"Getting strong helps burn fat, and people often don't make that connection." - Myatt Murphy, CSCS, Fitness consultant and author, New York

June 01, 2012
Photo: Dylan Coulter

Myatt Murphy knows that look—the one most women get when they hear the words "strength training." It's an almost instant cringe. "It's because they fear getting bigger," he says. From the time men are teenagers, exercise is all about getting bigger and stronger, but women want to be thinner and leaner. Weight lifting can help with that because the more muscle tissue you have, the more calories you'll burn. Then, there are all the other benefits. "Building strength can prevent injury and so many aches, pains, and strains that keep you from enjoying life," Murphy says. "When I was a teenager, strength training was about building muscle, but now it's more about fat loss and keeping the gears greased so I can stay as young as possible for as long as possible."


  • Know your own strength. "Most people tend to work with weights that are too light. You want to use weights that are heavy enough to exhaust your muscles. Figure out which weights will achieve the best results for you. Get yourself to the point where you can raise the weight safely 8 to 12 times but still feel as if you could do one or two if you had to. If you feel like you can go beyond two, you need a heavier weight."
  • Push yourself. "Staying with one muscle group until you've exhausted it is the smarter play for strength training. Choose exercises that work both arms or both legs together—such as a barbell curl, barbell press, or a seated row. If you have dumbbells, then doing both arms at once is the next smartest option. When you use both arms or both legs, you're able to lift more weight, and the more weight you lift the more you strengthen your muscles."
  • Stick with the tried and true. "Everyone's looking for that one magic move—the move that got so-and-so in shape. There really isn't such a thing. However, there are some tried-and-true exercises—squats, lunges, and the bicycle, for instance—that have been proven over time to work your muscles most efficiently and deliver the biggest bang for the buck."
  • Work your whole body. "If time is limited, make each session a routine that works the main muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings/glutes, back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and abs). Start with larger muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes), then work the smaller ones (shoulders, arms).
  • Move to the next level. "Use heavier weights with fewer reps. Leave more time between sets, too. With a heavier weight, you'll be working more of your muscles, and the more muscles you bring to the party, the more calories you burn."