I am often asked my opinion on the best workout routine for losing weight. People ask me about high reps verses low reps, light weight vs. heavy weight, and isolation exercises vs. compound exercises. If you watch TV, browse the internet, or talk with other human beings chances are you find yourself swamped with conflicting information on what kind of exercise is necessary to lose weight. Is Crossfit better than HIIT? How about power lifting vs. bodybuilding? Can’t I just run outside and watch the weight melt off of me like I used to do right after college? There is a very simple answer for all of these questions when we look at the general population; your goal should always be to increase your strength, especially in your lower body. How does getting stronger lead to losing weight? Let’s find out together.
Fat cells are just along for the ride. We are born with a certain amount of these cells in our body, and they can do one of three things: become larger, become smaller or stay the same size. Muscle is similar to fat in that it, too, can become larger, become smaller, or stay the same size. The difference is that our bodies utilize a large number of calories when we break down and build our muscles back up, whereas fat storage is a byproduct of having a calorie surplus. To make it as simple as possible, muscle burns calories to exist and fat doesn’t. This means the focus of your training (no matter who you are) should revolve around becoming stronger, which in turn will build muscle mass. Now, I am not talking about the kind of muscle mass you see on a professional bodybuilder, or the type of strength you see in a World’s Strongest Man competitor. I am talking about building more muscle than you have now, and becoming stronger than you are now, it is relative to each person.
Becoming stronger (and, in turn, gaining muscle) will allow you to be more active in your daily life, from your job to your hobbies to your home life. The increased level of daily activity will burn more calories, building upon the increased amount of calories being burned by your more muscular body. The result of this compounding effect of calories being burned will result in weight loss without any major changes in one’s diet. The weight loss from this method will eventually plateau, and at that time you will need to consult with a fitness professional to help you work through some dietary changes to start the weight loss up again.
The only question left to answer is how do we get stronger in the gym? Everyone person on Earth is different; we all have different strengths, weaknesses, injuries, and dysfunction. All good weight-training programs should revolve around the four main compound lifts: the squat, the dead-lift, the bench press, and the over-head press. There are many variations of these movements based on the implement used (barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell or no weight at all) but these movements are the backbone of any solid program because they allow us to develop functional strength, the type you can use in your everyday life. In my own experience running a gym very few people are comfortable or confident in these exercises, so always ask for assistance when incorporating something new into your routine. Most gyms employ trainers that will be more than happy to perform one or two sessions teaching you proper form and technique, and the money out of your pocket will be well spent in keeping you injury free and potentially moving you closer toward your health and wellness goals! Remember that investing in your body and its health will always provide great returns.