The secret's out: Resistance exercises such as lifting weights are hugely effective at helping you lose weight. As we've recently reported, a new study published in the FACEB Journal reports groundbreaking findings showing that when we perform resistance exercise, it jumpstarts a molecular process "instructing" our fat cells to enter a heightened state of fat burning.
"To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of how weight training initiates metabolic adaptations in fat tissue, which is crucial for determining whole-body metabolic outcomes," says study author John McCarthy, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Kentucky Department of Physiology.
That being said, fitness trainers and experts have been advising their clients in pursuit of a leaner physique to incorporate weight resistance exercises like squats, pull ups, or free weight training for years.
"Weight training, body-weight training, and general resistance training are all excellent ways to trigger long term fat burning," explains Joy Puleo, M.A., PMA-CPT, Balanced Body Education Program Manager. "Your body is brilliant. When you train against resistance, you are building muscle mass. As you train against a resistance, be it a weight or gravity, you are often training anaerobically, which is a fancy way of saying 'not in the presence of oxygen.' However, as the muscles repair and gain in strength, the metabolism changes such that at rest, fat is being used as energy. This is exactly what we are looking for, to rev the engines so that when we are not exercising you are still burning fat for fuel."
So now you know that pumping iron helps you shed pounds. The question remains… What is the best strength-training move for doing so? Luckily, there's an easy answer. Read on for the one resistance-training move you should do if you want to trim down, and consider it a bonus that you can do with or without he help of added weights. And for more great exercise advice, don't miss The Secret Side Effect of Lifting Weights You Didn't Know, Says Science.
Why You Need to Do Squats
The classic exercise has been shown time and time again to be a major fat burning asset. This research published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine concludes that just eight weeks of bodyweight squats significantly reduces body fat percentage while simultaneously increasing lean body mass. Moreover, this study published in the International Journal of Disabilities Sports and Health Sciences reports that eight weeks of squatting resulted in a "significant decrease of 7.15% in body fat" on average among 18 young male participants.
Why are squats so great for trimming unwanted pounds? Grey Evans, Ph.D.,M.S., writes for LiveStrong that when we squat not only does it boost the metabolism but testosterone and growth hormone levels, as well. Both of those hormones help support the maintenance and retention of lean muscle while burning fat at the same time. "Keep your rest periods short, no more than one minute between sets of squats in the gym. Training with a weight that makes you struggle to complete ten repetitions, while resting only one minute between sets will cause a significant increase in your growth hormone levels, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology," Evans adds.
Of course, squats can help you achieve a whole lot more than just a leaner look. Keep reading for a few more reasons you should find time for squats—and for more exercise news, don't miss This Secret Trick for Getting Fit in Seconds, Says New Study.
Squats Will Help You Live a Longer Life
Mastering your squatting technique may just end up adding years to your life in the long run. This research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology tracked health and mortality outcomes among older adults (ages 51-80). Participants who were able to pick themselves up from a squatting position without using their hands were found to be significantly less likely to pass away over the following six years in comparison to other subjects who couldn't pick themselves up from a squat.
"It is well known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival, but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and coordination are not only good for performing daily activities, but have a favorable influence on life expectancy," says Claudio Gil Araújo, MD, the study's lead researcher.
Squats Strengthen Your Core and Improve Posture
If you think squats work only your posterior, you're way off the mark. A properly performed squat constitutes a full-body workout that targets spine muscles, abs, obliques, and deep core muscles. To get a better idea of just how effective squats can be, consider this study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics. Study authors report that squats activate the erector spinae muscle group four times more than planks! Spine muscles also play a major role in standing up straight, which means squats can also help improve posture.
Squats Bolster Your Brain
Did you know that squats also benefit the brain? Indeed, a vigorous squatting regime actually sends signals to your mind instructing it to kick things into high gear. Research published in Frontiers in Neuroscience reports that any weight-bearing leg exercise sparks the creation of new nerve cells in the brain—which help fight stress, improve learning, and boost overall adaptation.
"It is no accident that we are meant to be active: to walk, run, crouch to sit, and use our leg muscles to lift things," comments study co-author Dr. Raffaella Adami from the Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy. "Neurological health is not a one-way street with the brain telling the muscles 'lift,' 'walk,' and so on." And for more life-changing exercise advice, see here for the Secret Exercise Tricks for Keeping Your Weight Down for Good.