How Many Calories Are Burned Weight Lifting? | Ask The Fitness Nerd

[ 17 ] February 17, 2009 |



Can You Burn Meaningful Calories Lifting Weights?



Dear Fitness Nerd,Man Lifting Weights on Bench Press Burning Calories During Workout

How many calories are burned during weight lifting? I ask because I lift weight 5-6 days a week, but really hate doing cardio. If I’m trying to keep body fat off, are the calories burned through weight lifting enough? Or do I have to do cardio on top of it? – Adam  (Waco, Texas)

The amount of calories you burn weight lifting depends on your weight, the intensity of your weight training, and the duration (and your age, to some extent, but this is less important.)

A 180 lb male performing 60 minutes of  weight training with vigorous effort (meaning little or no rest periods between sets) and at an intensity that causes your heart rate to remain somewhat elevated during exercise would burn approximately 400-475 calories weight lifting.

If you tend to take long rests between sets and your intensity is lower, the same person can expect to burn around 250 calories weight lifting for one hour.



This, of course, will very depending on your body weight.

The key here really is how intense the weight lifting is.

If you are performing circuit-type weight training, with extremely short rest periods or are performing supersets, it is possible to burn a fair amount of calories during a bout of weight training.

If you’d like to calculate how many calories you would specifically burn weight lifting, you can try this calculator from Calorie King that takes into account your age, height, weight and gender and then returns a list of activities with their estimated calories expended.

Weight Lifting versus Cardio For Calorie Burning

However, regardless of your intensity during weight lifting, you will still burn less calories during that same time period than if you performed moderate-intensity duration cardio.

To illustrate this, if you ran for 60 minutes at 8.6 mph (roughly a 7 minute mile), a 180 lb male would burn approximately 1,100 calories.  If that’s a little too fast for your blood, running at 5.2 mph for an hour would still burn 734 calories, approximately 300 more calories than you’d burn performing the same duration of weight training.

That said, while you burn more calories during aerobic cardio exercise like running, research has suggested that Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) is greater after weight training than after aerobic exercise.  

The estimates of how long that post-workout metabolism lift might last are controversial. 

You’ll often hear fitness and bodybuilding magazines throw around the figure “up to 24 hours” (and I’ve actually heard people claim as long as 48 hours), but recent research says increases in EPOC may actually only last for 60 minutes or less.

A warning:  It’s important not to make too much of this increased EPOC after weight lifting. 

While EPOC is increased, we’re not talking about hundreds of extra calories being burned after weight training — it’s more like an extra dozen or so, which generally isn’t enough to make up for the gap between cardio and resistance training when it comes to calories burned during these respective exercises.

Do I Have to Do Cardio?

The whole “Cardio versus Weight Training” issue is hotly debated, especially among bodybuilders. 

There are some bodybuilders who perform very little, if any cardio, and still maintain low body-fat to lean tissue levels.  It’s hard to say if this is because of their training routine, the use of anabolic steroids or performance enhancing drugs, or their individual genetics. 

Some people simply don’t put body fat on easily, and have few problems taking it off quickly, so cardio doesn’t play as large of a role in their training. Others have to perform some form of regular aerobic exercise to maintain a good lean muscle to body fat ratio.  The trick is to find what works for you.

Most natural bodybuilders will perform some amount of regular cardio along with their weight training.  However, it’s unusual to find them performing extremely long duration, solid state cardio. Marathon running or long-duration cardio is generally too catabolic to encourage the muscle gains that bodybuilders are looking for. 

Even if you don’t have your eyes on the Mr. or Ms. Olympia, if your goal is to add lean mass and get “toned”, you’ll want to moderate your total cardio. No one, male or female, gets toned by endless rounds of cardio alone.

Cardio and Weight Lifting: The Best of Both Worlds

The best overall approach for most people is to perform a combination of weight and resistance training and some cardio.

There are benefits to aerobic exercise outside of simply burning fat — it improves cardiovascular endurance and can have positive effects on your mood.

Also, research has indicated that combining cardio with regular weight training burns more fat overall than if you just performed weight training alone, or only cardio.

If you dread cardio (especially the monotony of running on a treadmill), try high intensity interval training (HIIT), which allows you to enjoy some of the benefits of aerobic exercise (including improved cardiovascular endurance and increased VO2Max),  while avoiding the long, solid-state runs.

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Category: Ask The Fitness Nerd, Exercise, Weight & Resistance Training

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  1. Lift It All | lifes little epiphanies... | June 17, 2013
  1. Bodybuilding Supplements (1 comments) says:

    Nice post!  being stay fit is a good thing to do in our health

  2. Jala-neti (3 comments) says:

    Hmm do most people train like that though? I’d have thought that most people do take breaks, and I bet their heart rate does rise to far either. How many calories are burned on a mile run? It would be useful to compare.

    Also I read somewhere that strength exersizes increase one’s metabolism for hours after training, has this been taken into account? The conclusion of the article I read was that some strength exersizes should be performed prior to an aerobic workout to maximise weight loss.

    • A Rieken (1 comments) says:

      Yeah, I train like that. I rest one muscle group by working the opposing muscle group. I like to do this to cut down the time I spend in the gym and keep my heartrate up. Today, for instance, I did my ten minute warm-up, then did a total of 17 sets on the machines in 17 minutes, then went for another 25 at 6 mph on the elliptical with a five minute cooldown. This is pretty typical of my training days of which I do three per week – one each of legs, core, and arms/chest/back. I don’t have a HR monitor yet, but my HR does remain elevated to between 120 and 140 or so.

