How To Use Weight Training To Lose Weight

In this post, I will not only address how to use weight training to lose weight, but I will also be breaking down all the requirements and concerns of a proper weight training routine/plan in a calorie deficit.

With this knowledge, you should be able to either adapt your existing routine or make your own. But, I will also give an example.

If you want to learn why I think weight training for weight loss is your best option, then you should check out this post.

If you want to know more about the concerns and misconceptions around losing weight in general, you want to check out this post.

As mentioned in that post, the real cause of a weight loss is and has always been a calorie deficit.

The Purpose Of Your Weight Lifting Routine

Unless you want your muscle mass to be part of your weight loss you have to be smart about both your diet and training/exercising.

Doing the right workout routine will help you maintain your muscle mass, and depending on your muscular development it might also build a bit of muscle and strength.

However, the main objective is maintaining strength and muscle mass.

The second but also very important objective of the workout routine is to be what you can describe as conform to a calorie deficit.

Maintaining Muscle Mass

In order to maintain both muscle mass and strength, you need to lift heavy weights. This is simply the most efficient way in my opinion.

In a nutshell, when you are lifting the weights it has to be challenging enough so you can “convince” your body that your strength and muscle is necessary and shouldn’t be burned off as fuel.  Lifting heavy is how you do that.

Conform With A Calorie Deficit

Your total amount of work: exercises, weight, reps and sets (this is usually referred to as training volume) needs to be low because when you are eating fewer calories the tolerance of your body and ability to adapt is weaker.

There is just not the same energy, and if you are pushing your body with the same volume as normal you will most likely be lifting in a fatigued state.

If you are lifting in a fatigued state you can’t lift to your full potential and will end up lifting lighter. Lifting lighter is a slippery slope to start losing strength and muscle.

In other words, the workout routine needs to give the maximum muscle stimulus with the least amount of effort to prevent fatigue.

Furthermore, being fatigued and exhausting yourself by working out too much in general, is for many people associated with an increase in appetite. This is of course not a good thing if you are already dealing with a moderate hunger from eating less food. I talk about this in my other post.

This might come as a surprise if you are used to reading that you need do a ton of intensive cardio to lose weight.

The Workout Routine For Losing Weight

Since training volume needs to be low but you still have to use heavy weights, your workouts need to have fewer reps, sets and or exercises.

The best option, in my opinion, is lifting 3 days per week with a 3-day split using heavy lifting but fewer working sets than normal. This could be somewhere around 8-12 total sets per workout which would consist of 4-6 exercises with 2-3 sets per exercise.

Doing a 3-day split that works for each major muscle group once a week with fewer working sets will make sure you can recover fully even in a calorie deficit.

Reverse Pyramid Training

I recommend using reverse pyramid training for your heavy compound lifts.

Reverse pyramid training is where you do the heaviest lift on the first set with least amount of reps, then drop down the weight about 10 % for each set but increase reps by 2 or 3.


First set:  5 reps with 60 Kg

Second set: 7-8 reps with 54 Kg (-10% of the first set)

Third set: 9-10 reps with 48 Kg (-20% of the first set)

Rest-Pause Training

Another training method that can be particularly beneficial to training in a calorie deficit is one called rest pause. It is performed by doing one normal set followed by 4 smaller sets with little rest in between.


First set: 12 reps

Second – fifth set: 4 reps (15-20 seconds rest in between as all sets)

It should be reserved for isolation movements performed with higher rep ranges such as bend-over-flyes and lateral raises.

By considerably reducing the rest periods your muscles are working hard (muscle recruitment goes up) on all of the reps on each subsequent set. Essentially you are stimulating your muscles harder with fewer repetitions. Doing 3 sets of 12 reps = 36 reps compared to doing rest pause 12+(4×4) = 28.


Example Of A Workout Routine (excl. rest pause)

Workout 1: Chest + arms

Bench press for either 2 or 3 sets of 5 – 10 reps (if you chose 2 sets then do 3 sets of incline and the other way around).

