Women often fail to realize that weight training is very important for their weight loss progress. It seems that the common view is that weight training is for muscle growth whilst cardio is for fat loss. This, actually, is pretty inaccurate.
Why is weight training important for weight loss?
Women who are on a weight loss program will no doubt spend a fair amount of time at the gym. However, it seems that the normal thing to do is about 20% weight training and 80% cardio work. This balance needs to be shifted.
The reason weight training is so important for weight loss is multi-layered.
Firstly, when you lift weights you generall increase your heart rate. I have been weight lifting for over half of my life and everytime I do a heavy set of squats or bench press my heart starts racing. This means that I am burning up calories – just like cardio.
Secondly, that heart rate stays up for a long time. The exercises where you lift a heavy weight are tough on the body and cause your heart rate to stay up when you finish the workout. This means you will be burning calories when the weight training session is over.
Thirdly, adding muscle to your body causes you to lose fat. The very presence of muscle in the body is fat burning. The two do not co-exist together. This means that the more muscle you put on the less fat you will have and the more toned you will become. All good things.
Finally, weight training increases the strength of your muscles and makes them more resistant to damage and wear. This means that over time you will find that you can train longer and harder and more often without having to worry too much about injury or soreness. Weight training will allow you to train more often.
So how often should I weight train?
This is a bit of a difficult question to answer – sort of like how long is a piece of string.
The amount you weight train depends a lot on your goals, time, energy and personal choice. I, for example, have chosen to sacrifice some of my cardio time because I love weight training and I find I get more out of it. The sacrifice is the important question because every minute you choose to weight train you are choosing not to do cardio. So you have to strike a personal balance.
If your goal is to lose weight then I recommend that you do at least 3 – 4 weight training sessions a week that consist of full body workouts using heavy compound movements. You do not have to do cardio on these days, perhaps a light jog on one of them. The exercises you should use are:
- bench press
- chin up
- military press
- bar bell curls
These exercises all use multiple body parts and build some real over all strength and conditioning. Have a day or two inbetween each workout to allow your muscles to recover and then perform light cardio on your off days.
What if I want to make cardio my main focus?
If you find that cardio is your better choice and you aren’t willing to sacrifice a whole trip to the gym just for weight training then I recommend a split weights routine.
A split routine is where you divide your weight training into body parts that compliment each other well. For example, you should group your chest and triceps exercises into one workout as most exercises that work the chest also work the triceps. This means that the muscles won’t get worked many times in the week and will have a better chance to recover.
The most common splits to use are:
- chest and triceps
- back and biceps
- shoulders and traps
- legs and abs
Again, use heavy exercises that workout the whole muscle group. Do a short workout before your cardio session. So, perhaps do a light warm up and then do 20 minutes of weights and finish with a half an hour on the treadmill.
Putting your weights session before your cardio session seems like a good option for those women wanting to lose weight. The reason for this is that the glycogen in your muscles which you need for energy has been depleted with the weight lifting leaving you with less to burn through in the cardio session.
Weight training has so many weight loss benefits. Try and perform more than you usually do and see what the results are.