Lifting weights and Fat Loss

Taken from here

Getting Started

If you want to lose fat or change your body, one of the most important things you can do is lift weights. Diet and cardio are equally important, but when it comes to changing how your body looks, weight training wins hands down. If you’ve hesitated to start a strength training program, it may motivate you to know that lifting weights can:

  • Help raise your metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn all day long.
  • Strengthen bones, especially important for women
  • Make you stronger and increase muscular endurance
  • Help you avoid injuries
  • Increase your confidence and self-esteem
  • Improve coordination and balance

Getting started with strength training can be confusing–what exercises should you do? How many sets and reps? How much weight? The routine you choose will be based on your fitness goals as well as the equipment you have available and the time you have for workouts.

The Basics

If you’re setting up your own program, you’ll need to know some basic strength training principles. 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.

  1. Overload: If you want to get stronger, 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 adaptation. 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.
  2. Progression. In order to avoid plateaus (or adaptation), you need to increase your intensity. With strength training, you can do this by increasing the amount of weight lifted, increasing the sets/reps, increasing or changing the exercises you’re doing and/or change the rest intervals between sets. You can also change the order of your exercises. This means increasing your intensity every week.
  3. Specificity. This principle states that the way your body adapts to exercise depends on the type of exercise you’re doing. That means, if you want to increase your strength, your program should be designed around that goal. To gain strength and mass, you want to train with heavier weights closer to your 1 RM (1 rep max). If you want to build endurance and strength, you’ll want to stick with lighter weights and a rep range of 8-12.
  4. Rest and Recovery. Rest days are just as important as workout days. It is during these rest periods that your muscles grow and change, so make sure you’re not working the same muscle groups 2 days in a row.

Before you get started on setting up your routine, keep a few key points in mind:

  1. Always 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Breathe. Don’t hold your breath and make sure you’re using full range of motion throughout the movement.
  4. Stand up straight! If your mother could see you now, she’d probably slap a book on your head. Pay attention to your posture and keep everything straight. Engage your abs in every movement you’re doing to keep your balance and protect your spine.

Choosing Exercises, Sequence & Weight

Your first step in setting up a routine is to choose exercises to target all of your muscle groups. One way to make sure you’re doing this right is to work with a personal trainer who can help you set up the right program for you and educate you on proper form. If that’s not an option, consider renting or buying a workout video. Strength training videos can give you visual instruction without the cost of a personal trainer. The only limitation is that, once you adjust to that workout you might have to get another video! One more option is to hire an online personal trainer. It’s cheaper than hiring a trainer at the gym and, at My Fitness Expert, you get the same kind of personal treatment as you would at a gym or at home.

For beginners, choose at least one exercise per muscle group.

The list below offers some examples:

  • Chest: bench press, chest press machine, pushups, pec deck machine
  • Back: one-armed row, seated row machine, back extensions, lat pulldowns
  • Shoulders: overhead press, lateral raise, front raise
  • Biceps: bicep curls, hammer curls, concentration curls
  • Triceps: tricep extensions, dips, kickbacks
  • Quadriceps: Squats, lunges, leg extension and leg press machines
  • Hamstrings: deadlifts, lunges, leg curl machine
  • Abs: crunches, reverse crunches, oblique twists, pelvic tilts

Check out the strength training and cardio workouts available at Workout Central

Sequence of Exercises

  • Make sure you choose at least one exercise for each major muscle group.
  • The muscles to work include: Chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and abdominals.
  • If you leave any muscle group out, this could cause an imbalance in your muscles and possibly lead to injuries.

Most experts recommend starting with your larger muscle groups and then proceeding to the smaller muscle groups. The most demanding exercises are those performed by your large muscle groups and you will need your smaller muscles to get the most out of these exercises. For example, in a bench press your shoulders and triceps are involved in stabilizing your arms, so you want them to be strong so you don’t drop the weight on your chest. The bonus? By the time you get to your shoulder and triceps exercises, your muscles will be warmed up and ready to go. However, this isn’t written in blood so do what works for you. In addition, you don’t necessarily need to do as many sets with your smaller muscle groups since they’re used so much in other exercises.

