no weight gain, but weight loss, energy expenditure is higher than energy intake
Pretty simple, isn’t it?
During this energy deficit, the human body needs to supply the energy needed to equalize the deficit from its’ own energy sources.
These sources can be
- stored body fat, the body uses the stored body fat to produce energy
- stored glycogen, the body uses the glycogen stored in the glycogen stores in the muscle and liver to produce energy
- muscle tissue, the body breaks down its’ own muscle tissue to produce energy (the ones who have seen pictures of people who are starving know what it looks like)
Back to the topic, how can you create an energy deficit?
Based on the discussion above, it’s clear that there are two mechanisms to create an energy deficit and influence weight loss
- decrease energy intake
- increase energy expenditure
- number 3 would be, increase energy expenditure and decrease energy intake
How do I decrease energy intake (not only for weight loss)?
You can decrease energy intake by
- reducing the food quantity or eat less
- improving the food quality
Reducing the food quantity or eating less is a scary thought, I know. However, it’s a way to decrease energy intake. Reducing the food quantity refers to eating smaller serving sizes or less frequent.
Improving food quality refers to eat less high-caloric food and replace it with more low-caloric food. As a very simple example to make it more visible, 100 grams of neck steak from a pork has around 180 kcal (calories), while 100 grams of chicken breast has around 100 kcal (calories). The difference is purely that the neck steak from the pork has more fat than the chicken breast.
There are numerous examples, how changing the food choices can result in different energy intake. An elaborate discussion would go far beyond the scope of this article.
I guess the idea is clear.
How do I increase energy expenditure?
There are a couple of ways to increase energy expenditure, the most logical to me is physical activity.
As a side-note, I say the most logical, because I have heard people advising
- ‘Reduce your room temperature, so your body has to produce more energy to increase the body temperature.’
- ‘You can add a weight vest to daily activities, for example, shopping, this way your body expends more energy than normal.’
- ‘Clean the house or do gardening, these activities burn extra calories.’
I think the list can go on and on.
I leave these advice un-commented, but I do think these pieces of advice are partly the reason why people don’t see the success, they would like to see.
Let’s focus in this article on the physical activity aspect.
Normal guidelines to physical activity are you can engage in
- aerobic training (where energy is produced by using oxygen)
- anaerobic training (where energy is produced in the absence of oxygen)
Without getting too much into the discussion of ‘cardio training vs strength training’, cardio training is an aerobic training and strength training is an anaerobic training.
While aerobic and anaerobic training has their benefits on weight loss, let’s focus on the benefits of strength training for weight loss.
How can Strength Training help to lose weight?
As discussed, strength training increases energy expenditure. The advantage of strength training on energy expenditure is, that it not only increases energy expenditure during exercise but also after exercise.
Yes, depending on the type of strength training, the metabolism of the muscles is elevated. The muscles need more energy to repair from the strength training, as well as to prepare for the next strength training.
This process leads to more energy consumption / energy expenditure at rest.
Check out the articles
- Fat Loss Wars: Cardio Versus Weight Training! summing up how weight training increases the metabolism for the period after the strength training workout, some people also framed the term after-burn effect.
- Why Strength Training Is The Workout You Need To Do If You’re Trying To Lose Weight more of a simplistic article geared towards every day training people, however a very good and solid outline, how lean muscle mass equals a higher metabolic rate, which helps you to expend more energy, hence burn more body fat.
Strength training changes the hormonal environment. Strength training leads to increase in hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormones and a decrease in hormones such as cortisol.
Hormones like testosterone and growth hormones lead to increase in muscle mass and reduce body fat, while cortisol is a stress hormone that leads to increases in body fat.
There is another advantage of strength training as a means to lose weight, which I haven’t mentioned yet.
As we discussed above in order to lose weight, you need to create an energy deficit, where energy expenditure exceeds energy intake.
During this energy deficit, the body uses the own sources of stored body fat, stored glycogen and muscle tissue.
Since strength training also has a signaling effect, sending a signal to the body, that the body needs to build muscles or at least maintain muscles, the body uses more of the other two sources to equalize the energy deficit.
Bottom-line, the body uses more stored body fat.
What type of Strength Training should I do to lose weight?
In order to lose weight, you need to do a strength training that
- maximizes energy expenditure
- stimulates the muscle metabolism
- promotes testosterone and growth hormone secretion
Ok, so how do these types of strength training for weight loss look?
Let’s dive into it.
