How do I Use Weight Lifting to Burn Fat?

Shelby Miller

Fitness experts overwhelmingly recommend utilizing weight lifting to burn fat instead of just diet or cardio training alone. This is because while cardio does lead to weight loss, that includes weight from water and muscle in addition to that from fat, whereas strength training puts muscle on the body. You need that muscle to optimize your metabolism, which is your body’s calorie-burning potential. Therefore, incorporating weight-training exercises into your workout regimen at least three days per week can aid in fat loss by increasing your lean mass.

Weight lifting is recommended to burn fat.
Weight lifting is recommended to burn fat.

Weight lifting to burn fat involves performing exercises that break down muscle — that create microscopic tears in the muscle fiber. The body will then set about repairing itself, and it is through this repair that you become stronger and leaner. From a weight-loss perspective, adding this lean mass is recommended, as muscle tissue is responsible for much of your daily calorie burn, so the more muscle on your frame, the higher your metabolism. Experts estimate that for every extra pound of muscle you carry on your body, you burn an additional 30-60 calories per day, calories that add up over time. A pound of fat is the equivalent of 3500 calories, which means that a person who puts on 5 pounds of muscle can potentially burn almost 3 pounds a month without any extra dieting or exercise.

Weight lifting to burn fat involves performing exercises to break down muscle.
Weight lifting to burn fat involves performing exercises to break down muscle.

At the same time, weight lifting to burn fat does not mean sitting on a machine and working only one muscle at a time. For the most efficient workout for weight loss, consideration should be given to calories burned as well as muscle groups worked. Isolated muscle exercises like biceps curls, though necessary if the goal is to develop the biceps muscle, are not recommended if you are looking to lose weight. Instead, it is advised that you choose compound exercises like chin-ups and rows, movements that work multiple joints — and therefore multiple muscles — at once.

Weight lifting helps burn more fat than cardio exercises alone.
Weight lifting helps burn more fat than cardio exercises alone.

Similarly, weight lifting to burn fat means choosing compound movements that not only work several muscles at once, thus burning more calories with a single exercise, but also that focus on larger muscle groups. Incorporating the largest muscles of the body like those of the back, chest, quads, and glutes into as many movements as possible means that you will add lean mass to those muscles that require the most energy on a daily basis. In other words, because the largest muscles do the most work, they burn the most calories. Fitness experts widely believe that if weight loss is the goal, prioritizing these muscles in your strength-training routine will result in a more significant bump in your metabolism than working smaller muscles in isolation.

As expert recommendations can vary, it is advised that before engaging in a training regimen, you should seek the help of a fitness professional who can personalize your program. Even so, other tips for weight lifting to burn fat include choosing exercises that keep you on your feet and moving, the better to burn calories and elevate your heart rate. Also, arrange your exercises in groups of two to four movements performed back-to-back to eliminate long rests in between sets and get more done in less time. Finally, many fitness experts recommend completing your strength workout before your cardio workout. This style of strength training is relatively high intensity and will burn plenty of calories, and therefore will require a good deal of energy, but it also will deplete the carbohydrate stored in your muscle, making it easier for your body to access stored body fat for energy during your cardio session.

Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat does.
Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat does.

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Discussion Comments


What I get from this article is that you need to have a plan when you lift weights. Simply going to the gym and lifting as many weights as you can isn't going to get the desired results. How you lift should be determined by whether you want to simply lose weight in general or whether you want to burn fat and build muscle or just lose fat. Who knew lifting weights could be so complex?


I have always heard that you need to do a large number of reps with light weights to burn fat and get stronger. And to build muscle and gain weight you need to lift the heavier weight. I'm not a professional body builder or anything, but what has worked for me is lifting light weights two days a week and then lifting heavy weights on the third day I workout.


This article gives me a better understanding of how lifting weights works with my body. The guys I play basketball with never believed me when I said I couldn't keep weight on unless I lifted weights. I didn't fully understand the science of what was going on, but I knew I had to lift weights to put on the pounds.

I knew that cardio exercise burned water weight. I can play basketball and drop 3 to 5 pounds in a couple hours, and most of that weight is what I sweated out. However, I didn't know that all the running burned muscle. I thought I would only burn fat.

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