At the core of it, losing weight comes down to numbers: You must expend a higher number of calories than you take in to burn fat and lose weight. Your diet plays a key role, as does cardio, but lifting weights could actually have just as much of an impact, if not more. The secret to weight training for weight loss when you have 15 pounds to lose is to pick tough exercises and give them your all.
Hit your whole body in each workout. By working your entire body in every session, you maximize your calorie burn per workout. Take a day's rest between sessions and train three times per week.
Split your workouts in two, advises strength coach Nia Shanks. In workout one, perform a squat variation such as a barbell squat, dumbbell squat or split squat and two upper-body moves. One of these should be a pulling movement, such as an inverted row or a dumbbell row, and the other should be a pushing movement, such as a bench press. In workout two, perform a deadlift variation, then a different pull and push combination such as chinups and shoulder presses or pulldowns and dips.
Lift heavy weights. The idea that high reps/low weight tones muscle and is better for fat loss is false. Lifting heavier actually burns more calories, particularly after your workout, according to trainer Charlotte Hilton Andersen of "Shape" magazine. Perform each exercise for two or three sets of eight to 10 tough repetitions.
Keep your rest periods down. Shorter rest periods elevate your heart rate and increase calorie burn. Set a timer and rest for no more than 90 seconds between each set.
Perform your exercises in a circuit style. This is a more advanced technique but can be a useful addition to your program once you're a few weeks in. Instead of resting between every set and performing all your sets on one exercise before moving to the next, set up all your exercises and perform them back to back. Rest for 90 seconds to two minutes after completing the final exercise, then go back to the start.
Calculate your calorie needs. It may not have anything to do with lifting, but what you put in your body when dieting is as important as how hard you work in the gym. You need roughly 15 times your body weight in pounds in calories every day to maintain weight, and it takes a calorie deficit of 3,500 to lose 1 pound. Find your daily maintenance level and subtract 500 from this to find the number of calories you should take in each day to lose 1 pound per week. Or subtract 1,000 if you'd like to lose 2 pounds per week.
- Add cardio into your routine on your nonweights days to increase calorie burn. Perform either 30 minutes of moderately paced steady-state work, or 15 minutes of intervals, where you work at maximum intensity for 30 seconds, then a steady pace for 60 seconds and repeat 10 times. Use any cardio machine for this.
- Consult your doctor before jumping into a weights routine, and get your form checked by a trainer if you're not too familiar with lifting weights.
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.