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Strength Training For Fat Loss

There is a lot of debate in the fitness world over what type of exercise is best for fat loss.  But my question is: why do we have to choose just one? Can’t we simply program an intelligent combination of modalities like high intensity cardio, moderate intensity cardio, and strength training for optimal results?

Wait a second. Did you say strength training? For fat loss? Say whaaaat?

Yes, it’s true.  Strength training is one of the absolute best ways to promote body fat loss when programmed correctly and coupled with an intelligent nutrition program. So what does that program look like?  There are three main components:

1. Pure Strength Training (3 days/week)

strength-training-for-fat-loss-molly-deadlift-327x341This part of the program is designed specifically to gain strength and to slightly gain, or at the very minimum maintain, muscle mass.  This is critical because if you lose too much muscle mass in the quest to lose body fat, you’ll slow your metabolism and often end up a smaller and softer version of yourself, instead leaner and more firm.

What this set/rep scheme looks like will depend on your training age and ability level, but in general, more advanced trainees can get away with doing much heavier, lower-rep work, while intermediate trainees should stick to moderately heavy loads, and beginners needs to master movements first and foremost, and then they can begin adding weight.

2. Metabolic Resistance Training/Interval Training  (2 days/week)

strength-training-for-fat-loss-molly-pushup-450x269The different types of MRT training or interval training (often called HIIT) can get very confusing, but just know this: they include periods of intense work, followed by periods of rest, and are performed for a relatively short period of time (generally 4-20 minutes). These can be absolute game-changers when it comes to fat loss, if programmed and performed correctly. You can use bodyweight, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells and more. There might be times when you’re traveling and all you have access to is your bodyweight, so it’s your best bet to use that.

However, you do need to be careful when performing these workouts, so make sure you follow these smart tips:

  • Use smart exercise selection. An example of not smart exercise selection would be doing overhead squats after you’ve done handstand push-ups to failure. Your shoulders are completely exhausted and then you want hold weight over your head and squat? I don’t think so!
  • Respect your ability level. If you’re brand new to learning barbell snatches, do you think it’s a good idea to choose a workout that calls for doing several sets of them while under fatigue? If you answered no, you are correct.
  • Choose the right tool for the job. There are a number of ways to perform MRT/interval training. You can use bodyweight, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells and more.  There might be times when you’re traveling and all you have access to is your bodyweight, so it’s your best bet to use that. If you have access to a full gym, choose a workout that takes full advantage of what the gym has to offer.

3.  Moderate Intensity Cardio (2 days/week)

strength-training-for-fat-loss-girls-jumprope-450x338Although traditional, moderate-intensity, “aerobic” cardio (heart rate in the 120-140 bpm range) has been demonized a lot in the fitness industry in the last 10 years, its still very valuable and has its place.

It’s fantastic for improving your aerobic base, which allows you to recover more quickly in between exercises during strength training or high intensity interval training, so you can use more weight or shorter rest periods. It’s also great for improving your overall recovery throughout the week so you can feel more fresh and rested for every workout.

Finally, it can help decrease stress and anxiety.  Many of us walk around in a very sympathetic nervous system dominant state where we constantly feel stressed out, anxious, or hyped up.   This moderate intensity cardio can help us switch over to a more parasympathetic nervous system dominant state, allowing us to relax more, feel less anxious, and even sleep better.

Here’s the catch: when most of us think of this traditional cardio, we think of slogging away on a treadmill or elliptical for 30 minutes, but that doesn’t have to be the case. In this instance, the heart is kind of a “dumb muscle” and as long as your heart rate is in the 120-140 bpm range, you’ll be reaping the benefits.

Sustainable & Efficient!

The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training will help you achieve maximum results, whether you’re new to strength training, or a veteran in the weight room.

So what would this program look like?

This is written for an intermediate lifter, adjust as necessary for your ability level.

Monday – Upper Body + MRT
Tuesday – Moderate Intensity Cardio
Wednesday – Lower Body + MRT
Thursday – OFF
Friday – Full Body
Saturday – Moderate Intensity Cardio
Sunday – OFF

Make sure you include a dynamic warm-up before every workout.

