Often when women talk about ‘weight loss’, what they are actually referring to is ‘fat loss’.  Understanding the difference between the two will be fundamental to whether or not you achieve your long term physique goals.  The purpose of this article is to highlight the difference and demonstrate how you can (and should) use strength training for fat loss.

Before we go any further; the first and most important thing you can do is disassociate the word ‘weight’ with the word ‘fat’.  What we mean by that is; a lower number on the scale doesn’t necessarily mean you are losing fat.  Equally a higher number on the scale doesn’t always mean you have gained fat.

Weight is weight.  One kilo of iron weighs the same as one kilo of feathers.  The difference is in the amount of ‘space’ each of these elements take up.  The same applies to fat/muscle/water and bone density.

While watching the number on the scale drop and feeling a physical reduction in size may be satisfying.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re achieving the body composition you desire. 

Strength training for fat loss is about building a physique

Building a physique is far more complex than simply ‘eating less and moving more’ in order to achieve a lower number on the scale.  In fact; we would go as far as to argue that this approach has the potential to sabotage your long term physical outcomes.  For this reason, we encourage all women to play the slow game and adopt strength training for fat loss.  You won’t regret it.

When you switch your focus from ‘weight’ to ‘fat’, you set yourself up for the slower, yet more rewarding outcome.  It is not uncommon for people to want fast results, but it should be noted that ‘fast’ and ‘results’ worth having, do not go together. 

Why the rush?  Take your time.  Get the best results.  

Weight loss vs fat loss – what’s the difference?

As eluded to at the beginning of this article; ‘weight’ and ‘space’ are not the same.  Most people know that 1lb of muscle takes up less space than 1lb of fat, but many still fail to take this into consideration when they step on the scale.  If you are that person, you are encouraged to put the scale away and focus on how you look and feel for now.

Losing any amount of weigh can be attributed to water, fat or muscle.  Furthermore, as a woman, your actual body weight can vary depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle.  In some cases it depends which way the wind is blowing.

The fact is, there are so many variables attached to your body weight.  For this reason it actually becomes a less than ideal basis of measuring results.  When it comes to fat loss, there is no grey area, fat is fat.  It cannot be attributed to anything other than fat.

Of course, if your goal is simply to ‘weigh as little as possible’ then by all means, use the scale to measure your outcomes.  However if we scratch beneath the surface of anyone on a ‘weight loss’ journey, 9 times out of 10, the goal is physical appearance.  This is why we encourage strength training for fat loss.  Because it is the strength training that allows you the opportunity to alter your physique.

Strength training for fat loss – how it works

Strength training helps you to target fat in two ways:  Not only do you burn energy during your strength training sessions.  You also build more lean muscle which in turn results in a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR).  This is the amount of energy your body expends at rest.  When you burn more energy in your natural state, you boost the efficiency of your workouts.  

The beauty of strength training is that it allows you to spot focus on where you want to build muscle. Giving you more control over your results. This leads the body to burn more fat for two reasons;

Firstly, strength training is an anaerobic activity. This means that as well as using oxygen to generate heat energy, the body must feed off energy from glycogen. This optimises your body for burning its fat reserves.

And secondly, the leaner your body, the more efficiently it burns energy. Larger muscles require more energy to keep them functioning properly. Therefore; the stronger you are, the more calories you will naturally burn.  Even when resting.

Ideally; you should combine both cardio and strength training for fat loss, as this is the best way to reduce overall body fat.

Lose the short term mentality

In summary; when you use strength training for fat loss, you will see that longer term your body will begin to burn fat more efficiently.  This is why we see advanced lifters consuming high numbers of calories while maintaining their lean appearance.  Its metabolism and it isn’t always given. In fact, for many it is earned.


The bottom line is; by playing the slow game you are setting yourself up for a stronger and firmer overall physical appearance.

Avoid the excessive cardio trap

When you lose weight through cardio alone, your body will eat into both your fat and muscle supplies to get the energy it needs.  That’s why even the most intense interval training won’t give you rock hard abs and toned limbs. You’ll drop pounds, but you won't be able to reveal a physique you haven’t built.

As a final note; and to reiterate what we hope has been made clear throughout this article:

Strength training for fat loss isn’t something that will yield results overnight, or weeks for that matter.  To tell the truth, depending on your starting point, it can take months, if not years to build the physique of your dreams.  With that said, it is important to note that there is no other way to achieve such long term results.  So the choice here is yours:  Are you willing to invest in yourself long term.  Or are you going to give up before you even begin?

If you still need convincing, check out this article from bodybuilding.com.