Getting stronger can get you leaner – the benefits of resistance training for fat loss

posted Nov 8, 2016, 8:09 PM by Rebecca Smith   [ updated Nov 8, 2016, 8:10 PM ]

When most start out their weight loss journey, what usually occurs is the beginning of harsh dieting on very restricted calories and an abundance of cardio-based training with resistance exercise being given little attention. Resistance exercise is essentially lifting weights through a variety of modes such as machines, free weights (i.e. dumbbells and barbells) and other equipment such as tyres and sleds. However, resistance exercise may provide the different training stimulus that you’ve needed! The benefits of adding resistance training into your program occur through two mechanisms, which will be discussed below.

Part 1: Resistance training increases muscle mass

When done properly, resistance exercise increases skeletal muscle mass and has been shown in many scientific research articles to occur with many different types of programs. The increase in muscle mass occurs with the growth of each fibre type broadly known as fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibres. Slow twitch fibres will grow with lighter loads with large fast twitch fibres growing with higher loads. In most cases, the resistance exercise induced increase in muscle mass is accompanied with an increase in muscular strength. This is due to the long-known fact that a bigger muscle, is a stronger muscle. A prime example of this is to look at an individual who is of much larger size to another, the larger individual is usually stronger and can move larger loads in a variety of situations. So resistance training not only increases muscle mass, but the increase in muscle mass also will lead to an increase in strength which is not only a positive outcome physically, but mentally as well.

Part 2: Increased muscle mass affects resting metabolic rate

An increase in muscle mass caused by resistance training leads to an increase in resting metabolic rate (RMR). The RMR is the amount of calories that an individual will burn at rest and will be the largest component of energy expenditure in a relatively inactive person. RMR is related to the amount of muscle mass an individual has but is also influenced by age, gender, current body composition and genetic factors. Muscle is a very metabolically active tissue with many chemical reactions occurring including breakdown and synthesis reactions all of which contribute to the amount of calories used especially during exercise. Now, before we mentioned that muscle mass is related to an individual’s metabolic rate and what this means is that the more muscle mass someone has, the more calories they burn at rest. Let’s use an example of two 100kg men, one has 60kg of muscle mass and one has 80kg of muscle mass. The individual with 80kg of muscle mass will burn more calories at rest than the individual with 60kg of muscle mass. This also means that same individual will need more calories per day to maintain their body mass. But here’s the kicker, the individual with more muscle mass can therefore eat more calories than the individual with less muscle mass in order to lose the same amount of weight. Along with this, because the individual with more muscle mass has a greater increase in metabolic rate, they will burn more fat at rest as fat is best used at low intensities due to its breakdown mechanism (known as beta-oxidation), rest being the lowest physiologically active intensity. So muscle mass is good for long-term fat loss!

How to perform and program resistance training to increase muscle mass

So we know resistance training is good for increasing muscle mass and muscle mass is good for inducing fat loss at rest, so how do we actually do it to achieve this goal? There are many ways to perform resistance training to stimulate muscular growth. If you are untrained, simply using weights with a moderate volume and intensity will trigger an increase in muscle growth very quickly, however individuals who are more trained will find it more difficult to put on muscle mass. In this case, a few recommendations do apply:

  1.  Accumulate 15-30 sets per muscle group per week.
  2. Train at an average of 60-75% 1RM on each movement (approximately 8-15RM).
  3. Repetitions per set should be at 6-10, with any lower stimulating muscular endurance pathways while any heavier will stimulate muscular strength pathways.
  4. Your main work should be based around compound movements which utilise large muscle groups as well as multiple joints.
  5. Focus on controlling the movement, with approximately a 4 second tempo on the down phase and a 2 second tempo on the up or ‘working’ phase. A large time-under-tension is a very well-known method of inducing muscular hypertrophy.
  6. Sets performed should be performed to fatigue, but not to the point of failure. Always ensure that the exercise is performed with the strictest technique and fatigue is therefore the point at which you cannot maintain appropriate technique.
  7. Vary your exercise selection on the targeted muscle to avoid monotony and boredom.

Remember, lifting is for everyone! Males and females respond to training differently with men primarily increasing muscle size and with females showing a more toned and sculpted look with resistance training. This is because females lack the testosterone concentrations required for the increase in muscle mass.

Keep smashing those goals!

Tim

PhD Candidate in Advanced Resistance Training at Sydney University
Difference Personal Trainer
Registered Exercise Professional, Powerlifting coach, Strength and Conditioning coach