Incline bench press for 2 or 3 sets of 5 – 10 reps

Triceps extensions or skull crushers for 3 sets of 6 – 10 reps

Dumbbell Curls for 3 sets of 6 – 10 reps

Workout 2: Legs + core

(core exercises are less intense, so you can deviate from the 8-12 working sets recommendation)

Squats for 3 sets of 5 – 10 reps

Deadlift for 2 sets of 5 – 10 reps

Calf raises for 3 sets of 10 – 15 reps

Leg raises or toes to bar for 2 sets of 10 – 15 reps

Plank for 2 sets with 30 – 60 seconds hold

Hip bridge hold for 2 sets with 20-30 seconds (optional only use one leg)

Workout 3: Back and shoulders

Pull-downs or weighted pull-ups for 3 sets of 5-10 reps

Overhead shoulder press or seated dumbbell shoulder press for 3 sets of 5-10 reps

Bend-over-flyes for 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Lateral raises for 3 sets of 8-12 reps

When performing heavy compound movements, you should always be resting 2 – 3 minutes in between sets to ensure you are not lifting fatigued.

When performing isolation exercises 1-2 minutes of rest is enough since they don’t involve the same amount of muscle recruitment.

Pushing Strength And Muscle Gains In A Calorie Deficit

If you are beginner, strength and muscle gains will almost be guaranteed even in a calorie deficit.

If you are on a higher level and want to increase strength and muscle, your best option would be to put more focus on 1-2 muscle groups and less focus on others in order to gain strength and muscle in those areas. In other words, increase volume on 1-2 muscle groups and decrease on others.

If you, for example, wanted stronger arms you could change things up and work them 2 times per week but each time with 2 sets instead of 3.

But remember, the main goal is maintaining strength and muscle.

Adding Low Intense Cardio

Cardio is a great way to speed up weight loss, but in my opinion, you should not be doing too much high-intensity stuff while eating 20 – 25 % below your maintenance.

At least not while you also do heavy weight training.

I prefer only doing low-intense stuff like walking or biking. I have found that I can do a considerable amount of low-intense cardio without affecting my appetite.

I recommend taking a walk for somewhere around 45-60 minutes per day. I have actually written a separate article on walking to lose weight.

If you want to be efficient about it, whenever you are going somewhere walk or use the bike instead of your car or public transportation.

I imagine you could also spend your time fixing your garden or cleaning the apartment or house.

walking to burn calories

You can easily burn around 200 calories with 1 hour of brisk walking

Tracking The Right Way

I recommend tracking several different things and not just your scale weight. I have a specific post on this, but you need to understand that it is best to shift focusing solely on scale weight into looking at a broader picture.

First of all, you should always do weekly averages and look at trends instead of day-to-day, but your scale weight might be skewed or not showing fat loss accurately because you could be gaining muscle.

This is particularly true if you are a beginner. Because of this, you should refer to any progress in your lifts when trying to figure out how much fat you are losing.

If you have made significant progress over a longer time duration (1-3 months) you should expect that progress to result in an increase in muscle mass.

Calorie Intake

As I just briefly mentioned in the introduction of this post and have been continuously referring to, in order to lose weight you need a calorie deficit. I recommend getting this by moderately decreasing the calories you eat and moderately increase your physical activities.

Eating somewhere between 20 – 25 % calories below your maintenance is what I recommend.

This simple equation can help you out:

For pounds: Your bodyweight x 11.25 (25 % deficit) or 12 (20 % deficit) = amount of calories

For kg: Your bodyweight x 24.75 (25 % deficit) or 26.4 (20 % deficit) = amount of calories

Great All-Inclusive Programs For Men And Women

If you are looking for a great all-inclusive nutrition and workout program to burn fat and build muscle, then I can highly recommend the Visual Impact courses by Rusty Moore.

When it comes to being fit and strong and looking exceptionally good while also being able to wear stylish clothing, then Rusty is your guy!

Visual Impact For Women

Visual Impact For Women is the course for you if you want sexy feminine hourglass curves.

The approach taught in the program is used by fashion models.

visual impact for women


Visual Impact Muscle Building

Visual Impact Muscle Building is the right choice for you want the Hollywood physique!

An incredible lean and muscular look without being too bulky like a bodybuilder.





My name is Marcus, I am a lawyer (LL.M.) and the founder of this website. Besides sometimes doing lawyer stuff, I like to write about fitness and health and share what I have found “works” for people like YOU. If you want to know more about me and my vision for this website then you can click here.

10 comments… add one
  • Kayla Jul 10, 2017 @ 4:19

    Wow! Thanks for breaking things down so nicely! I love that you incorporated routines into this post!