  3. a.m (1 comments) says:

    i work on a building site and work at a medium intesity, have one sandwhich and a packet of crisps per day and a good evening meal. i cant keep my weight down. Oh and i have 4 large beers every night, and before we all yell “hey there is your problem” look at the work i do and the little amount eaten. i have begun weight traing the chest area(to begin) for the past 6 weeks every 4 days. will the extra intesity not only tone my chest but also help my little beer gut

    • Jason (6 comments) says:

      The beer is a problem, you’re talking well over 400 empty calories every day; the calories alone could help you lose a pound a week.  That doesn’t even consider all the other factors, such as it hindering nutrient absorption. You can’t just say look how little I eat, because 400 calories from beer is far different than 400 calories from something like Lima beans or chicken breast.  If you take losing weight seriously then stop with all the empty calories; otherwise you’re just working your butt off in the gym to balance your weight to drink beer. 

      • Danielle (2 comments) says:

        It’s not just the empty calories, alcohol slows down fat metabolism. I was reading about it in another study. So you may work hard during the day on little food which will actually put you in a catabolic state where your body has an easier time getting energy, glycogen, by breaking down muscle rather than fat and than the alcohol furtherencourages that. not to mention the crap you are eating, wheat, simple carb, sugar and processed food which all hinders and slows down metabolism. Metabolism isnt determened by what you do for a living. And lastly people who drink alcohol often get the munchies and the stuff they do it is again crap. 

  4. KAM (1 comments) says:

    A very helpful insight especially on the cardio & weight lifting article. I currently keep myself fit by combining both the high intensity supersets of strength/weightlift exercise and interval runnings. I found it very efficient in burning the calories/fat post exercise and it helps develop leaner physique. The effect can be seen within weeks.

    Keep the articles going!

  5. joel webb (2 comments) says:

    i am 63 and have worked out extremely hard with weights since i was 24 and the people who only walked or ran never looked or were as lean as body builders

  6. joel webb (2 comments) says:

    in adding to my original comment of working out with weights i will say i have seen for years some people where i worked out walk the track, run the track and over a periodof two to 6 years with different people i knew, they may have become smaller but they still had a fat waist and no better body composition from aerobics….if you are an ectomorph of course you will get slim sooner from aerobics…but they usually never want to lose weight ….they want to gain or put on muscle…the bottom line is to do both but to burn calories more effiently you need to focuss most your time on weights and 20 min. of aerobics every other day

  7. Jane StefensonN (1 comments) says:

    also, you can calculate how many calories do you burn with online calculators, there are many of them in internet. but 1 pound per week is ideal. (admin, delete my previous post)

  8. Catherine Murphy (1 comments) says:

    Just to let you know that the Calorie King Calculator link is not viable anymore.

  9. Matthew Friend (1 comments) says:

    I disagree with the levels of calories burned weight training vs cardio.  I am a gym instructor and would like to add that you WILL burn more calories lifting weights than by doing the same time of cardio.  When you weight train for say an hour, you will only burn aprox 400 calories, however even after training, your muscles are still working hard to repair, thus still burning calories.  On average, you will burn another 1000 calories within 6 hours after weight training.
    Cardio training will burn more during peak training, but once your heart rate has returned to normal, you will stop burning calories.

    1/2 hour of intence weight training (w/protein before & after workout) will burn the same amount as 5 hours of cardio.
        

  10. Mark (12 comments) says:

    This article is helpful, but a very important part of the equation was left out:

    Most of the calorie burning during weight lifting is NOT DURING THE WEIGHT LIFTING ITSELF.
    When you lift weights, you tear tiny holes in your muscles. These holes need to be repaired with proteins and chemicals from your body. While cardio will burn more calories during the exercise, the calorie burning stops shortly after the workout. With weight lifting however, you burn a few calories while doing the workout, but your body continues to burn calories for 6 to 8 hours while repairing the muscles that were used during the weight training.
    We all know the person who spends 1-2 hours on the treadmill every day at the gym, but still can’t burn off the last little bit of belly fat. This is because you burn the 1000 calories on the treadmill, but that’s it. But, if you spend that hour weight lifting, you may only burn 500 calories during the exercise, but afterwards, your body will use an additional 500-1500 calories over the next several hours to repair the muscle tissue. This also keeps your metabolism up for hours after the workout, burning additional calories.

  11. Jennifer (3 comments) says:

    I have been trying to lose weight unsuccessfully. 5′ and 170 lb female, I cut over 500 calories a day just by quitting soda pop drinking, still did not lose weight like everyone said. Tried cardio, did not lose weight. So I figured that I needed to build muscle to lose weight. Going on week 2 of P90X training, (I can only do 30 minutes of dvds, too extreme) but still not losing weight yet. Any suggestions? I am trying to eat only 1300 calories a day.

  12. You (1 comments) says:

    Prior to weight lifting I run about 30 mins.

    Start with 2.0 slope and 5mph for about 10 minutes,
    then every 2 minutes I increase the slope by 1, at 30 min mark I at at 15 degree slope, you will sweat like crazy.

    Then I start weightlifting immediately, I only rest 30 secs to 1 min in each repetition set, (this will keep your heartbeat in the fat burning zone). 10 to 12 reps of 4 set for each exercise.

    So for example
    - 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps for chest,
    - 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps of triceps.

    Then finally go back to cardio for another 15 to 30 mins or do your abs.

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