100 lb. Club - The weight training conundrum

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02-29-2008, 01:02 AM
So, I've been doing weight training since I started in May, with it becoming more consistent starting in November. The added consistency of my weight training coincided with my inability to continue to lose weight. I misplaced the tapes that I use to do weight training about two weeks ago, and have only been doing a small amount of weight training since then - and mostly just body weight kinds of things like push-ups since then. And my weight has started dropping again. I am reluctant to start the weight training regimen again even though I believe it is good for me because I'd rather be a flabby thin person than a buff not-so-thin person. When I train, I use fairly substantial weight (10 - 15 pounds per arm), and I do have some bulging arm muscles. But I have always believed that I am not gaining muscle so fast that it offsets the weight that I should be losing through the calorie deficit. So what gives? I really do love the weight training, and I love that I'm stronger than my very athletic 12YO. Maybe it's just that I've replaced the weight training with an extra session of cardio, and I'm seeing the results of that? Still - two sessions per day of an hour each is about all I can squeeze into my schedule, so I don't think I can just add the weight training and keep the extra cardio. Any thoughts would be most welcome.

02-29-2008, 08:28 AM

You might want to ask this question in the Weight and Resistance Training forum:


My own take on it is that exercise for weight loss has to include cardio. Weight training alone may not work--because from the body's point of view, it's short bursts of activity, not sustained effort.

If I had to choose one or the other, I'd choose cardio and cut down on the weights.


02-29-2008, 08:38 AM
Well, if you're worried about time, I don't think you need to spend MORE time than 2 hours a day! :yikes: In fact, that sounds like a lot to me!!

I think cardio and weights are really great to combine, and there are lots of ways to balance cardio and weight training that don't require tons of time!!! The weight training forum is a great place to ask about that.

02-29-2008, 08:54 AM
Laurie, can you tell us specifically what a typical week of exercise looks like for you? I'm sure we can offer some suggestions after we see what exactly you're doing now. I agree with Heather that two hours of exercise a day is a lot!

As to why you're losing weight now, we need to keep in mind that the scale measures water, fat, and muscle (and other things), and we don't know which you've lost (unfortunately!)

Without knowing the details, I'd guess that you're seeing water weight changes on the scale OR it's a coincidence that your weight loss started moving when you stopped lifting. Not enough time has passed to see muscle loss, so that's probably not what's going on. My money is on water weight, for two reasons: first, sore muscles retain water as part of the healing process after a weightlifting session. When you're not lifting, that water weight will go away. My weight will typically go up 2 - 3 pounds after I work legs, for example, and then drop away a few days later. I haven't gained or lost FAT -- it's just water weight fluctuations. Second, when we cut back on exercise, we almost immediately lose blood plasma (I read within 48 hours, because it's no longer needed). That will show up as a loss on the scales, but it's water, not fat.

If it's water weight changes, then it's no big deal because who really cares about how much water their body is holding? I honestly can't think why you would lose more fat when you're not lifting and fat loss is what we're after, of course. :carrot:

Also, it could be a coincidence if you broke a plateau at the same time as you cut back on lifting - who knows? One thought -- could you possibly have been eating less when you exercised less, and not realized it?

You've lost a huge amount of weight :bravo:, so I'm wondering if you've cut your calories as your body has lost fat? Smaller bodies need fewer calories, so we need to keep dropping calories as we lose or else we'll plateau.

Just a few thoughts, but please do share your usual exercise routine and we all can give you some ideas on balancing cardio and weights (equally important in my humble opinion! :D)

02-29-2008, 10:46 AM
Thanks for the responses!

Meg - Here's a typical "before" week:

I do different types of cardio. I run, do the elliptical, do the stair-climber, swim, do occasional fitness tapes, etc., depending on whether I can get to the gym and how my knees are feeling.

