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