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The Benefits of Strength Training During Your Weight Loss Journey

Author: Caitlin Suter, MS

Do you like the sound of burning more calories while at rest than you currently do now? Well, it’s possible, and we’re going to tell you how you can achieve this increased calorie burn by adding strength training to your weight loss journey. Some people are intimidated by the idea of weight lifting, or think that lifting weights will make them ‘big’ and ‘bulky’. Fortunately, maintaining your muscles mass while you lose weight, or increasing your muscle mass over time, can be done in a number of ways, and it doesn’t mean you’ll get ‘big’ or ‘bulky’ in the process. Let’s take a closer look!

The science behind strength training

Your body is made of fat-free mass, also called lean mass (think organs, muscles, bones, connective tissues and water) and fat mass. While fat mass is necessary at healthy levels, having a higher fat-free mass will increase energy expenditure (the energy needed or calories burned to carry out physiological functions of the body and exercise). This leads to a higher resting metabolic rate or basal metabolic rate, which means you’ll be burning more calories with less effort. This is possible because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue.

With this in mind, you still need a calorie deficit to lose weight, and through diet you can create that deficit. However, you may find that deficit more manageable if your body is burning more calories through exercise

Strength training vs. cardio for weight loss

Both are important and one is no better than the other, but it can help to know the benefits and differences that each form of exercise provides. 

Cardiovascular exercise generally includes aerobic exercises that gets your heart beating faster. It’s recommended to get at least 2.5 hours a week or 30 minutes most days of aerobic exercise to benefit your heart. You’re not only burning a lot of calories through aerobic workouts, but it helps to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and lower cholesterol. 

  • Moderate Cardio – dancing, hiking on flat ground, cycling less than 10mph, walking about 3.5 mph, tennis (doubles), downhill skiing, swimming, gardening, light house work
  • Vigorous Cardio – Walking at least 4.5 mph, cycling more than 10 mph, hiking uphill, cross-country skiing, jogging, jumping rope, tennis (singles), heavy yard work

Strength training, also known as resistance exercise, can be done with body weight, resistance bands, free weights, or machines, meaning no gym required if that’s not your scene! It’s recommended to include strength training into your routine at least 2x per week. Lean muscle mass diminishes with age, making strength training an important factor of healthy aging. It can also reduce signs and symptoms of chronic conditions, such as back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease, depression, and diabetes.

Depending on your physical fitness and aesthetic goals, different exercises and repetition ranges will be more well-suited. For example, heavier weights with repetition ranges between 1-5 are usually best for building strength, whereas lighter weights with repetition ranges between 8-12 are usually best for muscle hypertrophy (that is, building muscle).

According to the American Cancer Society including 2-3 sessions of strength training per week can increase muscle mass, bone density, joint flexibility, weight control, and balance.

At Noom we’re all about finding balance right? Even though cardio exercises typically burn more calories than strength training exercises, you can think of cardio as being good for your heart and strength training being good for your bones and mobility, although both activities have overlapping benefits. A healthy balance of cardio, strength training, and eating a healthy diet will make it easier to reach your weight loss goals and improve your overall health.

Strength training and weight loss: The bottoms line

Keep in mind that a healthy diet paired with exercise is important for a balanced healthy lifestyle. Exercise alone won’t get you to your health goals if you’re not fueling your body with nutrient-rich foods, and having a healthy diet without exercise won’t keep you from being at risk for disease. 

A Few Strength Training Exercises For Getting Started