Strength training. Weight training. “Lift heavy.” You’ve probably been told by a magazine, a website, a trainer, or even us that if you want to burn fat, you’ve got to incorporate resistance training into your fitness regimen.
They're telling the truth. There’s no better training method for fat loss than resistance training—not even your dearly beloved cardio sessions.
We repeat: Resistance training is better than cardio for fat loss.
Wait, what is resistance training anyway?
Don’t let the fancy name throw you. Resistance training is simply working against a type of force that resists your movement. If it initially conjures up weight benches and gym bros, you’re right—partially. Sure, resistance training includes traditional weightlifting, but don’t forget about bodyweight exercises, Pilates, yoga, exercise bands, even water aerobics. All it takes to count as “resistance training” is a force pushing back on the force you’re generating.
Your metabolism wants resistance training
Metabolism is the amount of energy—in the form of calories—that we burn throughout the day. We burn calories just existing: sitting, standing, sleeping, picking our noses. That’s your resting metabolism. When you increase your muscle mass (hello, resistance training!), you give your resting metabolism a nice boost, causing your body to burn more calories while you’re living life outside the gym. Research estimates that every pound of muscle burns about six calories per day at rest—three times as many calories as a pound of fat.
Now put that on your barbell and lift it.
Your hormones want resistance training
Hormones are messengers that regulate cell, tissue, organ, and system functions, affecting everything from stimulating fat burning to building muscle. Significant hormonal releases are triggered by the volume and intensity generated by resistance training.
The growth hormone slows carbohydrate breakdown, facilitates protein synthesis, and initiates fat burning. But what does that mean to you? Muscle building and fat loss. The release of growth hormones responds to how strenuous you train, making it the perfect messenger to deliver the effects of resistance training to your body.
In men, testosterone plays a huge role in muscle growth. Higher levels of testosterone make it easier for your body to burn fat and develop lean muscle mass. And how does testosterone respond best to exercise? You got it: resistance training.
In women, an estrogen balance is key to fat loss, since an imbalance impacts both the ability to burn fat as well as building and retaining muscle. Enter resistance training, which regulates estrogen levels by increasing lean muscle mass, which increases metabolism and burns more fat.
Your gym routine wants resistance training
Let’s face it: We don’t want to have to think when we get to the gym; we just want to do. What’s going to work for my body? What’s going to help me shed the fat?
With resistance training, programming—what you do when you’re at the gym—is everything. To produce results, it's targeted to your goals, your body mechanics, your strengths, and your weaknesses, among myriad considerations. Sure, it’s more complicated than just getting on a treadmill and pushing start. But it’s also more dialed in, giving you the customization you need to achieve your fitness or aesthetic objectives.
When was the last time your community running club did that?
Your body wants resistance training
Oh, come on now, we can’t forget how good putting muscle on your body looks. Guys, the gun show doesn’t sell out by running marathons. And for the last time, ladies, weights don’t make you look "manly"—but you know that ass that won’t quit on your favorite Instatrainer? Girl, she lifts.
Fayza is a nutrition coach and group fitness instructor in Austin, TX. She wholeheartedly believes that a healthier lifestyle is attainable for anyone based on any level of commitment—and she seeks to make it a reality for everyone. In a past life, she was an enthusiastic adventure racer, moderately competitive mountain biker, happy kayaker, Kool-Aid-drinkin' CrossFitter, generally awful mid-distance runner, one-time marathoner, recreational road cyclist, and inconsistent Orangetheory-ist—so you could say she likes to move. These days, you'll find her throwing around heavy weights, taking long trail walks in and around the best city in Texas, and pretending dark chocolate peanut butter cups aren't always whispering her name.