Wanna Lose Fat? Why Weight?!

I met with a client recently.  I guess, technically, I’ve met with a lot of clients recently, but I’m thinking about this particular client.  He and I met a little over two months ago.  We spent a couple of hours discussing what needed to be done to lose weight.  The first hour was spent discussing nutrition strategies.  The second hour was spent going over the weight training program I designed for him.  At the end of our session, we scheduled our next appointment, which brings us to now.

The first thing we did when he arrived was record measurements: weight, circumferences, and body-fat percentage.  We took his weight.  He lost nine pounds!  I was stoked, but I didn’t wanna get too excited knowing weight alone doesn’t tell the whole story.  I took his circumference measurements.  Good, but they didn’t tell me much either.  I then took his skinfold measurements.  After taking them I asked, “Have you been doing a lot of cardio?”  He said he’d been doing some type of cardio six or seven days a week but had not lifted a weight in two months.

Cardio and a hypocaloric diet (eating fewer calories than you need) will indeed lead to weight loss.  The problem is, this ALWAYS comes at the expense of lean muscle.  I’ve read it, I’ve lived it, I’ve seen it.  And I was seeing it again.  My client, although down nine pounds, had lost only ONE POUND OF FAT and eight pounds of muscle.

This was a wake-up call—not only for him (which it was!) but for me as well.  Even though I knew why this loss had happened and knew full well how to correct it, it still sucks.  It got me thinking, though.  Am I not emphasizing the importance of weight training enough?  Are my clients thinking it is nothing more than something they could or should do to lose fat and not something they MUST do for long-term, sustainable fat loss?  Either way, I’m putting it on me.  I need to better communicate the importance of weight training to my peeps.

So, here I am saying it—to you and the other three people reading this—if you wanna lose fat (and keep it off), you need weight training!  You need it like the roses need the rain, like the seasons need to change, and like the poet needs the pain.

An April 2015 article in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders (JDMD) compared the effectiveness of diet, exercise, or diet with exercise for weight loss.  What it found was that, although there are several methods to alter body composition, weight training coupled with a hypocaloric diet is the most effective way to lose weight.  Men’s Health cited an article from the journal Obesity concluding that 20 minutes of weight training is 100% more effective at reducing men’s waist size than performing an equal amount of cardio.

Here’s why you need weight training.  Weight training increases, or at least preserves, your muscle.  Muscle drives your metabolism.  (Many of your tissues and organs do as well, but you can’t increase the size of them, and maybe you shouldn’t.)   The more muscle you have, the greater your metabolism.  The greater your metabolism, the more energy (calories) you expend at work or rest.

Have you ever credited someone’s leanness to his or her metabolism?  Sure you have.  And you should, because it matters . . . a lot.  If someone is lean because of their metabolism, take a page from their book, and increase yours.

Sure, maybe (as Maybelline says) she’s born with it.  And maybe you’ll need to work harder than she’ll ever need to, but you can increase yours, regardless of the hand you were dealt.  How?  With weight training!

I’m hopeful you now know you need to weight train, but what specifically do you need to do?  The JDMD study used 2-3 sets for 6-10 reps at an intensity of ≥75% 1RM (the amount of weight that can be lifted one time) utilizing whole-body, free-weight exercises.  The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps at an intensity of 60-70% of 1RM for novice to intermediate exercisers or ≥80% of 1RM for experienced weightlifters 2-3 times per week.

My simplified recommendation is as follows:

  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 10
  • Rest: 60 seconds
  • Frequency: 3 times per week
  • Intensity: Moderate to hard
  • Type: Perform exercises that hit each of the major muscle groups: chest, back, shoulders, arms, core, hips, and legs.

An example workout would be:

  1. Dumbbell (DB) Bench Press (chest)
  2. Supported 1-Arm DB Row (back)
  3. 1/2-Kneeling Alternating Press (shoulders)
  4. DB Goblet Squat (legs)
  5. 1-Leg DB Romanian Deadlift (legs)
  6. Plank (core) (hold for 30-60 seconds)
  7. Hip Lift (core)

There’s nothing magical, special, flashy, or trendy (or trend-ing) about this workout.  It’s better than that.  It’s simple, effective, and doable.

Whether you follow this simple and effective workout or something you find elsewhere, the three most important things are that you’re a.) following a strength training program, b.) progressively overloading (i.e., more weight and/or more reps and/or better form and/or shorter rest periods) each exercise each workout, and c.) you’re doing it consistently.

Ultimately, I can’t make you weight train, nor do I want to.  But I do want you to choose to.  If you wanna be skinny fat, by all means, continue to only do hours of moderate-intensity cardio.  But if you wanna be lean (less fat, more muscle) and strong (strong), get on a weight training program.