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Your guide to weight training for weight loss

Let's unpack the importance of weight training for weight loss and how to add it to your fitness routine.

Your Guide to Weight Training for Weight Loss | Juniper

Whether you're a runner or a swimmer, into high-intensity interval training or can't get enough of Zumba classes — it feels good to get the blood pumping.

Exercise is an important part of any weight loss journey, but does it matter what kind you do? Well, while all exercise is good for your health, the different types do have different purposes.

In today's article, we're unpacking the importance of weight training for weight loss and sharing our tips for how to add it to your exercise routine.

What is weight training?

Resistance training, also known as strength or weight training, is a type of exercise designed to make your muscles work harder.

Common exercises include lifting weights, using resistance bands or using your body weight for squats and push-ups [1]. 

Weight training is recommended on 2 or 3 days per week, with at least 1 day of recovery in between.

What are the benefits of weight training?

We all know that regular exercise is good for us, but what exactly is it doing to our bodies?

Aside from helping you lose weight by burning calories, there's a great range of benefits to weight training. For example, building muscle can help to [1][5]:

  • Keep your heart healthy
  • Boost stamina so you feel less tired
  • Improve your posture
  • Give you better sleep
  • Improve your self-esteem
  • Protect against injury
  • Increase bone density which lowers risks of osteoporosis

Strength training also becomes more important as we age. Daily tasks like sitting and standing require us to have strength, not cardio fitness. So, it’s a good idea to try weight training no matter what age you are.

Can weight training help you lose weight?

There’s a strange myth going around that strength training is not effective for losing weight.

It has a lot to do with the 1980s aerobics craze, which saw cardio fitness rise to fame while weight training was seen as only for hyper-muscular men [6]. 

While newer trends like CrossFit helped bring resistance training back into the limelight, many people still hold onto the old adage that cardio exercise is best for weight loss. 

We love busting myths, especially to do with your health. So, let us help you out with all the ways that resistance training can help you lose weight.

Improved resting metabolism

Research has shown that weight training is effective for long-term weight loss because it helps to increase your resting metabolic rate [2].

This rate decides how fast you’ll burn calories while at rest, which is basically when you’re not exercising. Fat also happens to be your body’s preferred energy source — whether you’re working out or not.

To put it simply, adding more muscle to your body helps improve your metabolism. That means over time, your body will burn more calories across the whole day (even while you sleep). 

The after-burn effect

If you thought that the second you finished a workout, your body stopped burning calories — then we have good news.

Thanks to the after-burn effect, your body keeps burning calories at a high rate for as long as it takes to return to its resting state. In the science world, they call this post-exercise oxygen consumption [2].

Lots of factors will determine how long this effect lasts — such as how long you were exercising, the intensity of your workout, your overall fitness and your diet.

This effect is a great example of why it’s so important to approach weight loss holistically. You need all the pieces working together to achieve sustainable, long-term weight loss.

This is why we developed Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme — to give you the tools and support you need for weight loss that lasts. Our holistic approach combines breakthrough treatments with health coaching and community support.

By tackling weight loss from every angle, Juniper has helped thousands of people not only lose weight but keep it off.

How often should you train for weight loss?

If you hate the idea of hitting the gym daily, then we have some more good news. Weight training is recommended on just 2 or 3 days per week.

For the most effective workout, you should combine intensity (working hard) with volume (plenty of sets or reps) and progression (increasing difficulty over time) [2].

On the flip side, some people want to lose weight quickly which means they jump right into an unsustainable workout schedule. A good strength workout should make you feel tired, but not exhausted.

For example, if you’ve done 6-10 reps of an exercise, it should feel difficult for you to push out any more. That’s where you can stop [2].

When you reach the point where 6-10 feels easy, then it might be time to increase your weights slightly.

How much weight can you lose?

Every body is different, so we can’t guarantee any weight loss results. But, we can refer to some recent research for a bit of an estimate. 

A review of 58 weight loss studies found that most people lose around 1.4% of their body fat by doing strength training alone [8].

One of the main reasons people assume they’re not losing weight with strength training is that the number on the scales may not change.

Cardio workouts burn fat without building muscle, so you’re likely to see a change on the scales if you weigh yourself.

But, strength training builds muscle while burning fat. Muscle is still heavy, which means you may not be able to notice your weight loss on the scales [8].

