Probably the single most important thing I did to lose and maintain weight was to focus on strength training. Previously I'd only done cardio...and previously was never successful at losing weight. But research shows that strength training is critical for weight loss and maintenance, according to this article from Women's Health Magazine:
"You'll Lose 40 Percent More Fat
If you think cardio is the key to blasting belly fat, keep reading: When Penn State researchers put dieters into three groups—no exercise, aerobic exercise only, or aerobic exercise and weight training—they all lost around 21 pounds, but the lifters shed six more pounds of fat than those who didn't pump iron. Why? The lifters' loss was almost pure fat; the others lost fat and muscle.
Other research on dieters who don't lift shows that, on average, 75 percent of their weight loss is from fat, while 25 percent is from muscle. Muscle loss may drop your scale weight, but it doesn't improve your reflection in the mirror and it makes you more likely to gain back the flab you lost. However, if you weight train as you diet, you'll protect your hard-earned muscle and burn more fat.
Your Clothes Will Fit Better
Research shows that between the ages of 30 and 50, you'll likely lose 10 percent of your body's total muscle. Worse yet, it's likely to be replaced by fat over time, says a study. And that increases your waist size, because one pound of fat takes up 18 percent more space than one pound of muscle.
You'll Burn More Calories
Lifting increases the number of calories you burn while your butt is parked on the couch. That's because after each strength workout, your muscles need energy to repair their fibers. In fact, researchers found that when people did a total-body workout with just three big-muscle moves, their metabolisms were raised for 39 hours afterward. They also burned a greater percentage of calories from fat compared with those who didn't lift.
Lifting gives you a better burn during exercise too: Doing a circuit of eight moves (which takes about eight minutes) can expend 159 to 231 calories. That's about what you'd burn if you ran at a 10-mile-per-hour pace for the same duration."
Read the full article for more reasons why strength training is key to good health.
When I started working with a personal trainer last year, he explained that when your body becomes used to doing something, you won't progress. I only worked with free weights previously, so Tom showed me how to use the weight machines and created a program for me to ensure I don't plateau. Following this program, I finished a week of rest last week after a few months of free weights. This week is the first of the next six weeks using weight machines again at the gym. It's good to do a new routine, and I'm sore after one day at the gym--a sign that I'm building muscle.
Not only does switching up your routine ensure you continue to progress, but it's also fun to start something new. Doing the same exercises week after week, month after month, can get boring, and that can make people stop altogether. So if you've been doing the same strength training routine for a while, switch it up. If you're not strength training, you should be! Shape Magazine, Fitness Magazine, and Women's Health Magazine all have free strength training routines you can do at home with no or minimal equipment to get started.