Obese or very heavy-set women should not rely on light weight strength training to lose fat, but instead take a different approach: one that they’d never consider.
Go to any health club or gym and observe how the women are strength training—the amount of weight they are lifting.
Do this long enough over time (and it won’t take that long) and you will notice something quite peculiar:
The amount of weight being lifted is inversely proportional to the woman’s body weight.
In short, the heavier a woman is, the lighter the weights she tends to lift.
Obese or very plus-size women are commonly seen working out with very light resistance (the smallest dumbbells, only 30-45 pounds with weight stack machines, 5-10 pound plates on Olympic bars, tiny kettlebells and 20-30 pound pre-weighted barbells).
As a former personal trainer, I fully understand that for some exercises, a novice woman—regardless of her size—will be challenged by an unloaded Olympic bar (45 pounds).
A novice woman of any size will struggle to complete an overhead press with this weight.
But these exceptions aside, obese women use weights that are too light to ignite the fat loss results they want.
I’m not saying that “skinny fat” women are often seen using heavy resistance.
In fact, they, too, typically use very small dumbbells, 20-30 pound barbells and low machine resistance.
But check out what the “lean-muscular” and “lean-defined” women are doing: heavy resistance.
The 200 pound woman has only one 45 pound plate on either side of the leg press machine. The 130 pound very toned woman has three plates on either side. What’s going on here?
Obese Woman Think that Lifting Heavy Will Make Them Bigger
Obese women tend to have strong legs. They can press a lot of weight, because their bones and muscles have adapted to supporting a heavy body for so long. I’ve never had a plus-size client who leg pressed peanuts.
Many obese novice women can also pull down, and pull towards themselves, a good amount of weight. They do pretty well with seated chest presses too.
I know this because I had so many overweight clients and would set their weight loads much heavier than what they thought they should be doing. And they did them: at least eight repetitions. They got stronger — and lost weight.
Yet watch plus size women, in general — who are not working with trainers — perform the lat pull-down, seated row and machine chest press: peanuts.
Why? They fear getting bigger with heavier resistance.
Lifting heavy weights will not enlarge fat cells. When done intensely, strength training will increase the volume of muscle cells.
However, a wonderful side effect of this occurs: shrinkage of fat cells.
So even though the muscle cells are increasing in volume, the fat cells are withering down—so that the NET result in body size is smaller, not bigger!
This means going from a size 22 to a size 14 to a size 10.
This means your thighs, with new muscle mass, will be able to fit into a pair of jeans from the size 10 rack.
Why doesn’t light resistance work for fat loss?
Simple: It’s not enough demand on your body to force it into a much higher range of energy expenditure.
Plus, muscle eats up fat for sustenance. The more muscle you have, the more body fat will get gobbled up by that new muscle—24/7. While you sleep.
Do not be afraid of strength training heavy. You will not get bigger. The only thing that will make your size 22 body grow into a size 26 body is if you increased your daily caloric surplus.
And that can be done by 1) eating even more, and/or 2) becoming more sedentary. It cannot be done by strength training.
Those “thin” hard-body women you see at the gym have more muscle than you, but they’re not bigger because their trained lean muscle mass is compacted into a tight space, and because it feeds off body fat 24/7, these women have a trim layer of fat. Yet these are the women you’ll see deadlifting 135 pounds, even 200.
If an obese woman wants to lose a lot of fat, the path to this success is laden with heavy dumbbells and barbells.
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.