Using body fat percentage, as this research has done, is a more accurate way to understand how strength training adds to weight loss.

Can weight training help you lose stomach fat?

For a lot of people, losing belly fat is a big concern. We understand it’s a sensitive area and it does carry health risks, so this is not a bad goal to have. 

But, we also have some good and bad news for you about losing stomach fat specifically. 

Let’s start with the bad news — even with targeted exercise, our bodies won’t lose fat from a single area [3]. It’s more of an all-over deal. 

Here’s the good news — strength exercises can help you lose stomach fat, alongside other areas of your body.

What are the best weight training exercises for weight loss?

The secret to strength training for weight loss is not a certain squat or push-up; it’s the intensity of your workout. The most important factor is that you work your body hard to reap results.

With that being said, there are a few common exercises that beginners can use to start weight training. Let’s start with some exercises to try and then get into how you’ll know when to increase intensity. 

Types of exercises to try

If it’s been a while since you exercised, you might find it more comfortable to get started at home.

The NHS has a series of gentle strength exercises that you can do with only a chair, a wall and some light weights. Suggestions include [4]:

  • Sit-to-stand
  • Mini squats
  • Calf raises
  • Sideways leg lift
  • Leg extensions
  • Wall push-ups
  • Bicep curls

Simple exercises like these are a good place to start to improve your strength and mobility.

When you’ve built up a bit of strength, you might be keen to jump in the gym for some more complex weight training. It’s a good idea to have a certified personal trainer teach you the ropes. They can help you develop a strength training routine that is safe and effective.

Strength exercises to try in the gym might include [5]:

  • Free weights such as dumbbells or kettlebells
  • Weight machines that help with safe technique
  • Weight lifting with a medicine ball
  • Strength training with a resistance band
  • Using your own body weight for squats, push-ups, chin-ups and similar

It’s important that you warm up your body before strength training to protect against injury. That might mean going for a short walk or doing five minutes of stretching before you start [5]. 

When to increase intensity

For a lot of beginners, there are big gains when they start weight training which fall away over time.

Hitting a plateau is common and just means it’s time to vary up your workout or increase the intensity [5].

If the exercises you usually do become easy, then it’s probably time to increase intensity. There are 3 ways to do it [5]:

  1. Increase the length of your workout by an extra 10-15 minutes
  2. Increase the weight you’re lifting by 5-10%
  3. Increase the number of reps for any exercise 

Remember, it’s all about building strength over time. You don’t need to reach for a heavy weight to start with — lighter weights work just as well [6].

Will lifting weights make you look bulky?

Some women are worried that weight training will lead to a big, muscly physique. While this has a lot to do with your body shape and genetics, it’s not something that happens by accident.

It takes planning and dedication to build muscle to the same level as athletes or bodybuilders. To build a lot of muscle mass, you need to be working out 4-6 days per week [7].

So, following the recommended schedule of only 2-3 days will not lead to massive muscle growth. 

The second criteria for big muscles is bulking up your food intake. If you’re eating at maintenance, or even in a calorie deficit to help lose weight, then you’re not likely to become extra muscular.

Most people find that strength training helps them define and tone their body, rather than become bulky.

If you’re still worried about overtraining, you can work with a personal trainer who can help decide the best exercises for your body and your goals.

Should you also do cardio?

There’s been a lot of great evidence so far that weight training can help with weight loss and improve your health. So, does that mean it’s bye-bye cardio? Not for us. 

There are 3 types of exercise and all have different purposes. For your overall health, it’s important that you do a mix of all 3. Strength training is the first type, which we’ve talked about a lot already.

Aerobic or cardio exercise is the second type, which includes any exercise that moves your large muscles — think arms and legs. Examples might be [1]: 

Most health professionals recommend 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week which helps with better sleep, improved moods and having more energy to get through the day.

The third and final type is balance and flexibility exercises — think yoga or tai chi.

Flexibility is actually really important when you practice strength training. It keeps your muscles loose, which is good for preventing injuries [1].

Any type of stretching counts as a flexibility exercise and you should aim to do them 2 or 3 times per week. When stretching, try to hold each pose for around 30 seconds [1].

Building a weekly workout routine that includes strength, cardio and flexibility is going to help both with weight loss and improving your overall health.

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