If weight training to burn fat is your goal, you can't go wrong with a full-body workout. Full-body sessions work more muscle groups than split routines, so they burn more calories and have a bigger impact on your metabolism, resulting in faster fat loss. When planning your full-body workout, make sure it's balanced, so that each muscle group gets worked the same and no body part is neglected.
Your lower-body muscles include your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. You could hit all of these with just two moves, squats and deadlifts, claimed strength coach Julia Ladewski. Squats mainly work your quads and calves, while deadlifting hammers your posterior chain -- your glutes, hamstrings, lower back and core muscles. It's worth including different versions of these movements, too, such as front or dumbbell squats, and stiff-legged, dumbbell or single-leg deadlifts. Single leg movements, such as lunges, can also be beneficial for women, said corrective exercise specialist Mike Robertson in "Bulletproof Knees." Women tend to suffer from more knee ligament strains than men, but single leg movements help to increase joint strength and stability.
Your upper body can be broken down into two sections -- the muscles that perform pushing movements, which are your chest, shoulders and triceps, and the pulling muscles -- your back and biceps. Perform both horizontal and vertical movements for both the pushing and pulling muscles, advised trainer and powerlifter Nia Shanks. Horizontal pushes include pushups, bench or dumbbell presses and machine chest presses, while horizontal pulls are rowing variations with dumbbells, barbells, machines or cables. For your vertical work, stick to overhead presses for pushing and chinups or lat pulldowns for pulling.
Perform six exercises per session -- two lower-body and four upper-body. One lower-body move should be a quad-dominant exercise such as a squat or lunge, and one a hip-focused movement -- preferably a deadlift variation, or leg curls or kettlebell swings. For your upper body, perform one exercise from each of the four movement categories. If you feel you have certain weak body parts, such as your arms, glutes or calves, add in one or two lighter exercises for these at the end of each session.
Train three days per week, leaving at least 48 hours between session, as this is the time needed for your muscles to recover, according to the American Council on Exercise. If you're training for strength, use heavy weights for sets of one to five reps; go slightly lighter and shoot for six to 12 reps for muscle growth; and slightly lighter still with sets of 12 or more for muscular endurance.
- Eric Cressey: An Interview with Julia Ladewski
- "Bulletproof Knees": Mike Robertson: 2007
- Nia Shanks: The Women’s Beginner Strength Training Guide to Lift Like a Girl & Look Absolutely Awesome
- American Council on Exercise: What Causes Muscle Soreness and How is it Best Relieved?
- Bodybuilding.com: Female Fitness Bible
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.