    I personally struggle with lower back issues, but I also love to lift weights. I was at a cross fit gym over a year ago and the instructor did not give me good advice on how to lift with a weak back – even after I gave him my history. I threw it out completely and was bed ridden for 2 weeks! It’s took me 6 months before I could start lifting anything over 10lbs.

    I’m trying to get back into it – because it’s what I love. What do you suggest for people who want to lift, but need to build up their lower back strength first? I really want to get back to where I use to be, but I’m afraid to up my weight without someone to guide me.
    (FYI: I did NOT go back to that gym!)

    • Marcus Jul 12, 2017 @ 0:47

      Hi Kayla

      Terribly sorry to hear about your problems with your lower back. This is a very sensitive area to have problems with. I have myself hurt my lower back from doing Crossfit, but nothing as bad as you.

      Getting back to lifting from an injury I would normally suggest you start out lifting light, but in your case it sounds like you have to start really light.

      I would probably do some stretches and work on increasing core strength with simple body weight exercises. They should target back, obliques and abdominals. Increasing strength in the obliques and the abdominals rather than only the lower back is your best bet. All these muscles work together, and having stronger obliques and abdominals will help to stabilize and decrease the “pull” on your lower back.

      But very important, don’t push through pain when doing this. I think it is ok to feel some discomfort, but it should not be in a very bad way if that makes sense.

  • Wayne Jul 10, 2017 @ 6:37

    Hi, I’m always looking for sites like this, especially being a seasoned bodybuilder now over 40.

    Loved all your calculations and formulas with the percentages against calories. This can be very confusing for the average person, but you went into further detail which explained it very well.

    The site is very clean, easy to navigate and a really good topic/blog to choose to write about.

    All the best for the future.


    • Marcus Jul 10, 2017 @ 8:01

      Hey Wayne

      I am happy you liked the post and my site.

      This is especially true when it comes from a seasoned bodybuilder 🙂 My father is a seasoned bodybuilder as well, although he is now over 50 haha. 

      Even though he doesn’t train as much as he used to, he is still able to keep up with me on a few exercises, and I am not sure I can ever beat him on pull-downs.

  • mornay Jul 11, 2017 @ 18:38

    I recently convinced my wife to start weight training with me as she was too scared in the beginning, 2 months later and she absolutely loves it and loves her results. Weight training can benefit anyone who wants to lose weight. We also do HIIT (high interval training) on cardio days as it promotes muscle growth while doing some cardiovascular exercises.
    Great article, really informative.

    • Marcus Jul 12, 2017 @ 0:50

      Yeah, weight training is awesome for losing fat 🙂 Sounds like you are having a great time in the gym!

  • Chris Jul 13, 2017 @ 11:07

    I’ve always liked the idea of ‘buffing up’ a little bit due to my height – 6 foot 2.
    My only reservation is what happens to that muscle when you get older?
    Does it simply turn flabby and give you more wieght problems than you first started out with?
    Thanks in advance for your reply

    • Marcus Jul 13, 2017 @ 13:05

      Interesting question Chris. If you have built up some strength and muscle you will slowly lose it if you don’t maintain it. In this regard age is irrelevant.

      However, muscle mass does actually slowly decrease after you reach a certain age. This is why strength training is great for seniors to ensure a strong and healthy body.

      I cannot say if it would turn your skin flabby if you should care to first build up muscle and then later lose it. There are some famous bodybuilders who are now old that have aged quite well in my opinion, while others not so much. I think genetics play a role here, and also many other lifestyle choices that are not directly related to muscle.

  • Jóhann H. Ragnarsson Jul 15, 2017 @ 0:24

    I so agree! Building up muscles is the best part to do it.

    But how about the weight? Should you have it so you almost finish in last 2 sets or should you have it maximal from start?

    About the deeper muscles, is it ok to add one more day in the week for it?

    • Marcus Jul 15, 2017 @ 13:47

      Hey Jóhann!

      I recommend using heavy weights and lifting heaviest on the first set and then drop the weight. However, if you are not sure about the weights you are able to lift, you shouldn’t worry about this setup in the beginning. Just try out a weight you feel comfortable with until you get a good idea about your initial strength.

      It is best to limit the days you lift per week when you are less calories. I like to keep it at three days. This will make sure you are not exhausting yourself and fatiguing your muscles which will increase risk of losing strength and muscle.

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