Strength Training and Fat Loss

How do you get rid of body fat? Many believe the only way is cardio. “Tummy starting to fill out? Hit the treadmill,” some say. The thing is, that’s not 100% true, nor is it great advice. New studies shed some light on burning fat through strength training–yes, strength training. In this article, you’ll hear some untruths about fitness that shortchange the benefits of weightlifting.  Learn the relationship between strength training and fat loss.

Lies We Tell Ourselves About Fitness

Fat people lift weights.

Skinny people run.

Let’s double-down on the ugly, false clichés: runners are walking sticks, bicep-free, built from skin-and-bones. Weightlifters are gargantuan, often overweight, slow, and unathletic unless they’re holding a barbell. 

Those might be the most significant fitness lies of all time. They’re patently false.

Why are those beliefs so pervasive? Was it all the cartoons we watched as kids? Was it “old fitness wisdom” that somehow filtered into our thoughts? Maybe it’s our tendency to compartmentalize fitness: “The quickest way to work this gut off is to run, so I’ll stick to that. Picking up a barbell means I’d have to spend more time at the gym. Therefore, weightlifting is inefficient and useless.” 

The thing is, you can’t understand why weight training burns fat until you get those two lies out of your head. Healthy athletes have a balanced diet of weightlifting and cardio.

Lie: If You Want to Lose Fat, Stick to Cardio

Let’s kick off with an example.

Bill swears 2022 will be the year he loses weight and gets lean. After watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve–on television–he decides to train for a marathon. He runs for several weeks. He sees improvement when he steps on the scale.

But then an injury happens. Bill skips a week. He falls back into the poor diet habits that got him overweight (and that he never changed during his training). Everything he gained in the new year, he loses. The grim punchline: many running injuries can be prevented by cross-training in the weight room. Even worse, he could have significantly increased his fat-burning if he’d added strength work to his program.

Lie: If You Want to Get Strong, Stick to Weightlifting

Another example: day after day, Marco sees Youtube ads where some guy with a six-pack explains promises he can get shredded in eight weeks. Marco wants something new in his life, so he signs up.

But three weeks later, he throws in the towel. When he pinches his stomach, he gets a finger-full of fat–he didn’t get skinny fast enough. Because working out made him hungry, he’s been eating more–and not losing weight. He hurts all the time and moves slower than before he started. Worse, he’s frustrated with himself. Why does he seem to give up at the gym faster than everyone else? Why is he failing lifts? 

He didn’t have as much oxygen in his blood because he didn’t compliment his workouts with cardio. The result? Less energy, less endurance, and non-optimal performance.

The Truth About Strength Training and Fat Loss

Strength training burns fat. And here’s what it does that cardio doesn’t: it keeps burning calories for hours afterward. It helps you perform better when cardio comes up. And it has tremendous benefits for your overall health that complement cardio beautifully.

Strength Training Burns Fat and Calories

So how does it trim fat?

We don’t quite have the science down yet. We have evidence that it happens, but the chemical breakdown isn’t clear. So what do we know? This article from Eat This Not That does a great job documenting that. The current belief is this: weightlifting might cause the body to ‘order’ itself to burn fat more quickly.

In addition, research has repeatedly proven that increased muscle means a higher resting metabolism. What does that mean in English? With a regular strength training regimen, your body will burn more calories at rest than it would without. Why? Because straining those muscles requires recovery.

Strength Training Keeps Fat from Building Up

When your basal metabolic rate is higher, the calories and fat you take in are consumed more quickly. The result? Those calories go to muscle recovery rather than fat buildup.

Strength Training Improves Cardio

Now, let’s not shortchange cardio. It remains a great way to burn calories; the science is also there. Consider this, however: strength training improves endurance, builds muscle, and helps improve cardio performance. Add weightlifting to your training regimen, and you’ll burn more calories than when you do cardio alone.

Strength Training Is a Part of Balanced Fitness

If you get one message out of this article, listen up: don’t get tunnel vision with your fitness! Strength training, cardio, and diet—they all dovetail beautifully. Those three components together, appropriately managed, can produce exceptional whole-body health.

What if your goals are a lot less . . . comprehensive than “whole-body health”? What if you just want to lose belly fat? If you’re going into the gym simply to lose weight . . . awesome. Keep going. But there are side benefits that might make you strongly consider cardio, strength training, and diet together.

Other Benefits of Weight Training

Remember the reason you walked into a gym in the first place? You were dissatisfied with where you were at in life. You wanted a challenge, a way to better yourself. You realized your health was affecting your mood. Maybe you were just frustrated that you didn’t get around as well as you wanted to. 

If you’re not all-in on strength training based on what you’ve already read, consider these further benefits.


Check out this study from the National Library of Medicine. Strength training improves mood. That’s proven. Even better–it might be an effective tool against depression. Here’s a quote from the article we just linked: “Resistance exercise training significantly reduced depressive symptoms among adults regardless of health status, total prescribed volume of RET, or significant improvements in strength.”

Functional Fitness

Remember this commercial? We all saw it a while back; it’s about a senior who starts lifting a kettlebell in his garage. The result? Quality time with his grandkids. It’s a misty-eye-producing mini-Hallmark-movie masterpiece. It’s a sucker-punch example of the functional fitness benefits of strength training. It’s also 100% true. We leave this entirely emotional appeal here for your consideration.

Don’t Forget Nutrition

Strength training helps you lose fat–it’s true. Before we go, however, we need to reiterate that nutrition has a vital role in ensuring your workouts pay off. Your body must be adequately fueled if it’s to burn fat. A proper, controlled diet will help you get the best benefit from your strength training efforts. Often, that involves changing up your eating habits for the better


Maybe you haven’t added strength training to your fitness regimen. Perhaps you want an intense strength training program that will burn fat, increase your functional fitness, and improve your life. Call Hotfit NYC. We invest one-on-one in you, keeping your fitness goals at the forefront, with a whole-health approach that will move you forward in 2022. From kickboxing to obstacle course events to self-defense classes to yoga and pilates, Hotfit NYC is a unique, well-rounded gym in Upper East-side New York City.

Call now to learn more.

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