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The Science Behind Strength Training to Burn Fat

Looking for information on the science behind strength training to burn fat? We share valuable info to support your health goals with strength training.

Published: 3/31/15

The Science Behind Strength Training to Burn Fat

Working out has a myriad of physical and mental health benefits. From self-empowerment, confidence building, and anxiety reduction to muscle strengthening, maintaining a healthy heart, and getting blood pumping—exercise makes us feel good! 

Looking and feeling your best comes in many different forms, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to fitness goals. 

You may have asked these questions before. Does weight training burn fat? Can you lose fat and develop lean muscle mass without strength training exercise? Is weight lifting better for fat loss and building muscle than purely aerobic exercise? In this article, we’ll tackle the science behind consistent  strength training to lose weight and body fat.

If one of your goals is to burn fat and lose weight, you might already be convinced that you need to resort to cardio exercise and dieting and we’re very happy to share that that’s not necessarily the truth. While regular strength training is usually not the primary part of the burn-fat-and-lose-weight menu, it can actually cause you to burn as much fat, or more, than a cardio workout leading to better overall health.

From resistance training to HIIT workout, there are many methods to help you gain more muscle and quickly burn fat. Today we’re diving into all things strength training and how it can actually help you burn fat and support your health goals for the long haul.

Create A Bigger Engine To Burn More Fuel

When you start building muscle through resistance exercise, you are, in effect, building a bigger engine—and what does a big engine do? It burns more fuel.

Even when you aren’t working out your “engine,” is running—meaning that you are burning more body fat and calories even at rest than you would without the strength training exercise. When you do high reps or intense weight training it boosts your resting metabolism, which remains elevated even after you stop working out. This is called “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” or EPOC.

When you incorporate regular strength training into your weight loss efforts, you can experience an elevation in your metabolism, or EPOC, for far longer than usual. One study’s results showed the effects lasting for as long as 38 hours after your workout ends. This means that even when you stop weight training, your body is still burning calories. On the other hand, when you stop your cardio workout, your calorie-burning power stops as well.


Cardio Burns Faster, But Weight Training Burns Longer

There is a popular study that is often cited in support of cardio over weight training. It was published in the “Journal of Applied Physiology” in 2012. The study explored weight training and cardio exercise and their effects on fat mass and body mass in adults who were obese or overweight. The study concluded that when it comes to losing body fat or body mass, cardio and weight training did not have an impact that was significantly greater than cardio alone. The media has had a field day with this, misrepresenting the data to make claims that cardio is better than weight training when it comes to losing body weight and improving physical health.

We’re Here To Set The Record Straight

People do experience faster weight loss when they do cardio as opposed to weight training, that much is true, but what you’re losing is worth consideration. In terms of weight loss programs, cardio is the sprinter while weight exercise training is the long-distance runner. 

You burn more calories when you do cardiovascular exercise like stair climber and  elliptical, but this stops when your workout ends. Weight training is the opposite. When you stop training, your body keeps burning. This makes your body a powerful fat burning machine over the long term. Not only do you get a body that looks fit, you also have the added advantage of a stronger body that burns more calories at rest, resists osteoporosis, and is less prone to injury. 

Adding strength training to your fitness routine is easy and fun to do, because let’s be honest, how much fun can running in place for hours on end actually be? Talk to a fitness professional, learn the correct form, and take your workouts to a whole new level. Find out  which strength-building exercises you should do. Don’t hesitate to ask and open yourself up to learning. Ask your strength coach which strength-building exercises you should do. Should you do muscle targeting?  Does yoga build muscle? Don’t hesitate to ask and open yourself up to learning. 

Types of Strength Training for Weight Loss

  • Resistance Training: Incorporate exercises using resistance bands, dumbbells, or kettlebells. These workouts engage various muscle groups and promote functional strength.
  • Bodyweight Exercises: Effective and convenient, bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks help build strength and endurance without the need for equipment.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Combine strength training with bursts of intense cardio to create a highly effective fat-burning workout. HIIT sessions can be time-efficient and boost your metabolism.
  • Circuit Training: Rotate through different strength exercises with minimal rest between sets. This keeps your heart rate elevated, maximizing calorie burn.

Tips for Effective Strength Training

  • Increase Intensity: Gradually increase the resistance or intensity of your strength workouts to continually challenge your muscles.
  • Consistency: Aim for at least two to three strength training sessions per week to see noticeable results.
  • Balanced Approach: Combine strength training with a well-rounded fitness routine that includes cardio and flexibility exercises for overall health.

Nutrition Considerations

When strategizing your wellness journey, reflecting on your lifestyle and the bigger picture matters. If you want to be strong, fit, and healthy, a big part of that is food and nutrition. 

As previously mentioned, restricting calories without lifting weights reduces both fat mass and muscle mass, making your body weaker overall. Fueling your body with healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates rather than cutting off entire food groups is more sustainable and provides your body with a whole diet that is nourishing and caters to your needs. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take the time to reflect on your relationship with food and open your mind to new ways of eating—but it is important to face your diet from a place of self-love and gratitude.

Talk to a professional, find out what is best for your body, and nourish yourself in ways that feel right for you.

Final Thoughts

Like everything in life, find a middle path in your diet and exercise routine. This looks different for everyone, but establishing a  sweet spot where your mind, body, and spirit align will feel so right! If you have further questions about how to use strength training to burn fat, drop us a line or stop by one of our gyms—we have experts  who love to help people become the best version of themselves.


Reviewed by:

Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.





  1. “Strength training can burn fat too, myth-busting study finds.” Science Daily. 22 September, 2021. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210922121905.htm
  2. Tinsley, Grant. “Cardio vs. Weight Lifting: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?” Helathline. 24 October, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cardio-vs-weights-for-weight-loss
  3. Willis, Leslie H et al. “Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults.” Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985) vol. 113,12 (2012): 1831-7. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01370.2011
  4. Scott, Christopher. “The Science Of Weight Loss Loves Hard And Heavy.” Breaking Muscle. 20 March, 2018. https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-science-of-weight-loss-loves-hard-and-heavy/
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