There’s nothing like training with weights to initiate a real improvement in your body. In fact using weights and other forms of resistance training can make a larger impact, in less time, on your looks and performance than almost any other form of exercise. Here are some weight training routines that will make you stronger and leaner, fast.

Keep in mind that although lifting weights will speed your metabolism to help you lose fat, and build plenty of solid muscle, you have to support your training in two critical ways; proper diet and enough sleep. You can have the best weight training routine in the universe, and unless you eat right and give your body plenty of rest to recover, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

Obviously you need the proper nutrients to feed those hungry muscles, but not so much that you gain fat. In fact you’d probably like to be doing the opposite; losing fat. In the good old days, athletes would go on “bulking up” cycles, where they’d train hard and eat like they were at the training table in college; pretty much everything in sight. Then, when they needed to make weight or compete in a contest, they’d slim down. The problem with that strategy is that you can waste so much time trying to cut the fat that you shouldn’t really have built in the first place. Also, you can lose valuable muscle mass during the cutting up cycle.

You build muscle while you’re asleep, so you need to get enough shut eye to make sure you build the muscle that you’re aiming for, and the muscle that will speed up your metabolism. That increased metabolism is the key to losing the fat that is so happily obscuring the muscle you have now.

You need a weight training routine that will build muscle and cause the maximum metabolic increase. That means it will make you build muscle and lose fat faster than any other routine. You’ll be bigger (in a good way), stronger, and leaner. If you do it right, it will happen in the blink of the proverbial eye. Keep in mind that some eyes take a bit longer to blink than others.

Recent research has pointed to the effectiveness of mid to low reps and high weights to be the maximally effective solution for initiating long term metabolic increases. In previous posts I’ve mentioned that the standard way to measure metabolic increase caused by exercise is by looking at excess post exercise oxygen consumption abbreviated as EPOC. This is exactly what it sounds like, how much oxygen your body is using after you exercise, how much it rises after you’ve completed the exercise routine, and how long it stays elevated. Look at my previous post on weight training for fat loss.

Research seems to indicate that high volume, high weight, medium to low rep routines are effective, but who says so, and how effective are they? A 2008 study by Hackney et al at Wayne State University revealed that such a routine caused an average 8% increase in metabolism for an astounding 3 days following a single workout. That’s some pretty powerful stuff.
Did I mention what the study considered high volume? In the Hackney study the test subjects did sets of just 6 reps. “Great!” you say. However, they did that for an astounding 64 sets (8 different exercise of 8 sets each)!

That goes far beyond what most people would ever consider, and in fact it is so long that most people would never be able to give any sort of effort during the later stages of such a routine. You probably need something a bit more realistic to get your metabolic elevation, and mass increase. Doing 64 set workouts would quickly lead to overtraining for just about anyone, and you’d have problems doing the last 30 sets with any kind of intensity at all.

Other studies indicate similar increases in metabolic rates can be obtained from far shorter workouts. A 2002 study conducted by Poehlman et al. at the University of Montreal in, naturally enough, Canada examined the impact of different modes of exercise training on total daily energy expenditure. It looked at 3 different groups of women; an endurance training group, a resistance training group, and a control group that did not exercise. There were 89 test subjects in total. The women all had a BMI of less than 26, were between the ages of 18 and 35, and had not participated in a regular exercise program for at least 6 months. The study found that any exercise “may chronically increase energy expenditure independently of the direct energy cost of the training program.” That points to an increase in resting metabolic rate.

The Peohlman study did discover that body composition did not change in the group of endurance trained women. The resistance trained women, however increased strength and fat free mass. In addition, their resting metabolic rate increased as well, which according to the study was a direct result of the increased fat free mass. That indicates that the more fat free mass (muscle) you have, the more calories you’ll burn at rest. That corresponds with the results from other studies, and is fairly common knowledge among athletes and trainers.

In this study, the resistance training program consisted of 1) leg press, 2) bench press, 3) leg extensions, 4) shoulder press, 5) sit-ups, 6) seated rows, 7) tricep extensions, 8) arm curls, and 9) leg curls. The subjects were all tested for 1 rep max prior to the start of the program. They worked out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, doing 10 rep sets with 1 to 1.5 minutes rest between sets. The weight was adjusted so that the subjects could just complete the 10th rep of the set. In other words, the classic weight training program.

Did the subjects get leaner? In order to check, the lab used dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, a very accurate, but unavailable-at-your-local-health-club method of measuring body composition. While the endurance trained subjects showed no change, the resistance trained subjects did get leaner, as their body fat % measurements declined. However they did not lose any fat, the change was due entirely to their increase in lean body mass. A study by Hunter et al. found that 6 months of resistance training significantly increased daily energy expenditure. This was in addition to the direct energy cost of the weight training program.

Part of the failure of the participants in the Poehlman study to lose body fat observed by the would seem due to their diets, standardized at 55% carbohydrate, 25% fat, and 20% protein. Increasing the protein percentage would support even more lean body mass growth, and this would be in line with other studies. Such a training program, combined with a slightly restricted calorie, higher protein percentage diet would have likely resulted in body fat loss, especially when the subjects total calorie burn increased.

Did the test subjects get stronger? While not training exclusively for strength, they did get stronger. An average strength increase of 33% was recorded for all subjects during the course of the training program.

As with other resistance training studies, the restring metabolic rate increase caused by the resistance training lasted for approximately 3 days after a training session. Endurance training sessions in this study seemed to cause no lasting metabolic rate increase, although other studies have found that endurance training sessions cause resting metabolic rate increases for up to 10 hours following endurance exercise.

Here are some routines that can really strip away the fat and make you gain muscle in a hurry

The clean and press routine – I’ve used this one myself, with great success:
Every 5 – 6 days
Power Cleans (sets x reps)
1 x 15, 1 x 10, 4 x 6 – on the last 3 sets, superset with 3 – 5 reps of upright rows

Bench Press
1 x 15, 1 x 10, 4 x 6

Squats
1 x 15, 1 x 10, 1 x 8, 3 x 6

If you’re looking for more of a beach body, throw in a day of arm training during this cycle. Train both biceps and triceps on arm day. Use a similar rep and set schedule, and change the arm exercises you use every 2 months or so.