned. When done correctly, MRT can be the best way to skyrocket your heart rate and keep your body burning fat throughout the rest of the day. 

But, since the work is so quick and intense, form is essential. Respect your ability level if you know you've already exhausted your arms from a set of burpees, don't go for the squat with an overhead press. 

Remember that there are several ways to perform these exercises, whether with dumbbells, kettlebells, or bodyweight exercises like mountain climbers or push-ups. 

For more ideas, check out a 15-Minute Interval Training Workout.

Cardio Programs

Although cardio shouldn't be your only source of physical activity, there is still a place for it in your overall fitness regimen. You can do cardio in two ways: Moderate or high intensity as a form of interval training. It all depends on where your heart rate is. 

Moderate intensity is suitable for improving your overall aerobic base. It also helps enhance your recovery throughout the week as your body removes any lactic acid build-up from resistance training. 

Use it as a warm-up before your strength training workout—about 10 to 15 minutes to get the body moving. Or, you can use it as an MRT workout, getting your heart rate up to about 90% of its maximum effort and then recovering with a rest period. 

Try doing sets of 100 jump ropes as fast as possible, resting for 30 seconds to a minute. Or, run intervals on the treadmill: Sprint for a minute and then walk for a minute. Try increasing the incline by 1% each time for an added challenge.

Importance of Rest Days

Your rest days are as important as the days you're going all out. When you work your muscles to exhaustion, you break apart the muscle fibers. To let them rebuild, you must allow them the time to heal. 

If you're working out daily, you need to give your body the time it needs to repair and rebuild. You could do more harm than good if you refuse to take a day off. So, it's essential to take good rest days as a part of your program.

A Sample Program

Not sure how to build a good weekly workout regimen that incorporates strength training? Try starting with this sample workout plan:

  • Monday: Moderate intensity cardio warmup + pure strength training
  • Tuesday: MRT
  • Wednesday: Moderate intensity cardio warmup + pure strength training
  • Thursday: MRT intervals (treadmill or jump rope)
  • Friday: Moderate intensity cardio warmup + pure strength training
  • Saturday: MRT
  • Sunday: Rest

A Quick Review

Strength training is a critical component of weight loss because it helps with fat loss while maintaining or building muscle strength and size. 

Combining four things—strength training, HIIT, cardio, and rest—is a regimen that has been shown to work by increasing metabolism and burning extra calories after the workout. 

Of course, having a nutritionally balanced food plan is also essential. Talk with a healthcare provider before starting a strength training program if you have any concerns.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Moniz SC, Islam H, Hazell TJ. Mechanistic and methodological perspectives on the impact of intense interval training on post-exercise metabolismScand J Med Sci Sports. 2020;30(4):638-651. doi:10.1111/sms.13610

  2. National Institute on Aging. How can strength training build healthier bodies as we age?

  3. Jung WS, Hwang H, Kim J, Park HY, Lim K. Comparison of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption of different exercises in normal weight obesity womenJ Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2019;23(2):22-27. doi:10.20463/jenb.2019.0013

  4. Tipton KD, Hamilton DL, Gallagher IJ. Assessing the Role of Muscle Protein Breakdown in Response to Nutrition and Exercise in HumansSports Med. 2018;48(Suppl 1):53-64. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0845-5

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