Working with weights can create a light and toned physique

Do you hate running and exercise? There’s good news for those who think these sweaty and lung-damaging activities are inevitable if you want to get fit. In a large number of new studies, scientists have confirmed that weight lifting exercises are as effective as aerobic exercise in losing weight and strengthening it.

Victoria Beckham is unlikely to turn to pumping iron who has recently been singing the virtues of lifting heavy weights five or six days a week in her quest for a “good bottom as much as I can get” and a more feminine figure. “I’ve always been a little afraid of weights but it turns out I love them,” she said. Grazia Magazine. Beckham is not alone as celebs from Daisy Ridley and Jessica Biel to Jennifer Lawrence and Gal Gadot admit they owe their lean and toned physiques to weight training.

Victoria Beckham recently switched to weightlifting
Victoria Beckham recently switched to weightlifting

Several studies have shown that, compared to sedentary individuals, people who do aerobic exercise — brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming — regularly lose more weight and maintain it by creating a calorie deficit, so they burn more calories than they consume. Add weights to the equation and an increase in lean muscle mass will increase metabolic efficiency so that fat burning is intensified.

But in the latest study, researchers at Australia’s Edith Cowan University (ECU) insist that if you don’t want – or can’t – sweat and breathe while cycling or jogging to shed some extra weight and resistance. Training alone will yield positive results.

Writing in the magazine Obesity ReviewsResearchers from the Institute of Exercise Medicine Research at ECU looked at 114 published trials involving 4,184 overweight people to see if resistance training combined with cutting calories was enough to transform their bodies. In adults who reduced their calorie intake by about 500 per day, regular resistance exercise was shown to be similar to aerobic exercise in terms of overall improvements. Dieters who used weight training as the only form of exercise achieved an average decrease of 5 kg (11 lb) in fat mass and body weight in as little as 12 weeks. Part of the benefit is due to muscle being a metabolically active tissue that burns calories.

Pedro Lopez, MD, a scientist at the ECU’s Institute for Exercise Medicine Research says. “Our results indicated that weight training can maintain or increase muscle size, even with a calorie deficit, meaning a slight increase in metabolism even at rest.”

resistance training

The results come hot on the heels of another Australian study that showed we can lose 1.4% of our body fat through strength training alone, in proportion to the amount lost through cardio or aerobic exercise. Dr Mandy Hagstrom, Senior Lecturer in Exercise Science and Physiology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, reviewed 58 papers that included cutting-edge body scanning techniques, such as DEXA and CT scans, to measure the outcomes of strength training programs in nearly 3,000 participants. On average, people exercised with weights two to three times a week for 45-60 minutes over five months, with most losing about a pound of fat mass in that time through resistance exercises. None of the participants was on a diet.

“Resistance training increases muscle mass, and while that contributes to your overall daily calorie burn, it’s not the only benefit,” says Hagstrom.

Resistance training alone can produce positive results.
Resistance training alone can produce positive results.

“Probably the biggest impact when it comes to fat loss comes from burning calories through the actual resistance exercise itself, with more energy then being used for muscle tissue repair and growth, and perhaps some small increases in overall metabolism.”

The news that lifting weights can keep us in good shape is especially appealing to those worried about exposing their joints to a running or aerobic stroke when carrying a few extra pounds. “It can be uncomfortable and easy to injure joints and ligaments when you’re carrying your entire body weight and doing a lot of repetitive aerobic exercise,” Lopez says.

If you are overweight, resistance training may be a better starting point.

Weightlifting exercises also help relax the muscles around the joints that are recruited when you walk, jump, run, or ride a bike. “If you haven’t exercised much or are sedentary, you’ll benefit from strength training before progressing to more intense cardiovascular exercise if you so choose,” says Hagstrom.

Slim and toned physique

Irish fitness trainer Maeve Madden, who has 341,000 followers on Instagram, says compound resistance exercises — those that work large, multiple muscle groups simultaneously — produce the biggest calorie burn.

“People associate weights with resistance training to get stronger but what they make is a strong, lean, toned physique,” ​​says Madden.

“Everyone can benefit and transformations can happen in as little as two weeks from first picking up a dumbbell weighing just 2kg for beginners and performing these basic compound movements.”

Maeve Madden on stage for WellFest 2022 Photo: Mark O'Sullivan
Maeve Madden on stage for WellFest 2022 Photo: Mark O’Sullivan

Madden says that many of her clients, most of whom are women, are reluctant to resistance training at first. “They think they need to work out on the machines in the gym, but in reality you can use your body weight to start and then progress to light dumbbells before you even need to think about the gym,” she says. “And because you gradually lift heavier weights, you raise your heart rate the more you lift which increases your calorie burn.”

Consistency is key. Weight training can help avoid creeping weight gain from middle age onward if you stick to it long-term. People who do resistance training of any kind several times a week are less likely to become obese as they get older, regardless of whether they do aerobic exercise or not, according to a study published last year in MEDICINE PLOS. A team from Iowa State University and other institutions tracked the health records of 12,000 middle-aged participants to see if there was a link between waist thickness and activity habits over a six-year period. Men and women who did one to one hour of strength training a week were 30% less likely to be obese, based on waist circumference or body fat percentage measurements.

None of this means we should ignore heart disease for good. Working your heart and lungs, as you do walking or running, remains the best route to improving cardiovascular health.

“Having an exercise program consisting of both aerobic and resistance training will always be the most beneficial scenario for health and fitness,” says Hagstrom. “But it is all relative and there is still a strong belief that aerobic exercise is the only way to lose weight and it is not.”

Madden says that weights are essential to healthy living. “After the age of 40, we all start to lose muscle mass, and this accelerates in postmenopausal women,” she says. “Unless we try to stop those losses we are going to get weaker and weaker, and the best way to preserve muscle and burn more calories is to lift weights or work against resistance.”

Maeve Madden . Resistance Training Guide

Start by lifting your body weight

Exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and mountain climbers are all excellent starting points for beginners.

“The idea is to get good technique before adding weights, so it’s best to do them in front of a mirror or go to a class or personal trainer for guidance on form,” she says. “Pilates and yoga are also a form of strength training for quite the beginner.”

Madden adds that resistance bands are a great way to activate muscles, add a little resistance and warm up, and cost a few euros.

“Don’t spend a fortune on gear. Buy it cheap so you can advance when you need to.”

Add resistance when you’re ready

Start with light dumbbells when you first add weights.

“Approximately 2-3 kg is suitable for beginners, and although it seems light to some, you have to remember that our muscles and tendons are small in the upper arm and lateral raises and raises take effect so you will get burned,” he says.

“After a few weeks, it is great to invest in a medium 4-5kg set and something heavier but not too heavy – a weight you can lift max 10-12 repetitions. That way, you have a good range of weights and options to work with.”

Aim for two to three sessions per week

Studies have shown that weight training just twice a week, for an hour in total, boosts metabolism and helps lose fat. Madden says two to three sessions are ideal for best results.

“If you can manage three 20-minute sessions per week as a beginner, and work different parts of the body on different days, you will definitely get results,” she says.

“Squats, deadlifts, and lunges are functional movements that we use in everyday life, for example when we’re holding a baby or pushing a door until you start finding life easier.”