How to Use Weight Training to Burn Fat and Build Lean Muscle at the Same Time

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In this article I’ll discuss the ins and outs of using weight training and give you an actionable plan to use the next time you go to the gym.

There are plenty of resources to show you how to lose fat along.  General advice will tell you to do more cardio, eat less calories, or “take a 7 day cleanse”.  There is a reason a lot of this advice falls short and doesn’t produce the results that you expect after you commit to it.

These methods don’t cover how to lose fat WITHOUT LOSING ANY MUSCLE.  When you’re in the middle of a fat loss program and your muscle starts to break down while your losing fat is a direct cause of the skinny fat physique.

It is possible to lose fat and still maintain a lean physique simply keeping all of the hard earned muscle at the same time by using weight training and that’s what this post is going to show you.

In order to understand how this is done, you need to understand one important fact.

Not All weight loss is created equal.

When someone tells me their goal is to “lose weight” I know there is already a lot of work to be done simply in terms of changing their mindset and approach to fitness as a whole.  You see, your body is made up of more than just fat and muscle tissue.

A lot actually:

  1. Bones
  2. Muscle
  3. Fat tissue
  4. Organ tissue
  5. Blood
  6. Water
  7. Glycogen Stores

If you want to lose “weight”, you can simply have  a hack of one of your arms and you’ll lose about 10 quick pounds.

Really when you want to lose weight, what you want to do is reduce your body fat levels, but keep all of the muscle that you already have.

There is only 1 un-negotiable requirement to losing fat and that is… a caloric deficit.

This is simply eating less calories than you are burning.  A caloric defecit is going to be specific to each person depending on a bunch of different factors.  Age, sex, starting weight, activity level,  and genetics all play a role in determining the best defecit for you.

The only way to truly find what works for you is to experiment.

  1. Choose a starting point for baseline calories to eat on a daily basis you can use this formula.

 Bodyweight x 10 = caloric deficit

  1. Eat this amount consistently as you weight yourself DAILY.
    • The best time to do this is in the morning as soon as you wake up, after you go to the bathroom, before you ingest anything.
  2. Evaluate the results after two weeks by taking the AVERAGE weight of each week.

You should be losing at least 1-2 pound a week to determine if its working.  Anymore than 3 pounds is a red flag and a pretty good indication you might be losing some muscle mass at the same time.

Since our goal is to keep our muscle mass during this caloric deficit this is how we are going to use weight training to do it.

1. Strength training

Strength training is the most important if you’re going to be lifting weights while on a caloric deficit.  Since you’re eating less, your metabolism is going to desperate to find an energy source to fuel your workouts without its usual caloric intake its grown accustomed to.  In general it has two places to find it, your fat storage, or your muscle tissue. Strength training signals your neuro system that you are going to need that muscle mass to survive and essentially directs it to use whatever else is available as energy.

The American Journal of clinical nutrition did a study in which participant both on a caloric deficit introduced different styles of training into their routine in an effort to lose body fat in the following combinations: Caloric deficit, caloric deficit and aerobic exercise(cardio), caloric deficit and high intensity resistance training (strength training).

At the end of the study, the research  concluded the individuals who used strength training to supplement a caloric deficit maintained a higher lean body mass than those in a caloric deficit alone or those using cardio as an alternative. [1]

Summary: 

You must understand that your body doesn’t interpret weight lifting specifically as a calorie burning activity.  Your body is always looking to optimize itself on the path of least resistance by accomplishing the most work through the easiest route.

Strength training stimulates your muscle fibers in a way that signals to your brain that you need to your muscle for every day activities.  Keep your focus on not losing strength and the result will be you wont lose muscle.

2. Train with High Volume and Intensity

As is relates to training, volume is simply how much work such as how many reps of a certain exercise you do in a specified period of time. In order to lose fat, keep, and even build some muscle at the same time, you definitely want to introduce high volume style training into your routines especially in the form of supersets, tri-sets and giant sets.

Supersets and volume training works to burn fat by increasing your growth hormone levels and testosterone, both key hormones that help speed up the fat burning process.  A study done on the effect of superset training even concluded that this type of training increases the after-burn effect of exercise (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).  This means that training with supersets can actually make you burn fat up to 24-48 hours after your exercise is done![2]

Research has shown that programs incorporating high volume style training combined with strength training increased strength, and lean mass gains compared to high volume style workouts not including strength training. [3]

Summary and application:

Introducing The lean muscle training model

There are a few different supersets you can include in your training to name a few:

  1. Antagonist muscles: Working two opposite muscle groups ie. Biceps and Triceps
  2. Strength Curve Superset: Working to parts of the range of the same muscle group. Ie. Incline dumbbell bench and Incline dumbbell Fly
  3. Mechanical Advantage Drop Sets: The same exercise at different angels to annihilate muscle fibers from every angle, build strength and endurance. This works by putting your body in a mechanically advantageous position each exercise.

