Lately, I’ve been running into too many women in my life where the conversation goes something like this:

Me: “Wow. Look at you! You look great.”

Lady: “Thanks. I lost 15LBS. I still got another 15 to go to reach my target weight.”

Me: “What’s your secret?”

Lady: “I do loads of cardio 5 days a week and am really eating a lot better. But the weight loss seems to be slowing down.”

Me: “What about strength training?”

And this is where I get stared at like I’m an alien and told something along the lines of: “I can’t gain muscle until I lose weight because muscle under a layer of fat will only make me look bigger” or “I don’t want to bulk up.”

Sound familiar?

Ladies, the above conversation lead me to writing this article because so many women have the wrong information on weight loss and strength training that it makes me cringe. If you are one of those gals who thinks cardio is the only way to go, and that strength training should be left to da boys, you need to read on. Seriously! Do yourself a favor and take the time to read this article and get all the facts.

Gentlemen – a lot of this info applies to your weight loss goals too, so please read on.

Let’s start with some MUSCLE FACTS (provided by blogger BuffMother):

  • After puberty your essential muscle growth is over and your muscle starts to deteriorate.
  • As you age you lose muscle. “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
  • The act of pregnancy further accelerates your muscle loss. The amount of protein your baby needs to develop requires the baby to steal protein (muscle) from you!
  • Dieting and aerobic exercise without strength training causes muscle loss.
  • Weight training re-builds your lost muscle.
  • Women who weight train won’t increase their muscle size much, just their muscle’s density and strength. So forget the fear of “bulking up.”

Cardio and Strength Training SHOULD be a Team Effort

Are you one of those people who goes to the gym day-in and day-out and spends an hour or two on the treadmill?

Cardio is without a doubt a great weight loss tool, but it should never be the only tool in the toolbox.

Heres the deal – With most forms of traditional long duration cardio, you use up calories WHILE you’re exercising, but once you stop, the calorie burning stops too.

Furthermore, if you’re over doing the cardio it can lead to becoming catabolic. Being in a catabolic state means that your body begins to eat muscle tissue for fuel instead of fat-stores and calories. This leads to having less lean mass, causing you to look mushier (for lack of a better term). It also makes your metabolism slow down which means you are going to find yourself having to eat like a mouse just to maintain that new weight. PLUS, youll make yourself bananas from feeling like youre constantly starving. Yo-yo dieting anyone?!

Strength Training and Weight Loss

Strength training, on the other hand, builds muscle. And guess what? MUSCLE BURNS CALORIES! Even when youre lazy on the couch!

True, you might burn less calories during a 60-minute strength sesh than you would running for the same amount of time, but when you strength train, your muscles are broken down and then rebuilt. Your body uses fat-stores and calories to rebuild the muscle tissue which takes between 24 to 48 hours. In other words, your body KEEPS burning calories and fat for up to two whole days after your workout is done (aka the “after burn” effect). Take that cardio!

Harvard researchers found men who lifted weights for 20 minutes a day had less belly fat than those who spent the 20 minutes doing cardio. As for women: this study found resistance training helps women reduce their risk of stomach fat.

Another study found that 9 months of resistance training increased study participants resting metabolic rate by an average of 5%. Adding one pound of muscle will burn only an extra 5-10 calories per day, but every little bit helps you inch closer to the calorie deficit needed to lose weight.

The more muscle you have on your body the more fat you burn, the more calories you burn. If you have enough muscle on your body you can eat a reasonable diet without gaining weight -this is the definition of having a high metabolism.

Having a good amount of muscle is essential if you want to burn off body fat, and makes it much easier to stay slim.

You Wont Bulk Up

Women are programmed to believe that IF they do strength training they must stick to weights that are extremely light, and do dozens of repetitions so that they can tone up without getting manly arms and legs.

But it’s actually really hard for a woman to bulk up like a man. Women dont have the same Testosterone levels as men do, which is a main hormone for mass building. Therefore, it takes a lot of work, a lot of weight, and often supplements to look like a bodybuilder. Instead of becoming massive, you are going to reshape your body, find it easier to stay slender, and get the long and lean muscles that many women want.

Fat Covering Muscle

There is a big misconception about what causes bulk. “Bulk isn’t muscle; it is muscle covered by fat,” said Mike Roussell author, nutritional consultant and frequent Mens Health contributor. “So if you feel that you are too bulky, then its important to fine-tune your diet to lose the excess fat – not give up weight training.

Older Women NEED to Strength Train

Many women feel that after menopause and the chance for osteoporosis that strength training should be avoided for fear of hurting themselves. But this is when you need to strength train more than ever! Studies have shown that in post-menopausal women, strength training preserved bone density while improving muscle mass, strength, and balance. See! It REDUCES the chance of injury!

Age is only a number. Check out this 80-year old granny on The Human Trainer.

Our Suggestions

There is no need to be intimidated by weights and strength training. Start simple (and lighter) and work your way up. But remember,lifting heavier weights for fewer reps burns significantly more calories (for two hours after your workout) than more reps with lighter weights.

The idea is to get your heart rate up and keep it there, but you also want to make sure the weight you use is challenging enough without causing you to lose your form. You can even use Resistance Bands instead of free weights.

Try this simple yet effective Dumbbells Workout for Beginners by LivingStrong.com.

We recommend that you do 3 strength training workouts per week. Cardio can be done for 10-20 minutes before and after these routines as a calorie burning warm up and cool down. HIIT, can be done on days in between muscle building routines.

For strength training, we suggest circuit training (3 sets each of 3-4 total body exercises back-to-back). For example, with dumbbells in hand, do bent-over rows, then go straight into Romanian deadlifts, and then squats without resting in-between. Once you finish that round you can rest for 30 seconds and do it again. If you want different exercises try kettlebell swings, suspension training, or even battle rope exercises.

For cardio, we suggest interval training. Shorter workouts with intervals are much more effective than running or using a machine for 40-plus minutes every other day. An interval is a short period of exercise performed at high intensity for a specific length of time. Each interval is separated from the next by a short period of rest or lighter activity. Try alternating one minute fast and one minute slow for 10 minutes and then run at a slower pace for 5 minutes to cool down. Even though youre exercising for a short period, youll still net greater fat loss using this method.

Research published in the journal Metabolism?showed greater muscle gains and fat loss in one group of subjects who exercised at a higher intensity for 15 weeks than a second group who exercised at a steady pace for 20 weeks. Although more calories were burned by the steady group, the interval training group lost much more subcutaneous fat.

DONT FORGET-to always warm up and cool down and give your body the time it needs to heal by taking rest days.

The Scale is Deceptive!

Muscle is denser than fat, and one pound of fat takes up about four times as much space as muscle. If your clothes are fitting better and you look good and feel good, forget the scale! Your body composition is changing. Youre losing fat and gaining muscle.

Don’t Forget About Diet

Make sure you’re not compensating for a bad diet with extra cardio. There is no win in this situation.

Yes, exercise is key for weight loss and weight maintenance, but dont forget that diet is 80% of the equation.?Research shows that a combination of diet and exercise is the way to go for sustaining it.


The Bottomline – The more muscle you have, the more fuel you’re constantly burning. Though cardio is often seen as a quick fix to shed body fat, strength training is a must to get to your weight loss goals and help you to look and feel your best

Article By: Fitness Dame
Resources: fitnessblender.com, breakingmuscle.com, huffingtonpost, drnatashaturner.com

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