Exactly How Many Calories Do You Burn Lifting Weights?


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In a multitude of reasons to engage in strength training, such as building strength, enhancing functional fitness, and promoting longevity, the aspect of calorie burn often goes unnoticed. However, weightlifting can wield significant influence over fat loss. How many calories are expended during weightlifting? How does it compare to cardiovascular workouts? And what should your workout regimen entail for optimal fat loss? Let’s delve into the details.

Does Lifting Weights Burn Calories?
Indeed, weight training burns calories. Your body inherently expends calories at rest, meaning activities like climbing stairs, engaging in sexual activity, sitting at your desk, or sleeping all contribute to calorie expenditure. Naturally, this calorie burn intensifies with activity, with certain activities burning more calories than others.

Categorically, weightlifting is moderately effective at burning calories. While traditional strength training burns more calories than light everyday activities like gardening or doing laundry, it falls short of the calorie burn achieved during a typical cardiovascular session.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Lifting Weights?
The number of calories you burn hinges on several factors, including your body weight (more weight equates to more calorie burn) and the intensity of your workout, which can be amplified by adjusting specific elements of your routine.

For instance, in a 30-minute session of general, moderate-intensity weightlifting, Harvard Medical School provides the following estimates for calorie expenditure based on different weight categories:

  • A 125-pound person will burn approximately 90 calories.
  • A 155-pound person will burn roughly 112 calories.
  • A 185-pound person will expend around 133 calories.

Increasing the intensity of your workout will nearly double the calorie burn. In a 30-minute session of vigorous weightlifting:

  • A 125-pound person will burn about 180 calories.
  • A 155-pound person will expend approximately 216 calories.
  • A 185-pound person will burn around 252 calories.

While these figures may seem somewhat vague, what is evident is that more intense strength and resistance training routines lead to greater calorie burn.

Burn Lifting Weights

Calories Burned Lifting Weights vs. Cardio
If your goal is weight loss, should you prioritize strength training or cardiovascular exercise? The choice can be elucidated as follows:

Cardio burns more calories during a workout:
In general, you’ll burn more calories with cardiovascular exercise than with weightlifting. For example, according to Harvard Medical School, traditional weightlifting burns approximately four calories per minute on average, whereas a brisk walk (4.0 miles per hour) expends approximately six calories per minute. This indicates that your regular treadmill run or neighborhood jog outperforms conventional strength training in terms of calorie burn.

Strength training elevates your metabolism:
Muscle tissue is metabolically active, necessitating a significant amount of energy for maintenance. Consequently, muscle burns more calories at rest than fat. Strength training, by facilitating muscle development and preservation, elevates your resting metabolic rate, increasing calorie expenditure even when you’re not actively working out.

Strength training burns more calories post-workout:
Strength training engages excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), during which your body continues to burn calories after a workout as it recuperates, repairs, and returns to its pre-exercise state. A study revealed that weightlifting and high-intensity cardiovascular training are more effective in triggering EPOC compared to steady-state cardio.

For optimum fat loss, combining both strength and cardiovascular training proves to be more effective. While strength training burns fewer calories than a standard cardiovascular session, a combination of both forms of exercise helps maintain and build muscle while expending calories during aerobic workouts, turning your body into a calorie-burning machine.

How to Burn More Calories While Lifting Weights
Ideally, one should aim for at least 180 minutes of steady-state cardio weekly, along with three days of intensive strength training and one or two HIIT sessions. However, time constraints often limit this approach. Combining strength and cardio into high-intensity sessions provides a practical solution.

It’s worth noting that this method may not be ideal if your primary goal is to build strength, hypertrophy, or power. It’s also not suitable for systematic endurance training through targeted zone 2 and VO2 max sessions. Manipulating specific variables in your routine may require some compromise to align with your top priority. If your objective is weight loss with limited time available for exercise, this approach can be highly effective.

Prioritize Compound Exercises:
Focus on exercises that engage multiple muscle groups, as these require more energy and result in greater calorie expenditure. Compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, chest presses, rows, and pullups are effective choices.

Lift Lighter Weights for More Reps:
Lifting lighter weights for higher repetitions can nearly double calorie burn compared to lifting heavier weights for fewer reps. Research indicates that you can build muscle effectively with both light and heavy weights, provided you push yourself adequately.

Try Circuit Training:
Circuit training can significantly enhance workout efficiency. Traditional strength training often involves rest periods between sets, which can be time-consuming. Circuit training involves consecutive exercises with brief transition periods, effectively boosting the intensity of your workout without extending your time at the gym.

Incorporating these strategies into your strength training regimen can help you maximize calorie burn and achieve your weight loss goals.

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