Is Strength Training for Weight Loss Effective?

strength training for weight loss

Are you trying to lose weight? Busting your booty by doing loads of cardio only to find the scale isn’t budging and your clothes are too tight? Then, it’s time to start strength training for weight loss. 

Keep reading, and I’ll explain why and how to start your strength training routine for weight loss.

Let’s begin at the beginning…

Strength Training? For Weight Loss? Are You Sure?

Traditionally, we’ve been taught you need to pump up your cardio routine to lose weight. Get your heart pumping to burn those calories. And while that helps, there is more to the story. 

What’s really going to give you that lean body you’ve been sweating for is strength training, also known as resistance training and weightlifting.

Lifting weights actually boosts your metabolism more and for longer than a good old cardio workout. In addition, studies show that strength training counters age-related muscle loss and improves lean muscle mass. If you are a women over 40, it is even more critical that you start doing some sort of strength training. Check out Risa’s interview with Fitness Trainer Tina Tang.

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Why Is Strength Training More Effective For Weight Loss?

When you only do cardio workouts, you burn fat AND muscle. Not just fat. And that’s not what you want.

If you don’t add weightlifting to your weekly routine, nothing can counteract that muscle loss. When you lose muscle, your metabolism slows down, leading to weight loss plateaus. No one likes that. 

By lifting weights, you burden the muscle, and it tries to acclimate to lift more and grow. The more muscle you have, the higher your base metabolic rate (BMR) is. BMR is how many calories you burn just by being alive, even if you did nothing but binge-watch movies all day. 

The amount of energy needed to maintain a pound of muscle is higher than it would be for a pound of fat. So, in turn, the more muscle you have, the more calories your burn, which keeps your metabolism kicking. 

The Afterburn Effect

As we exercise, our muscles need energy. So, our hearts start pumping, and we breathe harder to push oxygen, fat, and carbs into our muscles. Once we are finished, the oxygen uptake keeps going to restore the muscles to their recovery state. This is called the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC, aka afterburn. 

So, the afterburn results in more calories being burned after your workout.

Therefore, if you have a hard-core strength training workout using multiple large muscles (hi quads and glutes), you’ll have a longer lasting afterburn. 

A cardio workout doesn’t have a long afterburn because it doesn’t strain the muscles like a weightlifting sesh. Another reason, cardio alone isn’t as effective as strength training exercises for weight loss.

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Health Benefits Of Strength Training

Besides the obvious advantage of building strength, the benefits go way beyond the numbers on a scale or fitting into those skinny jeans.

  • It improves posture
  • Boosts heart health 
  • Assists in endurance
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Increases bone density 
  • Decreases chance of injuries
  • Decelerates age-based weakening
  • You’ll look and feel better and leaner
  • Reduces risk of chronic diseases 

What Strength Training WILL NOT Do

Now you know what weightlifting can do to your body. But do you know what it won’t do?

It won’t make you bulk up. 

You’re not trying to be a bodybuilder, and you won’t lift like one. It doesn’t matter how heavy your weights are. There is a lot of science that goes into becoming a pro. Unless that’s your life’s dream, it’s not going to happen by lifting heavy weights a few times a week. 

It’s not easy for women to build substantial muscle mass. We have low levels of anabolic hormones (testosterone, I’m looking at you), which are needed to bulk up. Plus, you’d need to eat significantly more calories than you’d burn. And still, it could take years to build that kind of body. 

So, lift as heavy as you can, start with low weight, and increase the weight as you build your strength. Don’t be afraid you’ll look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s not going to happen. 


How To Start Strength Training

Like anything new, you should start slowly. That means starting with light weights. Not so light that it’s easy. You still need to challenge yourself. But if you do 12 reps easily and could keep going and do another 5, it’s too light. Increase the weight a little. 

On the other hand, don’t start too heavy because you may be so sore you won’t be able to work out again the next few days. Or you’ll get discouraged and give up.  

You know you are at the right weight when you get to the last few reps, and you can barely make it through them. Your muscle is fatigued, and you are struggling to do one more. 