Strength Training workouts to maximize energy expenditure
A strength training session to maximize energy expenditure is characterized by a low work to rest ratio. For more information on work to rest ratios have a look at the article How long should a strength training session last?
The reason for a low work to rest ratio is a higher working heart rate throughout the entire strength training sessions. You get a similar effect as you get with your cardio training, a higher training heart rate.
Strength training sessions with a low work to rest ratio are strength endurance training workouts or hypertrophy workouts.
Strength Training workouts to stimulate the muscle metabolism
A strength training session to stimulate the muscle metabolism is characterized by lower training intensities (60 – 75% 1RM) and higher repetitions 8 – 12 repetitions.
Strength training sessions with higher repetitions and lower intensities are typically hypertrophy workouts or strength endurance training workouts, while hypertrophy training sessions have a much higher effect on the muscle metabolism.
Strength Training workouts to promote testosterone and growth hormone secretion
This question needs a more nuanced answer since the mechanisms for testosterone secretion and growth hormone secretion are slightly different.
Testosterone and growth hormone are hormones that are endogenous hormones, which is just a complicated way of saying it’s produced by the body.
These have multiple functions within your body, what is interesting for us, is that these hormones help to promote muscle growth and reduce body fat. Consequently, it makes a lot of sense to design strength training programs, that promote the endogenous testosterone and growth hormone production.
Testosterone secretion is highest following strength training workouts with higher intensities (80 – 85% 1RM), lower repetitions (4 – 6 repetitions) and longer rest between the sets (2 – 3 minutes of rest).
Growth hormone secretion is highest following strength training workouts lower intensities (60 – 75% 1RM), higher repetitions (8 – 12 repetitions) and shorter rest between the sets (around 1 minute of rest).
By now, you probably figured out, if you want to lose weight, strength endurance training workouts and hypertrophy workouts are best suited to achieve that goal.
Also check out the article Strength Training For Fat Loss: Building A Bigger Engine! from Bodybuilding.com encapsulating the same idea.
How often should you do such a Strength Training for weight loss?
Now that you know, what you can do and should do, the next question is ‘How often should you do your strength training for weight loss?’
I have explained how often should you do strength training in the article How Often Should You Do Strength Training? in essence, this article looks more holistically at the different training frequencies (how many strength training sessions per week) depending on other responsibilities, such as family and job or education, training goal, where the athlete is in his annual season etc.
However, it also gives guidelines on how often to train depending on the training goal.
As I have outlined above, the most suitable form of training to support and accelerate weight loss is a form of hypertrophy and strength endurance training.
In the article I recommended the ideal training frequency for
- hypertrophy: 3 – 5 strength training sessions a week
- strength endurance: 2 – 3 strength training sessions a week
From this information and the information from above, the best recommendation to the question ‘How often should you do Strength Training to lose weight?’ is a minimum of 2 strength training sessions and a maximum of 5 strength training sessions.
Table of Strength Training Methods for Weight Loss
Please check out This Is How Much You Need To Strength Train For Weight Loss which outlines a training frequency of 2 – 3 times a week, with a training intensity of 60 – 70% 1RM for 10 – 15 reps and a rest period of 30 seconds between the sets.
Well, having trained Olympians for 2 Olympic cycles has probably confirmed my ever-existing conviction, that there is a strong relation, between what you put in and what you get out, consequently I recommend you are best off with 3 – 4 strength training workouts.
If you are committed and mean it serious, there is a bit more work to do than 2 strength sessions a week. However, 2 strength training a week are a good starting point for a beginner.
Let’s check out how an advanced strength training program for weight loss looks like.
An Advanced Strength Training for Weight Loss Routine
Here is my proposal, if you want to get the best out of all worlds
- maximizes energy expenditure (strength endurance)
- stimulates the muscle metabolism (hypertrophy training with higher repetition range and lower intensities)
- promotes testosterone and growth hormone secretion (hypertrophy training with lower repetition range and higher intensities)
You can follow this approach
Day 1 – Goal: Hypertrophy – stimulate muscle metabolism and maximize testosterone secretion
Intensity: 80 – 85% 1RM
Repetitions: 4 – 6
Sets: 3 – 5
Rest between sets: 2 – 3 minutes
Rest between exercises: 3 – 5 minutes
Number of exercises: 3 – 4
Day 2 – Goal: Hypertrophy – stimulate muscle metabolism and maximize growth hormone secretion
Intensity: 60 – 75% 1RM
Repetitions: 8 – 12
Sets: 3 – 4
Rest between sets: 60 – 90 seconds
Rest between exercises: 2 – 3 minutes
Number of exercises: 4 – 6
Let’s check out, how such a training looks at the example of the Back Squat performed by Double-Olympian Twan van Gendt
Strength Training for Weight Loss Advanced Strength Training for Weight Loss Routine
What are the best exercises to lose weight? Or what are the most effective weight loss exercises?
