Do you need a strength training program for weight loss? Here's what our dietitians recommend

  • 2 Minutes Read

A strength-training program for weight loss? Can't cardio suffice? Weight and resistance-training go beyond building muscle. Yes, it can accelerate weight loss, reduce disease risk, improve quality of life, and help you live longer!

Strength-training program for weight loss

How does a strength-training program for weight loss work?

Muscle is the most efficient calorie-burning tissue in your body. Strength training increases muscle in your body and decreases body fat, so you become a more efficient, calorie-burning machine! As a bonus, you will burn more calories when you are at rest while lounging, sitting, and even sleeping after strength-training! Simply put, burning more calories helps with weight loss.

Current Research: What we know about the health benefits of strength training

A real part of the aging process, gradual muscle decline in the body starts around age 30 with a more dramatic decline at about age 50. Physically-inactive people can lose from 3-5% of muscle mass every ten years! The good news is that physically active people can actually build muscle tissue through strength training.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), strength training can be both time-efficient and effective for health benefits. Muscles must be challenged to maintain strength and mass. The ACSM states that adding resistance training to aerobic programs benefits you throughout your lifespan, from childhood to old age. You can start with ACSM's simple resistance training plan using free weights.

12 Health benefits of strength training

The ACSM reports that strength training can help manage and treat over 19 health conditions. Sign me up!

ACSM recommends that adults perform muscle-strengthening exercises on at least two non-consecutive days a week. They advise working all major muscle groups, including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.

How to start a strength-training program for weight loss and building muscle

  1. Consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
  2. There are many different types of strength-training equipment, including free weights, weight machines, and medicine balls. Or you can build muscle without equipment through resistance training using your own body weight by doing push-ups, planks, squats, or lunges.
  3. Start slowly and gradually build resistance and repetitions to prevent injury while building strength.
  4. Listen to your body. Pain while lifting weights is not OK. However, it is reasonable to feel sore the next day or two because you are building new muscles.
  5. Hydrate! Drink water throughout your training session and afterward.
  6. After strength training, remember to stretch those muscles while your body is still warm to decrease soreness and prevent injury.
  7. For personalized expert advice, hire a personal trainer or physical therapist who has expertise in weight lifting. A personal trainer teaches proper form and can design a weight-lifting circuit just for you that benefits your full body and reduces your risk of injury.
  8. Keep in mind that many exercise programs incorporate strengthening exercises into their formats, such as pilates, most yoga styles, and HIIT.

Strength training resources

A simple strength training plan, by ACSM
The beginner's guide to strength training, by Verywell Fit
Beginner strength and muscle weight training program, by Verywell Fit
Beginner strength training, no equipment video, by Fitness Blender

Original content contributed by Martha Henze, MPH, MS, RDNa M.

Sep 7, 2020
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)

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