How Much Weight To Use

The easiest way to determine how much weight you should use on each lift is to guess (not very scientific, huh?):

  1. Pick up a light weight and do a warm up set of the exercise of your choice, aiming for about 10 to 16 repetitions.
  2. For set 2, increase your weight by 5 or more pounds and perform your goal number of repetitions. If you can do more than your desired number of reps, heavy up again for your 3rd set.
  3. In general, you should be lifting enough weight that you can ONLY do the desired reps. You should be struggling by the last rep, but still able to finish it with good form.
  4. It may take awhile to find the right amount of weight for each exercise.
  5. In general, you can use heavier weights with larger muscle groups such as chest, back and legs. You’ll need smaller weights for the shoulders and arms.

Choosing Repetitions and Sets

How Many Reps/Sets To Do

You’ve figured out how much weight to use for your chosen exercises…what about the number of sets and repetitions? Your decision should be based on your goals. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 8-12 reps for muscular strength and 10-15 reps for muscular endurance. They also recommend at least 1 set of each exercise to fatigue although you’ll find that most people perform about 3 sets of each exercise. In general:

  • For fat loss: Do 10-12 reps using enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired reps and 1-3 sets (1 for beginners, 2-3 for intermediate and advanced exercisers). Rest about 30 seconds-1 minute between sets and at least one day between workout sessions
  • For muscle gain: Do 6-8 reps enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired reps and 3 or more sets, resting for 1-2 minutes between sets and 3 or more days between sessions.
  • For beginners, give yourself several weeks of conditioning before going to this level. You may need a spotter for many exercises.
  • For health and muscular endurance: Do 12-16 reps using enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired reps and 1-3 sets, resting 20-30 seconds between sets and at least one day between workout sessions.

How Long To Rest Between Exercises/Workout Sessions

Again, this will depend on your goal. Higher intensity (i.e., when lifting heavy) exercise requires a longer rest. When lifting to fatigue, it takes an average of 3 to 5 minutes for your muscles to rest for the next set. When using lighter weight and more repetitions, it takes between 30 seconds and 1 minute for your muscles to rest.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends training each muscle group 2 to 3 times a week. But, the number of times you lift each week will depend on your training method. In order for muscles to repair and grow, you’ll need about 48 hours of rest between workout sessions. If you’re training at a high intensity, take a longer rest.

Where to Workout

You don’t have to join a gym to get a great strength training workout. A gym is nice because you’ll have access to both machines and free weights, so you have plenty of variety. If you do join a gym, it’s a good idea to incorporate both types of equipment into your workout routine for variety. What’s the difference? This article explains all.

If you decide to workout at home, here are a few items you might want to consider buying:

  • Resistance bands are around $6 to $15. They’re small, light, travel well and you get get a full body workout with it.
  • Dumbbells. They’re cheap and you can do a variety of exercise with them. Find them at your local Target or Walmart. Other options include a barbell set, an exercise ball and/or a weight bench.
  • A step is more expensive (a good one goes for around $85 or so) but you can use for everything from step aerobics to weight bench to plant-holder (although I don’t recommend it for that).
  • For tips on setting up your home gym, check out this in-depth article.
  • For more, see Best Strength Training Equipment

Another opinion on slow lifting

Is it true that the best way to build muscle is by doing really slow repetitions?

IB, Southampton

Several years ago, a study suggested that lifting weights slowly -14 seconds per repetition – increases strength faster than lifting at normal speeds.

But there was a flaw.

The slow lifters gained more strength in slow lifts than the others gained in normal speed lifts.

They never compared the two groups in absolute strength.

“There’s no one size fits all way to build muscle, you have to look at your training regime, your diet, even your genetic make up,” says Ceri Hannan, national fitness manager at Fitness First.

He suggests that to boost muscle fibre, you alternate between slow and medium speed repetitions to ‘shock’ your muscles.

“Generally, however, it’s better to push slower because it makes you concentrate on your technique and control more, which is the biggest problem,” adds Hannan.

As a rule, count to four lowering a weight, and to two pushing or pulling it up.

But don’t ignore speed completely.

