If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for some workouts or exercises that will help you to prepare your body for the summer. So today I will show you what I think are the most effective exercises for weight loss. If you’ve read some of my other articles you’ve probably guessed, we’ll be talking about resistance training exercises:)
You may have heard that resistance training is one of the most effective methods for fat loss. To improve its fat loss effectiveness even further forget about isolation exercises like bicep curls or triceps kickbacks and turn your attention to compound exercises. Don’t get me wrong, isolation exercises have their place in weight training but if we’re focusing on fat loss, compound exercises give your more “bang for your buck”.
What are those compound exercises? Compound exercises are simply the exercises that involve multiple joints and force you to use as many muscles as possible. The most famous are the Big 3 – squat, bench press and deadlift. There are many more great compound exercises and we will look at them a bit later. Now let’s look at why strength training is so awesome:)
Why Resistance Training And Compound Exercises
Resistance training is an excellent way to build muscles and burn fat because it increases your resting metabolic rate. What this means is that your body continues to burn more calories after lifting for up to 72 hours, depending on your training level. This increase in metabolic rate occurs because your body has to repair the muscle tissue damaged during training and also to build additional muscle so it can handle the next training more easily.
Another benefit is that as you build more muscle mass you burn more energy every day because muscles are energetically more demanding than fat tissue. The increase isn’t as huge as you may have heard. I remember seeing claims that pound of muscle burns 50 kcal a day. Reality is, unfortunately, a bit more humble as a pound of muscle burns around 6 – 8 kcal per day at rest. It is a small amount when compared to those 50 kcals but still 3-4 times more compared to 2 kcal that pound of fat burns:)
As I mentioned above, compound exercises involve multiple joints and a lot of muscle mass. Thanks to this they are energetically demanding and enable you to burn more calories than isolation exercises (exercises focusing only on one muscle group eg. biceps curls, leg extension etc.) Another advantage of compound exercises is that they are time-efficient since you can train your whole body using only a few exercises.
Basic Compound Exercises
This category of exercises includes all variations of squats – barbell squat, front squat, goblet squat, leg press, lunge, bulgarian split squat and others.
As the name suggests these exercises will train mainly your quads with the big help from glutes and adductors (inner thighs). Hamstrings, back muscles and abs fill the role of stabilizers. But I think it’s safe to say that the heavy squats are a full body exercise.
Exercises that belong to this group are deadlifts and all their variations, glute-ham raises, good mornings, hip thrusts, lunges.
Here we have exercises that main movers are muscles around the hip area – glutes, hamstrings. But quads can also be a big contributor. Abs and back muscles are the main stabilizers here. Similarly to squats – deadlift like exercises train the whole body.
Horizontal Push Exercises
Here we have exercises like bench press (barbell or dumbbell) and variations, parallel dips, push-ups.
Primary movers are pecs with the help of triceps and delts. Biceps, back and glutes are the main stabilizers here. But again the whole body contributes to the lift if you do it properly (bench press).
Vertical Push Exercises
Exercises that belong to this group are overhead press, also known as military press, and its variations (barbell, dumbbell, seated, standing) then front raise and side raise.
These exercises target the delts while the assisting muscles are mostly traps and triceps.
Horizontal Pull Exercises
Exercises belonging to this group are bent over rows, seal row, cable rows and their variations.
These exercises focus on almost all back muscles, biceps and rear delts. Abs, glutes and hamstrings fill the role of supporting muscles.
Vertical Pull Exercises
Vertical pulling exercises include exercises like pull ups, chin ups and lat pull-downs.
Primary movers for these are back muscles like lats and rhomboids but they also hit the biceps and triceps.
How To Start
If you’re a complete beginner, make sure you are learning the proper form or technique of each exercise. It’s a very good idea to work on it from the beginning because if you’ll learn incorrect form, you’ll have to re-learn it somewhere in the future if you want to train safely for a long time.
Hiring a good coach is your best bet but if you don’t have access to one you can find plenty of resources online. I would recommend you to read the Starting Strength by Mike Rippetoe. Another great training resource is the youtube channel of Alan Thrall (see the video above or below).
You can do something like this:
- study the exercises in the book and/or in the video
- record yourself performing the exercises
- check the recording and if something is off, try to fix it in the next set
- check the book and/or video from time to time to remind yourself of the proper form
You can start with something like this:
- train three times a week
- 3 or 4 exercises: squat, bench press, deadlift and overhead press (OHP)
- 3 sets of 8 reps of each exercise (or use 5 sets of 5 reps which is very popular)
The first training session should be very light, you can start each movement with an empty bar and add weight each set depending on how heavy it felt. For example, you could add 10 – 20 lbs to your squat and deadlift after the first set and add 5 – 10 lbs to your bench press and OHP. Again reevaluate how heavy it felt and add more weight for the next set.
Next session, start the first set with the same weight you’ve finished the first session. If the weight feels challenging enough use it for all three sets for this exercises. If the weight feels light, add more weight from set to set until it is challenging. Challenging enough doesn’t mean that you’re grinding reps with ugly form! The set is finished at the moment you can’t do the next repetition using correct form!
Progression for the following training sessions is pretty straightforward, if you reached the prescribed number of reps in all three sets you’ll increase the load in the next training session. You can go for something like +5 – 10 lbs for bench and OHP and +10 – 20 lbs for the squat and deadlift.
Example progression for squats (note: weight of the regular olympic bar is 45 lbs):
- session 1: 1. set – 45 lbs for 8 reps -> felt very easy – add 20 lbs -> 2. set – 65 lbs for 8 reps -> still fairly easy – add 10 lbs, 3. set – 75 lbs – 8 reps
- session 2: working weight 75 lbs – 8 / 8 / 8 (reps for first, second and third set) – target reps reached fairly easily in all sets -> increase load + 20 lbs
- session 3: working weight 95 lbs – 8 / 8 / 8 – target reps reached fairly easily in all sets -> increase load + 20 lbs
- session 4: working weight 115 lbs – 8 / 8 / 8 – target reps reached but it wasn’t as easy -> increase load + 10 lbs
- session 5: working weight 125 lbs – 8 / 8 / 8 – target reps reached but only just -> increase load by + 5 lbs
- session 6: working weight 130 lbs – 8 / 8 / 7 – target reps not reached -> weight stays the same
- session 7: working weight 130 lbs – 8 / 8 / 8 – target reps reached -> increase load by + 5 lbs
- session 8: working weight 135 lbs – 8 / 7 / 6 – target reps not reached -> weight stays the same
- session 9: working weight 135 lbs – 8 / 8 / 7 – target reps not reached -> weight stays the same
- session 10: working weight 135 lbs – 8 / 8 / 8 – target reps reached -> increase load by + 5 lbs
After you’ve trained a while using this routine (or something similar) you’ll reach a point where you won’t be able to recover from session to session (you’ll be sore/tired). This will be caused mainly because of squatting and deadlifting every session is hard, this means that you need to split up your training. I won’t go into detail here about how to do it but I plan to write a post about it in the future so stay tuned.
Let’s recap the main ideas from the post:
- If you want to improve your fat loss don’t rely only on nutrition but also move more
- Focus mainly on resistance training = lift weights
- Prefer the exercises that train several muscles of your body in one movement = compound exercises
- Learn the proper technique of the exercises
- Follow some kind of progression, for example, add weight as shown in example routine
I think that is all for today. I hope you’ve found something helpful for yourself or your friends. If you did, please like and share the article and hit follow me for more content. If you have some question or suggestion or simply want to share your experience regarding the topic don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.