Monday - Chest and back (different types of push-ups and simulated pull-ups with bands) - one hour, Cardio - one hour
Tuesday - Yoga - one hour, Cardio - one hour
Wednesday - Shoulder and arms (various weight lifting moves with 10 - 15 pound hand weights) - one hour, Cardio - one hour
Thursday - Yoga - one hour, Cardio - one hour
Friday - Legs and Chest (push-ups, leg exercises using hand and body weights) - one hour, Cardio - one hour
Saturday - Shoulders and arms - one hour, Cardio - one hour
Sunday - Day off, but usually walk a few relaxed miles

I do get a lot of soreness when I do the weight training, and I have tried to chalk up the lack of weight loss to water weight because of the soreness, but it never ended up coming off. I really like the muscle definition I see, and I really like the weight training in general, but in the back of my mind is the thought that if I can't lose weight and do the weight training simultaneously, I'll lose the weight and then when I get down to my target weight, I'll add in the weight training to get the definition at that point.

My new schedule includes just doing cardio instead of the weight training, with some push-ups and a few other moves tacked on to the end.

Meg, I so admire you and greatly appreciate your advice. And I want to add that I do not stay perfectly to the schedule I've listed above, as life intervenes frequently. But if I aim to do that much, I almost always get in at least an hour a day. I usually end up doing about 85% of what I aim to do.

02-29-2008, 10:58 AM
I'm also wondering if maybe you need to vary your weight training. Do you always do the same types of exercises? Have you been at 10-15 lbs for a while or have you worked up to that? I'd suggest going above that if you've been there a while.

How has your eating been?

Honestly, that looks like a lot of exercise and it is possible that your body needs a bit of a rest or a change up of some sort?

Personally, if I had one to choose, I'd choose weights but that is me :)

02-29-2008, 12:44 PM
I've experienced several levels of cardio. I can run or be on the elliptical for an hour, and be doing it, but still kind of just at a moderate level. I wonder if you tweaked your cardio to be just 30 minutes, but really bust it out for that thirty minute, totally high intensity the whole time? That might boost your weight loss. Or shake it up a bit. Try a spinning class or something. I think our bodies easily adapt to our efforts and we need to keep a step ahead by shifting our activities around.

Good luck and congrats on your losses so far!

03-01-2008, 07:54 AM
Laurie, I've been kicking your problem around in my head all day and don't have answers, but several thoughts. :)

First, I believe with all my heart that weight training is a crucial part of weight loss and is an absolute wonder for women generally. I just can't see a way that weights would be what's holding back your weight loss. I doubt that you've built pounds and pounds of muscle that would cancel out fat loss on the scales -- it's hard for a woman to add even five pounds of muscle in a year (unless you're deadlifting 200 pounds and eating fish and green beans six times a day, the way a woman bodybuilder would who's training for muscle gain :D ). And there's no other mechanism that I'm aware of that would make lifting weights stall fat loss.

So what else could it be? Maybe your eating plan? If you're not losing weight, it means that your calories in are equal to your calories out and you're maintaining. Do you count calories or do a different plan? Are you as scrupulous sticking to it as you were in the beginning? Have you reduced portions/calories as you've gotten smaller? Most of weight loss comes from what we're eating, so I'd take a look there first to see if that could be the reason for your stall.

As for your exercise program, I echo what Midwife said about cardio. I'm not sure how intense the cardio is that you're doing (do you use a HR monitor?) but often you can cut back on the time if you increase the intensity. Take me, for example. I lost my weight doing an hour of steady state cardio on the elliptical every day, moderate intensity. I've since discovered that a half-hour of high intensity intervals will give me the same results in half the time. :)

Can you tell us a little more about your hour weightlifting sessions? Are you following a plan? Are you changing up your exercises on a regular basis? How many exercises and sets would you typically do in a hour? An hour seems a lot to me because I can get through 5 - 6 different exercises, 3 sets each, in half an hour with 15 - 30 second rests between sets. And, as Nelie says, it's important to keep challenging yourself with new exercises and increasing weights to keep your body from adapting to your routine. If you do kickbacks one week, for example, swap them for overhead extensions the next. Keep it different and keep it challenging!

Like I said, just a few thoughts. I'm just having a hard time seeing how weights could be slowing you down (maybe it's my bias! :lol: ) Keep in mind that lifting weights does a lot more than just helping you be tight and toned when you reach goal -- by maintaining and even increasing your muscle mass, you're keeping your metabolism running high and making it easier to lose and maintain weight. Studies show that when we lose weight without working to maintain our muscle mass, that up to 40% of the "weight" we lose is muscle. And muscle is precious since it's the calorie burner in our bodies!

