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Weightlifting For Weight Loss | How To Burn Fat With Weights

Weightlifting is often synonymous with ‘getting bigger’, but this is a common misconception that may just have you heading for the squat rack in place of the treadmill by the end of the article.

Okay, so if you are looking to get bigger – to develop mass muscle and build your physique, then weightlifting is definitely the approach you ought to take. You would not be wrong there, but as with many aspects of fitness, there is more than one option and many routes to take. But if you want to lose a little fat and burn extra calories, weight lifting is a good solution.

The point is that it’s not all about bulking. Weightlifting isn’t just for those seeking mass gains, it’s about strength and resistance training, toning up and adding diversity to your workouts.

Of course, the best way to burn serious calories and trim fat is via regular cardiovascular exercise. But exactly how many calories can you burn from lifting weights?

olympic weightlifting

How Many Calories Can You Burn?

Based on research carried out by Harvard Medical School, a standard half hour of weightlifting burns 112 calories if you weigh 155 pounds and 133 calories if you’re 185 pounds. Hitting the weights harder can potentially burn 223 calories for a 155-pound person and 266 calories for a 185-pound person.

Half an hour of exercise involving your own body weight, such as push-ups and pull-ups can burn 167 calories for people weighing 155 pounds and 200 calories for those weighing 185 pounds. A similar workout done with more intensity can burn 298 calories at 155 pounds and 355 calories at 185 pounds.

For anyone looking for a greater burn will be surprised to learn that lifting heavier weights is the answer. Here’s where that might get confusing: for people looking to gain like Bane and hard gainers that want to put on serious mass muscle, heavy lifts are the way to go.

However, the difference is that bulk builders should be sure to maintain a surplus of calories. For fat burners, lifting weights that are a meagre five percent heavier than you are used to can burn more than 500 calories more per weightlifting session. This is because lifting heavier weights boosts your metabolizm and keeps it at work for long after you’ve finished. Further arguments debate which is better out of higher reps and heavier weightlifting, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

As well as the exertion that leads to an increase in your heart rate – meaning that you do get a bit of a cardio workout, which will burn some calories – it is your muscles’ use of energy that aids the consumption of calories. Looking at the bigger picture, or rather, for example, the muffing top you want to get rid of. If you consume fewer calories than you are burning, weight lifting will do the job. The fact that you are questioning how to burn fat, as opposed to calories, suggests that you may be thinking aesthetically, in which case the development of muscle and shredding from weight lifting will give you the definition that you are after.

benefits lifting weights

The Best Exercises For Weight Loss

The answer to that is compound lifts. Also known as multi-joint exercises, these are lifts that involve more than one joint and more than one muscle group. The more muscle fibers involved in the lift, the better. That means involving as many of the larger muscle groups as you can.

The top compound lifts include bench pressing, shoulder pressing, heavy rows (both standing and seated), deadlifts and squats. Think about it: a single squat demands that your core muscles, quads, glutes, hamstrings, calf muscles and supporting auxiliary muscles all get to work for one lift. Now that is an efficient use of time and energy for anyone in a hurry.

Single joint exercises, for the record, mean working smaller muscle groups – working your biceps with hammer curls, for example, and there is a place for these too in using weightlifting to lose fat. Because these muscles are smaller, they will not burn as many calories. However, combined as part of a circuit, or added to a heavier lift (without rest) as a superset or drop set, will have the desired effect.

This is where you may want to add another dimension to your use of lifting weights. By combining elements of high-intensity interval training, you can utilize a circuit set up to aid in your fat loss plans.

Example Workout Plan

  • Bench press: 6 – 10 reps x 3 sets
  • Standing row: 6 – 10 reps x 3 sets
  • Squat: 3 – 5 reps x 3 sets
  • Hammer curl: 8-15 reps x 3 sets
  • Overhead tricep extention: 8-15 reps x 3 sets
  • Leg press: 6 – 10 reps x 3 sets

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye has an MSc in Sport Physiology and Nutrition, and puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. She enjoys a pun, and in her spare time loves dog walking and eating out.


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