Strength training has been around for centuries. Athletes of all types are realizing its benefits, yet when it comes to the general population, there are some strength training myths that refuse to die. In all my years in the gym, I have come across these ‘Bro Science’ myths numerous times. I have also spent a good amount of time spinning my own wheels and not seeing results in terms of muscle gain and weight loss because of this.
When I shifted my focus from doing tons of cardio and high reps to strength training, the results started to show.
Learn about my transformation here.
Strength training is for muscle building and not for weight loss?
This myth has been a major cause for people not getting the results they seek. I don’t know the origins of this myth but it prevails at almost every gym in the world. To be fair, doing cardio has many benefits in terms of health and burning calories but it should not form the basis of one’s training.
Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss
In order to dispel this myth we first have to make the distinction between WEIGHT LOSS and FAT LOSS.
Total Body Weight/Body Composition = Lean Body Mass (LBM) + Fat Mass
Lean Body Mass (LBM) or Fat-Free Mass (FFM) includes all the components in the body that are not body fat (muscle, bones, blood, organs etc.). Fat Mass is the total weight of the body fat in a person’s body. For example, If a person’s total body weight is 200lbs/90KGs, and his/her body fat % is 20%, then the total fat mass will be 40lbs/18Kgs and the LBM will be 160lbs/72Kgs (the difference).
Weight Loss=Losing total body weight (fat mass + LBM)
Fat Loss=Losing losing fat mass while maintaining LBM (Total body weight – LBM)
Now that we’ve made that distinction, we want to focus on fat loss. This means that when we lose fat, we want to also focus on maintaining LBM in the form of muscle. In some cases, especially beginners, it is also possible to build muscle. This phenomenon is known as Body Recomposition (building muscle and losing fat).
Strength Training is the ONLY way to improve long-term body composition. Strength training is the stimulus to muscle growth. During exercise, the muscle actually breaks down and this signals the body to get stronger by building more muscle. Since strength training is the only way to build muscle, it is also the only way to maintain muscle. If you remove the stimulus for muscle growth, the body will have no reason to hold on to it during a fat loss phase.
What do most people do when attempting to lose weight? They stop training for strength and focus on “toning” the muscle. What does “toning” a muscle mean anyway? Whether you are a man or a woman, a muscle can either Hypertrophy (grow) or Atrophy (shrink). I personally define high reps to be anything over 12 repetitions with a given weight during a single set of an exercise. One could also stretch that to 15 reps per set under certain circumstances. Anything over that could shift the training focus from strength to endurance.
Weight Loss Without Strength Training
Giving up strength training is a recipe for long-term failure. Can you lose weight doing this? Absolutely. But remember, our goal is to lose fat AND build/maintain muscle. If you end up losing muscle, it will only make you smaller and will set you up for massive regain in the future. That is why many people who lose weight end up being “skinnyfat” , where they look smaller but not leaner.
This myth seems to affect women even more. Most women are not encouraged to train with weights because of another major myth: Weight training makes women bulky. As a result, most women lack the muscle and strength base required for long-term fat loss success. Women are structurally and hormonally not designed to gain enough muscle to be considered bulky.
What’s the Solution?
It’s very simple.
- Focus on Fat Loss NOT Weight Loss
- Men and women should train with a goal of getting stronger
- Keep training intensity relatively high. DO NOT use light weights to “tone” the muscles.
- Create a caloric deficit through diet
- Use cardio only if necessary to as a tool to burn calories in addition to weight training
- Try HIIT cardio (High-Intensity Interval Training)
Bonus Fat Loss Tips:
- Lose weight slowly. No more than 1-2lbs/0.5-1KG of your bodyweight. If a person is extremely obese, they can lose faster than this. Women and lean individuals should probably lose weight slower than this.
- Eat enough protein. About 1 gram per pound of bodyweight is more than enough to build and maintain muscle for most people. You could also go slightly lower at 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight if you are obese or if it’s your dietary preference.
- Be consistent. Results will take time. Focus on progress, not perfection.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Greatness, then, is not an act, but a habit”
Remember- Take one step at a time. Follow these proven methods consistently and you will be amazed at how far you’ve come!
If you liked reading this article as much I did writing it, please share this with someone who could benefit from this information. My number 1 goal is to help others reach their goals.
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