Muhammad Ali Strength Training and Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight, there is no better way than using strength training to your advantage. And there are actually only three things you really need to understand to design an appropriate strength training program for weight loss.

The only challenge is, that you need to understand these three things, find the right exercise selection, combined with the right strength training method and lastly, you have to put the work in.

But if you do, you will end up achieving your goal.

This article discusses

  • The Basic Weight Loss Formula
  • How can Strength Training help to lose weight?
  • What type of Strength Training should I do to lose weight?
  • How often should you do such a Strength Training for weight loss?
  • An Advanced Strength Training for Weight Loss Routine
  • What are the best exercises to lose weight or what are the most effective weight loss exercises?

Before we jump into discussing how strength training can help losing weight, in my opinion the first step is to clarify what is meant by weight loss.

Weight loss simply means losing weight, what most people mean when they say losing weight is a loss of excess body fat.

Let me explain.

You can lose weight by reducing body fat, which is the preferred option, or you can lose weight by reducing body fat and active muscle tissue.

I will explain the reasons, why reducing body fat and maintaining muscle tissue is the better option a little further down, let’s start with the basic weight loss formula.

The Basic Weight Loss Formula

The basic weight loss formula helps to understand the mechanisms behind losing weight.

Very simple, there are two variables that influence weight loss (and weight gain), energy expenditure and energy intake or also termed energy consumption, check out Wikipedias explanation on energy homeostasis, which basically the relation between energy intake and energy expenditure.

So, how do energy intake and energy consumption affect weight loss?

The No Weight Gain, No Weight Loss Example

If you imagine, energy intake and energy expenditure being in an equilibrium, you won’t lose any weight, neither will you gain any weight, your body weight remains the same.

how do you gain weight or loose weight strength training weight loss

no weight gain, no weight loss, energy intake and energy expenditure in equilibrium

The Weight Gain Example

If your energy intake is higher than your energy expenditure, your body weight will increase, you gain weight.

how do you gain weight or loose weight strength training weight loss

no weight loss, but weight gain, energy intake is higher than energy expenditure

The Weight Loss Example

If your energy intake is lower than your energy expenditure, your body weight will decrease, you lose weight.

Now that you understand the basic weight loss formula, in order to lose weight, you need to create a so-called energy deficit, which means that energy expenditure is higher than energy intake.

weight loss how do you gain weight or loose weight strength training weight loss

no weight gain, but weight loss, energy expenditure is higher than energy intake

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

During this energy deficit, the human body needs to supply the energy needed to equalize the deficit from its’ own energy sources.

These sources can be

  • stored body fat, the body uses the stored body fat to produce energy
  • stored glycogen, the body uses the glycogen stored in the glycogen stores in the muscle and liver to produce energy
  • muscle tissue, the body breaks down its’ own muscle tissue to produce energy (the ones who have seen pictures of people who are starving know what it looks like)

Back to the topic, how can you create an energy deficit?

Based on the discussion above, it’s clear that there are two mechanisms to create an energy deficit and influence weight loss

  • decrease energy intake
  • increase energy expenditure
  • number 3 would be, increase energy expenditure and decrease energy intake

How do I decrease energy intake (not only for weight loss)?

You can decrease energy intake by

  • reducing the food quantity or eat less
  • improving the food quality

Reducing the food quantity or eating less is a scary thought, I know. However, it’s a way to decrease energy intake. Reducing the food quantity refers to eating smaller serving sizes or less frequent.

Improving food quality refers to eat less high-caloric food and replace it with more low-caloric food. As a very simple example to make it more visible, 100 grams of neck steak from a pork has around 180 kcal (calories), while 100 grams of chicken breast has around 100 kcal (calories). The difference is purely that the neck steak from the pork has more fat than the chicken breast.

There are numerous examples, how changing the food choices can result in different energy intake. An elaborate discussion would go far beyond the scope of this article.

I guess the idea is clear.

How do I increase energy expenditure?

There are a couple of ways to increase energy expenditure, the most logical to me is physical activity.

As a side-note, I say the most logical, because I have heard people advising

  • ‘Reduce your room temperature, so your body has to produce more energy to increase the body temperature.’
  • ‘You can add a weight vest to daily activities, for example, shopping, this way your body expends more energy than normal.’
  • ‘Clean the house or do gardening, these activities burn extra calories.’

I think the list can go on and on.

I leave these advice un-commented, but I do think these pieces of advice are partly the reason why people don’t see the success, they would like to see.

Let’s focus in this article on the physical activity aspect.

Normal guidelines to physical activity are you can engage in

  • aerobic training (where energy is produced by using oxygen)
  • anaerobic training (where energy is produced in the absence of oxygen)

Without getting too much into the discussion of ‘cardio training vs strength training’, cardio training is an aerobic training and strength training is an anaerobic training.

