Does Weightlifting Burn Fat? Facts and Myths about Strength Training

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So, with that announcement out of the way and without further, let’s talk about weightlifting and if it’s helpful for weight loss. Then we’ll bust through a few myths about weightlifting as well...

The number one rule for weight loss is being in a calorie deficit. Meaning we have to be consuming less energy than we’re putting out. Our bodies need to burn more calories than it is taking in. We can create a calorie deficit by 1. eating less than what we need to eat in maintenance, 2. burning some extra calories through exercise, or 3. a combination of the two. I prefer the latter in a balanced way... a slight deficit so you’re not heavily restricted and get burnt out and a moderate amount of exercise so you don’t wear your body down and do damage but you’re still burning extra energy.

We shouldn’t rely solely on exercise for weight loss for 2 reasons:

1 I’ve noticed that the mindset of exercising for weight loss is one thing that sends a lot of women into a maladaptive thought process as they overeat and then try to work off their calories.

2 It leads women to eat however they want and then just work it off so they are not actually creating healthy habits or trying to eat foods that nourish their body.

There’s a difference in being healthy and being skinny, but full of junk where your body is struggling to survive off of very little nutrients. There’s so many negative effects of not giving your body the nutrients it needs. It’s going to effect way more than your weight. So, my goal is to help women focus on making better choices and getting nutrients into their body without feeling guilty about eating fun foods.

We SHOULD make room for fun foods in my opinion. As long as we’re fueling ourselves 80-90% of the time with nutrients and then allowing ourselves to treat our taste-buds the rest of the time, we’re in a healthy but also happy place. That’s the goal. Overall health, not just eating nothing but clean foods but being miserable to the point where you stop eating healthy food all together because you miss the fun food so much. Balance.

So, yes, we can enhance our energy output through exercise and regular movement. Every movement we make requires energy. Whether you’re tapping your foot or running a marathon you are using energy… it’s just that one requires more energy than the other. Cardio, like running, cycling, rowing or anything that elevates your heart rate for 20 minutes or more does burn extra calories during that workout.

However, first, you’re not burning as much as you think you are so it is not smart to rely on cardio for weight loss. Cardio is for cardiovascular health and endurance. This is going to improve the function of your heart and lungs and it certainly has its place in your workout routine. But not as much as many women think… and it’s because they think this is the only or best way to lose fat. It’s not. And I’m going to explain why in just a minute.

But first, let’s talk about how weight lifting fits in with weight loss? That’s the big question and the topic of this episode. Let me first read you the benefits of consistent weight lifting.

Benefits of Weightlifting

-build muscle tissue (bigger muscles- but not bulky)

-Improved coordination, balance, and muscular strength

-Strengthens connective tissue

-Improves bone density

-Improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity

-Lowers risk of injury

-Improves self-esteem, agility, speed, body composition

-Improves aerobic capacity

-Decreases blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels

-Enhances metabolic rate (efficiency of burning calories)

So, your interest might have peaked on that last benefit- "enhances metabolic rate" which is your body’s ability to burn energy. As you train, and as you add on muscle, your body increases its metabolic rate. Your resting metabolic rate or RMR increases meaning you burn more calories at rest.

One difference in calorie burning between cardio and weight lifting is that cardio burns calories during the workout. Let’s say you burn 250 calories jogging for 20 minutes. The problem is that cardio is adaptive… meaning let’s say you burn 600 calories running for 1 hour. Over time, your body is going to become more efficient at burning calories from that type of exercise as it adapts. It is then going to burn less calories the more you do it. So after a few runs, you may only be burning 500 or 400 calories.

Weight lifting is going to burn less during the workout, but will burn more calories at rest. You’re still burning more calories during the day after your strength training session. Some studies show that your metabolic rate can stay elevated as much as 72 hours after a session. And with weight lifting you should be consistently altering the different muscles worked as well as switching up your programming to avoid adaptation.

Another difference is this: If you are doing tons of cardio during the week consistently, you’re not just losing fat, but you’re likely losing muscle mass too. Cardio is catabolic meaning it breaks down tissue and lean body mass (muscle). If you’re not eating a good amount of food and specifically protein, it is likely your body is feeding off your muscle. So, this isn’t the best spot to be if you are looking to lose weight. You can actually really damage your metabolism by focusing too much on cardio.

