Best weight training for weight loss: How to use lifting to lose fat

muscular man with dumbell
Simon Long

Simon Long

Simon is a highly experienced personal trainer and behavioural psychology expert
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Seriously though. Weight training can’t be used for weight loss. Right? Well in fact it’s not only possible to lose weight with weights, aka resistance training. Its more efficient. (Yes. Even if you are female)

Using Weights Burns More Calories Per Session

When we do high intensity training our bodies go into a metabolic spike. This spike is the extra energy your body is using to recover and repair from the exercise. The greater the amount of muscular fatigue you create the larger this metabolic spike will become.

If you use long slow cardio you can burn a good number of calories within the session. But as the stresses placed on the system are never too high the metabolic increase is limited. By using weight training we can train at a higher intensity and so create more stress on the body. Resulting in the large spike we want.

This spike in your energy, or calorie, requirements can be around 10 extra calories per hour. You may look at this and think ‘Woo, 10 calories per hour’ (probably whilst pulling a party popper sarcastically). But when you consider that the spike will last around 36 hours and that you will be doing repeated training sessions it starts to add up quickly.

10 extra calories from one session over 36 hours= 360 extra calories.

3 weight sessions per week= 1080 extra calories.

4 weeks of training in a month= 4,320 extra calories.

And so you can see. Just by using weight training as your primary exercise method you’ve burnt through an extra 4,320 calories. Meaning over that month you have lost more than a pound of extra fat. So weight training 3 times a week can be worth around 6kgs of less weight every year.

Using Weights Stops Muscular Atrophy

Muscular atrophy is muscle wastage. If you are restricting your calorie intake, then the weight you lose will not only be from your stored fat. Your body will also be breaking down your muscle and converting that into energy.

This problem is made worse if you focus on using cardio training. Your body breaks down muscle at an even faster rate. It’s trying to do you a favour. Its logic is that you don’t have enough energy anyway (so make some by breaking down muscle protein) and being heavier is going to make your running, cycling etc harder (muscle is denser then fat. So it weighs more).

So what you end up with is a weaker, ‘softer’ version of yourself. By soft I mean you won’t have much muscle definition. You will look skinny, not well defined. An added issue is that your body will require even less energy to run it. Meaning your calorie intake has to become even lower.

Using weights slows down or stops this atrophy. As you are still using your muscles, and because the training is high intensity, your body refrains from breaking them down for energy. So it focuses instead on your fat stores.

Think of your bodies logic this way. It still suspects we live in a hunter/gatherer society. So if you are running long distances a lot it will think ‘Ok. We are probably chasing deer a lot. I’ll make myself lighter by dropping this heavy muscle. So it will be easier for use to keep chasing the deer’. But if you’re doing weight training more often it will think ‘Well dam! I reckon we were having to fight a wolf for our lives there. Better not break down that muscle and make myself weaker, else next time we might lose and get eaten!’.

I speak a bit more about muscle atrophy and wastage here.

Using Weights Builds Muscle

When you build muscle your body needs more energy per day to run it. A metaphor for this is if you have a work force (your muscle fibres) they need a sandwich (a calorie) each day to keep working. If you have a bigger work force, then you need more sandwiches.

So by using weight training you have more muscle and so burn more calories every day! Easy right! Well not quite. The two advantages discussed are nice and simple. This one requires a choice. Let me explain why.

You cannot build muscle and burn fat at the same time. There are a couple of studies that say you can. But on the whole science says that it isn’t possible. This is down to the fact that to lose weight you need a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you are eating). To build muscle you need a calorie surplus (eating more calorie then you are burning). As you are probably deducing right now, you can’t do both.

So the choice to make with this one is to decide if you would rather add some muscle first, therefore making your weight loss goal a bit easier down the line. Or would you prefer to lose fat first, with a plan of then focusing on adding some muscle to make it more difficult to regain weight. Neither option is the wrong one. It’s just down to personal preference.


In summary using weight training for a weight loss goal has 3 advantages:

  1. You’ll burn more calories after the session finishes.
  2. You’ll stop your body breaking down your muscle.
  3. It allows you to build more muscle so that you burn more calories per 24-hour period.

If you’d like more quick explanations like this follow me on my Facebook or Youtube channels. I upload videos every day as well as articles several times a week. There’s a ton of information on there to get your weight loss goal off to the best start!

Until next time. I hope you have a great day.

Best wishes,