I have covered the basic principle of weight loss and weight gain, I have also covered the mechanisms of strength training that can help promote weight loss and I have outlined a structure of an advanced strength training program for weight loss.
The next question that stands out is the best exercises to lose weight or what are the most effective weight loss exercises?
The answer to that is not that difficult and I need to refer back to the discussion from before when I outlined the mechanisms for weight loss.
Remember, the different mechanisms
- maximizes energy expenditure
- stimulates the muscle metabolism
- promotes testosterone and growth hormone secretion
In order to determine the best exercises for weight loss, the strength exercise needs to fulfill the criteria maximize energy expenditure, stimulate muscle metabolism and promote the secretion of growth hormone and testosterone.
Let’s answer the questions one by one
What strength exercises maximize energy expenditure?
Very simple the more muscle mass is involved, the more energy is required to perform the exercise. These exercises involve more than one joint and are those type of exercises most people don’t like and don’t do.
What does that mean?
Let’s imagine a strength exercise that doesn’t involve a lot of muscle mass, like Lateral Raises, Biceps Curls, Triceps Extensions, Butterfly, etc
The next category of exercises are those that involve more muscle mass, such as Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Pull Ups, Leg Presses, etc
The strength exercises that involve most muscle mass are Squats, Deadlifts, the Standing Shoulder Press or Military Press and to a certain extent combined exercises such as Thrusters, Back Squat to Neck Press, Front Squat to Shoulder Press.
What about Olympic Lifts? Are the Olympic Lifts an effective weight loss exercise?
Yes and no.
If you read any of my articles before, you know, that I like the Olympic Lifts and I have outlined the benefits of the Olympic Lifts in different articles
- The Ultimate Guide to Power Cleans
- What do Power Cleans train?
- What Power Snatches Do For You
However, the Power Clean offers a lot of benefits for strength and power development on the other side, the Olympic Lifts require a high level of skill and coordination. For that reason, the application as an effective exercise weight loss is limited.
Let me explain.
Due to the high level of coordination and skill required, it is very difficult to perform multiple repetitions of the Olympic Lifts, without a substantial technical breakdown.
The technical breakdown will result in the inability to complete the repetitions without practicing a flawed technique or completing the set safely.
If you want to use the Olympic Lifts in your strength training program for weight loss it does require some modification. For example performing Cluster Sets or complexing the Olympic Lifts with another exercise.
So, back to the topic, what strength exercises maximize energy expenditure?
Strength exercises that involve more muscle groups tend to be the most effective weight loss exercises.
What strength exercises stimulate muscle metabolism?
The muscle metabolism is stimulated by 2 factors
- The mechanical tension on the muscle
- The time of the mechanical tension, also known as time under tension (TUT)
Whilst the time under tension isn’t influenced by the type of strength exercise you are doing, much rather for how long or how short you do it.
The mechanical tension is influenced by the load.
And also here, the same principle applies as for the strength exercises stimulate muscle metabolism, the more muscle mass involved, the heavier loads you can lift, the higher the mechanical tension.
What does that mean?
The same as before, multi-joint movements, also called compound movements, squats, deadlifts, presses, pulls and lunges.
What strength exercises promotes testosterone and growth hormone secretion?
I have outlined that to naturally promote testosterone secretion and to promote growth hormone secretion, you need to employ different strategies.
To promote testosterone production and secretion, you need to train with higher intensities (above 80% 1 RM) and lower repetitions (4 – 6 reps) with complete rest between the sets (more than 2 minutes) and exercises (more than 3 minutes).
Whilst to promote growth hormone secretion, you need to train with lighter intensities (above 60 – 75% 1 RM) and higher repetitions (8 – 12 reps) with incomplete rest between the sets (60 – 90 seconds) and exercises (less than 3 minutes).
To promote natural testosterone production and secretion there are only 2 strength exercises that could show through scientific studies, that they are able to do that.
Can you guess?
Yes, Squats and Deadlifts.
