Resistance Training for Weight Loss

The traditional understanding most people have about exercise is that you lift weights to get muscular and you perform aerobic exercise to lose weight. Unfortunately, this is not exactly true. Performing resistance exercise (lifting weights, calisthenics, bands, etc.) helps with postural balance, prevents injury and burns a ton of calories. Any good personal trainer will design a weight loss program that includes both resistance and aerobic exercise.

Dispelling the Myths

One common concern, especially for women, is that lifting weights will make them too muscular or bulky. The truth is that, while resistance exercise does build muscle, it is a very slow process, and it is nearly impossible to build too much muscle by mistake. Women have much lower androgen levels than men, and this limits the amount of muscle they will build from lifting weights. In addition, the parameters that result in optimal weight loss differ from those optimized for muscle growth.

Another common myth is that long “cardio” sessions are necessary for weight loss. The latest research suggests that shorter sessions (15-30 minutes) of higher intensity exercise are preferable for fat burning. Instead of walking on the treadmill at a slow pace for an hour, try a brisker pace and throw in a few periods of faster walking or jogging. Using this method, more calories can be burned in a 20-minute workout than in a whole hour of low intensity work.

Full-Body Circuit Training

One great way to implement weight training into a fat loss routine is with circuit training. This involves performing four or five exercises back to back to complete one circuit, then repeating the circuit three to five times. Each exercise in the circuit works different muscle groups, so while one muscle group is working, the others get some rest. This allows each set to be performed back-to-back, so the heart rate goes up and calorie usage is very high. This is like combining an aerobic workout and a weight training workout into one, and is an efficient way to burn tons of calories in a relatively short time.


Periodization involves changing the parameters of your workouts from time to time to keep the body from adapting. For weight loss, this is best achieved by altering the number of repetitions performed in each set. For example, a trainee could perform 10 repetitions per set for four weeks, 20 repetitions per set for the next four weeks, and 15 repetitions per set for the next. The cycle could then be repeated with slightly higher resistance. This ensures that the exercise sessions remain challenging and effective.

Best of Both Worlds

To get the benefits of resistance and aerobic exercise, a hybrid method can be implemented. This involves performing a 20 to 30 minute weight training session followed by a 10 to 20 minute moderate to high intensity aerobic session. This is an ideal approach, as trainees get in a great weight loss workout in under an hour. If you want to get the most out of your time in the gym, the hybrid approach is the way to go