January 28, 2023

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Strength

3 min read

Can you use strength training exercises for weight loss? While past decades were dominated by jogging, hitting the gym and lifting weights has become ever-more popular now if you want to drop pounds.

These exercises have a plethora of benefits, from boosting your bone density to increasing your lean mass (provided you hit your daily protein quota, with help from the best protein powders for weight loss (opens in new tab)).

If that’s not reason enough to reach for your nearest pair of adjustable dumbbells (opens in new tab), science suggests strength training can also be used as a tool for weight loss. While its primary purpose is (as the name suggests) building strength, research in the Current Sports Medicine (opens in new tab) journal says 10 weeks of resistance training can help you lose fat and gain lean mass.

To set you on your way to using strength training exercises for weight loss, we spoke to expert instructor Rachael Penrose (opens in new tab), a trainer at F45 Paddington. Read on to find out how to get started, and take your training to new heights.  

Rachel Penrose is a trainer at functional training gym F45 Paddington in the U.K. Born in Sydney, Australia, she began dance training at just three years old and went on to perform as a soloist in an all Australian female revue show while living in Las Vegas. Having always had a passion for wellbeing, she moved to London in 2017 and entered the world of fitness. Since then, she has accumulated a wide client base, fronted fitness events and programmed workouts for an array of exercise brands.  

How to start strength training exercises for weight loss

When learning how to use strength training to torch fat, it’s first important to understand the key principle behind weight loss: a calorie deficit (opens in new tab). In simple terms, this means you are expending more energy (or calories) than you are consuming during a day.

Penrose explains that adding strength training into your schedule will burn calories and increase your total daily energy expenditure, helping you achieve a calorie deficit. But this isn’t the only way it can help. 

“Scientifically speaking, an individual with a higher muscle to fat mass will burn more calories,” she says. “Strength training will increase your muscle mass, burn calories (as any form of physical exercise does) and has numerous other health benefits.”

So, if you’re new to strength training, how should you make your first foray into this exercise method? Penrose has an answer for this too. 

“If you are a total beginner, I would recommend investing in a personal trainer or group fitness classes with a focus on technique as it is very important that you learn to lift weights correctly.”

She recommends starting with functional, compound exercises like the squat and lunge, as well as push and pull movements like push-ups and bent-over rows. 

Six strength training exercises for weight loss

Woman performing a weighted squat

(Image credit: Getty

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3 min read

Fact: A full-body strength workout doesn’t need to be overly long or filled with complicated exercises in order to be effective. This four-move, total-body routine proves you can hit every major muscle group without spending hours in the gym doing a million different exercises.

“I’m a huge believer in the minimum effective dose,” ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, C.P.T., owner of Strong With Sivan, tells SELF. That means focusing on the quality of a workout rather than the quantity as a way to get the most bang-for-your-exercise-buck and progress towards your goals.

Focusing on quality is really about having good form and giving your best effort, no matter how long your workout is. With this approach, you can get super solid results while saving yourself time and energy and reducing your risk of injury, says Fagan.

One easy way to get a quick-yet-effective total-body workout? Incorporate compound movements, which are exercises that involve multiple joints and stimulate large muscle groups. Compared to isolation movements, which target just one muscle, compound movements are a great choice for getting a lot done in a short period of time. And if you pick compound exercises that follow the four major movement patterns—hinging, squatting, pressing, and pulling—your workout becomes that much more efficient and functional.

Including unilateral exercises is another solid way to get the most from a workout when you want to keep it simple. Unilateral exercises require you to rely on the strength of just one limb to perform a movement, which means they often feel more intense than bilateral moves (moves done with two limbs). And because unilateral work demands balance, your core has to fire more too, in order to keep you stable and resist bending or rotating, as SELF previously reported.

The following four-move dumbbell workout, which Fagan created for SELF, checks all of these boxes. It hits the major movement patterns with compound moves and incorporates lots of unilateral work too, so you can smoke every major muscle group in your body in a short amount of time.

Depending on your fitness level, you can do this routine two to three times a week, either as a standalone routine or as part of a larger workout. One easy way to add it to a larger workout? Combine it with some shorter core and/or shoulder work, says Fagan (though you certainly don’t need to add on; this is a super-solid workout by itself). However you choose to do this routine, make sure to pencil in enough rest in between sessions so your muscles have enough time to recover—scheduling at least 48 hours of downtime is a good general rule of thumb.

Also important: Before jumping into this routine, do a quick warm-up to mobilize your joints and activate your muscles. Several minutes of moves like pull-aparts, arm swings, squats, and striders can do the trick, says Fagan. (You can also try this five-minute dynamic warm-up here.)

Then, when doing the actual workout, be sure to give it your

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