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Weight lifting for long-term weight loss

Weight lifting contributes to long-term weight loss by increasing muscle mass, which increases your metabolism, meaning your body continually burns up more calories whether you are at work or at play or asleep.

These muscle gains aren't immediate, but over time the results compound. Lifting weights -- also know as "resistance training" or "weight training" -- can add a pound or two of muscle to your body each month. Each additional pound of muscle burns about 40 calories a day. So if you can add even four pounds of muscle to your body, those 160 calories/day add up to 58,000 over a year, which translates into a loss of over 16.5 pounds in a year, eveything else being equal. (Losing a pound of weight of requires requires 3,500 calories to be burned.) But everything else is not equal, because you're also expending energy while building and maintaining that muscle.

Note that this projected loss occurs without reducing the calories you eat. (Not that you shouldn't do that...)

Don't take my metaphor too literally, but in terms of weight loss, cardiovascular exercice is sorta like working for hourly wages -- you do the work, you get a paycheck. (Or you spend 30 minutes on the treadmill and burn 300 calories.) Weight lifting, then, is sorta like working to build an asset that is going to generate an ongoing stream of income. (I'm speaking in terms of Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad for example.) The initial payoff is less but the long-term residuals are greater. "Make money while you sleep" goes the claim. Well, with weight lifting you literally lose weight while you sleep. Just realize this loss is gradual and long-term.

Just to make sure I'm being clear, cardiovascular exercise provides several long-term benefits to your health, in particular cardiovascular health. Its weight loss benefit is a tad secondary. Let me say it more strongly: cardiovascular exercise is vital for vibrant health and for many is necessary for effective weight loss. That said, weight lifting can add a lot too, just in different ways.

Starting a weight-lifting program

In college I had several roomates and friends who lifted weights, but this idea was very foreign to me then. I started last year at age 36 initially knowing nothing. Pretty quickly I realized that the concepts were not difficult to understand and that weight lifting itself was more enjoyable than I would have guessed -- perhaps in part because of the weight less I was undergoing at the time. :)

Weight Training for Dummies by Liz Neporent and Suzanne Schlosberg (Wiley Publishing, 2000) -- the link to it on Amazon.com is above -- is a great book with lots of illustrations.

The key to a successful weight-training program is to work out each major muscle group of your body (see below) two or three times a week on alternating (non-consecutive) days. One set of 10 repetitions for each muscle group is great to start with; you may never need much more than that if your focus is on overall health and weight loss. (A "repetition" is one up and down. A set of 10 repetitions is going up-down up-down up-down-up-down up-down-up-down-up-down up-down up-down up-down.)

Choose an amount of weight that allows you to barely do 10 repetitions but is too much to do 11. That is, work out your muscles "too fatigue". (You'll of course have to experiment some to find the right weights for you, and it's of course OK if sometimes you can only do 8 reps or make it to 12.) Rest at least a minute between each set. Over time, as you get stronger, increase your weight, so that 10 or so reps continually tends to bring you to muscle fatigue.

You can lift weights at home by buying a set of dumbells or some other equipment, but I have found my local YMCA to be a great place to do this. (My family and I love our local YMCA!) The YMCA has all the equipment you'll need plus trainers who can show you how to safely use everything.

Lift weights. Lose weight. (And have stronger bones and literally be a stronger person.)

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Your Body's Major Muscle Groups:

  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Abdominals
  • Butt
  • Quadriceps
  • Tricepts
  • Calves
  • Triceps
  • Biceps


 

 

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