Cardiovascular workouts are popular for losing weight but they are not the only options. Find out whether strength training is good for weight loss too.
If you want to lose weight, and more specifically fat, you need to make it so your body requires more energy than is coming in.
Since strength training helps you burn more energy during the workout and after the workout (by building muscle mass), it definitely helps in this process.
Strength training is especially good for weight loss for beginners who can build a lot of muscle mass without too much effort.
Even if you approach your workout routine in a smart way, you will build less and less muscle mass over time.
Strength training can still be good for weight loss in a situation like that but cardiovascular workouts could become more worth it.
No matter what type of workouts you choose, keep in mind that your habits in lifestyle areas like nutrition will influence your weight loss results a lot.
Additionally, it is possible that you lose fat but gain muscle mass by doing strength training. In that case, the number on the scale may not move that much but you are likely getting healthier.
Can you lose weight just by doing strength training?
To lose weight you need to make it so your body requires more energy than is coming in from the things you eat. When this is the case, your body turns to energy stores like body fat to get the remaining needs.
Strength training in the gym or at home can help in this process in two main ways (and secondary effects).
The most straightforward way is by making it so your body uses up more energy during the workout. Moving heavy weights requires more energy than typical daily activities.
Secondly, by approaching strength training in optimal ways, you can also build muscle mass (weight).
An important detail in how many calories you burn throughout the day is your weight. By adding healthy weight in the form of muscle mass, you will use up more energy.
This also applies to any cardiovascular workouts you implement too.
These things make it so that if you are currently at a weight plateau, you can likely lose weight by just doing strength training.
At the same time, the principle above also means that your habits in areas like the things you eat will influence your weight loss results a lot too.
Additionally, it is possible to lose fat but not weight if you really build a lot of muscle mass with strength training and don’t lose that much fat.
A situation like this would typically be healthy but the number on the scale may not change that much.
Calories burned in weight lifting vs other workouts
Strength training is somewhat unusual when it comes to weight loss workouts in the sense that a lot of your results will be long-term.
The muscle mass helps you burn more calories throughout every day but in the workout itself, weight lifting does not burn the most amount of energy.
To make this difference clear, you can find rough estimations of how many calories a 155-pound (70 kg) person burns during 30 minutes of weight lifting and other workouts below (1):
- Weight lifting (vigorous): 216 calories
- Water Aerobics: 144 calories
- Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 144 calories
- Dancing (Fast, ballet, twist): 216 calories
- Swimming (general): 216 calories
- Stair Step Machine (general): 216 calories
- Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
- Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
- Running 5 mph: 288 calories
- Elliptical Trainer (general): 324 calories
These numbers are definitely not perfect. For example, the estimations for weight lifting do not specify what exercises you do and what weights you use.
That being said, these numbers do help you understand that strength training is typically not the best energy burner for the next 30 minutes.
However, that does not mean you should not consider this type of workout when trying to lose weight.
What type of strength training is best for fat loss?
Since strength training is still a big category of different exercises and repetition ranges, you may wonder what type is the best for fat loss.
From a high-level view, the exercises where you can build the most muscle mass in the shortest amount of time would be the best for fat loss.
More specifically, that means compound exercises for the big muscle groups in your legs, chest, and back. For example, deadlifts, squats, bent-over rows, and bench presses.
These also happen to be the strength training exercises that burn the most energy during the workout.
You want to do these compound lifts in rep and set ranges where you build the most muscle mass.
While there are differences between the exercises, that generally means 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 12 repetitions.
How many times a week should you do strength training for weight loss?
Next, you likely want to know how often you should do workouts like the ones above.
If you are more of a resistance training beginner, you can play it safe and start with one strength training workout a week.
This is more to strengthen and prepare your body for more intense workouts than an optimal amount for the most weight loss.
Once you get used to that, you can gradually work up to lifting 3 times a week with each big muscle group.
This will give your muscles enough time to recover and grow while still building a good amount of muscle mass to benefit your long-term weight loss.
As you get more experienced you could even consider lifting more often. However, at this point, you are really getting diminishing returns in terms of weight loss.
In a situation like that, you are likely better off implementing more cardiovascular workouts.