3 questions on strength training

Can it burn fat? Can it make you bulky?

I get a bunch of questions about strength training and the outcomes we can expect from it. In today's post, I'd like to address the 3 most popular questions. The answers are not meant to be thoroughly researched pieces but just enough to give you the idea.

Will strength training burn fat?

Fat loss happens in the kitchen. More than 50% of your results are to be found in what you eat. And this is assuming you are sleeping at least 7 hours every night.

Fat loss eventually comes down to calories. Did you burn more calories than you consumed? And this adds up over days, weeks, months, and years.

With that in mind, let's approach the question. Yes, strength training will help you burn fat in a few ways.

  1. By building muscle. Muscle is expensive i.e. it consumes more calories. It requires a lot of upkeep. Which is great, as you want to expend more calories. So, the more muscle you build, the more your body will spend to keep it.

  2. The increased strength means you now produce more output, doing whatever you do. You do a workout, let's say 100 swings, 50 squats, 50 pushups. Previously, if you did this with a 12 kg and today you do it with a 24 kg kettlebell - the amount of work you did just went up dramatically. More output = more calories spent.

  3. And more output = potentially more muscle mass. But before you expect to blow up and look all Arnold, please ensure you read the second question.

  4. By stoking our metabolism for the better. Our body will learn to use the right fuel as we fuel it better and if we stoke the furnace better - which you do, in part, by strength training. Without getting into jargon like IGF-1 and all that, strength training will help you improve your hormonal processes and your metabolism.

In conclusion, strength training can aid your fat loss journey. In the long haul, it is amongst the best methods for better health and fat loss. But in terms of calories spent, you are better off doing something you suck at. Let's say you are a solid runner - well, go to the swimming pool. Oh, you swim really well? Then, might be a good idea to take up running. Whatever you suck at, you will waste more energy.

Will strength training build muscle?

Yes.

But learning to lift heavy weights is a skill. Learning to create the tension required to lift heavy weights is a skill. It will take time.

There are two types of muscle building - using light weights and lots of repetitions. I don't prescribe that method. I prefer heavier weights and low repetitions. This builds adequate muscle. The more tonnage you move, the more muscles you will put on.

It is totally possible to be rather strong and not look like a gym rat. It depends on what you want.

Will strength training make you bulky?

No.

It can if that's your goal.

Bulky = what gym posters or the typical Arnold photo looks like.

But it is much harder than you'd think. Especially with the heavy weights and low reps approach.

Getting big and getting strong can be disconnected from each other. But if you are strong, you can get big. You just need to do a lot of work - remember heavy weights and low reps. So, a lot more sets!

A strong person need not be big/bulk. A big/bulky person need not be strong.

Strength training and bodybuilding are completely different.

I hope this sheds some light. Do let me know if you have any questions.