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When most people go into a cutting phase to get leaner, they think their primary tools are diet and cardio. While getting your calories in check is still going to be vitally important, don’t underestimate how important it is to lift to lose weight. Opinions on whether weights or cardio is more effective can vary, and there are studies that support either position. That said, below are five reasons why you should lift to lose weight, and why the iron needs to be an important part of your plan.
There are still varying opinions on if you can “spot reduce” body fat, but either way, it seems that the iron can help reduce fat storage around your midsection. In fact, when comparing 20 minutes of cardio to 20 minutes of weight training, research at Harvard showed that men lost more belly fat with the weights. At the same time, a study published by the Obesity Society shows that women who lift to lose weight showed less tendency to store fat in the belly area, as well.
Most think that cardio is king when it comes how many calories you can burn in a workout. However, this isn’t always true. If you lift to lose weight by using circuits, stacking together fairly heavy or explosive movements, or even just radically reducing the rest between sets, your caloric expenditure can skyrocket.
Legendary trainer Vince Gironda trained celebrities, bodybuilders, and everyday gym goers in his California studio throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. He was known for helping his clients lose tremendous amounts of fat via only lifting and diet alone. His “6×6” and “8×8” programs were brutal because rest breaks were kept to as short as 15 seconds, both building muscle mass and torching fat at the same time.
Not only can you burn a lot of calories during your workout, you can burn quite a few after the workout, too. Because weight training is a fairly intense activity, that means you can benefit from EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). Simply put, it means that your metabolism stays “revved up” after you finish training. Extra calories can continue to be burned for as much as 36-48 hours after your session.
One of the biggest reasons you should lift to lose weight is that it can increase your BMR (basal metabolic rate). This is your normal daily caloric expenditure your body goes through just to maintain itself in its present condition.
One study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that after nine months of weight training, participants’ BMR increased by roughly 5%. This means that with no increase in activity level or change in body composition, they burned more calories daily on average.
When you lift to lose weight, you can accomplish many things at once. You can burn more calories and body fat, as has been discussed. You can build more muscle and increase strength. Depending on the style of training you do, you can even improve cardio, conditioning, and work capacity – not to mention athleticism. If you’re going to train for fat loss, you might as well get a bunch of other benefits at the same time – especially if they can all be had in the same workout/program.
Lifting weights is always going to be thought of as a way to build muscle and strength, but it’s second only to diet in its effectiveness for weight loss. It allows you to burn more calories during your workout, after your workout, and after a while, even when you’re not working out. It allows you to accomplish multiple things at once and may even more efficiently target belly fat. In the end, make the iron a big part of your fat loss efforts and there’s almost no way you won’t end up with a smaller waistline.