The Secrets of Success: Don't Skimp on Strength Training

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When we were researching and writing our best-selling book, "The Spark," we discovered 27 secrets of success that thousands of successful SparkPeople members have used to reach their goals, lose weight and keep it off. Some secrets—including these—are too good to keep to yourself. We're sharing our 15 favorite secrets of success on the dailySpark from March 1-15.

Secret #2: Go for strength.
Successful members were twice as likely to do regular strength training. So why does it really make a difference?

Aside from helping build and maintain a strong and healthy body, these members also know that with more muscle, their bodies will regularly burn more calories, even when they're sleeping.

Too often, people focus on cardio (aerobic) exercise for weight loss. Sure, cardio is very important for burning calories and body fat and helping you increase your fitness level. But don't overlook the power of strength training. Why? For one, it really helps you reshape your body and achieve that tight, toned look you're aiming for. When you look better, you'll feel more confident and be more likely to stick with your weight-loss program since you're seeing your body change in a positive way. Strength training also helps you do better at your cardio workouts—and in your everyday life. You'll feel better, look better, and perform better at everything you try as a result, and that is going to lead you to greater successes.

When I was on my own weight-loss journey, strength training was a big part of my workout plans. I lifted weights 5-6 days a week (separating it out to do different body areas each day so that I was resting appropriately). The feeling of building strength, noticing that I was getting stronger (and lifting heavier weights) was really empowering to me. Even if my pant size wasn't dropping, I was still ticking my way up on the weight stack, and that felt like progress to me—something that made me want to stick with it, no matter what the scale said.

Luckily, SparkPeople makes it easy to start a strength-training program. Our free Fitness Tracker can give you a unique program based on the equipment you have available—even if you don't have any weights at home. You can also use the following resources to add strength training to your workout plan.
  • Workout Generator. This is a fun little tool that helps you find the right workout for you out of hundreds of workouts designed by our certified personal trainers. Give it a shot!
  • Reference Guide to Strength Training. This article contains everything you need to know about strength training safely and effectively to reach your goals: how much weight to lift, how many reps and sets to do, how often to rest. If you have a question, the answer is here.
  • Our Video Library. We offer more than 40 different workout videos you can follow at home. The vast majority of these are strength-training workouts, and each tells you which muscles you're working along with other safety precautions and tips.
  • My "Fit, Firm and Fired Up" Workout DVD. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the exercise DVD I designed that incorporates all of these secrets of success into one workout plan. It makes strength training a no-brainer with easy to follow workouts and tons of variety. Since each workout is just 10 minutes, it's something you can do no matter how busy you are!
How about you: Is strength training one of your secrets, too? How has it helped you lose weight, tone up or reach your goals? Tell us about it below!

Did you miss a secret? Find all the rest of the series of 15 here (a new one is posted every day through March 15). For all 27 secrets and to learn how to fit them into your life.

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I strength train 2 to 3 x per week for 20 to 30 minutes each session. I have been doing this for years. On occasion when life really gets in my way and I have to forgo the ST I can really tell the difference and get back at it as soon as I can. Report
yes! I've found that I can cut back on cardio -- by about an hour and a half -- and get fantastic results just with strength training. Lift hard, lift heavy, rest, and watch the fat drip off! Report
I am not strenth training, as of yet. I know that it is important, but I am a little afraid because everytime I make an effort I hurt myself. I also have Rhuematoid Arthritis and the winter months are harder. Therefore, I've been sticking to water aerobics and swimming. Nevertheless, I have hope that I will eventually be able to strength train. Report
I love the way my arms are looking after only two months of strength training. I'm going to keep it up. Report
Been doing strength training, does make a difference. was doing 3 days now only 2 need to get back to 3 :) Report
I need to incorporate more strength training into my routine. It just seems that when I finish with the treadmill I am just too pooped to do anything else. Shame on me. Report
KettleBells are a great way to strength train. I love them. Report
I strength train 3x's a week. I love the way it gives my body definition. IMy favorite body part to work would be my biceps, triceps and shoulders. I thin having defined arms makes a woman look sexier ;-) Report
I started my fat-loss quest just under 2 years ago. It started with a simple climb of the 5 flights of stairs at my office. I used to sweat profusely by the time I got to the top...

Months later it evolved into 6 days a week of 30-60 minute sessions (sometimes 2 sessions a day) on an elliptical. In just under a year I lost 45 lbs (from 235 to 190). I still do the stairs every day, minus the sweat fest.

About 3 weeks ago, I started hitting the weights. I can only bench 110lbs right now, but each week I have been adding 10 lbs and its been incredible to see my body transformation in that short time. I hit a different muscle group each day... I still do the cardio work in between (except now it is only 3-4 times a week and not 6).

