Why Lifting Weights for Weight Loss Is a Great Idea

Updated January 12, 2022 by Iulian Ionescu | Read Time min.
weightlifting for weight loss

Most people get flustered when they hear about lifting weights. It’s because weights are, well, heavy and scary. Even when you tell people that you can lift weights for weight loss, they’ll still shake their heads. Images of the bulky Arnold will float through their minds. Thoughts of veins popping out of their necks and lots and lots of grunting. Yeah, I get it. It’s an accurate image of a trope that’s society keeps pushing on you, and you’ve fallen prey to it. Let us debunk those myths together, and by the end of this, you’ll agree that lifting weights for weight loss is not only a good idea but a great idea.

Those Scary, Scary Weights

With the risk of getting some hate mail, I will divide people into three groups based on some non-discretionary attributes. Then, I will attach and debunk some common myths regarding lifting weights that often are raised by those groups.

  1. Women: most women fear lifting weights because they believe that lifting weights might bulk up their bodies and make them look less feminine.
  2. People who are severely overweight: the argument is that they’re way too big to be lifting weights. Lifting weights would be pointless before they get rid of the extra flab around their body.
  3. People who are too skinny: They say, “I’ve never been able to put any muscle on, so this won’t work for me.”

Yes, give me a break; I know that the world population doesn’t fit exclusively into those three groups. Breaking it down that way allows me to get the myths out of the way and reveal the truth.

In addition to this, there are two other limiting beliefs that people usually utter.

  1. I don’t know how to do it,” and I don’t want to pay a trainer to tell me what to do.
  2. I could get hurt.”

Both are fair points, but we’ll debunk these easily as well.

“If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous.”Bret Contreras

weightlifting barbell

Weight Lifting Myths Debunked

Let’s take them one by one.

Weight lifting improves overall strength, which in turn drives an increase in bone density. These benefits are suitable for men and women equally. Putting that extra stress on the bones will add to the bone density, which is very important for women later in life because, after menopause, they are in danger of osteoporosis.

And no, you won’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger either, so long as you tailor the weight lifting program to your body type and size.

People who are severely overweight might think that they need first to do lots of cardio or HIIT to lose the extra flab around their body before they can start hitting the weight rack. That’s plain wrong.

When you have excessive extra fat around your body, lifting weights will force your body to burn fat much faster and easier than cardio. You can weightlift while sitting down and have the same effect on your fat loss as jumping or running.

Last but not least, people who are too skinny sometimes don’t have the confidence to lift weights. Of course, in this case, it’s not about weight loss but about maintaining healthy body weight.

With a proper training regimen and correctly using suitable weights, you can still gain healthy muscle without padding it with fat in the process.

“Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.”Arnold Schwarzenegger

kettlebell weights lifting

The Science Behind Weight Loss

Before we move to the meat of things, let’s touch a bit on the science of weight loss and, to that end, the science of weight gain. This section might get a bit technical, but stick with me; it won’t be too long.

Our bodies are not different from a machine. There are inputs (air, water, food) that convert into fuel or energy, and there are outputs. The outputs consist of everything on our bodies using that energy, including our minds.

So, every time you move your arm, your brain signals the muscles to contract a certain way, and that action uses a bit of that fuel.

Our bodies, therefore, are a conduit for this energy. You don’t have to be familiar with Rudolf Clausius to understand that. However, it bears mentioning that he was the scientist who described in 1850 the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed.

In a nutshell, that means that all the energy within a system, whether it’s your body or the entire Universe, is always constant but moves from place to place.

When you eat food, your body converts it into calories. That conversion process is the energy transformation we discussed above. Now your body is free to use that energy. Some of it powers your brain, some of it powers your heart, and a lot of it will be used to power your muscles.

What happens, though, if the amount of calories you intake for, let’s say, 24 hours, is more than the amount of energy your body needs to function? Where does that energy go? Remember that it can’t be destroyed as per the first law of thermodynamics.

The answer is that this extra energy must be stored. Much like a machine, your body has its own “batteries.” Sadly, those batteries consist of fat storage. Any excess energy that has no place to go will become fat and be stored in your body.

Conversely, when you consume fewer calories than your body needs in 24 hours, your body will reach into those storage “batteries” and retrieve some of that saved-up energy, thus reducing the fat deposits. That is commonly referred to as “burning fat.”

Simple, right? It sounds straightforward at the core, but it’s one of the most complex processes because a gazillion moving parts affect it. The good thing is that you are in control.

“If something stands between you and your success, move it. Never be denied.”Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

lifting weights dumbbell

How Muscles Burn Energy

What happens when you contract your muscle? It doesn’t matter how heavy the weight is, the process is always the same, but the depth of where it goes depends on the weight, the number of repetitions, and how long you lift it.

