Are Squats & Deadlifts the Best Exercises to Burn Calories?


To burn fat and lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. This can be done by cutting calories from your diet, but a better approach is to incorporate exercise too, to ramp up your calorie burn. When it comes to choosing the best exercises for burning calories, there's no one exercise that's better than all of the others, but squats and deadlifts are up there, at least when it comes to weight training.

Calories Burned Weight Training

  • One hour of resistance training burns between 365 calories per hour for a 160-pound person and 545 calories per hour for a 240-pound person, according to While these numbers don't specify what types of weightlifting exercises need to be performed, moves such as squats and deadlifts do burn more calories, as they recruit a large number of muscle fibers. Squats work your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and core, while deadlifts also work your glutes, hamstrings and core as well as your lower back. The more muscles you work in an exercise, the more calories you burn.

Weight Training vs. Cardio

  • On the face of it, lifting weights burns fewer calories than cardio, meaning squats and deadlifts may not be as effective for calorie burning and fat loss. High-impact aerobics burns 533 to 796 calories per hour, tennis burns 585 to 782 in an hour, while an hour of running at 8 miles per hour burns between 861 and 1,286 calories for people weighing 160 and 240 pounds, respectively.

The After-Burn Effect

  • Lifting weights, particularly doing challenging exercises like squats and deadlifts, creates an after-burn effect, known as excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. This refers to the increased number of calories your body burns following exercise. The harder you work during a session, the bigger the effect on EPOC and the greater your calorie burn post-workout. According to the IDEA Health and Fitness Association, lifting weights elicits a greater EPOC response than cardio. The more muscles you train and the harder you work, the bigger the effect on EPOC, making squats and deadlifts more effective than single-joint moves such as leg extensions or calf raises.


  • When choosing exercises for your weightlifting routine, squats and deadlifts should certainly be included, provided you don't have an injury that prevents you from performing them safely. Personal trainer JC Deen adds that along with bench presses, squats and deadlifts are the three best moves for fat loss, but also notes that these exercises alone won't burn enough calories to lose fat -- you also need to reduce your calorie intake through your diet. To increase calorie burn further and balance out your routine, add in other weight exercises and cardiovascular training.

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