I generally work out at night because I am not much of a morning person and I have a 2 year old so I generally work out after he goes to bed. I am still a relatively terrible eater, and I still have a small gut, but at 29 I am literally in the best shape of my life. Strength training is definitely a good use of your time! Report
I do some kind of cardio and floor exercises every day and strength training with barbells 3 times a week. Report
I strength train 4 times a week different routines. I feel wonderful afterward. Report
Jillian Michaels' No More Trouble Zones is a great strength/circuit training dvd that works all parts of the body. I'm 50 and have found muscles I never even knew I had.

I love, love, love the fact that muscles burn around 30 calories per pound while fat only burns 2 or 3 calories per pound. So even if strength training causes you to gain a minimal amount of weight it is fantastic for burning extra calories all day every day! Plus a toned body is a better looking body. Report
Thanks Nicole. I have used weight machines before - very unsuccessfully. The exercises you teach are simple, inexpensive and give me such a boost I am excited that I will be able to slowly increase the weights. For the first time I am enjoying strength training. Report
I have only focused on cardio for the most part. I would get on the treadmill and run/walk.Then I got more into doing a intervel training. During this time I would lift weights with my husband on Saturdays and sometimes on my own. I am now reading the spark and home on sick leave due ot a bunion surgery. All I could really do is dumbells and crunches! Today I got the pins out of my toes and I have a renewed committment to strength training! I am going this Saturday and working it with my husband. I am still limmited on running the treadmill but the bike should be good! I think I will also meet my husband at the gym for more strength training. Thanks Nicole! Report
I think I'll start incorporating more strength training into my daily routine. I learned from another reading here on sparks today that I can break my workouts up. 5 to 10 mins or sets and reps. I can do curls in the kitchen waiting for my pasta to cook, or squats watching tv. Excellent! Thanks this is very helpful... Report
I havent started any strength training yet.Thanks for the information because now I am going to three days a week. Report
Strength training is definitely part of my routine! I've kept the weight off for around 3 years now. It's also helped me keep muscle tone. Report
I definately have to have strenght training in my routine...I dont feel complete without it. I do my own circuit which includes full body ST, but I change it up when I get bored. I love how lifting weights makes me feel...and when I can focus in on the peticular muscle Im working, I can really "feel it" working. I do my circuit 3 days a week, and cardio on the other days. I feel very fit, mostly due to ST. Report
Thanks for the encouragement. I also use strength training as part of the programme that has helped me to lose 60 pounds since last summer. However fitness has come along, the "firmness" is elusive. After decades of obesity, the skin just isn't snapping back to fit the smaller body inside it. Fortunately my wife is still encouraging and not laughing. Report
When some people are so concerned about the scale, I like to check my inches and strength training allows me the results I'm looking for. It sculptures the body and when you're not losing weigh, hopefully, you;re losing those inches, eliminating the flab. It doens't seem so much like exercising to me and anice break from the cardio! Report
I definitely notice a difference when I ST & when I don't. My current w'out of choice is the 30-Day Shred but I also enjoy the short bootcamp videos here on SP. I try to do them more than once, tho, to make it more "bootcampish."

I will also be going back to a "Body Conditioning" class at a local rec centre starting next Monday! Yay!

This is certainly a good tip to post today! My ST has been slacking & my toning is lacking...
My workout isn't complete unless I strength train. It has made the world of difference in how my body is shaping up. :) Report
This blog was just what I needed. I have played with the idea of scaling back my strength training because the scale is just not moving enough. I was thinking I should just hit the cardio harder and a little more per week. But what I keep noticing is that people are reacting to me as if I am still at a 2 - 3 pound loss per week pace. I know my clothes are getting looser and I am getting stronger and lifting heavier weights. So I am inspired to press on. I love Spark People!!! And I love hitting the weights!!! Report
Big ChaLEAN Extreme fan! Report
We started strength training when we joined a fitness center and I think I have gotten really good results from it. I do it five days a week with my cardio. One day upper body and the next lower body. Report
Strength training is important and the results are fantastic. I also read that the body keeps on burning fat whilst you are at rest after strength training. Problem is I don't have any dumbells since I am away from home. But I will be looking for alternatives. Thanks for sharing. Report
Reading this article is certainly a wake up call. I was secretly hoping that recording what I ate along with walking 40-50 minutes a day would result in weight loss. But it hasn't, or not as much as I'd hoped for. Sounds like this is another aspect of weight loss I need to seriously consider. I'm a relative newbie who is just now getting serious about permanent changes in eating and exercise habits. But I also worry about taking it on so intensely that it becomes discouraging when the effort does not yield immediate results. Report
I try to strength train at least three times per week. I also use fitness tools during my cardio workouts to help increase the tone of my muscles. I like Tae Bo more than any other cardio and Billy has some great tools like weighted resistance bands, an amped bar, and such that help with the strength element of cardio.