For your muscles to contract, they require a molecule called ATP (which stands for adenosine triphosphate). This molecule stores energy and releases it when muscles must contract.

There’s a little bit of ADP always ready in the muscles. So, when you pick up a book from the table and move it to the shelf, your arms will use the ADP stored in there.

Once that ATP storage is empty, Phosphocreatine takes over. For the next 15 seconds of your muscle contracting, the Phosphocreatine converts itself into ATP and continues to fuel the muscles.

The next move comes from glycolysis if you continue to contract the muscles. Glycolysis is a process by which glycogen (extra sugar stored in your body) metabolizes into ATP to continue that process.

In other words, your muscle starts converting the extra sugar in your body into kinetic energy (movement).

Glycolysis can continue for about 30 seconds of contractions.

Once that is over, a final process called cellular respiration takes place. Eventually, muscle fatigue sets in when the muscle gets flooded with lactic acid, and you can no longer move. You need to rest that muscle until the ATP stores replenish.

The speed with which those ATP stores get depleted depends, of course, also on the weight you are lifting. The heavier the weight, the faster the process.

So, moving any weight, in general, will cause sugar to be drained out of your body and converted into movement. As we said, energy doesn’t disappear; it simply moves or converts.

That means that if you contract your muscles a lot for long enough periods, you’ll be able to pull a lot of the stored sugar out of your body. When there is no more sugar left to use, your body will tap into its final source of energy: stored fat.

That’s where we wanted to get.

“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision.”Muhammad Ali

barbell rack weights

Reasons To Start Lifting Weights

Now that it’s clear how muscles work, you understand that to tap into and consume those fat storage containers around your body, you must put a certain level of stress on your muscles.

When you lift weights, you force the glycogen to pull out of storage. The goal here is to do it long enough and with a weight heavy enough so you can start burning fat efficiently.

Let’s look now at three detailed reasons why lifting weights for weight loss is a great idea.


Increased metabolism

Metabolism is the cycle of food entering your body, getting converted into energy, and then be used for processes in your body. The slower the metabolism, the longer the energy will be stored in your body. When you lift weights, you force higher amounts of energy to be drawn out for the kinetic energy needed, and, therefore, you accelerate your metabolism. In turn, that will result in more fat storage being used for energy and, thus, more weight loss.


Burn sugar

Because muscles are such high-needs when it comes to energy, they’ll burn sugar at a much higher pace than most other activities. As explained above, you must get through the sugar first before you tap into the fat storage, so using muscles to do that is the best and fastest way.


Increased strength

One great side-effect of lifting weights is increased strength. Note that increased strength doesn’t automatically mean increased size or muscle definition. Your muscles can become stronger – which means that you can lift heavier weights for more extended periods without visibly growing much. That increased strength is not only a great thing to have in life, in general, but it also means that your resting energy expenditure will be higher. That means that your body will consume more energy to maintain those needed levels of ATP in your muscles at all times.

“The pain you feel today is the strength you’ll feel tomorrow.”Unknown

fitness weight training

How To Lift Weights for Weight Loss Safely

Lastly, here are a few tips and techniques you can use to start lifting weights safely.


Decide if you are going to lift at home or the gym

If you are committed to a gym, good for you. Working out in a gym environment has some obvious advantages such as a wide variety of equipment choices and the sheer fact that you are in the gym, thus less likely to do anything else but workout.

On the flip side, though, you do need to haul your behind to the gym every time, and if you are a person with low self-discipline, that might become a hurdle.

Working out at home also has its benefits: it’s easy and right there, so there is little to no resistance. On the other hand, you need to invest money in some equipment, and your home is also a palace of distractions.

If you are serious about lifting weights for weight loss, first decide which one of these will work best for you.


Invest in the right kind of weights and equipment

If you are going to work from home, I suggest you invest in a few types of equipment, as follows:

  1. Resistance bands – you can find packs of these on Amazon, and most of them come with hook systems and handles.
  2. Adjustable weights – these are not cheap, but they pay off in the long run and have the huge advantage of taking very little space and packing a lot of weight. I use Bowflex, but there are many out there. Watch this video where the presenter compares all the various adjustable weights on the market. (https://youtu.be/EVmEgHMhZKY)
  3. A workout bench is optional, but I highly recommend it if you have the space. There will be many exercises that can be done better and safer on the bench.
  4. A good mat – this goes straight to your safety, especially if your home or basement has hardwood floors.

Figure out your goals

If you want to lose weight, you’ll have to go for higher repetitions and lower weight. If your goal is to increase muscle mass, you’ll need to go for lower reps and higher weight.

The general rule is this:

  • 8-10 reps for muscle gain
  • 10-15 reps for weight loss

The last two reps in each case must be HARD. That means that you would have real difficulty doing the 11th or 16th rep.