While aerobic and anaerobic training has their benefits on weight loss, let’s focus on the benefits of strength training for weight loss.

How can Strength Training help to lose weight?

As discussed, strength training increases energy expenditure. The advantage of strength training on energy expenditure is, that it not only increases energy expenditure during exercise but also after exercise.

What?

Yes, depending on the type of strength training, the metabolism of the muscles is elevated. The muscles need more energy to repair from the strength training, as well as to prepare for the next strength training.

This process leads to more energy consumption / energy expenditure at rest.

Check out the articles

Strength training changes the hormonal environment. Strength training leads to increase in hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormones and a decrease in hormones such as cortisol.

Hormones like testosterone and growth hormones lead to increase in muscle mass and reduce body fat, while cortisol is a stress hormone that leads to increases in body fat.

There is another advantage of strength training as a means to lose weight, which I haven’t mentioned yet.

As we discussed above in order to lose weight, you need to create an energy deficit, where energy expenditure exceeds energy intake.

During this energy deficit, the body uses the own sources of stored body fat, stored glycogen and muscle tissue.

Since strength training also has a signaling effect, sending a signal to the body, that the body needs to build muscles or at least maintain muscles, the body uses more of the other two sources to equalize the energy deficit.

Bottom-line, the body uses more stored body fat.

Strength Training for Weight Loss – What type of Strength Training should I do to lose weight?

In order to lose weight, you need to do a strength training that

  • maximizes energy expenditure
  • stimulates the muscle metabolism
  • promotes testosterone and growth hormone secretion

Ok, so how do these types of strength training for weight loss look?

Let’s dive into it.

Strength Training workouts to maximize energy expenditure

A strength training session to maximize energy expenditure is characterized by a low work to rest ratio. For more information on work to rest ratios have a look at the article How long should a strength training session last?

The reason for a low work to rest ratio is a higher working heart rate throughout the entire strength training sessions. You get a similar effect as you get with your cardio training, a higher training heart rate.

Strength training sessions with a low work to rest ratio are strength endurance training workouts or hypertrophy workouts.

Strength Training workouts to stimulate the muscle metabolism

A strength training session to stimulate the muscle metabolism is characterized by lower training intensities (60 – 75% 1RM) and higher repetitions 8 – 12 repetitions.

Strength training sessions with higher repetitions and lower intensities are typically hypertrophy workouts or strength endurance training workouts, while hypertrophy training sessions have a much higher effect on the muscle metabolism.

Strength Training workouts to promote testosterone and growth hormone secretion

This question needs a more nuanced answer since the mechanisms for testosterone secretion and growth hormone secretion are slightly different.

Testosterone and growth hormone are hormones that are endogenous hormones, which is just a complicated way of saying it’s produced by the body.

These have multiple functions within your body, what is interesting for us, is that these hormones help to promote muscle growth and reduce body fat. Consequently, it makes a lot of sense to design strength training programs, that promote the endogenous testosterone and growth hormone production.

Testosterone secretion is highest following strength training workouts with higher intensities (80 – 85% 1RM), lower repetitions (4 – 6 repetitions) and longer rest between the sets (2 – 3 minutes of rest).

Growth hormone secretion is highest following strength training workouts lower intensities (60 – 75% 1RM), higher repetitions (8 – 12 repetitions) and shorter rest between the sets (around 1 minute of rest).

By now, you probably figured out, if you want to lose weight, strength endurance training workouts and hypertrophy workouts are best suited to achieve that goal.

Also check out the article Strength Training For Fat Loss: Building A Bigger Engine! from Bodybuilding.com encapsulating the same idea.

How often should you do such a Strength Training for weight loss?

Now that you know, what you can do and should do, the next question is ‘How often should you do your strength training for weight loss?’

I have explained how often should you do strength training in the article How Often Should You Do Strength Training? in essence, this article looks more holistically at the different training frequencies (how many strength training sessions per week) depending on other responsibilities, such as family and job or education, training goal, where the athlete is in his annual season etc.

However, it also gives guidelines on how often to train depending on the training goal.

As I have outlined above, the most suitable form of training to support and accelerate weight loss is a form of hypertrophy and strength endurance training.

In the article I recommended the ideal training frequency for

  • hypertrophy: 3 – 5 strength training sessions a week
  • strength endurance: 2 – 3 strength training sessions a week

From this information and the information from above, the best recommendation to the question ‘How often should you do Strength Training to lose weight?’ is a minimum of 2 strength training sessions and a maximum of 5 strength training sessions.

Table of Strength Training Methods for Weight Loss Table of Strength Training Methods for Weight Fat

Table of Strength Training Methods for Weight Loss

Please check out This Is How Much You Need To Strength Train For Weight Loss which outlines a training frequency of 2 – 3 times a week, with a training intensity of 60 – 70% 1RM for 10 – 15 reps and a rest period of 30 seconds between the sets.

