Does Lifting Weights Burn Calories?

It’s all about calories. We restrict what we eat to avoid calories, and we increase activity to burn calories. It seems simple but weight loss is still hard. Our diets can go a long way, but without proper exercise weight loss can seem almost impossible.

Almost automatically everyone turns to cardio to burn that stubborn fat. Thirty minute runs turn into forty-five and pretty soon an hour. You’ve been discipline, doing cardio five days a week for an hour. Even though you feel like you’re burning an insane amount of calories your weight is still falling ever so slowly. When this happens it can definitely be discouraging and make you want to quit.

But don’t give up! This article delves into whether or not you should be giving weight training a second thought in order to achieve your weight loss goals. Read until the end and you will be surprised!

What’s the Difference?

The obvious difference is easy, but what is the scientific difference between the two? Well it has to do with aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Cardio falls under the aerobic exercise category. Aerobic exercise is low-intensity but high duration. This is pretty much all cardio- jogging, biking, and the elliptical are examples of aerobic exercise. Aerobic means your body is getting enough oxygen to supply your body for that prolonged activity. Since cardio is generally low-intensity, you can sustain it for a long period of time while still burning calories. This is why people love cardio.

On the other hand, weight lifting falls under the anaerobic exercise category. Anaerobic exercise, as you probably guessed, is the opposite of aerobic exercise. It’s high intensity and low duration and thus works the body differently. Besides weight lifting, sprints are another form of anaerobic exercise. Any intense exercise performed in a short period of time won’t allow oxygen to supply your muscles quickly enough, hence the name anaerobic. Let’s discuss benefits and drawbacks of each.


Costs Nothing

The amazing thing about cardio is that it costs nothing and you can do it pretty much anywhere. You can turn any environment into your gym and that’s the ease of cardio. Who doesn’t want to burn calories by simply jogging around their neighborhood?

Feel the Burn

Cardio is an easy way to burn calories. It’s a fact that you need to have a calorie deficit to lose weight, so cardio is a quick solution to reduce calories. What’s more, the burn you feel from cardio makes you feel like you really are melting fat.

Health Benefits

Besides burning calories, cardio has a multitude of health benefits. It will decrease risk for cardiovascular disease significantly and improve cardiovascular and respiratory health. Cardio can also improve memory and cognitive function.


Although people tend to equate cardio with weight loss this is only partly true. Once you start doing cardio regularly, your body begins to store fat for that next cardio session. This means your body adapts to cardio-only routines. Over time less weight is lost from body fat and more comes from lean body mass. Your metabolism doesn’t increase as much as you would like from cardio.

Weight Training

Burns Calories

Weight training does burn calories. But because each set or movement is short and there is rest in between (sometimes too much), you don’t burn as many calories as you would from cardio. The type of weight training and exercises does factor into how many calories you burn. Compound exercises will provide a bigger calorie burn than isolation exercises. You will also build more lean mass sticking to compound exercises.

Build Muscle

Well of course. Everyone can agree that a benefit from weight training is that you will build muscle. And no, women will not get bulky from lifting weights. They actually benefit the most. They don’t have as much testosterone as men so hitting weights will only help burn fat and tone the body. Also, women have a higher chance of developing osteoporosis so weight training will help strengthen the muscles, joints, and ligaments, around their bones.


Lifting weights just doesn’t burn as many calories as cardio. But before you stop reading and continue with your cardio, know that there is more than just numbers. We will discuss that in the next section.

The Perfect Combo

Lifting weights does burn calories, but not as much as cardio. What makes weight training a must to add to your weight loss routine is that it burns calories even after you’re done working out.

While your body adapts to regular cardio slowing down metabolism, your metabolism is boosted after weight training even hours after you worked out. Studies show a weights-only exercise routine actually burned almost the same amount of fat as a cardio-only routine while building some muscle.

It only makes sense to combine the two.

A 2015 study by Falcone PH., et. al. compared aerobic, resistance, and high intensity interval training (HIIT) to see which provided the best calorie burn. High intensity interval training is a combination of aerobic and resistance training where you perform a few compound exercises in a short period of time with short rest in between sets. The results of the experiment proved HIIT to be the king when it comes to burning calories. Not only does HIIT burn the most calories, it takes less time and you build lean muscle mass too.

HIIT workouts are extremely taxing on the body, however. So before you start doing five HIIT workouts a week, know you need adequate rest in between HIIT sessions.

A better study by Villareal, D., et. al. in 2017 focused on simply combining aerobic and anaerobic exercise to see if it provided better results in dieting obese adults. Of the 141 individuals, everyone in the combination group benefitted much more significantly. They received the benefits of both aerobic and anaerobic training alone. Overall, the physical performance was 7% greater in the combination group than either group alone which is very substantial.


Lifting weights does not burn as much calories as cardio, but because your body adapts to cardio, the weight loss benefit becomes almost the same. It isn’t until you combine the two that you can supercharge your weight loss. HIIT is a fantastic way to burn serious calories in a short period of time, but since it’s so taxing on the body it should only be done once or twice a week. You don’t have to do anything extreme. Simply combine cardio and lifting weights and you will start to see the benefit. Not only will you burn calories and fat, but you will also build some muscle toning up your body. Now who doesn’t want that!

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