If you want to lose weight, you may be wondering what type of exercise will best help you shed those extra pounds.
If you’re a woman, you may have wondered if lifting weights is for you.
Strength training is a great way to burn calories, lose fat and improve your overall health.
This article explains how lifting weights helps women lose weight, along with other helpful tips.
Are you gaining weight by lifting weights?
Weightlifting—also known as strength training—was once reserved for bodybuilders because of the myth that lifting weights makes you get bigger.
While you build muscle by lifting weights, bulking involves other processes. To build significant muscle mass, you have to lift heavy weights and burn more calories than you burn—and even then, it can take months or even years. (1) (2)
In addition, women tend to have lower levels of anabolic – muscle-building hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, which means they have a harder time gaining muscle mass. ( 3 )
Factors such as genetics, diet and body type, as well as the load, volume and intensity of exercise, also affect the rate and extent at which you can build muscle. ( 4 )
If you’re worried that lifting weights will suddenly make you gain weight, rest assured that you won’t.
Does it help you lose weight?
To lose weight and burn fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit, which can be achieved in three main ways:
- we consume fewer calories per day than necessary
- you burn more calories with exercise
- a combination of consuming fewer calories and increased physical activity
While lifting weights can burn calories, it’s not the most efficient way to do it. Cardiovascular training, also known as cardio – which includes running, cycling and swimming – burns more calories per workout than weight training. (5)
However, lifting weights can help you lose weight by building muscle mass. Simply put, muscle is metabolically efficient and supports weight loss by burning more calories at rest. That’s why it’s usually best to add weight training and cardio to your exercise regimen. (6) (7) (8)
Research also shows that your metabolism increases after weight training, meaning you’re still burning extra calories hours after your workout is over. In fact, studies show that your metabolism can stay elevated for up to 72 hours after exercise. (9) (10)
Weight training helps maintain muscle mass during weight loss and thus increases fat loss. (11) (12)
Although weight training will help you lose fat, you may not see much change when you step on the scale, depending on your starting weight and goals. This is because muscle is denser than fat, meaning it takes up less space on your body.
So when you’re losing fat and gaining muscle, you may lose a few inches around your waist, but you won’t see any change on the scale.
In general, adding weight training to your exercise routine along with cardio and a healthy diet is a great way to help you lose weight.
Weight training has many other benefits in addition to weight loss.
You will look thinner
Muscle is denser than fat, which means it takes up less space in the body. So as you build muscle and lose fat, you’ll naturally look leaner and leaner.
In addition, stronger and bigger muscles will give your body a better look. Building muscle and losing fat transforms your body, creating a stronger and leaner appearance.
You will be stronger
The main benefit of weight training is that you will get stronger.
The increase in strength makes daily activities such as carrying goods and playing with children easier. It also reduces the risk of falls and injuries, as you can better maintain body stability. (13) (14)
Weight training is also crucial for bone development because it temporarily puts stress on your bones, which tells your body to strengthen them. This can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, especially in old age. (15) (16) (17) (18)
Lower risk of chronic diseases
Weight training can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and age-related conditions such as sarcopenia, which is the gradual loss of muscle mass and strength associated with aging. (19) (20)
By adding strength training and cardio to your exercise routine, you can improve your health even more. Both forms of exercise provide many benefits, including improved heart health and increases in lung capacity, metabolism, blood flow and muscle mass.
How to get started
Before starting a new exercise regimen, it’s best to talk to your doctor to make sure the plan is safe and right for you. Once you are licensed to exercise, there are many easy ways to add it to your life.
Most experts recommend 3-5 weight training sessions per week along with cardio and rest days. The number of training sessions depends on factors such as training volume, intensity, recovery days and your schedule.
In theory, you can weight train every day, but you must allow 48 hours for the muscle group to recover. For example, if you strain your back and shoulders on Monday, it’s best to wait until Wednesday or Thursday before straining them again.
More exercise is not always better. The quality of your workouts is more important than the quantity. If you can only fit in 2-3 workouts a week, you can still get results – just focus on good form and make sure your workouts challenge you.
Here is an example of a weekly workout:
- monday: exercise for the upper body (arms, shoulders, back)
- Tuesday: a day of active recovery, including cardio (walking, running, cycling, swimming)
- Wednesday: lower body exercise (buttocks, quadriceps)
- Thursday: active recovery, including cardio (walking, running, cycling, swimming) and core training
- friday: training day of your choice (lower or upper body training)
- Saturday: full body high intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Sunday: a rest day with light stretching or light exercise (such as yoga or pilates)
You can also combine workouts if you can’t exercise as often. For example, combine an upper body workout with HIIT and a lower body workout with a core workout.
Depending on the intensity of your exercise, you may need several days of rest. If you’re super tired in the days after weight training, consider adding some light stretching or yoga to your routine.
While it may feel good to lie on the couch when your muscle hurts, try getting up and moving around a bit. This will allow your muscles to rest while encouraging blood flow and active recovery.
Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself and prevent injury is to listen to and respect your body and know your limits.
Remember, the best exercise is the one you can maintain long-term. If you find an exercise routine that fits your lifestyle and schedule, you’re more likely to stick with it, enjoy it, and get the results you’re looking for.
For more guidance, consider working with a fitness trainer who can provide personalized recommendations to help you achieve your unique goals.
While lifting weights can help with weight loss, another important factor is paying attention to your diet. Lifting weights burns calories, but you’ll need to combine it with a proper diet to achieve noticeable weight loss.
You can achieve a caloric deficit by exercising regularly and eating fewer calories. Research has consistently found this to be an effective, sustainable weight loss strategy. (21) (22)
What’s more, if you want to build muscle and strength, it’s important to supply your body with adequate protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. ( 23 )
Although it depends on your goals, body size, and other factors, most people should aim to consume 20-40 grams of protein per meal, or about 1.4-2.0 grams per pound of body weight per day to maintain muscle while losing weight. (24) (25) (26) (27)
Additionally, be sure to include foods that contain healthy fats and complex carbohydrates in your diet to properly fuel your training and recovery. These foods are likely to be rich in beneficial nutrients and can help you feel fuller for longer. ( 28 )
Lifting weights is good for women of all ages and won’t make you fat. Instead, it can help create a leaner, stronger look.
It helps you build strength and muscle, reduces your risk of chronic disease, and can promote weight loss.
An exercise regimen that includes days of weight training targeting different muscle groups, as well as cardio and a nutritious, high-protein diet will support your weight loss efforts.
Although most experts recommend aiming for 3-5 weight training sessions per week, incorporating any weight training into your exercise regimen will be beneficial.