Resistance training is the NUMBER ONE thing you should be doing if your goal is fat loss.
Three big reasons:
- It supports muscle mass, which is both an important factor in your health and the primary driver of your metabolic rate (ie how much energy you burn)
- It’s easily scalable to your skill level
- It’s efficient and safe
Let’s take a deeper look!
Point #1: More muscle mass = more energy burned
Building and maintaining muscle is a hugely energy-consumptive process: the protein you ingest is broken down into amino acids that are used as the bricks to build and maintain muscle mass, and the energy derived from fats and carbohydrates is selectively put to work in fueling this process.
More energy-expensive muscle means equals more energy is expended no matter what other activity you partake in – meaning that it’s that much easier to manage your calorie intake. Think about it: it’s way easier to manage your portion sizes when you can handle 2600 incoming calories than if you only have 1600 before you go over your maintenance level of energy intake.
Additionally, more muscle mass provides a “glucose sink” – and lifting weights or doing interval training specifically allows more glucose to be partitioned into muscle cells instead of fat.
When you perform glycolytic (glyco- = glycogen, your body’s stored carbohydrate; -lytic = latin, meaning to break down) exercise such as resistance training, your body begins to preferentially store more glucose in your muscles as a readily available fuel source. It does this through a variety of mechanisms, such as increasing the number of glucose transporters available in the muscle cells post-training.
We call this the “nutrient partitioning” effect of resistance training, and it means that incoming energy is more likely to be used to fuel and support lean tissue than fat.
Point #2: Resistance training is perfectly scalable
This means that no matter what your fitness level is, you can easily increase the volume of your training WITHOUT having to increase your training hours. The primary mode of overload for aerobic training is to increase the duration of the training bout – this means more timing pounding the pavement, which for most average Joes and Janes has a limit.
With weight training, it’s very easy to increase your total work done week by week. We calculate volume in the weight room like this: # of sets x # of reps x weight.
To give you an example, if you lift 20kg for 3 sets of 12 reps in week one, and increase that same exercise to a mere 21kg the next week – congratulations, you’ve just lifted an extra 36kg in a session that takes the exact same amount of time, and the exact same amount of perceived effort. Now imagine doing this week by week on multiple exercises, and total workload begins to skyrocket. It is simply not possible to achieve the same level of overload performing aerobic exercise!
To add icing on the cake, several studies done over the last 10 years have shown that simply reducing rest times between sets will burn up to 37% more calories, even with matched workloads. In other words, compared to aerobic training, in some situations lifting weights allows you to burn more calories theless time you spend in the gym – not the other way around.
Point #3: Resistance training is the safest reported form of formal exercise
Did you know that the sports with the lowest levels of reported injuries are powerlifting and weightlifting?
According to research done by Hamill (1994), Stone (1990) and again, Stone et al. (1993), the injury rate for weight training is 0.0035 injuries per 100 hours. Based on this data, this is 1771 times less frequent than soccer at 6.2 injuries per 100 hours of activity.
This is not to say you can’t hurt yourself by doing the wrong thing, of course, but weight training provides a proven method of fat loss that can simultaneously improve coordination, bone and connective tissue strength, flexibility and joint integrity. Properly executed exercises allow you to work within your skill level and match your personal biomechanics in a safe environment specifically designed to reduce risk of injury. This is true even for younger trainees – a review by Faigenbaum and Myer (2012) suggests that “most injuries related to youth resistance training are a result of inadequate professional supervision, which underlies poor exercise techniques and inappropriate training loads”.
Think about it: the best designed training regime and the best intentions go completely out the window if you happen to sustain an injury that puts you out of action!
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