The idea behind that is pretty simple, no other exercises allow such high total loads to be lifted as the Back Squat and the Deadlift.
For the secretion of growth hormones, studies could show that multi-joint, as well as single-joint exercises, are able to achieve that. Scientific studies indicate, that the time under tension, with the resulting total accumulation of lactic acid, seemed to be the main driver for those reactions.
In order to maximize growth hormone secretion, you can add a few single-joint strength training exercises, while the main part of your strength training program should be based around multi-joint strength exercises.
Concluding What are the best exercises to lose weight or what are the most effective weight loss exercises?
It can’t be all about Squats, Deadlift, Pressing and Pulling, that would be too simple, right?
There are two answers to this question
- Yes, it is all about Squats, Deadlift, Pressing and Pulling
- Simple doesn’t mean easy! You still have to put the work in and you need to get considerably stronger at these strength moves. Please check out the articles The Fundamentals of the Back Squat and What Do Front Squats Develop and Why You Need To Do Them outlining the benchmarks (these are long article, if you just want to see the benchmarks, you need to scroll all the way down)
Ok, by now you might be tired of me sharing the mainstream and popular articles, that is a bit less in-depth, however, in my opinion, they indicate that there seems to be a paradigm shift also for the everyday training people, how strength training programs for weight loss should be designed.
This article sums up the idea of big lifts for weight loss 5 Strength Moves You Need to Do If You Want to Lose Weight
Full Body vs Split for Fat Loss – What is better?
The last question left, what is better for weight loss, a full body routine or a split routine?
Whilst the benefit of each approach have been outlined in various articles, such as
- Full Body Workout Vs. Split Routine: Which Is Better? from Built Lean
- Full Body vs. Split Training from T-Nation
- Ask Men’s Fitness: Is it better to do full-body workouts or body-part focused routines?
My approach to the question Full Body vs Split for weight loss is straight-forward and based on everything I have outlined before in this article.
If you chose to train up to 3 times a week, you are very well off with a full body routine.
If you chose to train 4 or more times a week, you need to split your training otherwise you would allow enough rest, not only for the body part but also for your passive structures and nervous system.
However, whether you chose for a full body routine or a split routine, it should still be based around the main exercises (Squats, Deadlift, Pushing and Pulling), don’t end up with 4 single-joint exercises per body part as the ideal strength training program for weight loss.
Concluding Only 3 Things You Need To Know about Strength Training and Weight Loss
If you want to lose weight or better lose body fat, you need to engage in a strength training program that
- Maximize energy expenditure
- Stimulate your muscle metabolism
- Promote and influences your hormonal system to work for you
All this can be done through selecting the right strength training exercises, choose the appropriate training methods (intensity, reps, and sets) and sequencing the strength training workouts in the right order.
And last, but not least, the work needs to be put into action.
What are the 3 most important variables of strength training? ›
Three important variables of strength training are intensity, volume, and frequency. Intensity is the amount of work required to achieve the activity and is often measured by the percentage of an individual's one-repetition maximum (1RM).What are the 3 stages of strength training program? ›
Endurance Training: It adapts muscle tone and it helps develop coordination and consciousness. Exercisers will work with higher repetitions and lower loads. Hypertrophy: This phase of training focuses on increasing muscle size. Maximal Strength: Develops force production, which means working with heavier loads.What are 3 strength training tips? ›
- Lift an appropriate amount of weight. Start with a weight you can lift comfortably 12 to 15 times. ...
- Use proper form. Learn to do each exercise correctly. ...
- Breathe. You might be tempted to hold your breath while you're lifting weights. ...
- Seek balance. ...
- Add strength training in your fitness routine. ...
Strength training can help you burn fat and lose weight as effectively as cardio, new research suggests. The key to losing weight is a calorie deficit, or eating less than you burn, experts say. Lifting weights and other strength exercise can help keep your metabolism high by building muscle too.How do I start strength training? ›
- Warm up. ...
- Start with lighter weights. ...
- Gradually increase the weight. ...
- Rest for at least 60 seconds in between sets. ...
- Limit your workout to no longer than 45 minutes. ...
- Gently stretch your muscles after your workout. ...
- Rest a day or two in between workouts.
When it comes to muscle-strengthening exercise, focus on things like dumbbells, resistance bands, resistance machines, and bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats and lunges. Another thing to keep in mind: Your weekly workouts should engage all of the major muscles in your body.