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How Many Calories Does Weight Lifting Burn? You’ll Be Amazed

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 25, 2022

One of the questions my new fitness clients often ask me is whether lifting weights burns many calories.

I have spent countless hours at the gym guiding clients, and in that time, the most significant changes in body composition were always a result of resistance training. And not just in terms of muscle mass, but fat percentage as well, which directly translates to burning calories.

I also dived deeper into the scientific literature to see what the exact metrics say, so read on to explore this subject with me.

Quick Summary

  • Calories burned during weight lifting can depend on the intensity and duration of your strength training session.
  • To maximize calories burned for weight loss, you should incorporate aerobic (cardio) and anaerobic (strength) into your exercise regimen.
  • Anaerobic activities involve lifting weights which can boost metabolism by increasing lean muscle mass; the more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate will be.

How Many Calories Are Burned During Weight Lifting?

A person lifting a barbell

How many calories you burn during weight lifting can vary depending on your body weight and the intensity and duration of your strength training session.

On average, 30 minutes of weight lifting can burn between 90 and 252 calories depending on body weight and the intensity of your workout [1].

What Is Weight Lifting?

Weight lifting is a type of strength training that uses weight for resistance.

Lifting weight provides stress to muscles, and over time, those muscles adapt and become stronger, bigger, and more defined.

Duration and Effort

Along with your body weight, duration and effort are significant factors in how much of a caloric burn you will experience during a weightlifting workout.

Calorie Burning Potential

A man preparing to lift

According to Harvard Health Publishing’s chart on activity and calories burned, people who weigh more burn more calories lifting weights when all other variables are the same [2].

This data makes sense as people with a heavier body weight tend to burn a higher amount of calories across activities as they need more effort and energy to move that weight around with somewhat inefficient muscles, which are usually not used that often.

The range of caloric burn lifting weights can vary drastically in relation to body weight, with duration and effort as additional factors.

Calories Burned Weight Lifting vs. Doing Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise and anaerobic exercise both burn calories; they just do it differently. Incorporating high-intensity interval training into your routine is a great way to maximize calorie expenditure.

An individual cardio session can use up more calories than a session of weightlifting exercises of the same duration. However, strength training leads to higher calorie expenditure in the long run [3].

Why?

Because lifting weights promotes muscle-building, muscle is a very energy-hungry tissue.  Increasing lean body mass boosts your metabolic rate and calories you burn both moving and while at rest.

Build muscle so you can burn additional calories inside and outside the gym.

Related ArticleCardio vs Strength Training 

“The number of calories you burn during exercise depends on your body size and how intensely you exercise. Typically, a cardio workout burns more calories than a weight training workout of the same duration.”

-Grant Tinsley, Ph.D.

3 Ways to Maximise Calories Burned Through Strength Training

A yoga mat with light dumb bells

I have learned a few things along the way that helped me and my clients burn as many calories as possible doing strength exercises, which ultimately led to losing weight and often outstanding muscle gain.

Here are my top three tips to help you increase calories and fat burn while lifting weights.

1. Less Weight, More Reps

We have established that lifting heavier weights can increase calorie burn long-term, which doesn’t mean lighter weights don’t have their place.

Switching up your strength training sessions between more weight, fewer reps, and less weight, more reps can maximize your efforts.

Lifting lighter weights for more reps can improve your muscular endurance and how long your muscles can work against resistance, increasing calorie burn in the short term [4].

2. Use More Muscles

Gaining muscle requires both resistance exercises and a consistently healthy diet.

Resistance exercises to increase muscle must incorporate compound and isolation movements, targeting specific muscle groups.

Exercises, sets, and reps will need to be adjusted to maintain consistent gain in muscle size and strength long-term [5].

3. Implement Circuits

Circuit training can offer you variety and flexibility in your strength training sessions. Ideally, you should pick five to ten resistance training exercises that will result in a full-body workout.

Lifting heavy or lighter weights depends on your goal.

Increasing muscle typically means using heavier weights and increased calorie consumption.

Lighter weights can support muscle growth, but to a lesser degree, but do boost the aerobic level of the workout.

High-intensity interval training can burn loads of calories, so it is essential to adjust your calorie intake to maximize muscle growth.

FAQs

How Many Calories Do You Burn In A 45-Minute Weight Lifting Session?

In a 45-minute weight lifting session, you can burn anywhere from 100-600 calories on average. However, how many calories exactly will depend on your body weight and intensity.

Do You Burn More Calories If You Lift Heavier Weights?

You burn a higher number of calories when you lift heavier weights. By choosing heavier weights, you also burn more body fat during and after your weight lifting session.

Do not let how much weight you choose to lift impede correct form, as this can lead to injury. It may be best to start with light weights and gradually increase weight over time.

Hit the Gym, Lift Weights, and Burn Calories

Whether your goal is to lose weight or lose fat and gain muscle, there is a significant benefit to incorporating strength exercises into your fitness routine alongside aerobic exercise.

I often hit the gym for some vigorous weight lifting at least five times a week, and to speed up my weight loss process, I always take one of the following fat burners to take my weight loss to the next level.

Many of my clients have had the same success, which is why I usually recommend it, as it helps burn more calories in the process.


References:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323922
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-for-people-of-three-different-weights
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cardio-vs-weight-lifting-for-weight-loss#section2
  4. https://campusrecreation.wvu.edu/news/sports-and-recreation/2020/12/29/low-weight-and-high-reps-or-high-weight-and-low-reps
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/how-to-gain-muscle#bottom-line

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