STRENGTH TRAINING AS A SOLUTION
There is evidence that incorporating strength training (also known as resistance training) can deliver better results for fat loss than just using diet and aerobic training. Strength training can contribute to fat loss in several ways.
While the calories used by resting muscle are often overstated, muscle does use around three times as much energy as the equivalent mass of fat. The resulting increase in long-term resting metabolic rate has been demonstrated in studies. In addition, strength training has been shown to increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) more than steady-state cardio exercise. This means that the body will use even more calories for a period of up to two days after training. In addition to contributing to fat loss, strength training can reduce or even reverse reduction in bone density and muscle mass caused by weight loss. This makes it especially valuable when working with older clients who will be prone to these effects.
Machines or Free Weights
A full discussion of the relative merits of free weights and the various kinds of resistance training machines would be too long to include here but it is worth noting that there is evidence that free weight exercises, such as the barbell squat, induce greater hormone responses and activate more muscle fibers than their machine equivalents.
How to Use Strength Training for Fat Loss
When you use strength training as part of a fat loss program, the goal should be to change body composition by gaining lean body mass (i.e., muscle). This means that the focus should be on hypertrophy. There is evidence that training two to three times per week is optimal and that, for novices, multiple-joint exercises that target the bigger muscles at rep ranges of 8 – 12 give the best results. So, our go-to exercises are going to be the big compound movements, such as the squat and deadlift for the lower body, along with things like presses and rows for the upper body. We also know that a strength training program needs to incorporate progressive overload to avoid diminishing returns. This just means that we need to increase the workload over time as you adapt and get stronger. Just doing the same thing every session will quickly stop delivering significant benefits. Fortunately, in strength training, we have several options for varying the workload by changing weight (intensity), sets and reps (volume), rest periods, and frequency of training.
A very basic program for a beginner could look like this:
Strength training and cardio (for example, cycling or swimming) are done on alternate days and there is one day a week where there is no training at all. If time constraints mean that training six days a week is not possible, the cardio work could be done immediately after strength training. For the strength part of the program, you would start with a very light weight for each exercise and aim for three sets of ten reps. If you can complete all the reps comfortably, the weight would be slightly increased (e.g., by 5 lbs) in the next session where that exercise is performed. This kind of simple progressive program will work for quite some time for absolute beginners. There are two main reasons why something more varied may be required: you progress to the point that you need a more sophisticated, periodized, program or they get bored of doing the same few exercises.
Information in this article contributed by Dan Kent, Eleiko Educator.