Most people look to the scale in order to assess their fitness or see results from exercise. However, body weight is NOT an accurate measure of physical fitness. The number on the scale does not necessarily relate to your exercise performance. “Weight loss” is in quotations because it is possible for you to achieve your appearance and performance goals without significantly changing the numbers on the scale.
With that being said, body composition measurements, lean body mass (muscle) and body fat percentage, are better
indicators of one’s progress. Decreasing the percentage of body fat should be the main focus, as opposed to overall weight loss; and strength training has been proven to be more effective for altering body composition than ‘cardio’ (aerobic exercise).
- Muscle tissue plays a major role in our metabolism; the more muscle tissue we have, the more calories (and fat!) we can burn.
- Strength training, when done correctly, increases our lean body mass (amount of muscle tissue) while simultaneously decreasing our body fat percentage.
- Along with the benefits during a workout, strength training also has the ability to keep your metabolism elevated after a workout. Therefore allowing you to continue to burn fat while you aren’t exercising.
- Comparatively, during aerobic exercise (long distance running/walking, cycling, etc.) we burn through our fat stores and muscle tissue, as well as losing water weight from sweat. So although we are “losing weight” from cardio, we are also sacrificing muscle tissue.
- Also, aerobic exercise does not show the same post-exercise effects on metabolism as strength training.
- Strength training increases the activity and effectiveness of hormones that control our metabolism and body composition.
- Train the whole body about 3x a week, with rest days in between
- Beginner lifters should select weights that they can lift for 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps. More experienced lifters can try heavier weights for 3 sets of 6-8 reps
- Only rest for about 1 minute or less between sets; try to alternate sets of lower-body and upper-body exercises in order to keep the intensity of the workout high while allowing parts of our body to recover.
- Periodically increase the weights and variety of your exercises so that your muscles are constantly being challenged.
Points to Remember
- Because we are increasing our muscle tissue, strength training may initially result in weight gain. However, though the number on the scale is increasing, our body fat percentage will decrease and physical fitness will improve.
- Cardio is still important for improving ones fitness, cardiovascular and respiratory health and should be
included in weekly exercise schedules. It is just not as effective for altering body composition as strength training.
- Diet must be monitored– Keep in mind that nutrition goes hand-in-hand with weight loss and changes in body composition. In regards to strength training, it is important to consume a sufficient amount of protein daily in order to build and recover muscle tissue.
- Rest days- We must give our muscles time to recover from exercise to prevent prolonged muscle soreness, decrease the chance of injury, and ensure the effectiveness of our next workout.
By David McCalla