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How to Lift to Lose Weight

By Mike Samuels ; Updated July 18, 2017

Lifting weights to lose weight may go against the common idea of performing more aerobic activities to shed the pounds, but weightlifting is a highly effective mode of training for fat loss. Your lifting routine for weight loss will be slightly different from a muscle-gaining or strength-building one, but you still need to hit the weights hard for maximum results.

Picking the Right Exercises

Choosing easy exercises, particularly single-joint ones such as biceps curls and calf raises just doesn't cut it. Coach Michael Stefano recommends sticking to multi-joint moves. Big exercises, like bench presses and deadlifts, are far more challenging, work more muscles and burn more calories. Plus, the smaller muscle groups like your arms still get worked with these multi-joint compound exercises. (Ref 1)

Selecting Your Weights

Sticking with lighter weights and performing dozens of repetitions to feel the burn can be tempting, but it doesn't provide enough of a challenge to stimulate weight loss. Beginners should pick a weight they can't complete more than 12 to 15 repetitions with, while more advanced lifters should go heavier for six to eight reps per set, advises trainer Alwyn Cosgrove of Results Fitness in California. (Ref 2) These sets may be shorter than high-rep sets with light weights, but they're much more demanding and more conducive to weight loss.

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Exercise Pairings

To get more from your workouts, pair exercises together rather than taking a rest after every set. Putting exercises back to back with no rest between can increase the production of testosterone -— abundant in men but present in small amounts in women — and support muscle growth while boosting mood and energy and raise metabolism, both of which aid fat loss, according to trainer Mehmet Edip of Muscle and Fitness. (Ref 3) Pair exercises for different muscle groups together, so your strength on the second exercise isn't compromised. Examples include back squats paired with bench presses, military presses with front squats or dumbbell lunges with single-arm rows.

General Tips

The more often you train, the more calories you'll burn, but you need rest, too. Aim for three or four weight training workouts per week, with a day off between each workout. Aim to make some sort of improvement from session to session, be that using progressively heavier weights, performing more reps or cutting down your rest time. Add 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio on days between your weights sessions or at the end of the weights workouts. Reduce your calories to aid weight loss.

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