The Link Between Strength Training and Weight Loss

Oct 3, 2022 | Tara Schmidt | @taraschmidt

Written by Madeline (Maddie) Crockett, CEP. Maddie is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Inactive adults experience 3%-8% loss of muscle mass per decade. This is accompanied by a reduction in resting energy needs, and in turn can increase in fat accumulation. This puts a person at increased risk for a variety of medical comorbidities. Regular exercise is a powerful tool to combat this.

  • Strength training is "microtrauma" to your muscle tissue. This requires large amounts of energy for muscle remodeling and rebuilding. This energy demand can persist for up to 72 hours after a strength training session!
  • Chronically, the increase in muscle mass a person experiences with regular strength training increases the amount of energy your body requires at rest, also known as resting metabolic rate. This increase is because your body performs ongoing tissue maintenance on each cell in your body, thus the more muscle (tissue) you have the more tissue maintenance there is to be done, which necessitates more energy.
  • Strength training can reverse the effects associated with being inactive. Walking speed, physical performance, and movement control are enhanced, which all help increase the amount of energy you can burn in a day.
  • Research has shown that muscle loss (sarcopenia) is associated with bone loss (osteopenia). Adults who do not perform resistance training could experience 1-3% of bone mineral density loss every year of life. Studies have shown that resistance training can reverse bone mineral loss by 1% each year. Resistance training can help reduce your risk of falling in the first place, and can reduce the risk of a fracture from a fall or injury by strengthening your bones.


  • Perform 8-10 multi-joint exercises that address major muscle groups
  • Train each muscle group 2 or 3 non-consecutive days a week
  • Perform 2-4 sets for each muscle group
  • Use a load that can be done 8-12 times (reps)
  • Technique:
    • Lift throughout the full range of motion unless otherwise specified.
    • Do the exercises in a controlled manner. Don’t “crash” the weight down before beginning the next lift.
    • General rule of thumb is to breathe out (exhale) during the “lifting” portion of the movement and  breathe in (inhale) during “lowering”
    • Start with your larger muscle groups first and then smaller groups after.

It is important to note that strength training, alone, is not sufficient to cause weight loss. This should be done in combination with aerobic training, and caloric restriction.

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