By far the main goal of people I work with is to lose fat. Whether they want a ripped six pack or they just want to “tone up,” the majority of people list fat loss as their primary goal and reason for going to the gym.

But sometimes, this is all wrong. Sometimes the focus should not be on losing body fat.

Yes, I really just said that. Well, typed it.

So if focusing on fat loss isn’t (always) the answer, what should be done?

Some people (I’ll explain who in a moment) should initially focus on getting stronger and building muscle, NOT losing fat.

While there is a time and place for specific fat loss training, everyone can benefit from training for strength. Beginners especially should focus primarily on increasing their strength in a few basic exercises because they are too weak to use appreciable weight that would make for a challenging fat loss workout.

Other than beginners, another group that would greatly benefit from this advice is individuals who aren’t overweight or over fat, but rather they are “skinny fat”. These are people who do not look overweight but their muscles look very “soft”. These individuals would be much better off increasing their strength and building muscle (yes, ladies; that means you too) before they train specifically for fat loss.

I’ve witnessed several individuals train for fat loss too soon and they just end up a smaller version of themselves but they still look “soft” and “skinny fat”. This is because not only did they not build any muscle in the process, but they may have even lost more muscle. Not a good combination. They would be much better off getting stronger and building some muscle – that alone will make a big change in their physical appearance.

Who Else Should Follow This Advice?

Have you been training for fat loss for more than a couple of months? You shouldn’t train for fat loss week after week and month after month. It’s time for a change – train for strength. Make it a goal to get stronger in a few basic exercises for a few months. If at the end of that time you want to lose more body fat, than make the necessary training and dietary changes to do so. But once again, train specifically for fat loss for one to three months, and then focus once again on getting stronger.

So, Why Exactly Should I Train for Strength and Not Fat Loss?

-Getting stronger will always have a positive influence on your physical appearance and body composition because you are constantly challenging your body to do something new (lift more weight or lift the same weight for more reps)

-Getting stronger is very functional and will carryover to your everyday life whether you’re a construction worker or stay at home mom

-Training for strength is more enjoyable and motivating. Setting personal records each week is a great way to keep you motivated and excited about training

-You can get stronger and still lose body fat. Along with training hard and smart, you also must eat smart. That combination alone will allow you to lose body fat. You don’t have to do grueling fat loss workouts in order to lose body fat. I am leaner than I have ever been and I haven’t performed a conventional fat loss workout in years. I perform six main exercises – squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, standing presses, and chin-ups. I don’t perform those exercises in circuits and I rarely perform more than eight reps per exercise

-Getting stronger will allow you to potentially lose more body fat down the road. For example, the more weight you can use for an exercise, the harder you have to work. If you can only squat 95 pounds for 10 reps right now, it only makes sense that you will be working harder if you increase your strength to squat 115 pounds for 10 reps

-Training for strength is more user-friendly at crowded gyms. Performing strength training circuits at a crowded gym can be a very difficult task. However, when you train for strength you’ll only perform one or two exercises at a time so getting the equipment you need shouldn’t be a problem.

Bottom line – if you have been training for fat loss, it’s time for a change. If you are just getting into strength training, you must first get stronger and build some muscle.

With love from the Trench kitchen,