Gaining weight is easy but losing weight is hard work. Just as crash diets fail to achieve long-term fat loss, so, too, a sedentary person can't just walk into the gym and do massive daily workouts to completely reshape her body in a few weeks. The best workouts to lose weight are long-term plans that gradually help you build muscle mass and lose fat safely.
If you're completely sedentary, gradually work up to 150 minutes of cardio and two strength-training sessions per week as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exercise machines or resistance bands are the safest equipment for beginners. On strength-training days, warm up with 10 minutes of low-intensity cardio exercise. Perform one set each of eight to 12 repetitions of approximately 10 exercises, working all major muscle groups, selecting weights you can lift no more than 12 to 15 times. A typical group of exercises includes chest press, seated row, lat pulldown, overhead press, leg press, stability ball abdominal exercises, flyes, thigh abductors, thigh adductors and Roman chair back exercises. On the days you are not doing strength training, aim for 30 minutes of moderate cardio to increase weight loss.
After you have been doing beginning level workouts for at least six weeks with no injuries, you're ready to do intermediate level split workouts. Although one set of each exercise is adequate for basic toning, you'll lose more weight and increase muscle mass faster by doing three full sets, using weights you can lift no more than 12 times. Lift on a three-day cycle, with Day 1 being upper body, Day 2 lower body and core and Day 3 high-intensity cardio. On Day 1, do chest press, seated row, lat pulldown, overhead press, flyes, reverse flyes, biceps curls, triceps extensions, upright rows and front dumbbell raises. On Day 2, do leg presses, leg curls, leg extensions, thigh abductors, thigh adductors, calf raises, stability ball obliques and abdominals, Roman chair back extensions and side bends.
If you have reached a plateau at the intermediate level, work with an experienced personal trainer to develop a customized advanced-level program. Advanced lifters often prefer free weights to recruit stabilizer muscles, performing, for example, barbell squats and bench presses rather than using leg and chest press machines. Moving from a two-day split to a four-day split routine allows you to target individual muscle groups more precisely, but requires a commitment of at least an hour a day six days a week in the gym. At the advanced level, lifters fatigue muscles by following three traditional sets with additional ones with either higher weights and fewer reps or drops sets, consisting of decreasing weight until you have worked to failure at the lowest possible weight.
No matter how many calories you burn working out, you won't lose weight if you come home after every workout out and scarf down ice cream and potato chips. For steady weight loss, eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, consuming 250 to 500 fewer calories than you expend each day. Because your body actually gains muscle by breaking down muscle fibers during exercise and rebuilding them between workouts, allow 48 hours between sessions working out a given muscle group. As sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain, get adequate sleep.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Weight - It's Not a Diet, It's a Lifestyle!
- ExRx.net: 2 Day Split Workout
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Short Sleep Duration and Weight Gain: a Systematic Review
- ExRx.net: 4 Day Split Workout
- BodyBuilding.com: Rest & Overtraining
- BodyBuilding.com: Lose Body Fat Now: The Most Effective Methods Explained
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- BodyBuilding.com: What Is The Best Workout For Strengthening Oblique Muscles?
Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.