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Is Strength Training Good for Fat Loss?

If you’re looking to get rid of some excess weight then you might want to consider factoring in regular strength training to your weekly work-out schedule.  It is a very effective method for weight loss but, not on its own.  Strength training is a great way to push your body to work really hard, particularly when you use heavy weights.  It builds muscle, increases overall strength and helps to tone you up but do remember that it doesn’t burn calories in the same way as cardio activity (for example, an aerobic activity such as step, swimming, running, cycling or power-walking).

Why Strength Training Works Differently to Cardio

Strength training works differently to cardio and it’s difficult to apply a reliable calorie-burning calculator to this type of work-out.  Mainly this is because not every work-out is the same.  Also, heart monitors don’t know the type of exercise you’re doing so their readings aren’t accurate when you wear them during strength training.

Remember, with strength training, you use different weights and different muscle groups – but when you go cycling or swimming, for example, you use the same muscle groups continuously for a period of time. That’s what raises your heart rate and keeps calorie-burning consistent.

Then there are the different size weights that you use for training various parts of the body. For example, when using weights to train your biceps, you use only one muscle but for barbells, you use bigger muscles and multiple muscles when lifting. So, you burn different amounts of calories depending on what strength training exercise you perform.  To put it in basic terms, a more challenging routine involving full-body movements and big muscle groups (e.g. glutes and legs) burns more calories than working out small muscles.

It’s also worth noting that while resistance training doesn’t burn as many calories, it can lead to a greater overall calorie burn during the day do to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption and generally having more muscle means your body burns more calories during rest.

So, How Many Calories do you Burn?

If you want a very general overview, a half an hour strength training workout burns around 90 calories for someone that weighs 125 pounds.  A 185 pound person will burn around 133 calories during half an hour strength training (according to this article from Harvard Medical School)

If you want a more challenging workout then factor in more of these exercises below.  These exercises were listed in a study from Arizona State University in January 2014 NCBI , and burn more calories than others:

  • Push ups burn approximately 9 calories per minute
  • Crunches burn 9.33 calories per minute
  • Lunges burn 9.33 calories per minute
  • Pull ups burn 9.95 calories per minute

Of course, if you’re looking for health and balanced fitness, the best way to make sure you’re burning enough calories for fat loss is to combine regular strength training with cardio training.  It’s good to perform cardio exercise at least three times a week for 20 minutes plus and strength training at least 2-4 times per week depending on your goals.  Note, too much cardio and “weight loss” can also lead to muscle loss and this is something you don’t want if you’re looking for leaner, stronger fitness.  As with many things in life, balance is key!

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