Scientific research has shown that the best way to lose fat is strength training. It works for obese people as well as those just wanting to lose a few pounds and firm up. When we strength train, we add lean muscle mass to our body.
Lean muscle mass burns through 35-50 calories per pound of muscle every single day. Let's take a look at that number from a different point of view. If we have 5 pounds of lean muscle, that muscle will burn about 250 calories a day. Here comes the fun part. If we have 10 pounds of lean muscle mass, then our muscles burn about 500 calories a day. Hopefully you can see why adding lean muscle is the best way to lose fat.
If you're setting up your own program, you'll need to know 4 strength training principles or secrets. These principles will teach you how to make sure you're using enough weight, determine your sets and reps and insure you're always progressing in your workouts, and help you avoid injuring yourself.
- Overload: To build muscle, you need to use more resistance than your muscles are used to. This is important because the more you do, the more your body is capable of doing, so you should increase your workload to avoid plateaus. In plain language, this means you should be lifting enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired number of reps. You should be able to finish your last rep with difficulty but also with good form.
- Progression. To avoid plateaus, you need to increase your intensity on a regular basis. You can do this by increasing the amount of weight lifted, changing your sets/reps, changing the exercises and changing the type of resistance.
- Specificity. This principle means you should train to achieve your individual goals. That means, if you want to increase your strength, your program should be designed around that goal e.g., train with heavier weights closer to a maximum of just a few reps. To lose weight, however, choose a variety of higher rep ranges to target different muscle fibers and muscle groups. e.g. 8-15 reps per set.
- Rest and Recovery. Rest days are also important. It is during these rest periods that your muscles grow and change, so make sure you're not working the same muscle groups more than one day in a row.
Before you get started on setting up a strength training routine, keep a few key points in mind:
Be sure to warm up before you start lifting weights. This helps get your muscles warm and prevent injury. You can warm up with light cardio or by doing a light set of each exercise before going to heavier weights.
Lift and lower your weights slowly. Don't use momentum to lift the weight. If you have to swing to get the weight up, chances are you're using too much weight.
Don't hold your breath and make sure you're using full range of motion throughout the movement.
Pay attention to your posture and engage your abs in every movement you're doing to keep your balance and protect your spine.
Starting out, you should choose about 5-6 basic exercises per session, and do a minimum of one exercise per muscle group per week. The list below offers some examples:
· Chest: bench press, chest press machine, or pushups
· Back: one-armed row, lat pulldowns, or seated row
· Shoulders: overhead press, lateral raise, front raise
· Abs: crunches, reverse crunches, leg pull ups
· Biceps: bicep curls, hammer curls, concentration curls
· Triceps: tricep extensions, dips, kickbacks