My opinion?

Well, having trained Olympians for 2 Olympic cycles has probably confirmed my ever-existing conviction, that there is a strong relation, between what you put in and what you get out, consequently I recommend you are best off with 3 – 4 strength training workouts.

If you are committed and mean it serious, there is a bit more work to do than 2 strength sessions a week. However, 2 strength training a week are a good starting point for a beginner.

Let’s check out how an advanced strength training program for weight loss looks like.

An Advanced Strength Training for Weight Loss Routine

Here is my proposal, if you want to get the best out of all worlds

  • maximizes energy expenditure (strength endurance)
  • stimulates the muscle metabolism (hypertrophy training with higher repetition range and lower intensities)
  • promotes testosterone and growth hormone secretion (hypertrophy training with lower repetition range and higher intensities)

You can follow this approach

Day 1 – Goal: Hypertrophy – stimulate muscle metabolism and maximize testosterone secretion

Intensity: 80 – 85% 1RM

Repetitions: 4 – 6

Sets: 3 – 5

Rest between sets: 2 – 3 minutes

Rest between exercises: 3 – 5 minutes

Number of exercises: 3 – 4

Day 2 – Goal: Hypertrophy – stimulate muscle metabolism and maximize growth hormone secretion

Intensity: 60 – 75% 1RM

Repetitions: 8 – 12

Sets: 3 – 4

Rest between sets: 60 – 90 seconds

Rest between exercises: 2 – 3 minutes

Number of exercises: 4 – 6

Let’s check out, how such a training looks at the example of the Back Squat performed by Double-Olympian Twan van Gendt

Day 3 – Goal: Strength Endurance – maximize energy expenditure

Variation 1 (repetition based – station training)

Intensity: 50 – 60% 1RM

Repetitions: 15 – 20

Sets: 2 – 3

Rest between sets: 90 – 120 seconds

Rest between exercises: 2 – 3 minutes

Number of exercises: 5 – 6

Variation 2 (repetition based – circuit training)

Intensity: 50 – 60% 1RM

Repetitions: 15 – 30

Sets: 2 – 3

Rest between sets: 30 – 60 seconds

Rest between exercises: 60 – 120 seconds

Number of exercises: 6 – 8

Variation 3 (time based – circuit training)

Intensity: 50 – 60% 1RM

Repetitions: 20 – 30 seconds

Sets: 3 – 5

Rest between exercises: 10 – 20 seconds

Rest between sets: 3 – 5 minutes

Number of Exercises: 6 – 8

Let’s check out Mountainbiker Anneke Beerten performing such a strength endurance training workout as part of her preparation.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRlrsz_jHPU

Concluding An Advanced Strength Training for Weight Loss Routine

The advanced strength training for weight loss routine combines the three aspects of stimulating the muscle metabolism, maximizing energy expenditure and the production of growth hormone and testosterone to accelerate the weight loss without adding too much training frequency and training volume into the mix.

As you can see, a training frequency of 3 sessions as it is outlined in this strength training program is sufficient.

Check out the different strength training workouts.

Strength Training Program for Weight Loss Advanced Strength Training for Weight Loss Routine

Strength Training for Weight Loss Advanced Strength Training for Weight Loss Routine

What are the best exercises to lose weight? Or what are the most effective weight loss exercises?

I have covered the basic principle of weight loss and weight gain, I have also covered the mechanisms of strength training that can help promote weight loss and I have outlined a structure of an advanced strength training program for weight loss.

What’s next?

The next question that stands out is the best exercises to lose weight or what are the most effective weight loss exercises?

The answer to that is not that difficult and I need to refer back to the discussion from before when I outlined the mechanisms for weight loss.

Remember, the different mechanisms

  • maximizes energy expenditure
  • stimulates the muscle metabolism
  • promotes testosterone and growth hormone secretion

In order to determine the best exercises for weight loss, the strength exercise needs to fulfill the criteria maximize energy expenditure, stimulate muscle metabolism and promote the secretion of growth hormone and testosterone.

Let’s answer the questions one by one

What strength exercises maximize energy expenditure? 

Very simple the more muscle mass is involved, the more energy is required to perform the exercise. These exercises involve more than one joint and are those type of exercises most people don’t like and don’t do.

What does that mean?

Let’s imagine a strength exercise that doesn’t involve a lot of muscle mass, like Lateral Raises, Biceps Curls, Triceps Extensions, Butterfly, etc

The next category of exercises are those that involve more muscle mass, such as Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Pull Ups, Leg Presses, etc

The strength exercises that involve most muscle mass are Squats, Deadlifts, the Standing Shoulder Press or Military Press and to a certain extent combined exercises such as Thrusters, Back Squat to Neck Press, Front Squat to Shoulder Press.

