The number one rule of exercising for weight loss: Lift. Unlike cardio, which stops fighting fat as soon as you get off of the treadmill, serious strength training pulls 24/7 overtime to help you reach your goals. That's because, apart from burning kJs in the gym, weight training builds lean muscle. That fat-free tissue is the key to stoking your metabolic fire, hacking your hormones, and helping you slash kilojoules like whoa.
Sold? Good. Now here's everything you need to know about the right way to lift for weight loss.
Warm Up Like It's Your Job
When you’re strapped for time (a.k.a. always), spending five, 10, or 15 minutes on a warm-up feels like an act in weight-loss futility. But a proper warm-up can help you get the most out of every rep and bead of sweat, says strength and weightlifting coach Lisa Reed. Apart from increasing your heart rate and literally heating up your muscles, warm-ups prime your neuromuscular system to perform better, your anaerobic system to recover faster, and enable every muscle fibre to contract with force. And, don’t worry, a good warm-up will actually burn kJs, too.
Your perfect pre-strength warm up: Start with a few minutes of light, aerobic activity on the elliptical, stationary bike, or treadmill. From there, you can get into dynamic moves like bodyweight squats, lunges, high knees, incline pushups, or whatever uses the same muscles you are going to hit during your lifting session, she says. Try to spend 15 minutes warming up prior to lifting.
Prioritise Big Lifts
When it comes to fat loss, squats, deadlifts, lunges, hip thrusters, bench press, pullups, and rows are where it’s at. These “big lifts,” involve large muscle groups across multiple joints for more muscular and hormonal benefits than small, isolation exercises. “Big lifts trigger testosterone and human growth hormone secretion, both of which boost fat metabolism,” says Reed. Make these moves the focus of your lifting sessions by doing them often and early in your routine. “By doing these moves in the beginning of your workout, you maximise the amount of resistance you use without getting tired.”
Take Solid Breaks
With strength training, more is not always better. Adequate rest between sets, exercises, or entire workouts is clutch for preventing overtraining. Rest also gives you more energy to perform each rep with your best effort for optimal fat-loss results, says Reed. How much rest you need is based on individual factors, like your strength training experience, how much you’re lifting, and even genetics. That's why it’s so important to listen to your body.
That said, try to give yourself 30 to 90 seconds between each set and exercise. The closer you get to your one-rep max (the most you can possibly lift for one repetition), the longer your rest periods will need to be. If you're new to weight training, lift three times per week with one rest day between sessions. Intermediate and more advanced lifters can strength train more frequently. Just divide up your routine by working different muscle groups on different days, she says.
Put down the little dumbbells. One of the best ways to push yourself and get results faster is by dialing up the weights. Heavy lifting with fewer reps builds more lean muscle, which is ideal for boosting your weight-loss hormones. Also, it forces your body to burn extra kJs as it recovers after you leave the gym. Booyah! The beauty of this is that whatever feels heavy to you, works. What's most important is that you choose a weight you can move with proper form for all of those reps, says Reed. If you can’t eek out all of them without breaking form, you need to go down in weight. On the flip side, if you finish all of your sets with more in the tank, slightly increase the weight the next time around.
Pump Up The Protein
“To lower fat while increasing lean muscle, you should be consuming more protein,” says Reed. People who resistance train on the regular need 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body mass daily. After all, that nutrient is literally what builds your muscles between every lifting session. “After your workout, your body will pull in the nutrients you consume, much the way a dry sponge soaks up water,” she says. “A whey protein shake is best for post-workout because it absorbs easier and is used by the body faster.”
To get the most benefits out of your lifting routine, all of your meals should be rich in protein. By spreading your protein intake throughout the day (rather than eating the bulk of it at dinnertime), you increase your rate of all-day muscle growth by about 25 per cent—even without consuming extra protein or kJs, according to research from the University of Illinois.