by Bret Contreras April 07, 2016
Let’s say you’re new to strength training and you embark on a strength training regimen.
Scenario One: Let’s say you’re a male and you’re currently 25% bodyfat – you weigh 200 lbs with 50 lbs of fat and 150 lbs of lean bodymass.
Scenario Two: Let’s say you’re a female and you’re currently 30% bodyfat – you weigh 130 lbs with 39 lbs of fat and 91 lbs of lean bodymass.
You start lifting weights and over the next year, you gain a ton of strength. These strength gains are accompanied by increases in muscular hypertrophy.
You gain 10 lbs of muscle but you don’t gain any weight. This means that you have to lose 10 lbs of fat (or very close to it).
Scenario One: Now our male still weighs 200 lbs, but he has 160 lbs of lean bodymass and 40 lbs of fat, and is 20% bodyfat (down from 25%).
Scenario Two: Now our female still weighs 130 lbs, but she has 101 lbs of lean bodymass and 29 lbs of fat, and is 22% bodyfat (down from 30%).
But since muscle is around 18% more dense than fat, even though no weight is lost, the body shrinks, especially around the midsection. So the body firms and shapes up in the right areas and shrinks down in the problematic areas. This is why resistance training is King when it comes to improving the physique.
I realize that this may be hard for some to visualize, so check out the DEXA scan below.
If you start lifting weights and you don’t gain any weight over time, the yellow stuff (fat) strips away and the red stuff (muscle) increases. The body shrinks down slightly and firms up.
Now, you may lose weight, stay the same weight, or gain weight during your strength training career. But no matter what your scale weight is at, you’ll carry more muscle and less fat if you’re lifting weights compared to if you’re not.
The point of this article is to portray that strength/hypertrophy (muscle gain) training is fat loss training. The majority of individuals prioritize vast amounts of cardio and conditioning while starving themselves to see physique results, when most of these people would be better off focusing their attention on getting stronger, adhering to a consistent strength program, and consuming optimal macronutrients including adequate protein to support muscle growth.
Need more visuals? Check out the pics below. Each of these ladies either gained weight or stayed put – none of them lost noticeable scale weight and yet each of them improved their physiques by getting stronger over time. Does this make you question the endless cardio/starvation approach and respect progressive strength training as a means to primarily improve body composition? It should.
Proper amounts of cardio and conditioning work are healthy and fine to do. But they do not build significant amounts of muscle like strength training. Therefore, they cannot create physique changes like the ones shown above. Let’s say our 200 lb man and 130 lb woman instead embarked on an intensive cardio regimen for a year rather than focusing on progressive resistance training, but they ate intuitively and ended up staying the same weight on the scale. They would have ended up gaining a few pounds of muscle and losing a few pounds of fat, which would have only created a modest change in bodyfat percentage and physique improvements. If you enjoy cardio, then by all means, please do some. But if your goals are physique related, gaining strength through progressive resistance training is a much more efficient and effective route, so make sure you prioritize accordingly and focus on building muscle. Strength training does a body good!
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