People think weight training is only for building muscle, but it can also be used to burn fat.
It’s really a question of how you use it and putting it into a balanced program. For this article, we’ll lay out how to incorporate it into a weight-loss program, and how it can burn fat faster.
Commonly, a weight-loss routine involves two parts: cardio, usually cycling, running, or elliptical, and diet. The basic rule of weight loss is, of course, you burn more calories than you consume. The idea is that you eat carefully and the fat burns off thanks to the cardio.
Adding weight training involves tweaking both. First of all, it’s going to involve diet changes, not the least adding more protein and good fats, such as fish, chicken, and olive oil. This is key to prevent muscle loss: if you’re dieting and overtraining, muscle loss is likely.
First and foremost, before embarking on any exercise plan, talk to your doctor. A workout plan is only good insofar as it doesn’t hurt you!
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Dieting for Weight Loss
Your diet should lean heavily towards protein and low on fat and carbohydrates. Remember: fiber does not count towards any carb counts, so, make fibrous green veggies like spinach an everyday part of your routine. Here, for example, is a sample daily menu:
Weight Loss Breakfast
- Egg white omelet with fibrous veggies such as broccoli or spinach
- Black coffee
- Small serving of fruit
Weight Loss Lunch
- Steamed chicken breast
- Spinach salad dressed with low-fat dressing
Weight Loss Dinner
- Grilled salmon
- Steamed vegetables
- Small serving of brown rice
Remember, protein and good fats are key and should be incorporated into every meal. You can occasionally have carbs in the form of, say, a serving of oatmeal for breakfast, or some brown rice for dinner. But overall, try and keep the focus on protein and fibrous veggies, which will keep you healthy and your meals low calorie.
Secondly, it’ll involve choosing cardio that hits a sweet spot: 65% to 85% of your maximum heart rate. It’ll need to be something that you can do two to three days a week without worrying about injury or overtaxing yourself.
That means “low-impact” exercise, but don’t be fooled: “low-impact” doesn’t mean it’s any less effective. It simply describes the effect on your body; possible damage to joints and tendons, for example.
A good example is walking. It’s a lot easier on the joints, but if you set the treadmill to a fast walking pace and then choose the “cardio” option, you’re in for a workout. Step machines, ellipticals, and outdoor options like hiking or even just climbing up and down the staircase a few times in your house will burn fat without burning you out. Remember to go at a fast pace: low-impact doesn’t mean relaxed. Track your heart rate to make sure that you’re at 65% to 85% of your maximum heart rate to get the most benefit.
Third, with weight training, it’s a matter of picking exercises. The exercises you want are the ones that engage multiple muscle groups, such as squats, pull-ups, and deadlifts. It’s pretty simple, really: the more muscles you engage, the more calories you burn. Any machines you choose to use will need to engage multiple muscle groups in order to be effective.
Similarly, use high weight and high reps to get the most out of your exercises. We can’t emphasize safety enough, so use these safety tips:
- If the weights on a machine clank when you lift, you have too much weight on them. Set the weight so that it’s a challenge to lift, but not so much that you shake or make noise.
- Always have a spotter, especially with free-weight exercises.
- Listen to your body. If you start experiencing serious pain, stop immediately.
Here are three sample programs, each using a different method of exercise equipment: free weights, exercise machines, and no equipment at all. Remember: these are just samples to give you an idea of what to use. Experiment with other exercises.
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The following are some great no-equipment exercises. Check out our No Weight Workout for other ideas on proper weight training.
- Push-Ups: at least three sets, done at moderate speed. Vary the push-ups using different variants for each set. For example, mix clap push-ups, diamond push-ups, and decline push-ups to get the most.
- Planks: three repetitions, and hold for thirty to sixty seconds.
- Pull-Ups: three sets, done at moderate to slow speed. Vary the spacing of your hands and the speed.
- Crunches: two to three sets. Use a variety of styles to increase resistance and help build your core.
Free Weight Exercises
- Squats: The classic. At least three sets, and especially good as it uses almost your entire body in some form.
- Deadlifts: Again, great for the back and core. At least three sets.
- Bench Presses: Three sets.
- Bicep Curls: Three sets. Remember to start from your waist and bring the weight up to your shoulder.
- Military Presses: The military press is a superb exercise for fat burning: any muscles not actively engaged are helping to stabilize you while you lift.
With machines, the number of sets will vary, as they’ll focus more on specific groups than free weights. Experiment, putting your health first.
- Rowing Machines: These are excellent simply because they use almost the entire body. Try to use rowing machines that have a pulley system, and require you to engage the legs as well as the back and arms.
- V-Bar Lateral Pulldown: Remember to pull down both in front of you and behind, to work the maximum numbers.
- Hack Squats: Better than the leg press, simply as it uses more of the back.
- Bench Press: A classic, and a great way to engage all of the arms.
Experimentation and variety are key.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How many days a week should I exercise?
Three to five workouts a week is recommended for best results.
How do I create my own weight training workout plan?
You can either sign up for an Exercise.com PRO membership or enlist the help of a personal trainer!
What is proper weight training form?
In order to learn proper weight training form, meet with a personal trainer so that they can walk you through the proper technique needed for a wide variety of lifts and exercises.
Be sure to sign up for an Exercise.com PRO plan! We’ve got dozens of workouts and exercise demonstrations to help you design a plan that’s best for you, or we can put together a plan for you. We are behind you all the way, whether you want to build muscle or burn fat. Go PRO now!