How to Add Strength Training to a Weight Management Routine

women doing push-ups and lifting weights

John Fedele / Getty Images

Are you struggling to maintain your weight, despite working out and watching your diet? If you feel like you've been giving it your all on the cardio machines, it might be time to consider focusing on strength training.

Strength training promotes several metabolic advantages that together help burn fat both during and after working out. That's right, even when resting. When you incorporate lifting weights alongside a comprehensive program that also focuses on a nutritious diet, you'll gain benefits that can help in maintaining your weight, or even weight loss, if necessary.

Strength Training Benefits

While aerobic workouts are excellent for heart health, lowering blood pressure, and improving your lung function (among other benefits), strength training has additional perks. Lifting weights enhances muscle strength, increases your endurance, and also reduces the risk of sports-related injuries.

Along with the physical effects of strength training, lifting weights can help to mentally boost your mood and confidence levels.

Building muscle also leads to:

Increased Lean Muscle Mass

The more muscle on your body, the more energy expenditure you require, which is good news for maintaining your weight without the need to drastically overhaul your diet. Increasing your lean muscle mass (the weight of muscle on your body) can also help ward off some serious diseases, such as heart disease, that can stem from being overweight due to an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.

Reduction in Joint Pain

The stronger your muscles, the better supported your joints. Therefore, if you suffer with minor joint pain, or a chronic condition such as osteoarthritis (a reduction in bone density), you may benefit from lifting weights.

The effects of muscle strength exercise training in a 2019 online database search of controlled trials found its effect in increasing both lean muscle and muscle size in adults suffering with osteoarthritis.

Stronger Bones 

Inactivity is just one of the reasons you may lose bone mass at a rate of 1% per year after turning 40, alongside inadequate nutrition and age-related adaptations. Strength training has been found to boost your bone health and reduce the likelihood of fractures and degeneration with aging, given its ability to help produce bone-forming cells.

Aside from this, bone strength improved by resistance training can also enhance your stability, thereby reducing the occurrence of falls (and possibly fractures) due to imbalance.

Can Reduce Symptoms of Anxiety

Studies on resistance training and anxiety have found a positive link between the two in improving symptoms of anxiety in both participants with no pre-existing conditions, and those with physical or mental illness. This is largely due to a release of mood-boosting endorphins which increase the feeling of pleasure.

There is a myth that weight training causes a "bulky" aesthetic, but the truth is, high levels of testosterone are required, alongside a disciplined weight training program and meal plan, to promote this type of change. Instead, strength training a few times a week can help your body to burn fat more efficiently without adding bulk.

Understanding Your Metabolism

Although weight maintenance has a lot to do with your calorie intake and daily movement, strength training is still somewhat underrated as an efficient way to increase your metabolism and your calorie burning rate post-exercise.

Yes, your metabolism speed has a lot to do with your age, sex and body composition, but what's important to remember is that strength training helps build muscle, and muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue does.

It's also worth noting that resistance training increases excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which helps you burn more calories after your workout. This is due to the amount of muscle tissue enlisted during a strength training session, which results in a greater metabolization of calories from fat when the body is at rest, unlike cardio.

In short, the benefits of strength training can continue for hours post-workout, keeping your metabolism ticking along; helping you with weight management when combined with a suitable calorie intake for your daily needs.

Beginner Strength Training

If you are new to strength training, it's best to ease into a training program with simple, foundational exercises that require little to no equipment. Bodyweight exercises are a great place to start. Mastering the proper form is also the foundation to strength training, as aligning your body to move efficiently during each exercise will help you to progress in a safe manner.

If you are working out from home, you can consider adding household items to your workouts if you want to increase the resistance, such as filled water bottles or laundry detergent containers.

Lastly, get acquainted with the basics and principles of strength training with our guide to set you off on the right track.

Intermediate Strength Training

When you're ready to kick it up a notch, gradually introduce resistance bands or a dumbbell set into your workouts. These strength training accessories are multi-functional and great for at-home or outdoor workouts; not to mention, they are an investment in your health!

Once you have your equipment at hand, it's time to ramp up your workout program with the help of online workout videos or apps to try at home. Alternatively, if you are a member of gym that offers classes, check the schedule for strength-focused workouts. Group fitness can be an excellent motivator to help you stick with a routine.

