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Fat Loss, Resistance Training

Should women lift heavy weights if they want to lose weight?

By Joe Talarico on Jun 21, 2024 9:00:00 AM
4 Minutes Reading Time

Lifting heavy weights is one of the best things you can do for your health and wellness. For years, particularly when speaking to women, it was marketed as this overly masculine endeavor that would make women bulky. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, most of this marketing was thanks to supplement companies trying to push their products to the female audience. It was their way to stand out above the rest. Then came fitness studios like Curve that further pushed this agenda.

So, Should Women Lift Heavy?

Absolutely. The example I always use is Miss America. I was watching a Miss America interview where they asked what exercises she did to prepare for the competition. Want to know what she said? It wasn’t 100 reps of glute kickbacks and butt work. It was squats and deadlifts. Granted, I know not everyone sees Miss America as their preferred body type, but anyone competing in that definitely isn’t known as “big and bulky”, yet here the WINNER of the entire show was doing those movements.

Lifting heavy doesn’t equate to being bulky. It means you are adding muscle. What tends to happen is women add muscle without getting rid of excess body fat. So, the illusion is that the woman looks bulkier. However, if she adjusted her calories to lose some of that body fat, she would instead have that more toned, beach body look. And guess what, this happens to guys too.

Increase Your Metabolism

One of the best perks of adding muscle is being able to eat MORE calories. It is the only form of exercise that does this. By adding more muscle, you increase the number of calories you can consume and thus, increase your metabolism. It is costly to keep muscle, so your body NEEDS food to maintain it. That’s great news! Who wouldn’t want to eat more food? The food will also partition better to the muscles and be used up rather than stored as body fat. Whereas if you aren’t exercising, or even if all you do is cardio, your body won’t have this same partitioning effect. This is because it isn’t receiving the signal for muscle growth.

When dieting down, you need to keep resistance training in your routine in order to keep sending that signal to your body. When we are in a deficit of calories, our body needs a reason to keep that hard earned muscle. If all you did was cardio, it would actually prioritize burning through the muscle first and then the fat. This will still get you to lose weight, but you will just look like a smaller version of yourself. This results in that “skinny fat” look both men and women often complain about.

How Do We Do It?

You can get all the results you seek with 2-3 days of full body resistance training. That will allow you to hit each muscle frequently enough throughout the week to keep the muscle building signal high. Choose compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, rows, bench presses, and overhead presses so that you can maximize the muscles hit in a given workout. You are free to incorporate those more glute focused exercises, or movements to help tone your arms, but the compounds should take priority. They still hit those same areas. The more isolated movements will just help add additional volume to the areas that need it. Perform each exercise for 10-15 reps, for 2-3 sets. Choose a weight that's heavy enough that when you hit 15 reps, you could do no more than 1-2 additional reps. After 4-6 weeks, spend a week doing the movements at 50% of the weight you’d been using prior.

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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