top of page

What is the Best Exercise for Fat Loss and Why Everyone Needs to be Doing It - Step 6

The best exercise for fat loss is weight training, and every adult needs to be doing some form of it (the answer in the first sentence, you're welcome).

When we say ‘weight training’, you may immediately think of a tan oiled up bodybuilder grunting and posing, but this is absolutely not what we are talking about. All we mean is adding an extra (and very effective) stimulus to your workouts rather than just doing cardio or bodyweight exercises.

Now if you have never done any weight training (also known as resistance training) before, don’t panic. We are going to talk you through it.


Why is weight training so important for fat loss?

It’s helpful to understand WHY weight training is essential before diving into it. If you aren’t naturally inclined towards lifting weights, knowing exactly why you need to be doing it anyway (even if you wouldn’t normally gravitate towards it) will make a huge difference in keeping you motivated.

Weight training leads to building muscle. WE ALL WANT MUSCLE. It's not exclusively for bodybuilders and gym addicts. Almost everyone could benefit from having some more of it, and hardy anyone should ever want to lose it once it's there. Here are the reasons why.

Muscle improves your passive calorie expenditure

As we covered in Step 5 (step count), around 70% of your daily calorie burn comes from your basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is extremely variable between individuals, with things such as someone’s age, gender, genetics, weight loss/gain history, thyroid and medications all influencing it. Unfortunately most of these things are outside of our control.

However, the main way we actually CAN influence our BMR ourselves is with muscle.

The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR will be. In other words, the more muscular you are, the more calories you will naturally burn while you are simply doing nothing. Someone with little muscle will burn less calories day to day.

Remember, we lose fat by being in a calorie deficit. If we are burning more calories sitting still, then this is going to help us get into that deficit each day.

Gaining muscle is the single best thing you can do to alter how you look

You would have heard the term ‘toned’ thrown around, e.g. “I don’t want to get too bulky, I just want to get toned”. Here’s the thing. Getting toned IS gaining muscle, in combination with body fat levels low enough to see that muscle.

Gaining muscle will change how you look for the better. And while improving how you look isn’t everything, the reality is that most of us DO want to look a bit better. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and it’s not vain to want to improve your physical appearance.

Leads to better quality of life and makes you more capable

‘Quality of life’ is ambiguous and can refer to many different factors, but here we are referring to it in terms of physical wellbeing for an able bodied person (this would be very different for say someone with a disability).

For these purposes, think of it as not being limited by what your body can do. You can keep up with your kids playing, you can do physical tasks like gardening or cleaning, you can carry a heavy box. The more muscle we have, the stronger and therefore more capable in general we are.

Makes you less injury prone, particularly as you age

As we get older, we begin to lose our muscle. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade. This loss speeds up after the age of 60. This means that by the time we are in our later decades, we are much more prone to injury.

If you are under 80 and are able bodied, and any of these scenarios apply to you, you will benefit from having more muscle:

  • You always need a chair to sit in, you can’t sit on the floor

  • You can’t get up from a chair without putting your arms on the arm rests to help push off

  • You can’t stand comfortably on one leg

  • You avoid lifting anything remotely heavy or doing anything slightly physical for fear of getting hurt

But it doesn’t have to be this way. With regular weight training, we can mitigate the effects of age related muscle loss and set ourselves up for our later years. Imagine getting to 80 years old and still being able to go on big walks, keep up with your grandkids, maintain your house and do everything you used to be able to do.

With regular weight training, this is absolutely possible.


How to get muscle

Okay, we get it. We want muscle. Now the big question is how do we actually GET muscle?

As you may have guessed, the answer is with weight training. We are going to take you through how to get started with this type of training and get the most out of it that you can.

If you are someone who has previously only done aerobic exercise, think running, biking or swimming, then the first thing you will need to change your mindset on is this:

You don’t need to be sweaty and out of breath to have done a great workout.

“Sweat is fat leaving the body”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t have to leave the gym feeling like you are about to throw up, in fact this is not a good thing. This may be contrary to everything you think you know about exercising e.g. you have to get extremely sweaty and exhausted for a workout to be ‘effective’.

Most weight workouts will not leave you huffing and puffing at the end of them. This is okay. They are not meant to. The workout will be working its magic behind the scenes. You don’t need to collapse afterwards for it to have mattered.


At home or at the gym

First off, plan where you are going to do your workouts. The main two options are at home or at a gym. The main downside of doing them at home is that you will need to get some weights. This can be expensive and you will always be limited by the weights that you have. But, for a lot of us, it is much less daunting and more achievable to at least start with working out at home.

The most important part is choosing the location where you are most likely to actually go. If you sign up to the gym but deep down you know that you aren’t going to make it there, then don’t set yourself up to fail.

Get your home gym set up sorted and start there. Here is some basic equipment to get you started:

  • Dumbbells

  • Bands

  • Suspension trainer or gymnastics rings

  • Pullup bar

  • Squat rack with barbell and plates

In an ideal world, you would eventually progress to going to the gym, but that can be further down the track.