A study from George Washington University in the US looked at slow versus normal lifting, comparing how much could be lifted for one repetition before and after a ten week training programme.

Those lifting weights at the normal speed gained 24% more strength than the tortoise trainers.

“Vary your workout speed as much as possible and, more than anything, don’t push weights above your station,” Hannan advises.

Metabolism and Exercise

Here are some factors that do influence the number of calories a person expends in general:

Some people are born with high metabolisms (the rate at which one’s body uses calories) and others are born with low metabolisms. The main culprit of these phenomena is the thyroid gland. Some individuals produce more thyroxin (the hormone that is secreted from the thyroid) than others. Thyroxin is responsible for metabolism, so if a person’s body produces a high-normal amount of thyroxin, s/he will utilize calories more quickly. If a person’s body produces a low-normal amount of thyroxin, s/he will utilize calories more slowly. NOTE: if thyroxin is out of normal range in either direction, it is dangerous and needs medical attention.

Typically, men have greater muscle mass than women. Since muscle requires more calories to maintain, men tend to have 10 – 15 percent faster metabolisms than women. Similarly, men have a lower body fat percentage than women.

Metabolic rate is higher in childhood than in adulthood. Children are growing and need more calories to fulfill their bodies’ requirements. After the age of 20 years, metabolism drops 2 percent per decade.

Brain Power
The brain is only 2 percent of the body’s weight, but accounts for more than 20 percent of total calories used. Also, the length of time per day spent awake affects the amount of calories utilized. We expend more calories when we are awake than when we are asleep.

For every increase of 0.5°C (32.9°F) in body temperature, BMR increases by approximately 7 percent. For example, if someone has a fever of 42°C (107.6°F), s/he would have an increase in metabolic rate of 50 percent. The reason for this is that chemical reactions in the body occur more quickly at higher temperatures.

Some medications, such as anti-depressants, can slow down metabolic processes and lead to weight gain.

During exercise, the following factors influence calorie expenditure:

Cardiovascular Exercise Intensity
The intensity of aerobic exercise has the greatest impact on calorie usage during exercise. As exercise intensity increases, the greater the caloric expenditure during and after exercise. Intensity refers to the rate of exertion during exercise, which can be measured by VO2 max (oxygen consumption), heart rate, or perceived exertion. Here’s an example of cardiovascular exercise intensity: running on a treadmill at 6.5 mph is more intense than running at 5.5 mph, so increasing speed can impact intensity. However, two people can be running at 5.5 mph, but if one runs on an incline, that activity would be more intense.

Cardiovascular Exercise Duration
The length of time per exercise session not only impacts the number of calories utilized during exercise, but also the number of calories to be utilized after exercise. The longer the bout of physical activity, the more calories will be expended right after it is over, a.k.a. the ‘after-burn.’

Intermittent vs. Single Bouts of Exercise
Several studies have concluded that intermittent aerobic exercise expends more calories overall than continuous exercise. People used more calories during two, 25-minute sessions when compared to a continuous 50-minute bout of the same exercise. This occurs for two reasons: first, the body has to work harder at rest to move from an anaerobic state, using glucose and other simple and complex carbohydrates during the first few minutes of exercise, to an aerobic state, which relies on fat as its main energy source during more sustained activity. This will happen twice in intermittent exercise bouts versus once in a continuous bout. Also, there is more ‘after-burn‘ of calories in intermittent exercise sessions versus one continuous session.

Resistance Training
The intensity of weight training also influences calories utilized. Heavier lifting (3 sets, 8 exercises, 3 – 8 reps at 80 – 90 percent of 1RM) will use more calories during and right after than lighter weight lifting (4 sets, 8 exercises, 15 reps at 50 percent of 1RM). 1RM refers to the weight of one repetition at maximal strength. For example, if a person’s 1RM of a squat is 100 pounds, then heavy lifting would be doing 3 sets of 3 – 8 reps of squats at 80 – 90 lbs. Lighter weight lifting would be squatting 50 lbs for 4 sets of 15 reps.

Fitness Level
People who are more fit expend fewer calories during and right after exercise than people who are less fit. This occurs because people who have been exercising more consistently have faster recovery time in breathing and heart rate, and repair muscle more quickly