In the beginning, you won’t know what weight matches with what exercise. So, you’ll have to experiment and identify your starting point for each type of exercise.


Warm-up before lifting weights

Always warm up your entire body and, mainly, the muscles and joints you’ll work during that session. Without a warm-up, you open yourself up for injury and extend your recovery time.

The warm-up doesn’t have to be too long–ten minutes is more than enough. Simply raise your heart rate with a few moves, and then warm up the specific muscle groups through targeted exercises.


Stretch before and after weight lifting

After the warm-up, do a quick stretch of the muscle groups you will work on. Don’t do it for too long or too deep. Simply stretch the muscles out for a bit before you hit the weights.

At the end of your workout, repeat the stretch, but this time, stretch for longer and go deeper than you did in the beginning. That will ensure that your recovery time will be shorter and lessen the pain that will follow after the workout.


Establish a routine

Because you are lifting weights for weight loss or weight maintenance, there are several ways in which you can approach your weekly routine:

  • Full body every day – that means that you’ll do a few exercises on each muscle group
  • Splits – that means that you will exercise one or two muscle groups each day

Here are the muscle groups you will want to tackle:

  1. Shoulders – shoulder press, shoulder flys (sideways or front), upright rows, pike push-ups
  2. Triceps – bench dips, tricep extension (overhead or inclined), military push-up
  3. Biceps – bicep curls (all angles), chin-ups (shoulder-wide or close grip)
  4. Chest – push-ups (wide, regular), bench press, overhead pull
  5. Legs – squats, lunges, step-ups, jumping
  6. Back – bent-over rows, pull-ups (wide, shoulder-width), deadlifts, superman
  7. Abs & Core – planks, sit-ups

Here’s a simple way you can combine these exercises for a week-long plan:

  • Monday: Shoulders & Triceps
  • Tuesday: Biceps & Chest
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Back & Abs
  • Saturday: Rest, Stretch, or Yoga
  • Sunday: Rest or Cardio

Take it easy

Once you decide to go for it, it’s easy to get a little bit lost in the happiness and overexert yourself. That will cause you to get fatigued quickly and have a backlash in the form of a drop in motivation.

Therefore, I recommend you start easy. Don’t go for one hour with max reps from the start. Keep in mind that you’ll experience a lot of muscle pain in the first few weeks as a result of lifting weights.

So, it’s best to start slowly. Maybe begin with twenty minutes and don’t go for the full max weight (which means that the last two reps are not as hard as they should).

After about two weeks, the pain will start to wither away, and you’ll get more confident with your weight lifting.

That’s the time to push the duration. Once you get to 30 minutes per day, you’re in a good place. From there, slowly push the weight up until you get to that sweet spot of 10-15 reps, where the last two are difficult.

At this point, keep going.


Track your progress

As you begin to lift weights, there are two things you need to think about:

A) your outcome – what is it? Weight? Waist size? Body fat? Whatever it is, take a snapshot at the beginning, and then keep tracking your progress weekly. Please don’t agonize too much over it at the beginning, though. There will be no significant results for at least 90 days of consistent weightlifting. Sometimes, it might even take up to 6 months until you see visible results. So, simply measure it to know your trend.

B) your level – you need to slowly increase the weight up to a certain point to make progress. That will ensure that, over time, you become leaner, stronger, and you decrease the amount of fat while increasing the amount of lean muscle. Therefore, you need to keep track of the max weight for each type of exercise and track your progress. When it comes to body-weight exercises, such as push-up, pull-ups, or sit-ups, you will track the number of reps you can do and hopefully increase it over time.

“The pain of discipline is nothing like the pain of disappointment.”Justin Langer

fitness gym workout

Those No Longer Scary Weights

So, how do you feel about lifting weights now? No longer so scary? If yes, I’ve done my job.

Weight loss as a whole is a behemoth. I’ve been doing it for about 20 years now. In the beginning, I was a skinny lad who needed to make new holes in every belt to keep my pants from falling. Fast forward five years, and I had ballooned to the point where I had to replace belts with suspenders. Well, not really, but it felt like it.

I know the journey and how intimidating it is to be inside the gym and stare at those weight racks. However, once you grab one and start to feel that ATP pushing your muscles, there’ll be no way back. Does this mean pushing your physical limits a little bit over your comfort zone? Sure, it does. But that’s the only way to make progress!

So, when are you starting?

Other Resources on Lifting Weights for Weight Loss

Now, before you go, I have…

3 Questions For You

  1. Are you afraid of lifting weights? If so, what do you think drives that fear?
  2. If you do lift weights, what is your go-to exercise routine?
  3. Do you have a gym membership or do you prefer working out at home?

Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!



exercise, fitness, wellness

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