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October 6, 2021

Can Strength Training Burn Fat?

Conventional wisdom has always told us that strength training builds muscle and aerobic exercise burns fat. But there are plenty of examples of people who have lost a good deal of fat from strength training. There are also countless examples of people who couldn’t lose any fat through aerobic training.

At Exercise Inc, we have hundreds of success stories on our Facebook page showing the weight loss and fat-reducing effects of strength training combined with a few simple nutritional habits.

We know from experience that strength training can help you lose fat. Let’s look at what some of the more recent science has to say about this issue.

A new systemic review and meta-analysis shows that we can reduce our body fat percentage by 1.4 percent through strength training alone. That’s also about the same amount of fat the average person will lose through aerobic exercise.

Dr. Mandy Hagstrom, senior author of the study, stated that, “even when strength training is done on its own, it still causes a favorable loss of body fat without having to consciously diet or go running.” Dr. Hagstrom’s findings came from 58 research papers involving 3000 participants who had never lifted weights.

Part of the reason many people think strength training isn’t as good as aerobic exercise for burning fat has to do with the way we measure progress. Most people focus on the number on the scale, but that number doesn’t reflect muscle gained and fat lost.

The studies examined used accurate fat measurement processes like DEXA scans, MRIs, or CT scans, which gave the researchers a clear picture of fat lost and muscle gained. The research team focused on how much total body fat percentage changed following strength training programs.

At Exercise Inc, most of our clients can tell they are losing fat and gaining muscle by the way their clothes fit. If your clothes become looser, whether the number on the scale drops or not, you’re losing fat and gaining muscle.

One of my first personal training clients, Bob Sexton, has trained with us for more than 20 years. In the first five years he trained with me, he didn’t lose any weight on the scale, but he gradually went down a belt notch every year or so until he could no longer wear his belt. Even more impressive—Bob didn’t really change his diet. Check out the advertisement we created based on Bob’s success story.

Another recent study found a previously unknow communication mechanism between muscle and fat. Muscles stimulated by mechanical overload (strength training) releases extracellular vesicles that are taken up by fat cells. These newly discovered extracellular vesicles promote the breakdown of fat cells (lipolysis) for at least 24 hours after strength training. This is the first study to prove that strength training directly influences fat burning.

While we’ve known all along from experience that strength training can make you leaner as well as stronger, we now have two groundbreaking studies to back us up.

Another important concept to understand regarding strength training and fat loss is the concept of discriminant fat loss. If you lose weight by going on a diet or doing aerobic exercise, you won’t just lose fat. You will lose fat AND muscle. However, if you strength train while you lose weight, you will demand your muscles to get stronger and bigger. If you place this kind of demand on your muscles, more of the weight you lose will be fat and less will be muscle.

Strength training will cause your body to discriminately lose fat and hold on to muscle at the same time.

If you want to lose body fat, a combination of strength training, healthy eating habits and regular physical activity will achieve the best results. At Exercise Inc, we’ve helped our clients lose fat with our Simple 9© approach for the past 18 years. Strength training serves as the foundation of our approach.

If you want to get stronger, healthier, and leaner, make sure you are taking every effort possible to strength train at Exercise Inc for your 20 Minutes A Week.

Stay Strong,

Bo Railey