Hopefully there's another answer and we can get you back on the losing trail! :)

traci in training
03-02-2008, 03:29 PM
I agree that a heart rate monitor is a great step. I was working out an hour a day and seeing no result on the scale. DH gave me his heart rate monitor to use and it became apparent why I wasn't losing weight - walking wasn't getting my heart rate up anymore.

I've since switched to interval training. I go 1-3 minutes at 100% of my ability - usually running - and then recover with a walk of equal time. My heart rate goes up to 150+ during the run, recovers to the 110-120 range during the walk. I try to get in 40 minutes five days per week.

I've had good success with this method. The pounds come off each week if I eat right and I stay the same if I don't eat right. I also do 20 minutes of weight lifting three days per week.

03-02-2008, 07:30 PM
I am sooo glad to see this thread! I started with weights about two weeks ago, and haven't seen the scale do anything exciting. I've been debating dropping the weights and just doing cardio, but now after reading this I think I'll stick to it. Thanks for all the great info!!

03-02-2008, 07:48 PM
Wow, look at your weight loss, Journey!! :cp: Good decision on sticking with the weights ... I promise that you'll never regret it. :D

03-02-2008, 10:21 PM
The first three months I worked out with my trainer I didn't lose a pound... but I went down one clothing size! I was probably gaining muscle and losing fat -- the end result was leaner and meaner! :)

Remember that the scale measures ALL of you, and not just the fat. It can be hard to tell what's going on!

03-02-2008, 11:51 PM
I'd rather be a flabby thin person than a buff not-so-thin person.

Trust me, you wouldn't, not really. :) I don't know how old you are, but WL does lots more than make you look buff. Muscles are more metabolically active for a strart. Then there's the matter of bone loss as you age - WL will help keep that from happening! And there is no feeling like being strong! 3 years ago my DH and I - at age 60 - took a 3 week trip to England - using only public transportation. That meant we had to lug all our stuff ourselves, in and out of trains and buses, never mind just between our hotel and those trains and buses. More than once we encountered tube stations where the escalators weren't operational. It made me sooo glad I weight train. I was :strong: and could easily keep up. It felt really good.

And you know, you present your self to the world with a look - and the well toned strong trim body is very attractive. Your weight is not tatooed on your head - no one except you knows what you weigh - just how you look! The others here have given you great advice, and I hope you take it in the spirit it's meant - to help you look and feel your best!

03-03-2008, 05:15 PM
Thank you for all the advice and the input. I have given this considerable thought, and I am SO glad I did not discourage you, Journey, to give up weights. I posted because I wanted to be reassured about the benefits of weight lifting.

I do P90X tapes. They move fairly slowly from one exercise to another, and there's a lot of explanation in between. Maybe I should be brave enough to work from the book that describes the exercises, and that might cut down the weight lifting time and allow for a little extra cardio at the end.

I also do monitor my heart rate, as suggested above. (I started doing it at the suggestion of someone on this board, actually!) On a good "I can take on the world" session, I interval between 140 and 185 for about fifty minutes, with about ten minutes at the end for cool down.

To be fair, when I reflected on this, I couldn't honestly say that I was making a consistent effort to eat well throughout my weight loss journey, so it's hard to determine causality. I used to journal what I ate, but that made me crazy. Maybe I'll try some modified journaling to avoid the craziness but give me better info on what I'm really putting into my body - and thus better understand what's going on with the scale (and, though I don't measure, I am not seeing a discernable difference in the way my clothes fit). If I am able to determine that it's the weight lifting that's causing the weight loss stall, I will re-think it at that point. For now, though, I'll embrace the weight lifting again and hope for the best. I really do like weight lifting - I like how it feels, the mild soreness the next day, watching the muscles emerge through the flab, FINALLY being able to do a decent-looking push-up, putting my 12YO 'tough guy' son in a headlock, etc.


03-03-2008, 05:48 PM
One thing to note is if you've been doing the same exercises for a while, you may need to change it up. Your muscles need to be challenged and although increasing the weight is one way to challenge them, changing up the exercise can also challenge them.