The scale reflects weight loss, not fat loss. So, that loss or gain may be due to water, muscle, and possibly fat. Cardio may help you lose a minimal amount of fat, but it’s also breaking down your muscle tissue. Weight lifting is anabolic, meaning it’s building up. Weight training with adequate amounts of protein is going to help you retain that muscle during your fat loss phase. That’s why the scale may not move as drastically because you are maintaining or building up that muscle, which is denser than fat, taking up less space in your body pound for pound.

That’s why when I’m coaching clients we rely more on inches lost and before and after pictures to determine fat loss.

So ultimately, yes, weight training is more beneficial for fat loss than cardio for losing actual fat versus weight. However, this is not to say that you shouldn’t be doing cardio. Cardio is good for your health, it just doesn’t need to be the source you use to punish yourself and work off what you eat.

So I add cardio in one day a week to keep up my endurance. I strength train 4-5 times a week to continually keep my body burning calories, build up muscle, and change my body composition. If I’m specifically looking for weight loss, I’ll go into a slight calorie deficit to lose about a pound a week.

Now let’s talk about some of the myths of weightlifting. I’ve got 3 I want to talk about and clear up for you guys.

Myths about Weightlifting



Here’s the thing, weight lifting can make someone bulky, but only if they are doing other actions with lifting. First you need to be consistently lifting super heavy while eating excessive calories…meaning you are eating over maintenance. Looking like the Rock or Arnold Schwarzenegger is hard… that’s why there are not a huge amount of people that look like them. It takes literal years. They are lifting and eating in ways that you probably can’t even imagine doing.

It's hard to do, which means that you are not going to bulk up unless you are intentional and patient in growing towards those results… which most of you are not. So, there is no need to worry about getting bulky.

The truth is, if you are eating in a slight calorie deficit and you are lifting 3-4x/ week on a regular basis you are going to eventually lean out and feel great. You’re going to tone your muscles so that they shine through when you start shedding the fat. You’re going to sleep better, improve your overall functional abilities, get stronger, and more confident. In a nutshell, you are not going to get bulky by accident. So, lift some weights!



So, you may have heard of the term DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) which is the ache and pain you feel after a really intense workout. It is basically just your body’s inflammatory response to those microscopic tears in the muscle fibers after you’ve lifted. But the amount of DOMS you have after a workout doesn’t necessarily indicate whether it was beneficial or not.

DOMS come on when you are introduced to a new stimulus. So, for instance, I don’t run a lot, but when I do get a jog in, I feel it the next day because I’m not used to it. My calves are super sore because I don’t work them in that way. It’s a new stressor on my muscle. But as you do certain things, your muscles adapt and the soreness decreases with time. So, if you are consistently lifting and you feel really sore months afterwards, it’s probably because you are doing something wrong. It means you’re not recovering properly which means that your workouts are not going to be beneficial. Remember that recovery is where the magic happens, not in the lifting session.

When you sleep and rest, that is when your body is building up new muscle tissue. So you have to rest. So, if you are constantly trying to get DOMS with your workouts, stop that! It doesn’t mean you’re doing it right, it actually means your body is not recovering properly. If it’s a new workout or if you’re switching from strength to endurance type lifting, then it’s expected. But your muscles should adapt fairly quickly and you shouldn’t be feeling sore all the time.


So, here we’re talking about pink dumbbells with reps of 20-25 for every move. This isn’t necessarily wrong and this type of training may have it’s place because we shouldn’t be lifting super heavy all the time without switching up our training. But, If you think you are only going to get toned versus bulky by lifting small weights, that’s not true. Because there is no such thing as toning. You’re just building muscle. You can build muscle by lifting lighter with a lot of reps by fatiguing the muscle until you can’t do another rep, but it’s probably going to take even more than 20-25 reps to really fatigue it if you are using a 3 or 5 lb dumbbell… so it’s not necessarily the most efficient way to “tone” or build muscle.

In reality, the best way to, from what I’ve studied and practiced, is to combine this type of training with other types by doing cycles or periodization so that your body does not adapt so quickly. This is where clients may plateau and stagnate progress. Now for those of you who are brand new to training, this may not apply for a while because all exercise is basically new to your body and it will take some time to adapt. However, if you have been weight training for a while this does apply to you. There are 3 types of cycles in periodization- macrocycle (refers to an entire season of training), a mesocycle (a specific training block within that season- endurance, hypertrophy, or strength), and then microcycle (usually a week of a specific type of training- deload week).

