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The Importance of Strength Training for Weight Loss

-Sarah Saenz- MS, RDN, LD, Sage Bariatric Institute

When it comes to weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, many people focus primarily on cardio workouts and dietary changes. However, strength training plays a crucial role that is often underestimated, particularly for bariatric patients. Let’s explore why strength training is essential for weight loss and the unique benefits it offers  those who have undergone bariatric surgery.

Benefits of Strength Training

  1. Increased Metabolism: Strength training helps build muscle mass, which is metabolically active tissue. Unlike fat, muscle burns calories even at rest, thereby increasing your basal metabolic rate (BMR). A higher BMR means your body will burn more calories throughout the day, contributing to weight loss and long-term weight maintenance.
  2. Improved Body Composition: While cardio exercises are excellent for burning calories, they can also lead to muscle loss if not paired with strength training. By incorporating strength exercises, you ensure that the weight lost is primarily fat, resulting in a leaner and more toned physique.
  3. Enhanced Fat Loss: Strength training can create an “afterburn” effect known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). After a strength workout, your body continues to burn calories at an elevated rate as it repairs muscle tissues, further aiding in fat loss.

Special Considerations for Bariatric Patients

Bariatric surgery, whether it’s a gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, duodenal switch, or adjustable gastric banding, is a powerful tool for weight loss. However, it’s crucial for patients to adopt a comprehensive fitness routine that includes strength training for several reasons:

  1. Preserving Muscle Mass: Rapid weight loss following bariatric surgery can lead to a reduction in muscle mass. Strength training is essential to preserve and build muscle, which helps maintain functional strength and physical independence.
  2. Preventing Weight Regain: As bariatric patients lose weight, their metabolism may slow down. Strength training can counteract this by increasing muscle mass, which helps keep the metabolism higher and prevents weight regain.
  3. Improving Physical Function: Strength training enhances overall physical function, which is particularly beneficial for bariatric patients who may have experienced limited mobility prior to surgery. Improved strength can lead to better posture, balance, and coordination, making daily activities easier and reducing the risk of falls and injuries.
  4. Boosting Mental Health: Exercise, including strength training, is known to release endorphins that improve mood and reduce stress. For bariatric patients who may face emotional challenges post-surgery, strength training can be a valuable component of mental health management.
  5. Bone Health: Strong muscles lead to strong bones! Strength training can slow natural bone loss and can even lead to bone building. It targets bones of the hips, spine, and wrists, which are bones frequently fractured as we age.

Starting a Strength Training Routine

For those new to strength training, particularly bariatric patients, it’s important to start slowly and seek professional guidance. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Consult Your Doctor: Before beginning any new exercise regimen, you should consult with their healthcare provider to ensure it is safe and appropriate for their individual condition.
  2. Work with a Trainer or Physical Therapy Specialist: A certified personal trainer or PT, especially one with experience working with bariatric patients, can design a customized strength training program that meets your needs and limitations. They can help put together a safe metabolic program to help optimize mobility.
  3. Focus on Form: Proper form is crucial to prevent injuries and maximize the benefits of strength training. Begin with lighter weights and gradually increase the resistance as your strength improves.
  4. Incorporate Variety: Use a mix of free weights, resistance bands, and bodyweight exercises to target different muscle groups and keep your workouts interesting.
  5. Consistency is Key: Aim to incorporate strength training into your routine at least three times a week. Consistency is crucial for long-term success and muscle development.


Strength training is a vital component of a successful weight loss strategy, offering numerous benefits from increased metabolism to improved body composition. For bariatric patients, it is particularly important in preserving muscle mass, preventing weight regain, and enhancing overall physical function. By incorporating strength training into your fitness routine, you can achieve and maintain a healthier, stronger, and more confident you.


If you are interested in working with a physical therapist to help you optimize your mobility, we partner with Texas Physical Therapy Specialist. Contact them as they can help you reach your goals.

Physical Therapy for Weight Loss & Metabolic Conditions – Rehab For Weight Loss in Texas | TexPTS


Bellicha, A., van Baak, M. A., Battista, F., Beaulieu, K., Blundell, J. E., Busetto, L., Carraça, E. V., Dicker, D., Encantado, J., Ermolao, A., Farpour‐Lambert, N., Pramono, A., Woodward, E., & Oppert, J. (2021). Effect of exercise training before and after Bariatric surgery: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity Reviews, 22(S4). https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.13296

Strength Training Builds More Than Muscles. January 16, 2024.  https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/strength-training-builds-more-than-muscles