What about Olympic Lifts? Are the Olympic Lifts an effective weight loss exercise?

Yes and no.

If you read any of my articles before, you know, that I like the Olympic Lifts and I have outlined the benefits of the Olympic Lifts in different articles

However, the Power Clean offers a lot of benefits for strength and power development on the other side, the Olympic Lifts require a high level of skill and coordination. For that reason, the application as an effective exercise weight loss is limited.

Why?

Let me explain.

Due to the high level of coordination and skill required, it is very difficult to perform multiple repetitions of the Olympic Lifts, without a substantial technical breakdown.

The technical breakdown will result in the inability to complete the repetitions without practicing a flawed technique or completing the set safely.

If you want to use the Olympic Lifts in your strength training program for weight loss it does require some modification. For example performing Cluster Sets or complexing the Olympic Lifts with another exercise.

So, back to the topic, what strength exercises maximize energy expenditure?

Strength exercises that involve more muscle groups tend to be the most effective weight loss exercises.

What strength exercises stimulate muscle metabolism?

The muscle metabolism is stimulated by 2 factors

  • The mechanical tension on the muscle
  • The time of the mechanical tension, also known as time under tension (TUT)

Whilst the time under tension isn’t influenced by the type of strength exercise you are doing, much rather for how long or how short you do it.

The mechanical tension is influenced by the load.

And also here, the same principle applies as for the strength exercises stimulate muscle metabolism, the more muscle mass involved, the heavier loads you can lift, the higher the mechanical tension.

What does that mean?

The same as before, multi-joint movements, also called compound movements, squats, deadlifts, presses, pulls and lunges.

What strength exercises promotes testosterone and growth hormone secretion?

I have outlined that to naturally promote testosterone secretion and to promote growth hormone secretion, you need to employ different strategies.

To promote testosterone production and secretion, you need to train with higher intensities (above 80% 1 RM) and lower repetitions (4 – 6 reps) with complete rest between the sets (more than 2 minutes) and exercises (more than 3 minutes).

Whilst to promote growth hormone secretion, you need to train with lighter intensities (above 60 –  75% 1 RM) and higher repetitions (8 – 12 reps) with incomplete rest between the sets (60 – 90 seconds) and exercises (less than 3 minutes).

To promote natural testosterone production and secretion there are only 2 strength exercises that could show through scientific studies, that they are able to do that.

Can you guess?

Yes, Squats and Deadlifts.

The idea behind that is pretty simple, no other exercises allow such high total loads to be lifted as the Back Squat and the Deadlift.

For the secretion of growth hormones, studies could show that multi-joint, as well as single-joint exercises, are able to achieve that. Scientific studies indicate, that the time under tension, with the resulting total accumulation of lactic acid, seemed to be the main driver for those reactions.

Bottom-line?

In order to maximize growth hormone secretion, you can add a few single-joint strength training exercises, while the main part of your strength training program should be based around multi-joint strength exercises.

Concluding What are the best exercises to lose weight or what are the most effective weight loss exercises?

It can’t be all about Squats, Deadlift, Pressing and Pulling, that would be too simple, right?

There are two answers to this question

Ok, by now you might be tired of me sharing the mainstream and popular articles, that is a bit less in-depth, however, in my opinion, they indicate that there seems to be a paradigm shift also for the everyday training people, how strength training programs for weight loss should be designed.

This article sums up the idea of big lifts for weight loss 5 Strength Moves You Need to Do If You Want to Lose Weight

Full Body vs Split for Fat Loss – What is better?

The last question left, what is better for weight loss, a full body routine or a split routine?

Whilst the benefit of each approach have been outlined in various articles, such as

My approach to the question Full Body vs Split for weight loss is straight-forward and based on everything I have outlined before in this article.

If you chose to train up to 3 times a week, you are very well off with a full body routine.

If you chose to train 4 or more times a week, you need to split your training otherwise you would allow enough rest, not only for the body part but also for your passive structures and nervous system.

However, whether you chose for a full body routine or a split routine, it should still be based around the main exercises (Squats, Deadlift, Pushing and Pulling), don’t end up with 4 single-joint exercises per body part as the ideal strength training program for weight loss.

Concluding Only 3 Things You Need To Know about Strength Training and Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight or better lose body fat, you need to engage in a strength training program that

  • Maximize energy expenditure
  • Stimulate your muscle metabolism
  • Promote and influences your hormonal system to work for you

All this can be done through selecting the right strength training exercises, choose the appropriate training methods (intensity, reps, and sets) and sequencing the strength training workouts in the right order.

And last, but not least, the work needs to be put into action.