Plan when you will work out

Mornings, lunch times, after work? Similarly to where you are working out, choose a time that is the most likely that you will actually stick to. Ideally you would be doing your workout at roughly the same time in the day each time so that your body gets into a nice rhythm.


Pros - can be a great feeling to get that workout done first thing, then you don’t have to worry about getting it in for the rest of the day.

Cons - requires getting up earlier and more planning if you are going to be going straight to work afterwards. You also have to pay more attention to your bedtime in order to not lose sleep.

Lunch times

Pros - the time constraint may motivate you to be efficient and not faff as much, then it’s done for the day and you can relax in the afternoon.

Cons - might not have enough time to work out, shower and then eat.

After work

Pros - can go directly from work to do your workout and will have more time for the workout.

Cons - can be harder to motivate yourself to actually go after work and if you are going to the gym this is typically the busiest time.

If you can be flexible

If you aren’t working or have complete control over your own work schedule, then simply choose a time that fits your energy levels and when you feel naturally motivated to workout. For us, James works out in the mornings between 9-11am, and Kate at lunch between 12-2pm.


Start with professional guidance

If you have never stepped foot in a gym, we would highly recommend taking advantage of the free personal training session that most gyms offer when you sign up. If you are nervous or worried about going into the gym by yourself for the first time, meeting a personal trainer there who can show you around and take you through some basic movements will make a huge difference.

Remember, personal trainers and people working at the gym are there to make you feel as comfortable as possible and to help you! Please don’t feel intimidated or like you shouldn’t be there. After you have been to the gym the first few times it will become easier, we promise.

Doing basic movements properly is extremely underrated. It is essential to get the technique right first before you start adding any weight. So, what movements should you be doing?


Big bang for buck exercises

Say you do three weights workouts a week, each an hour long. This is three hours out of the 168 hours in your week. This isn’t much, which means that the relatively small amount of time you spend in the gym out of your week needs to be as effective as possible. You need the biggest bang for your buck.

The way to make a workout effective is to work as many muscles in your body during each exercise as you can. We call these big bang for your buck movements and they are what each of your workouts should be focused around.

For each workout, chose one to two of these big movements in each column to be your main exercises for that day:-

Lower body - choose 1-2 per workout



Hip thrust

RDL (Romanian deadlift)

Split squat

Upper body - choose 1-2 per workout

Chin up

Push up / bench press


Shoulder press

These should be your minimums. Feel free to add other accessory exercises after these, but do these first when you are fresh.

Now, these aren’t simple movements. They are complex and will require proper instruction and practice to get right. Before you even think about adding weight or extra resistance to any of these, make sure you have the basic movement down.


Full body workouts

Similarly to doing big bang for your buck movements, for most people and especially for someone who wants to lose fat, making each workout a full body or at least upper/lower workout is the most efficient way to do this.

Unless you are a bodybuilder or are working out 6 days a week, you don’t need to do the classic ‘bro split’ of legs, shoulders, back, arms and chest.

In each of your workouts you should be aiming to work your entire body, so some lower body movements and some upper body movements. If you follow the two columns above you will be sorted.


Progressive overload

This means each week your workouts should be getting harder. This either means:-

  • More weight

  • More repetitions of each exercise

  • More sets

  • Less rest between each exercise

  • Pauses or slower lowering of weight each rep

To do this, you need to be tracking your workouts each week. There are a million workout apps for this, you could make your own spreadsheet or even just have a small notebook that you write your workouts down in. We have our own training programme that gives you specific progressions for each week, so this takes the guesswork out of it and guides you each week.

Recording everything will make a huge difference in the effort you put in and means that you are actually able to see yourself getting better. Once your numbers start to go up you will get hooked.

Don’t complicate it, just write down exactly what you do each day. Workout 1 might look like this:-

Workout 1 - week 1


Set 1 50kgs 8 reps

Set 2 50kgs 8 reps

Set 3 50kg 7 reps

Push up

Set 1 Bodyweight 10 reps

Set 2 Bodyweight 9 reps

Set 3 Bodyweight 7 reps

Workout 1 - week 2


Set 1 60kgs 8 reps

Set 2 60kgs 7 reps

Set 3 65kg 6 reps

Push up

Set 1 Bodyweight 12 reps

Set 2 Bodyweight 10 reps

Set 3 Bodyweight 7 reps


What about group fitness

So, the big question is this: does group fitness count as weight training? Think terms like ‘functional fitness’ or ‘high intensity’ training. In short, the answer is yes for the first six or so months, then no after that.

If you are a beginner and have never picked up a weight before, then starting with group fitness can be a great way to introduce yourself to that idea. You will see some initial muscle growth.

But if you are past the beginner stage (e.g. have been doing it for over 6 months), you're not really going to become any stronger or more muscular from group fitness style workouts. They simply aren't specific or effective enough for that purpose.

