Shedding Body Fat with Strength Training – Think BIG


If you read my Diet vs. Exercise post, you know the sad reality that exercise isn’t the prominent player in weight loss we once thought it was. But, that’s not to say it doesn’t help at all. Amongst all the other benefits it provides, exercise does contribute to an overall weight management (fat loss) program. But, not all exercises are equally effective. If your main goal is to lose body fat and you’re lifting weights – think BIG!

Thinking big means using exercises that pull lots of muscles into play. Big, multi-joint movements demand more energy and give you a greater metabolic shake up. What are big exercises? Squat and deadlift variations / combinations, rows, pushups, and pull-ups are all big movements that get lots of muscle working. Stringing big exercises that work different areas into circuits is even more effective since it demands high energy work for longer than just one set. A great full body circuit looks something like this:

  • Squat to overhead press
  • Pulley row
  • Stability ball leg curl
  • Push-ups

Don’t be misled into believing that you need small isolation exercises or a lot of machines targeting single muscles. Exercises like biceps curls and triceps extensions will do next to nothing for your overall goal of losing weight – they just don’t use enough muscle. Besides, rows, pull-ups (or pull downs) and pushups all give those muscles plenty of work. And sitting on a machine (or lying down) to do strength training doesn’t make sense compared to standing and making all your support muscles work.

Bottom line – get on your feet, engage lots of muscles and keep moving.

I’d love to hear your experience with strength training for weight loss – good or bad… Click the comments and reactions link below to share your feedback!

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Michael Bento is an Advanced Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park. He holds a Masters degree in Human Movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist.

2 Responses to “Shedding Body Fat with Strength Training – Think BIG”

  1. PMMcDonagh says:

    I try to do circuits with all of my clients. Also people are so concerned with sets and reps but they don’t even know why they are aiming for 10 reps. I like to just keep going for as many as they can get with proper form or until volitional fatigue. I’d love to read/ hear your thoughts on this.

    • Michael Bento MS, CES, PES, CSCS says:

      Circuits are the way to go unless there’s some really specific training goal, like maximum strength, max power, etc. For most people training for health, fitness and body composition change, stringing exercises together makes the most sense – better metabolic effect and super time efficient.

      It’s funny how that 10 rep concept has permeated gym culture, isn’t it? I think that comes from the bodybuilding model that has had so much influence on fitness – moderately heavy resistance over moderately high rep ranges. I’ve actually found that having clients lift heavier for fewer reps yields much better results. Particularly because most people I work with have never told me they’re training for massive muscular development!