Monday (Upper Body + MRT)

1. Chin-Ups (assisted if necessary): 3-4 x 6-10 reps
2. Palm-In Dumbbell Bench Press: 3-4 x 6-10 reps

3a. Face Pulls: 3 x 10-12 reps
3b. Push-ups (incline if necessary): 3 x AMAP (as many as possible, stopping when you could still do 1-2 more)

4a. Band Pull-Aparts: 3 x 12-15 reps
4b. Pallof Press: 3 x 10

End with: 4-15 minutes of Metabolic Resistance Training


Moderate Intensity Cardio for 30-40 minutes with your heart rate in the 120-140 bpm range

Wednesday (Lower Body + MRT)

1. Front Squat: 4 x 6 reps

2. Romanian Deadlift: 3-4 x 6-10 reps

3a. Hip Thrusts: 3-4 x 10-12
3b. Split Squats: 3-4 x 8-10 reps

4. Band Assisted Leg Lowering: 3 x 6-10 reps

End with: 4-15 minutes of Metabolic Resistance Training



Friday (Full Body)

1. Conventional Deadlift: 4 x 4-6 reps

2a. Single Leg Squat To Box: 3-4 x 8-10 reps
2b. One Arm Dumbbell Row: 3-4 x 8-10 reps

3a. Kettlebell Swing: 3-4 x 8-12 reps
3b. Tall Kneeling Lat Pulldown: 3-4 x 8-12 reps

4a. Slow Mountain Climber: 3-4 x 8-10 reps
4b. Heavy Suitcase Carry: 3-4 x 10-15 yards each side


Moderate Intensity Cardio for 30-40 minutes with your heart rate in the 120-140 bpm range



Program Notes

  • Exercises listed with just a number (i.e. 1 or 2) are performed alone.  Exercises with a number and letter are performed in a superset (i.e. Slow Mountain Climber and Heavy Suitcase Carry) meaning you perform one set of the Slow Mountain Climber, then move on to one set of the Heavy Suitcase Carry, then go back to the SMC until all sets are complete.
  • If the exercise is performed alone, rest 90-120 seconds between sets.  If it’s performed in a superset, rest 30-60 seconds between exercises.
  • Make sure you’re always challenging yourself weight-wise, but always leave 1-2 reps “in the hole” meaning you could have done 1-2 more reps with good form.


A message from GGS…

At Girls Gone Strong, we want you to feel confident knowing that what you’re doing to look good, feel good, and feel healthy and strong is not only based on tested, reliable, and safe information from trustworthy sources, but also that it is effective and efficient.

That’s why we developed our flagship training system, The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training.

We’ve cut through all that noise and the BS with a sane, sustainable, and efficient approach that will help you achieve maximum results, whether you’re brand new to strength training, or a veteran in the weight room.
With four different 16-week programs—that’s 64 weeks of training—you get over a year’s worth of workouts, including progressions to ensure that you continue making progress. You’ll also get a training manual, exercise glossary, progress tracker, a bonus conditioning manual, plus a video library with over 70 high-definition videos breaking down each exercise, step by step.

We believe fitness should enhance your life instead of become your life. If you exercise in a way that you actually enjoy, staying fit and strong won’t ever feel like a drag. You’ll look forward to it for years to come.

If you want an entire training system that will help you look and feel your best, The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training is for you!

Learn more here!

About The Author: Molly Galbraith

Molly Galbraith, CSCS is co-founder and owner of Girls Gone Strong, a global movement that aims to empower women to embrace all that’s possible for their lives and for their bodies through body-positive, evidence-based, nutrition, training, and self-care information. She is also the author of The Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training.

As a former figure competitor who dabbled in powerlifting, Molly understands the more extreme side of training and nutrition, and after years of personal struggle with her own body image and self-worth, Molly is committed to helping women embrace their bodies and fall in love with themselves, and teaching other coaches and trainers how to better understand, connect with, and serve their women clients. Learn more about Molly on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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