If you can do 2-3 strength training workouts and 2-3 cardio sessions in a week, great. However, you need to build in a couple of rest days to let your body recover. 

Those days don’t mean you should lay on the couch and eat ice cream all day (but if you do, no one here is judging). Instead, it’s good to take a walk and do some stretching just to get your blood flowing. Especially if you are sore, the best way to get the lactic acid out of your muscles is to use them.  

Strength Training For Weight Loss At Home

There is no need to go to a gym to start your strength training for weight loss routine. 

If you don’t want to buy expensive equipment or have the space for a dumbbell set, look around your home, there are loads of things you can use as weights. 

Start with soup cans or small water bottles. Don’t throw away your milk jugs or laundry detergent bottles. Fill them ¼ full of water to start and add more if it’s too easy. A whole gallon of liquid weighs over 8lbs, so you’ll be able to get a good workout in. Especially if you are doing three sets and 12-15 reps each exercise.  

We’ve created a 12-week beginners strength training program that you can do at home, on your own time.  It’s made especially for women over 40 because once women hit the age of 40 and perimenopause, it is critical that we start being proactive about our strength.  If you don’t use it, you will lose it.   Fitness Trainer Tina Tang started lifting weights when she was 42 and now in her fifties, she can do 10+ pull ups!!  She walks you through each exercise in doable chunks.  No one is watching, but Tina is watching after you.   If you want to age well, stick some strength training exercises in your weekly routine.   You can check out more at

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Step Away From The Scale

When you start strength training, you start gaining muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat when comparing it by physical mass, so you might weigh the same or even more if you step on the scale. Just don’t do it.

The best way to measure your progress is not on a scale. Instead, take your body’s measurements, take pictures, and you’ll see the growth over time that way. You’ll also start seeing a difference in how your clothes feel. And you’ll be able to wear the slinky dress on date night again.

weight lifting

Other Tips For Losing Weight

You need a calorie deficit to lose weight. You can’t just work out four times a week and then eat tons of pizza and fried foods and expect to lose weight. It doesn’t work that way. 

So, you need to work out, but you also need to be mindful of what you consume. Eat quality food, watch your portion sizes.

Sleep. A lot. Your body restores itself while you sleep, so sleep well and sleep regularly. 

Try to lower your stress levels. High stress = high cortisol = nearly impossible to lose weight.

How To Boost Your Calorie Burn While Strength Training

As I’ve written above, you will burn calories while lifting weight and for hours after. But there are a few tricks to help you burn even more:

  • Move faster between exercises
  • Do supersets, which means no rest between exercises. For example, you do 12 bicep curls and then, without resting, a set of tricep overhead presses. 
  • Do a few minutes of cardio between exercises
  • Increase the number of reps
  • Go for heavier weights (but don’t hurt yourself)
  • Do HIIT workouts to combine cardio and weights 

Best Strength Training For Weight Loss Exercises

There are a lot of options when it comes to strength training exercises. These are just a few to get you started. You’ll notice a lot of compound exercises on this list. Compound movements work multiple muscle groups simultaneously and are killer for sizzling those calories away. 

Squats with weights. You can use a barbell, a kettlebell, or dumbbells to add weight. 


Deadlifts. You can also use dumbbells, a barbell, or kettlebells. 


Weighted Lunges with (or without) dumbbells. Try walking lunges if you’re advanced.


Push-ups. No need to add any weight here. This is a bodyweight exercise that is brilliant for your entire body.


Birddogs. This is a great workout for your triceps (and legs) so you can wear those strappy dresses with confidence. Increase the weights if you find that you can do 10 reps without much exertion.


Key Takeaways 

Muscles are fat-burning machines. The more you have, the more you burn, even when your body is resting. The afterburn effect torches calories for up to 24 hours after an intense workout. So, strength training and weight loss go hand in hand. 

Plus, muscles are more compact than fat. The more muscle you have, the leaner and tighter you look. The new muscle takes the place of the fat, making you an extra sexy lil’ thang. And everyone wants to feel extra sexy! 


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