Last week, I said that powerlifting can be a great method for fat loss. We covered how to squat and essentially laid the foundation for the form, which is crucial to learn about before beginning powerlifting. This week, I want to build on that and explain how and why that’s possible.

It sounds backwards, I know- powerlifters are typically not who you think of when you think lean, mean lifting machine. But when I train people whose goal is fat loss, you’d be surprised how little strictly cardio I program for them and how much lifting I do include. Cardio is awesome for your health and obviously your heart, but I’ve found my clients not only like avoiding running for thirty to forty minutes straight, but they accomplish their goals better without it.

So, why is this?



Again, I’m just zoning in on the back squat at this time. High bar or low bar, the back squat is what we call a “compound lift“. What this means is two or more joints are working together to complete the lift and require multiple muscle groups. IMG_1140.jpg

Compound lifts require more muscle recruitment than, let’s say, bicep curls (although those are important because soon it’ll be ‘suns out guns out’ time). So when you require more muscles to lift, you’re placing a higher demand on your body, to which your body responds with a higher caloric burn.

Two or more joints working together to create a movement means more muscles used, obviously.



Since compound movements require more muscles to be used, this means more muscle development, which leads to a higher resting metabolic rate over time (i.e. more calories burned daily). Resting metabolic rate is actually what accounts for most of our daily metabolic rate- roughly 60-75%.

Just by having more muscle mass, you’ll be burning calories at a higher rate than you were before. The amount of calories burned per pound of additional muscle mass is debated and may appear to vary person to person, but what is sure is that there is a definite increase in daily caloric burn with increased weightlifting.

So, what muscles does the back squat really use? What makes it a compound movement? How does it lead to fat burn?! What’s in the box?!?!b6e8494770c395f37fd473ff6339410e--fitness-for-men-fitness-legs.jpg

Hamstrings, glutes, quads, calves, core, traps, and lats are some of the muscles predominantly used by the squat. The degree to which these are used will vary between high bar and low bar.

In last week’s post, I touched on the differences between high bar and low bar. You’ll need to determine what will work best for you, your anatomy, and mobility (a coach can help with this if you’re unsure), but both will require the same muscles to fire.

Low bar places a higher demand on the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes), while high bar demands more of the quads and requires a far more upright torso.


Studies have shown the eccentric load on the hamstrings is far greater in the low bar squat due to the greater degree of lengthening, which creates a more effective contraction once it reaches the max elasticity. This creates a more advantageous movement for powerlifters. The high bar squat is more ideal for Olympic lifters or those with better ankle mobility, although lifters can alternate the bar positioning in their training for a well-rounded squat.

Additionally, due to the heavy nature of powerlifting, your entire body will need to be working in order to not only complete the lift, but to stabilize the weight as well. This means your body is constantly working and putting out more energy.


3. EPOC effect

What’s EPOC effect? Excess post oxygen consumption. This essentially means even after you’ve finished your training, you’ll still be burning calories. The stress of lifting creates a higher need for recovery, which elevates overall caloric burn; cardio just can’t deliver the same results because it’s not demanding in the same way.



Alright, enough science talk. I’m done nerding-out on the science of lifting. Just know LIFTING HEAVY = BAD ASS BODY. (The only math I like doing)

(Side note: I do want to briefly mention that I don’t want to entirely write off cardio- it has its place in all aspects of fitness, absolutely. But if you go RUNRUNRUN for the sole purpose of fat loss, you’re not only doing your body a disservice, but will find yourself running into a plateau quickly.)


Still have questions? Interested in learning the back squat perfectly? Email me at the address below- I’d love to work with you.


-Coach Aly






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