Strength training. When to start, what to do… ?

I’ve been thinking a lot about strength training lately.

The old conventional wisdom is that it’s not possible to lose fat and build muscly at the same time.  Honestly, I mostly buy in to this wisdom.

It makes sense to me that in order to lose fat the body must be experiencing a calorie deficit each day, in order to seek its required energy from the fat deposits stored in the body, thereby “burning” fat.

It also makes sense that after strength training wherein muscle tissue is torn that for the body to build muscle in the healing process it requires more energy, and it requires protein in order to create new muscle.

What I don’t know is if the body is equipped to use energy from fat stores in the body to build that muscle, as long as there is available protein to use.  Further education is required on that front.

I also have heard that building muscle increases the body’s metabolism, by as much as increasing natural calorie consumption by as many as 50 calories per day for each pound of muscle added.  Some cursory research on the inter webs suggests that this theory is highly contested.  However, it is known that strength training does help to decrease fat composition, and has many other positive effects as well.  It’s just not certain how quantifiable it is.

I have not been focusing on strength.  In my fitness regimen I’ve noticed strength improving as a result of the cardio activities I have been doing, but I know this isn’t the same as weight training.

I want to get in to strength, but I’m not sure how, and I’m not sure when.

Right now my priority is calorie deficit. The most efficient way to achieve calorie deficit is to spend my gym time sweating my butt off doing cardio… right?  I love the feeling of working until I feel like I can’t stand, sweat streaming from my pores, and best of all registering a calorie burn session in my calorie tracker that totals in the region of 400-700 calories burned.  It’s super gratifying and it allows me a little more wiggle room in my diet.

My plan right now is to get down to 189lbs (where my BMI will be considered “normal” for the first time since 1997) and then focus on a strength regime while trying to maintain a relatively low fat body composition.  Optimistically I can hit 189lbs in September of 2013. Is that too long to wait to start doing serious strength training?

And what’s the best strength program out there?  Simple weights? Power lifting? Cross-fit? TRX?


2 thoughts on “Strength training. When to start, what to do… ?

  1. I’ve never heard that you can’t build muscle and lose weight at the same time – in fact that sounds preposterous to me. Cross-fit (which I don’t do) for example, gets your heart rate up (burns calories) while you’re doing muscle-building exercises. Maybe if you’re thinking of “building muscle” as adding pounds over pounds of muscle… that I don’t know. I do know you should absolutely be strength training (even if it’s just calisthenics – push ups, sit ups, etc) while you’re focusing on weight loss.

    • Well said. Perhaps the conventional wisdom is more “you can’t get bigger while you get smaller”. That makes more sense to me 😛

      And when I think about it I have about 50 lbs to lose, and it’s pretty unlikely I’ll put on 50 lbs of muscle, so you’re right, I don’t think there’s a risk of not losing weight if I start building muscle, and there’s certainly not a risk of not losing fat.

      Thanks for the voice of reason!


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