So for instance, there are mesocycles which form a continuous amount of weeks where the training you’re doing focuses on a specific type of adaptation. So, essentially, it s a training block. So, you might want to do 8 weeks of that high rep, low weight training, but you can’t do that for a year and expect to see great results. It’s best to switch up your training regimen. So, maybe the following 8-12 weeks you perform hypertrophy training where you are lifting moderate weight for 8-12-15 reps. Then you can do a strength cycle where you are doing main lifts for low reps (4-6) with super heavy weight. You can also do strength and power training where your main lifts are performed with a high intensity (heavy weight) and low reps of 3-5. The goal here is to switch up the intensity (weight) and the volume (amount of reps).

Combining these different methods of training is what is going to challenge your muscle in different ways so you are consistently getting better, stronger, and increasing your muscular endurance. If you’re just going into the gym doing the same kind of workout week to week not changing up anything, you’re not going to progress as efficiently as you could be. It’s still great that you are in there moving your body. I’m not saying that you are wrong. It’s just that to progress in strength and to keep your muscles growing and metabolism fired up, switch it up every now and then. With my clients we typically start off with that higher rep, low to medium weight scheme. As they progress in form and consistency, we’ll change it up to hypertrophy training and eventually strength.

Summing up the 3 myths:

1 weight lifting does not make you bulky. You have to intentionally work towards that type of aesthetic by using specific methods of weight lifting and eating in excess.

2 Just because you don’t feel sore after a workout does not mean that it’s not effective. Being sore only implies that you applied a new stimulus. So, we talked about training blocks. After 8 weeks of muscle endurance with high reps and light weights, if you move straight to strength type training with lower reps but really heavy weight, at that time, you are probably going to be sore because it’s a new type of stimulus. But, being sore does not equate to effectiveness. In fact, if you are consistently sore, it could mean the opposite.

3 And lastly, high reps and light weight is not the best or only way for women to “tone up”. It’s better to switch up your methods and train in cycles to put a new stressor on the body and avoid adaptation. We want to build muscle in order to get that toned look. You won’t get that doing the same reps and same weight week after week.

So there you have it. Yes, weight lifting is in fact a plus when you are striving for weight loss. Over time it’s going to increase your metabolic rate meaning you burn more calories naturally at rest. However, lifting along with being in a slight calorie deficit is going to be the most efficient way of losing weight in a healthy and sustainable way. That is why you won’t see my put out a program of strictly cardio. Cardio’s great for endurance and heart and lung health, but it’s actually not great for fat loss, It’s catabolic which means it starts to use your muscle tissue for fuel and therefore you are losing the thing that helps you burn more calories.

I really want my cardio bunny girls to get this in your head. I know that it seems like your body should burn more calories because you are working harder and longer. But that’s not how the body works. Our bodies are efficient at adapting to a stimulus. The more you do cardio, the more efficient it will become at adapting to that stressor and so therefore, it will burn less to do the same amount of work over time.

With weightlifting, you should be consistently switching things up and keep the body from adapting… make it essentially less efficient. That’s what you want so it can continue increasing the metabolic rate and burning more calories at rest.

So again, you’re going to want a program that switches things up for you. Switching reps, volume, and weight load. That is why I’m spending a lot of time putting my programs together for you guys, implementing these strategies, so you can choose from different types of training and get better results.

If you have no idea how to do this for yourself, look for a coach or for programs that adhere to these principles. So, look out for the new programs coming out on the app soon. To celebrate the app launch, new coaching clients get 20% off and you’ll get a program customized for you, a meal plan, new habits to practice each week, and consistent check ins to keep you accountable.

Head to my website now if you want to know more about that:

Alright guys, thank you for being here. If you have any questions, I’m all ears. I know sometimes this kind of stuff can get a little scienc-y and a bit confusing so I’m happy to answer any questions you have. You can ask me on my website or you can follow me @bridges2barbells on Instagram and DM me there.

That’s all I have for you today. If you enjoyed today’s post and you’re getting value out of this blog, please do me a favor and leave me a review! ITIA!

Bye for now!



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