Weight training for fat loss

fat loss vs weight loss – 5 steps for fat loss in the weight room

Part II

Weight training for fat loss

Before I got things all figured out with my training, I’d have two different workouts, one for fat loss and one for gaining lean mass and neither of them actually worked all that well. What I’d did is what a lot of people are doing, adding reps for fat loss workouts and adding weight and lowering reps for gaining muscle workouts.

When we’re trying to burn fat we think more reps = more calories expended, therefore better results when it comes to fat loss. And when we’re trying to gain muscle, we think lower reps means more weight lifted, which means bigger muscles.

Here are a few things I figured out that resulted in more lean muscle mass gained, and more fat lost.

1. Compound exercises

When you’re starting out, forget about concentrating on your smaller muscle groups and focus on the big ones. By focusing on your bigger muscle groups, your smaller ones are still going to be worked (ie bench press works chest, triceps, and front deltoid, while triceps kickbacks only work triceps), and you’re going to burn more calories in the process. Bigger muscle groups need more blood flow, which means your body has to expend more calories to get blood flowing to these areas and to help them recover.

2. You don’t need 1 workout for fat loss and 1 workout for gaining muscle

The workouts can be one in the same. You should be changing things up every three weeks, sometimes training with low reps and other times adding in high reps for a bit of variety regardless of what your goals may be. The big change will be in your diet. By eating more calories than you’re burning you’ll gain weight (muscle if you’re training and eating right), and by eating less calories than you’re burning you’ll lose weight (fat if you’re training right and eating right).

3. More muscle = higher metabolism

The more muscle you have the more calories you’re going to burn in the run of a day, which also means the more fat you’ll naturally burn. So why have one mentality for gaining muscle and another for burning fat? They both go hand in hand. If you’re not eating enough calories to gain weight, you won’t have to worry about bulking up, you’ll just get ripped. Eat clean and workout hard.

4. Hard work pays off

As I said before, you don’t have to have one workout for fat loss and another for gaining muscle, but you have to work hard for both or you won’t see the results you want, simple. A quick, ultra intense workout can have a positive effect on your metabolism for up to 24 hours after exercise.

5. More isn’t always better

The lack of time I had was actually a blessing in disguise. My workouts were more focused and intense which meant more gains and more fat burned off my mid section. I was in the gym for one thing, and that was results. I wasn’t there to chat or to watch TV and after my two weeks of training my body reflected that.

More can also mean too much. Early on in my training days when things weren’t going so well, I was doing a lot more than I am now and I was tired all the time as a result. My body wasn’t given enough time to recover, my workouts were dull as a result and I didn’t have close to the same results as I am having now with shorter, more intense training sessions where I’m getting more ‘bang for my buck.’


I decided I wanted to lean out a bit before I went on my trip to Maui. I changed up my workouts as I do every 3 weeks, but I didn’t change them into “fat loss workouts”. I had a wide variety of reps in my training from 4 sets of 5 to sets of 1 with 50 reps. I still had the mentality that I was building muscle, but I ate like I was after fat loss.

Every now and then I’d mix some cardio into the weight lifting, but other than that they were the same workouts. They were quick – I only spent 3 hours in the gym each week – and they were hard. The thing you have to remember is that hard work pays off a lot of the time, but hard work done smart pays off nearly all the time. After every set I was out of breathe and my muscles were burning, and what resulted was a 3% drop in my bodyfat and only a pound of weight lost.

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  • Jonathan

    Nicely done, Chad.

    I've wondered if doing compound exercises will do enough for muscles that aren't targeted directly, but used indirectly. That's something that I've wondered about… I'm thinking of areas like calves, forearms, neck, etc.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChadThowse Chad Howse

      Forearms will be worked with most lifts (grip strength), but especially deadlift, upright rows, and farmers walk. Your neck will be worked with your shoulders and traps (standing press, clean and press).

      Calves might need concentration. Especially if you're not born with naturally big calves.

      Compound exercises should dominate your routine if you're after fat loss and gaining lean muscle, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't focus every now and then on a smaller muscle group.

      When you've been training for a long time especially, you're going to need to concentrate on certain areas a bit more to get sufficient gains.

  • Clinton

    Hey Chad,

    I was wondering what you would recommend for a lifter like myself. I am a tall guy 6'8 and am coming off playing university basketball, but I did't lose the eating habits. (in case you were wondering tall guys like myself that play university level ball eat a lot, some of it crap too 😉 ) I am carrying too much weight i want to be around 245 – 250 right now i am around 275-280. What would you recommend in terms of lifting and diet? I know this is asking a lot and will understand if you dont have the time.

    thanks in advance!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChadThowse Chad Howse

      Hey Clinton here are a few tips to get you started.

      1. Have lean protein with every meal. (chicken breast, cottage cheese, lean beef, fish)

      2. Get a program, doesn't have to be a fat loss one. Try my free 3 week program it'll really kick ur butt in the gym. After that do 3 full body workouts a week. (quads, hips – deadlift/hammy curls – back 2x, chest, shoulders) no isolation exercises.

      3. Have a big breakfast, early in the am. Last meal of the day should be at 9 pm, cottage cheese + almonds.

      4. Cardio – to start, just get some done 3x weekly. Could be interval training or steady state, but just get it done 3x for now.


      Keep your eye on the blog as well, I'll try and get an article up within the next couple of weeks about your situation.

      Hope this helped, feel free to ask any questions.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChadThowse Chad Howse

    Hey Marianne thanks!

    I love kettlebell training, I'll use them every now and then mixed in with dumbbells and barbells. They're great for fat loss, but get some weight training in there as well, mix things up. If you need any help let me know. Try the free program I give out if you're looking for a routine.

    Take care,