Pre-pandemic, strength training was never part of my weekly workout routine. While I longed for toned arms and 6-pack abs, the idea of lifting hand-held weights at the gym sounded overwhelming, intimidating, and not something I needed to worry about. I often read about the importance of strength training for weight loss in magazines, but could never wrap my head around the idea that giving up my morning sweat sesh in favor of lifting weights would improve my fitness. I always assumed cardio was king and spent the greater part of my adult life trying to out-run my diet. Calories in versus calories out, right?
But then I turned 43, the world shut down, and my body started telling me a different story.
So I went back and re-read the literature about strength training for weight loss and decided to give it a try. I started with body weight exercises, slowly introduced 5 lb weights, and can now bench press 25 lb dumbbells. I’ve been lifting for almost 18 months now, and I’m here to tell you that the science behind strength training for weight loss is true. I’ve lost body fat, my clothes are loser, I have definition in my arms and legs, and I can see my abs.
Whether you’re just getting started with your weight loss journey, or you’re ready to take things to the next level and work on your body composition, I’m excited to partner with Ativafit to share the benefits of strength training for weight loss, plus my best tips for getting started!
5 Benefits of Strength Training for Weight Loss
1. IMPROVES METABOLISM
One of the biggest benefits of strength training for weight loss is that it boosts your metabolism. While cardio exercises burn more calories per session, weight training helps you burn more calories all day, every day. Why? Because muscle maintenance requires more calories than fat maintenance, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn even when you’re resting.
2. CREATES AN AFTERBURN EFFECT
If you’re on a quest to lose weight, you’ve probably heard of something called ‘the afterburn effect.’ Known scientifically as ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption’ or EPOC, this is the process by which your body continues burning calories long after you’ve finished your workout. Your body needs to recover, repair damaged muscle, rebalance your hormones, and restock its fuel stores after exercise, and it expends energy to accomplish these things. The more intense your workout, the more energy expenditure it will take for your body to return to its resting state, resulting in a greater afterburn effect.
High intensity interval training, or HIIT workouts trigger the greatest afterburn effect, but that doesn’t mean you have to engage in sprint intervals to reap the benefits. Circuit strength training that uses compound movements and/or super sets create a decent afterburn effect. The key is to use heavy weights with shorter recovery periods between exercises.
LEARN ABOUT ATIVAFIT’S ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELL SETS HERE
3. REDUCES VISCERAL FAT
Many women gain weight during the transition to menopause, particularly around their midsection, which can be extremely frustrating. Our metabolism slows down as we age, and some research suggests that peri- and post-menopausal women burn up to 300 fewer calories per day compared to when they were in their early 20s. Falling estrogen can also cause fat in your bum, hips, and thighs to be redistributed to your midsection, and as your waist circumference increases, so does your risk for developing things like diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Many peri- and post-menopausal women turn to cardio exercises in an attempt to lose belly fat since these types of workouts burn more calories per session. What they don’t realize is that weight training builds and maintains muscle mass in a way that cardio can’t, allowing us to burn more calories while at rest so we can lose and maintain our weight more easily.
4. PRESERVES BONE HEALTH
In addition to increased visceral fat, post-menopausal women are also at an increased risk of osteoporosis, which causes our bones to become weak and brittle. Vitamin and mineral supplementation can help prevent and treat osteoporosis, but did you know that strong muscles lead to strong bones? Strength training can also improve balance and coordination, which further reduces the risk of osteoporosis-related falls and fractures. Taking the time to build your muscles and improve your bone health will keep you mobile and active, which will have positive benefits on your long-term physical and mental well-being, allowing you to maintain a healthy body weight as you age.
5. IMPROVES SLEEP QUALITY
Quality sleep is an essential part of your overall health, both physically and mentally. Ongoing sleep deprivation can lead to issues such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood sugar, anxiety, diabetes, stroke, as well as weight gain and increased body fat. Cardiovascular exercise is often touted as an easy way to improve sleep quality, but some research suggests that strength training is even more beneficial because it creates a molecule called adenosine, which causes drowsiness.
How to Get Started with Strength Training for Weight Loss
1. INVEST IN A PAIR OF ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELLS
Before you get started with strength training for weight loss at home, you’ll need a set of dumbbells. As you begin experimenting with different workouts, you will notice that you need different weights for different types of exercises. While you may only be able to use 5 lb weights when working your biceps, you will probably be able to handle a heavier weight when working your chest and back. Adjustable dumbbells are a great investment as they ensure you have a variety of different weights at your disposal, but they stack together for easy storage, taking up less room than traditional dumbbells.
Ativafit sells 3 different adjustable dumbbell sets – 27.5 lbs, 55 lbs, and 71.5 lbs – which are sleek, stylish, durable, and incredibly comfortable and easy to use. They are also more affordable than other well-known brands, and come with a lifetime warranty. I had the opportunity to test their 71.5 lb set and loved how easy it was to switch between different weights during my workout.
Learn more about Ativafit’s adjustable dumbbells here.
All you have to do is press the red button at the top, turn the dial to your selected weight, and release. It’s that easy! And as you can see from the photo below, they take up next to no room, making them perfect for at-home gyms.
(Pssst… Ativafit.com is currently offering up to 50% off select products for the holidays. A pair of 71.5lbs adjustable dumbbells only costs $439.99, and if you sign up and subscribe to their newsletter, you will receive an additional 10% off! You can also shop their products on Amazon and get up to 20% off fas part of their Black Friday deals.)
2. START WITH LIGHTER WEIGHTS
While it can be tempting to dive right in and begin lifting heavy weights from the get-go, this can compromise your form, leading to injuries and setbacks. A good way to gauge if you are lifting heavy enough is to pay attention to the number of reps you can perform per set. You should be doing 6-12 reps per exercise, with 3-4 sets of each. If you can complete more than 12 reps per set, the weight isn’t heavy enough.
3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT EXERCISE
Get the most out of your workouts by choosing exercises that target multiple muscles groups at once, like bicep curls, tricep dips, push-ups, chest presses, pull-ups, deadlifts, squats and lunges.
4. WARM UP AND COOL DOWN
Engaging in 5+ minutes of aerobic activity (skipping rope, jumping jacks, jogging, etc.) before you begin your strength training workout will prime your body by increasing blood flow to your muscles. Adding 5 minutes of stretching to the end of your workout will ease tension in your muscles, reduce your risk of injury, and improve flexibility.
5. TAKE RECOVERY DAYS
Muscles break down when you exercise and growth happens when you rest. If you skip recovery days, your muscles will continue to break down without repairing themselves, which will hinder your progress.
Our growth hormone levels are highest while we are sleeping and chronic sleep deprivation can elevate your cortisol levels, which can break down your muscle instead of helping them to grow. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
There are so many benefits of strength training for weight loss. It boosts your metabolism, helps you burn more calories at rest, preserves bone health, and improves the quality of your sleep. Investing in a pair of adjustable dumbbells is a great investment for your home gym, allowing you to lose weight, tone your muscles, and look and feel your best!