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Weight Training for Female Fat Loss

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Much of the problem with female fat loss programs is the emphasis on diet and cardio- and whilst this is certainly important, it is missing out on one big potential beneficial area – weight training.

There are more women than ever before taking part in weight training and you should be too- it’s the perfect addition to your exercise program if you want to add shape and burn fat. 

In this article we’ll provide you with a number of benefits of incorporating weight training into your program, show you how to do it, and dispel some of the myths about how the female body changes to lifting weights.

Once you read our guide on how to achieving a leaner, stronger and more athletic body through weight lifting you’ll be ready to get the body you’ve always wanted.

Women and weight training

For many years weight training was associated with men- you’d walk into the gym and whilst the weights area was full with guys, you’d only ever see women on the cardio equipment.

An interesting study by Guess in 2012 [1] collected information about female attitudes to weight training. When asked about why they didn’t participate, responses included-

“most of us don’t really need weights”

“I wouldn’t want to build myself muscles”

“I found a lot of my family members are like ooh what are you doing that for—that’s masculine—and they try to de-feminize it”

and the best one of all…

“I don’t want to build hulk muscles”

Luckily, there has  been a big shift in the female attitude to training over the last few years with many more females participating in regular weight training sessions. A lot of this can be attributed to an increased perception of the benefits of this type of exercise, and not the fact that you’ll get big muscles-

The National Weight Control Registry indicates that resistance exercise is the second most common exercise undertaken by “successful [weight] losers” and that the potential contribution this type of activity could make to healthy weight management is high [2].


Weight training will increase your metabolic rate

…during and after weight training!

Your ‘resting metabolic rate‘ (RMR) is the amount of calories you use at rest and it’s a major component of the daily energetic cost (around 60-70% of your total daily energy use)- the higher this number, the more fat burning potential you have. 

Weight training has a high energetic cost due to the high intensity associated with it, and evidence suggests that it will increase your RMR- much higher than cardio will.

For example, a study by Osterberg and Melby [3] verified that resistive exercise increases the RMR for 16 hours after exercise, suggesting an increase of approximately 50 Kcal/day in RMR. Likewise,  a study by Melby et al [4] reported that the RMR in the following morning after a weight training exercise session was 4,7% higher than the one measured in the morning prior to the exercise.

The reason why weight training increases your RMR is that the more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate.

Research shows that between the ages of 30 and 50 you can lose around 10% of your body’s muscle- this will have a dramatic effect on your fat burning potential – so weight training is a must if you want to keep your fat burning switched on

Key Point: Weight training exercise offers unique benefits to people seeking to lose weight by increasing metabolic rate- this in turn helps you to burn more fat.

So will that help me lose fat?

The research is teeming with studies that evidence the fat loss potential of weight training for women. The higher you can get your resting metabolism, the more fat you’ll burn. Here are just a few examples:

#Study 1:

A study by Prabhakaran et al [5] studied the effects of a 14 week resistance training program using 85% of 1RM on 27 pre-menopausal women who were asked to lift weights 3 times per week.

Results showed a significant decrease in body fat as well as cholesterol, and a significant increase in strength, suggesting that resistance training has a favorable effect on lipid profile and body fat percentage in healthy, sedentary, pre-menopausal women. Interestingly body mass remained unchanged. 

#Study 2:

This study by Boyden et al [6] assessed the effects of resistance training for a 5 month period- again using pre-menopausal women- using a slightly lower intensity of 70% 1RM. Results were very similar to that of study 1- favorable changes to both lipid profile and body composition.

#Study 3:

This study perfectly illustrates the power of weight training for female fat loss- Kraemer et al [7] assigned overweight volunteers into 1 of 3 groups-

  • Group 1- diet only
  • Group 2- diet and cardio
  • Group 3- diet, cardio and weights

After exercising 3 times per week for 12 weeks, Group 1 lost 14.6lbs of fat and Group 2 lost 15.6lbs- Group 3 however lost 21.1lbs of fat- 44% more than Group 1. 

The interesting thing about this study is that it shows that by adding cardio to a diet plan you will only lose an extra 1lb of fat- whereas with weight training you can expect an extra 7lbs!

Weight Training for Female Fat Loss

Key Point: Weight training helps women lose more fat whilst on a diet, and it can also improve your overall strength and metabolism.

Will I bulk up?

An increase in muscle size is often referred to as hypertrophyand it’s a common misconception of female weight lifting. But you won’t get bulky we promise.

A study by Staron et al [8] for example demonstrated that when females undergo intense lower body strength training, hypertrophy can occur- but…

Instead of participants’ muscles getting bigger they found that over a 20 week period of training using 6-8 reps- strength and lean mass increased, women’s body fat decreased and more importantly – thigh girth remained the same. 

And it’s worth noting too that when you start weight training you are likely to increase glycogen content in the muscle and retain water- this is easily mistaken as ‘bulking’ as your weight on the scales might go up in the early stages of training.

For many women this can ultimately lead to cessation of resistance-based exercise. You’ve got to see past this- it is important in the early stages of your training to focus more on productivity in the gym and not your weight- it’s irrelevant.

There’s a much larger, longer plan that if you stick to, will end up with some great changes to your body composition!

Final word – Weight Training for Female Fat Loss

For many years women avoided weight training for fear of building too much muscle and losing their femininity, but recently, the industry has seen an increase in females hitting the iron to change their physiques. By lifting weights on a regular basis you’ll increase your metabolism which will help you burn fat and lose weight, as well as help you achieve a more shapely and athletic figure.


  1. Guess, N. A qualitative investigation of attitudes towards aerobic and resistance exercise amongst overweight and obese individuals. BMC Res Notes. 2012; 5: 191
  2. Catenacci VA et al. Physical activity patterns in the National Weight Control Registry. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Jan; 16(1):153-61.
  3. Osterberg KL, Melby CL. Effect of acute resistance exercise on post-exercise oxygen consumption and RMR in young women. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000;10:71-81.
  4. Melby C, Scholl C, Edwards G, et al. Effect of acute resistance exercise on post-exercise energy expenditure and resting metabolic rate. J Appl Physiol. 1993; 75(4):1847-53
  5. Prabhakaran, B et al. Effect of 14 weeks of resistance training on lipid profile and body fat percentage in premenopausal women. Br J Sports Med. 1999; 33: 190-195
  6. Boyden, TW et al. Resistance exercise training is associated with decreases in serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in premenopausal women. Arch Intern Med. 1993; 153(1): 97-100
  7. Kraemer, WJ et al. Influence of exercise training on physiological and performance changes with weight loss in men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999; 31(9): 1320-9
  8. Staron, RS et al. Muscle hypertrophy and fast fiber type conversions in heavy resistance-trained women. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1990; 60(1): 71-9