To lose weight and develop toned muscles, take a break from the cardio machines and choose strength training instead. When combined with proper diet, consistent weight lifting has been shown to provide quicker and longer lasting weight loss results.
Why Strength Training Works
When you lift weights you are actually tearing the tiny fibers that connect to form the muscle. During the 24- to 48-hour recovery period after strength training, the body works to repair the muscle fibers and make them stronger than before. The good news is the body calls on its fat stores for the energy needed to lift the weights, repair the fibers, and keep the muscle alive. This entire process keeps you a fat-burning machine well after your workout is complete.
Developing a Program
The bigger muscle groups such as chest, back, and legs require more calories for energy during strength training. Be sure these areas are targeted at least twice a week with two or three exercises per group. Because the smaller accessory muscle groups such as triceps, biceps and shoulders are already being used with large group movements, they only require an additional day of work on their own. Avoid training the same muscle groups two days in a row to allow for the important recovery phase.
Sets and Repetitions
The ultimate goal of any weight-training program is muscle fatigue. Choose weights, sets and repetitions that take the muscle to failure by the end of the workout. This can be achieved by lifting lighter weights for a greater amount of repetitions, or heavier weights for fewer repetitions. The number of sets you complete can vary depending on the number of exercises you choose and the amount of time you are able to spend lifting weights. Aim for your strength routine to last about 30 to 40 minutes.
As you progress through your weight-training program, your body will begin to adapt to the exercises and become more efficient. When you become stronger, increase the weight or number of repetitions to still achieve muscle failure. For an additional challenge, vary the exercises you choose or the exercise order every 12 weeks. With a four-day-a-week consistent and varied strength program, your weight-loss goals will be within reach.
Vicki Vara has been a fitness professional for more than 15 years, working in health clubs, studios and schools. She is certified as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, holistic nutrition consultant and Pilates instructor. Vara holds a bachelor's degree in exercise science from the University of Delaware.