Every morning after I strength train, I notice a better look to my body in the morning when I get up. I also emotionally feel as powerful as my body looks. It's an amazing element of staying fit that I wouldn't trade or give up because of how wonderful it makes me look and feel. Report
Since I am plateuing I have noticed my body reshaping and changing due to the strength training I am doing. Report
Lifting weights is completely essential to me, and definitely a secret. My body looks much more toned and tight than someone my weight would look if I only did cardio. I also feel empowered when I can lift heavier weights, and it has given me great posture and energy. It is definitely just as important to me as cardio! Report
This is just exactly what I needed to read today. I've been slacking on my strength training the last few days. Report
strength training changed my life and my body. I was determined to believe that cardio and diet were the only things that could melt my fat. I WAS SOOOOOOO WRONG!!!!!!! ST was the Xfactor that changed everything. Report
Strength training for me is so much easier to do then aerobics! I use the videos on SP. They are very easy to follow and use easier equipment like dumbbells and resistance bands. Cardio is a huge effort 4 me. I do struggle with overworking the areas I need the most help in and right now am having to lay off the neck and upper back due to soft tissue injury. I want to fix the problem too fast. Any advice on getting me into more cardio would be helpful. Report
I need to do more strength training, A LOT more! I know the benefits and advantages but find it easier to skip it and do cardio instead. Report
I am 47 and started strength training to help preserve muscle mass and increase tone. It is exciting to be able to progress from only one pullup on a smith assist to 10! and be able to see the future as I drop the weights. It definately tones the body and the inches fall.

It was hard to work into the routine for sure but it only take 30 minutes to work a group - and for the benefits (inceased metabolism - increased body strength - better fitting clothes and stronger bones) I am willing to make that commitment. I do it on my lunch hour with 20 minutes of cardio after. If I can't get to the gym bands are great!

I am amazed at the number of people who responded negatively here - it is SO important to strength train! Crunches while watching TV (biggest loser anyone?) Report
I have a heck of a time forcing myself to fit in strenght training. There are so many more cardio machines that I am always able to get on to one of those, but it seems to always be crowded in our weight area so I tend to skip it. Report
That strength training is hardest for me to work in. When I lost the last 40 pounds, it was a regular part of my workout at the gym. I have what I need at home, but for some reason, I haven't gotten started. It helped when I had a trainer, because that was a financial commitment. Now I know it should be a health commitment. It sure helps your body burn more calories and keep your body from losing strength and flexibility. Report
I hate strength training. I gain weight the weeks I do and usually feel like crap (bloated with water retention). I wonder what I'm doing wrong. Report
i dont have the money or time (no babysitter) to go to the gym but i am doing my strength at home with my dumbbells and later on heavier weights. Report
I like Sparkpeople strength training, it helps me know what i should do. Report
My work schedule doesn't allow me time to go to gym but tips on strength training I could do at home would be fantastic. Bought myself a slimgym and love what it does. Helps a lot with the cardio. Feels like a complete upper body workout in about 10 minutes. Report
I know absolutely nothing about strength training. If it helps with weight loss and feeling stronger than I definitely need to be doing it. I dont have a gym membership and I dont want one. Could someone give me any tips about strength training at home? Does Pilates count? What about JM 30 Day Shred? Any info would be helpful...message me or leave a comment on my page for the tips you have please. Thanks! Report
I began strenght and cardio training when I joined SparkPeople and it has made such a difference in my life. I have increased to almost daily because I feel so much better in every way after exercising!!! It keeps me positive and happy for the rest of the day!!!! Report
I incorporated strength training into my routine when I joined SP. I see the inches coming off. I love the exercise options and breakdown on the site. I am also seeing the weight come off slowly but as long as my clothes are looser and the inches are coming off, I am a happy camper. Report
I totally agree. Cardio may burn the calories (fat), but you need to build the muscles for that toned look. Report
I've done strength training to some degree in the past, but now I have made it a much bigger part of my workout - at least three times/week. I've never had much upper-body strength and can't believe the difference since I started making the strength training a priority. I've lost 19 pounds since Jan 1st and still have a long ways to go. Funny thing is, what is see on the scale is not how I feel, and I attribute a lot of that to strength training. Report
I do circuit training at home. For cardio I use a jump rope, treadmill, recumbent bike and a trampoline. For the weights I have a bench that I bought at Walmart and dumbells. I also use FItdeck cards, you flip a card and it gives you the srength training exercise and how to perform it. Check it out. (Fitdeck) Report
I actually prefer strength training to cardio...but after doing a combination of both, I feel amazing! Report
When I began working out 4 months ago, I did cardio only and lost about 9 pounds over 8 weeks, but it wasn't until I began incorporating weight training that I began seeing dramatic results. I lost 11 inches and an additional 9 pounds in my first 6 weeks of weight training - all without changing my diet. I have to agree that seeing the changes makes me want to continue! Report
I am just now starting to get more consistent with my strength training again. My weight usually goes down when I am good about it, but for some reason it is just easier for me to get cardio in! Report
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