If you hate the idea of training without group fitness but really value strength and muscle past the beginner level, then look for facilities that have proper 20kg/15kg barbells plus plates, and have dedicated periods in a workout for improving strength across big movements. Also look for facilities where you are encouraged to record/monitor your strength and improve it over time. If it's mostly bodyweight, light dumbbells and cardio equipment then it's not going to cut it.

The main benefit of group fitness (as well as the supportive social communities they create) is that they are great for when someone needs a set time and motivation to do exercise. Doing a group fitness class is better than not doing anything at all. So if you need a class to get you to exercise, stick with it, but just know that it is not the most effective way to build muscle.


Supplement with aerobic exercise

Weight training needs to be your focus. Cardio is way down the list as a cherry on top. Nice as an addition, but you can still have the cake without it.

So the gold standard is anywhere from 2-5 weight sessions a week, focusing on big bang for your buck with progressive overload as above. This can be complemented with some form of aerobic exercise that suits you, no threshold here. Weights are the priority, aerobic is just there to compliment the weights in a way you enjoy.

For us, the only (semi) aerobic exercise we do is going for a walk every day, most of the time up a hill. That’s it. You don’t need to be slogging away for hours on the treadmill or cross trainer at the gym, in fact that will negatively impact your weight training.

Some light cardio at the gym can be used to replace walking outside if you can’t get your steps outside during the day (see Step 5 on steps). Five minutes of cardio before you start training can also be a good warm up.


Pre workout meal

The best pre workout is a good meal. Don’t get caught up on BCAA’s or pre workout drink that promises you the best workout of your life. Just make sure you have eaten a decent snack or small meal around one hour beforehand.

Aim for food that is:

  • Higher in carbohydrates

  • Moderate protein

  • Low fat/fibre

  • Water

  • Pinch of salt

Some examples:

  • Small pottle of microwave rice with tuna or shredded chicken/Sunfed chicken

  • Smoothie with a ripe banana, protein powder and berries

  • Small bowl of protein oats

If you are working out first thing in the morning and don’t have time to eat something an hour prior, go for something that is more quickly absorbed e.g. liquid carbohydrate powders or simple carbohydrates (like white bread with a higher sugar spread).


Remember that the purpose of your exercise shouldn't be to burn calories

Not only is it super inefficient, but by focusing on that you'll be missing out on one of the most rewarding aspects of weight training, progression. Remember back to Step 5, deliberate exercise is only approximately 5% of your total calorie burn for a day. This is not very much.

Increasing calorie expenditure by relying on deliberate exercise too heavily is unsustainable. The end result is often getting stuck on a hamster wheel of exercise, which is difficult to sustain if it’s what you’re relying on to maintain fat loss.

So keep remembering that the purpose of doing this weight training is to build muscle.


Set a performance goal

The reason we set a performance goal is to remind ourselves that the purpose of our weight training is to build muscle, and to give us motivation and the satisfaction that comes along with achieving those goals. So think back to Step 1, defining your end point. A performance goal doesn’t need to be an ‘end point’ as such, it just needs to be a concrete motivator for you that isn’t purely an aesthetic goal.

Some great weight training related performance goals are things like:

  • First full push up

  • First full chin up

  • First full dip

  • Weighted squat

  • Weighted deadlift

  • Any other lift you want to improve or set a new personal best on

The push up, chin up and dip body weight exercises are also a great indicator of our body weight to strength ratio. If you can achieve multiple push ups, dips and chin up then your muscle to fat ratio (e.g. body composition) is likely to be in a good range as these exercises use your bodyweight as resistance.


Watch out for these common weight training mistakes

If you are already weight training, amazing. Check yourself against these mistakes:

Not tracking progression

You should always be keeping a record of your previous sets, reps, weight each week to base your weekly progression off.

Lifting too heavy

Using too much weight with too little control or range of motion. It’s more effective to do a controlled movement with full range but lighter weight vs. half range but a weight that is too heavy.

Not training each muscle enough

Doing bro splits (chest, back, arms, legs, shoulders etc.) where each muscle is only trained once week. Your programme should have you training most muscles at least twice a week.

Going all out

Training "all out" all the time and burning out, rather than intelligently progressing your intensity slowly week to week.

No set programme

Just doing random exercises off Instagram (or is it TikTok now?) instead of following a structured training programme.

Too much junk, not enough intensity

A programme that has 8 exercises of 4-5 sets each is simply too much for most people. Quality > quantity.

Training the same

Staying in your comfort zone and doing the same exercises, with the same weight and reps, week in week out. You will need to get used to being uncomfortable.



🗹 Have you started with some professional guidance?

🗹 Are you doing bang for buck movements, full body workouts and progressively overloading?

🗹 Have you got your pre workout meal sorted?

🗹 Have you set your performance goal?


In our next step we are going to be looking at how to continue to monitor your fat loss progress now that you have all of the foundations set up, and where to go from there.



Want to get notified when we publish a new post?

bottom of page