Lifting weights is the best thing an obese person can do to lose weight, to burn as much fat as possible; the beauty of weightlifting is that many fat-burning routines can be done while standing or sitting.
I’ve been going to two chain gyms, which means about 10 gyms total all over town, and year after year, I see the same thing: Few significantly overweight people lifting weights–let alone intensely.
Of course, the larger and more crowded the health club, the more likely you’ll see men and women of all sizes performing strength training routines.
However, they still comprise a very small percentage of people working out with weights. Most very heavy people in a gym are on the cardio equipment.
Of the ones who are strength training, literally a few, if any, are in the free-weight area; just about all of them use the strength training machines.
Strength training machines have their virtues.
This includes being able to better isolate a muscle group, as well as help rehab an injury.
But ultimately, by far the best approach to strength training and thus fat-burning involves use of free weights such as dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells.
Obese individuals who do any strength training make up an extremely small portion of the general population of very overweight men and women.
Based on what I’ve seen at gyms, I will conclude that one of the reasons for very large people not lifting weights is because they think this will make them bigger yet.
When I see very overweight or moderately overweight women using resistance machines at the gym, they are almost always using light workloads — sometimes very light, so light that after many repetitions, they don’t look tired.
When they use dumbbells, it’s almost always light dumbbells.
They may believe that using heavy dumbbells will bulk them into a bigger size. When I was a personal trainer, I heard this from some of them.
Obese women are strong enough to handle heavier resistance; I know this because I’ve worked with many of them.
But I’ve had overweight women tell me outright, “I don’t want to get bigger.”
However, having excess fat in your body does NOT predispose you to bulking up from strength training.
If you have a lot of excess fat in your body, lifting weights will force your body to plunge into these extra fat reserves for fuel: You will get smaller, not bigger.
Obese people need to lift weights because this will 1) speed up their resting metabolism, 2) Tone muscles and thus yield a firmer, shapelier appearance, and 3) vastly improve fitness.
The fat-burning effects of intense strength training are unparalleled, more significant than the fat-burning effects of merely pedaling away like an automaton on the elliptical machine or stationary bike.
If you have obesity and are struggling to lose pounds, I assure you that there is one thing you have not tried yet: intense weightlifting, several times a week, particularly with dumbbells and barbells.
Do Not Overtrain
It’s crucial that you not go overboard with weight training, however. If you train too often, your muscles won’t recover properly.
The result will be the inability to train rigorously and hard, at a high intensity. Muscles need adequate time to recover. You need not train with weights more than three times a week to reap some amazing fat loss.
Another point to remember is that frequency does not equal intensity. You’ll lose more body fat with kickass strength training three times a week rather than with a lower level of training five times a week.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.