Introducing The Lean Muscle Training Model

 To add supersets to your training, pick 2-3 exercises using the concepts above.  In the first set perform 6-8 reps of the exercise.  As soon as you finish, with no more than 10 seconds rest either decrease or maintain the same weight and do the next exercise.  Take 45 seconds to a minute after that exercise is done.

As an example, you can see me demonstrate a mechanical advantage drop set on an incline chest press.

 

 

3. Avoid Excessive Cardio (Or just don’t do any)

This was excellent news to me the first time I started looking into the concept of ditching cardio to lose fat.  Cardio is usually the go to form of exercise for people starting out to lose fat, but if you are just starting out or if you’ve been at this for a while, I don’t want you to make that mistake.

Like we covered in the beginning, Fat loss comes down to you burning more calories than you are taking in.  Any exercise you are doing is going to help you with that goal, even cardio.

However, cardio isn’t the best option for you to lose fat because  cardio doesn’t burn many calories relative to the work being done, cardio influences your hormones in a way that actually promotes excess fat storage, and cardio makes you weaker.

Research has continuously proven that subjects using a weight routine gain significantly more lean body mass than those on a cardio only routine [4]  This is important, because the more lean body mass you have on your body, the more your metabolism is going to work meaning more calories burned and more fat loss.

In addition, cardio is an extremely catabolic activity, especially for guys.  Have you ever compared the physique of a long distance runner, to that of a sprinter?  Long distance runners have very little muscle mass, often look frail or soft, and have a hard time gaining any muscle mass.  Sprinters on the other hand are solid, explosive and strong.

This is because doing excessive cardio lowers your testosterone levels, increases estrogen levels, and releases cortisol (the stress hormone).  This is not a friendly environment for muscle building and promotes the collection of excess fat only making it harder to reach your ultimate fat loss goal. [5]

Summary:

If your primary goal is fat loss, and you don’t want to lose any muscle while dropping weight, the best thing you can do is to avoid slow steady state cardio at all costs.  Stick to the weight training guidelines listed above and you’ll be on your way to faster fat loss.

Conclusion:

To optimize your body for fat loss, using weight training as an alternative to cardio may help you lose more fat, retain your muscle and result in a leaner, more muscular physique.

All weight loss is not created equal, and fat loss does not come over night.  It takes a proven structured plan in order to lose fat and maintain lasting results.

If you want more information about fat loss, I recommend downloading my infographic I call the 5 secrets of fat loss a 1 page guide where I cut out all of the nonsense surrounding the topic of fat loss.  Ill give you 5 actionable steps you can take today to start seeing more results.

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Sources

[1] Katch, and Becque. "Resistance Weight Training during Caloric Restriction Enhances Lean Body Weight Maintenance | The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition | Oxford Academic." OUP Academic. January 01, 1988. Accessed April 14, 2018. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/47/1/19/4694815?redirectedFrom=PDF.

[2]Alcaraz, P., et al. Similarities in Adaptations To High-Resistance Circuit Vs. Traditional Strength Training in Resistance Trained Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011. 25(9), 2519-2527.

[3]Mangine, Gerald T., Jay R. Hoffman, Adam M. Gonzalez, Jeremy R. Townsend, Adam J. Wells, Adam R. Jajtner, Kyle S. Beyer, Carleigh H. Boone, Amelia A. Miramonti, Ran Wang, Michael B. LaMonica, David H. Fukuda, Nicholas A. Ratamess, and Jeffrey R. Stout. "The Effect of Training Volume and Intensity on Improvements in Muscular Strength and Size in Resistance-trained Men." Physiological Reports. August 2015. Accessed April 14, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562558/.

[4] Hamid Reza Mohammadi, Mohammad Sadegh Khoshnam, Ebrahim Khoshnam. Effects of Different Modes of Exercise Training on Body Composition and Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in Middle-aged Men
Int J Prev Med. 2018; 9: 9. Published online 2018 Jan 29. doi: 10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_209_16

[5] Alghadir, Ahmad H., Sami A. Gabr, and Farag A. Aly. "The Effects of Four Weeks Aerobic Training on Saliva Cortisol and Testosterone in Young Healthy Persons." Journal of Physical Therapy Science. July 2015. Accessed April 14, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4540811/.





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