Once you've gained confidence in your strength training abilities, you may want to increase your weight load and introduce more compound movements to add variety to your workout.

Advanced Strength Training

With your confidence at a high, now you can level up your strength exercises with more advanced moves such as the loaded clean and press and deadlifts, for an added challenge to your strength training repertoire.

If you've managed to increase your weekly strength training activity, you can split your weekly strength training workouts to focus on specific muscle groups, allowing you to maximize your muscle output and perfect your techniques across specific muscles.

Be mindful not to sabotage your progress by lifting too much, too soon. As mentioned, exercising with proper form is crucial for avoiding an injury. When in doubt, seek professional guidance.

How Much Strength Training Do You Need?

If you are new to strength training, ease in with two, full-body workouts a week, increasing this to three-four sessions depending on how your body responds. On top of this, incorporate some cardio to maximize your results.

Consider skipping a day between strength training sessions to allow your muscles time to rest and recuperate—an essential step for recovery as you form a workout routine.

To make the most of your exercise program, blend your cardio workout with strength training for an optimal way to see visible results in a matter of weeks.

If you're beginning a new fitness routine, don't be too concerned by fluctuating numbers on the scale. Some of it is likely due to water retention or post-workout inflammation, or even dependent on how much you ate that day or where you are in your cycle.

Instead, if weight management is your goal, focus on your body fat percentage, body measurements and how your clothes fit, rather than getting too hung up on the scale.

A Word From Verywell

Strength training can help you feel good about your body both physically and mentally. Don't be afraid to step away from the cardio machines and lift some weights. There's space for everyone in all parts of the gym, even beginners. Asking a friend to go with you can make it less intimidating if you've never exercised with weights before, or even hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to help get you started.

You can also get a good workout at home with hand weights and resistance bands. Exercise doesn't have to be a big expense or time commitment, and with a little extra effort, you can gain all the benefits of strength training in just a few days per week.

12 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Normandin E, Chmelo E, Lyles MF, Marsh AP, Nicklas BJ. Effect of resistance training and caloric restriction on the metabolic syndromeMed Sci Sports Exerc. 2017;49(3):413-419. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001122

  2. Lauersen JB, Andersen TE, Andersen LB. Strength training as superior, dose-dependent and safe prevention of acute and overuse sports injuries: a systematic review, qualitative analysis and meta-analysisBr J Sports Med. 2018;52(24):1557-1563. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2018-099078

  3. Gordon BR, McDowell CP, Hallgren M, Meyer JD, Lyons M, Herring MP. Association of efficacy of resistance exercise training with depressive symptoms: meta-analysis and meta-regression analysis of randomized clinical trialsJAMA Psychiatry. 2018;75(6):566-576. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.0572

  4. Thomas MH, Burns SP. Increasing lean mass and strength: a comparison of high frequency strength training to lower frequency strength trainingInt J Exerc Sci. 2016;9(2):159-167. PMCID:PMC4836564

  5. Liao CD, Chen HC, Kuo YC, Tsauo JY, Huang SW, Liou TH. Effects of muscle strength training on muscle mass gain and hypertrophy in older adults with osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysisArthritis Care & Research. 2020;72(12):1703-1718. doi:10.1002/acr.24097

  6. Harvard Health Publishing. Strength training builds more than muscles.

  7. Gordon BR, McDowell CP, Lyons M, Herring MP. The effects of resistance exercise training on anxiety: a meta-analysis and meta-regression analysis of randomized controlled trialsSports Med. 2017;47(12):2521-2532. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0769-0

  8. McCall, P. 4 Myths About Strength Training for Women. American Council on Exercise.

  9. Can you boost your metabolism? U.S. National Library of Medicine.

  10. American Council on Exercise. 4 Myths about Strength Training for Women. Published September 22, 2014.

  11. Ihalainen JK, Inglis A, Mäkinen T, et al. Strength training improves metabolic health markers in older individual regardless of training frequencyFront Physiol. 2019;10:32. doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00032

  12. Harvard Health Publishing. Six tips for safe strength training. November 23, 2017.