Did you know that resistance training does much more than build strong muscles and bones? Research in the past few years has confirmed that lifting weights changes your metabolism in ways that improve health and well-being. That’s good news for people with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol levels.

Resistance exercise also improves resting metabolic rate. That means that your body burns energy faster when you are not moving. Indeed, some authors call resistance training an exercise therapy program (Strasser & Schobersberger 2011). That’s a powerful swing of the pendulum from days when pushing barbells and mastering squats were seen primarily as ways to boost strength, muscular endurance and bone density.

Learn how strength training helps you lose weight and what type of weight training works from IDEA authors Zachary Mang, MS, Amber Logan, Fabiano Amorim and Len Kravitz, PhD,  program coordinator of exercise science and a researcher at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

The Facts

Are you or is someone close to you obese? (A body mass index over 30 generally indicates obesity.) You’re not alone. About 39.8% of Americans have obesity: 42.8% of adults ages 40–59; 20.6% of adolescents ages 12–19; and 18.4% of youth ages 6–11 (Hales et al. 2017).

The good news is that resistance exercise is an effective way to help, because this type of training increases your lean body mass while shrinking fat mass (Strasser & Schobersberger 2011).

Research on Resistance Training

A review of research studies noted that resistance training programs typically boost muscle mass by a minimum of 2.2–4.4 pounds. Many studies show that weight training programs also reduce visceral fat (which is actually inside the abdominal cavity and isn’t easily seen). Visceral fat is associated with the development of abnormal cholesterol levels, hypertension, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and
cardiovascular disease (Stras­ser & Schobersberger 2011).

 How resistance training promotes fat loss. The overload of resistance training stimulates muscles to activate some specialized hormones that are very involved in prompting the body to burn more fat. Over time, the increase in muscle size from resistance training triggers the body to burn more calories during exercise. These muscle adaptations from resistance exercise also increase your resting metabolic rate (the calories you burn at rest), thus helping achieve weight loss goals.

Practical Recommendations

Many different resistance training techniques can increase muscle mass and reduce the risks of obesity. Recent research on weight training found that volume—number of sets x repetitions x load (amount of weight)—is a critical factor in improving muscle mass (Schoenfeld, Ogborn & Krieger 2017).

The study found a clear relationship between the number of sets you do and hypertrophy, the scientific term for muscle growth. In counting weekly sets per muscle group, the researchers found that significant muscle growth occurred with the following: <5 sets (+5.4%); 5–9 sets (+6.5%); and >10 sets (+9.6%).

Consult with a certified personal trainer to get help developing an effective program for your personal weight loss needs. (Find trainers at pro.ideafit.com/fitnessconnect.)

Benefits of Weight Training: Thanks for the Lift

In addition to helping you lose weight, increasing strength can help you improve these factors:

  • blood pressure
  • cholesterol levels
  • insulin sensitivity
  • lipid profiles
  • cardiovascular function
  • body composition