How Many Calories Do You Burn Lifting Weights?


Weightlifting is not the most time-efficient way to burn calories if your goal is merely to lose some pounds. However, there are ways to take advantage of weightlifting’s benefits—increased muscle strength and tone—and burn a bunch of calories in the process. If you work out in a gym, all the equipment you’ll need will be at hand. If you plan to exercise at home, you can put together a calorie-burning routine with only a small investment in equipment.

Power Lifting Workouts

You add more size and bulk to your muscles by lifting heavy weights. A vigorous lifting workout using weights at the top of your workout capabilities will burn 275 to 300 calories an hour, according to Although a bodybuilding routine will build strength and tone, it is demanding and not particularly time-efficient if burning calories is your primary goal. For example, running at a relatively slow 12-minute-per-mile pace will burn about 35 percent more calories.

Moderate Weightlifting Routine

Less demanding workouts with lighter weights and more repetitions per exercise probably will be easier to maintain, especially if you are in the early stages of a workout regimen. However, such a routine is even less time efficient for burning calories. You probably will burn about half as many calories with a light to moderate weightlifting workout as you would with a bodybuilding routine.

Circuit Training

Circuit training is a combination of aerobic exercise and weight training, designed to increase strength and fitness—and burn a bunch of calories in the bargain. You can use easier-to-manage weight levels, or about 75 percent of the amounts you would use for a bodybuilding workout, and you’ll get a cardiovascular workout, too. It’s called circuit training because the recovery time from a series of weightlifting movements is filled with some form of aerobic exercise, such as stair-stepping, rope skipping or jogging, completing each series is a circuit. A good workout includes two or three 15- to 20-minute circuits; you’ll burn 500 to 600 calories an hour if you maintain a challenging pace.


You’ll need something to provide aerobic exercise. A treadmill or stair-stepping machine is great, but you can also use something as simple as a standard step or a jump rope. If you are planning to exercise in your basement, for example, the stairs down to your workout area can double as your aerobic exercise “machine.” It’s nice to have a weight machine, but for the most simple circuit training, all you need is a bench and a set of dumbbells. Because you’ll probably need different weights for various exercises, it might make sense to buy a pair of adjustable dumbbells that let you change the weight amount without slowing down your routine. You can find adjustable dumbbells at discount department stores for less than $70.


For the most basic circuit-training routine, the weightlifting exercises consist of a biceps curl, a chest or bench press, an overhead press, abdominal crunches and squats with calf raises using dumbbells, according to The weight for each exercise should be at a level for which you can do at least 10 repetitions but not more than 12. Begin with a warmup—calisthenics or light running in place for three to four minutes. Start the circuit by moving up and down the step for 50 steps or about two minutes. Change the starting leg halfway through. Move quickly to the biceps curl, then back to the step for two more minutes. On to the squats, holding the dumbbells at your sides and bending at the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Straighten your legs and rise all the way onto your toes before returning to the starting position. Back to the steps, then the bench press, followed by the abdominal crunches, holding the dumbbells with your arms folded across your chest, and finishing with the overhead press. Then repeat the circuit. Design your exercise circuit so you alternate upper and lower body exercises in between the aerobic routine.

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