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Lift Weights to Lose Weight

Lift Weight to Lose Weight

Reading Time: 6 minutes 15 seconds


DATE: 2022-08-08

How many of your clients come to you to lose weight?

Nearly all of them, right? Weight loss is an important fitness goal, and many of your new clients will come to you looking for the fastest, easiest way to do it.

Of course, you know that the best way to lose weight is not a quick fix. It's steady, consistent lifestyle changes: working out more, eating better.

While there are no easy solutions to losing weight, you can help your clients hit their goals faster and more effectively by including more strength and resistance training in addition to their cardio sessions.

Cardio vs. Lifting Weights - The Calorie Burn

Most people turn to cardio to blast calories and lose weight, and that's not a bad move. Minute by minute, you will burn more calories during a cardiovascular workout than during a lifting session. For example:

  • A 155-pound person burns 112 calories in 30 minutes of general strength training.

  • That same person will burn 223 calories per 30 minutes doing more vigorous weight lifting.

  • They can burn 298 calories in 30 minutes of running at a 12 minute per mile pace.

  • Or, they can burn 372 calories per 30 minutes by bicycling at about 15 miles per hour.(1)

Clearly, cardio workouts win out in terms of actual calories burned during exercise. But calories and weight loss are more complicated than that.

Learn more: Read this ISSA article for a more in-depth look at how cardio and strength workouts change the body and help with body fat loss.

Lifting Does Support Weight Loss - Here's How

Sure, you could do cardio for every workout to lose weight, and along with smart food choices, this can be effective. But you can also make your metabolism more efficient and burn more calories all day long, by adding in weight lifting.

Strength training builds muscle mass. Muscle tissue burns more calories when your body is at rest than other types of tissue. So, if you have more muscle, you will burn more calories and potentially lose more weight throughout the day, every day, even if you're just sitting at your desk.

Studies have proved that strength training increases your calorie burn. The researchers in one study followed a group of participants for 24 weeks as they engaged in weight training:

  • The men in the study saw an increase in resting metabolism of nine percent.

  • For women, the increase was modest but still significant at four percent.

  • The results represent about 140 extra calories burned per day for men and 50 for women.(2)

Weight lifting also helps you burn more calories to lose weight by keeping the burn going even after the workout. For most cardio training sessions, the number of calories you torch during the session is the limit. Once you're done, there is no more calorie burn.

But studies show that your body will keep burning calories for hours, even a day or more, after finishing a strength training session. The effect is greatest and provides the most weight loss benefits with high-intensity lifting workouts.(3)

Check out this comprehensive overview of weight lifting for your training clients to get started.

Weight Lifting Myths

Your clients aiming to lose weight are most likely gung-ho to do cardio because they believe it is the best way to hit that goal. They probably have misconceptions about lifting, strength training, and building muscle that make them wary about using this kind of workout.

Correct these myths to convince clients to add a couple of days of lifting per week for quicker weight loss:

Lift Weight to Lose Weight? More Like Bulk Up

Women especially fall victim to the myth that strength training will make you bigger, heavier, and bulkier. It certainly can, but bodybuilders work very hard to look the way they do (and likely lift a heavier weight). A couple of workouts lifting weights each week is not enough to get there.

More Cardio is Always Better

If you're trying to lose weight, and cardio burns the most calories, you should get in as much aerobic exercise as possible, right? This is not true. Yes, cardio and aerobic workouts are essential for both fitness and weight loss, there is a limit.

Too much cardio exercise can actually be counterproductive to gaining muscle mass, which you need to up your metabolism and burn more calories overall. It's worthwhile for your client's goals to take some of that time spent on cardio exercises and use it in the weight room.

Strength Training Will Make Me Sore, and Then I Can't Do Cardio

DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness, can happen with any type of exercise but is more common with strength training. This is the aching you feel in muscles, usually the day after a workout. It can last 24 hours or a few days, depending on the severity.

Assure your clients that this doesn't have to happen with every one of their training workouts and DOMS need not derail their next-day jog or cycling class. Not only do you not have to be sore after weightlifting, but you shouldn't be, at least not very much. As the personal trainer, you will guide your clients to start strength training at an appropriate level so DOMS isn't an issue.

Weight Training is for Guys, Young People, Fitness Experts

Weight lifting is for everyone, period. There is no limit on who can lift and strength train. Everyone, at every stage of life, can benefit from it. Your client in her 60s who has never lifted before will have a strength training program that looks very different from the one you make for the young man in his 20s, but she can and should still build muscle, both to lose weight and to be healthier.

Learn more: Top reasons women need to get in the weight room and add strength training to their workout routines.

How a Beginner Can Start Lifting Weights

  • Hire a personal trainer or sign up at a gym

  • Purchase a few basic weights to use at home

  • Include a warm-up and cool-down with each of your weight lifting workouts

  • Start with a lighter weight you can lift about 15 times in a row

  • Practice your form so you're lifting correctly and reducing the risk of injury

Must-Do Exercises for Strength and Muscle Growth

Any addition of strength training and weight lifting to your client's routine will support weight loss and increase overall calorie burn. But if your client isn't excited about spending too much time on weight lifting, streamline the workouts with some of the best overall moves for building strength and a good caloric burn.


Squats are among the best strength moves for overall fitness, to burn calories, and to activate several muscles at once. A squat enlists large muscle groups, like the glutes and quads, which increases heart rate and calorie burn while also building a lot of muscle mass.

Add in variations to hit more muscles and for progression: suitcase squats with weights, wide-leg squats, squat thrusters to add in core and upper body, and squat jumps for extra cardio and power.


Like squats, lunges recruit some big muscle groups. They can also be varied to help your clients progress and change up routines. Add upper body twists to include the core, for instance. Or, add weights to make the lunges more challenging.

Dumbbell Biceps Curl

With dumbbells, the movement can be alternated from one side to the other or done in tandem. A crossbody curl allows the dumbbell to start on one side of the body, but finish elbow flexion at the opposite shoulder. This engages the pectorals as well.


For overall upper body strength, it's hard to beat the old-fashioned push-up. This will activate the pectorals, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles. Start your clients out on their knees if necessary, but push them to work up to full push-ups. Variations can include plank moves, like walking planks, side planks, and bird-dogs to engage the core even more.

Glute Bridge

The glute bridge exercise is an excellent way to target the posterior chain. It's an exercise that plays an important role in activating the glutes and helps set the foundation for building the booty your clients want.


Deadlifts, like push-ups, can start easy, even with no weights at all to be sure clients get the form right. Add in weight and increase it over time for progression. Include both straight-leg and regular deadlifts to hit nearly every muscle in the body for overall strength and increased muscle mass.

These are some of the basics that hit the most muscle groups the most efficiently. As your clients progress, or if they are surprised to find they enjoy lifting, you can add in some smaller, more precise moves like biceps curls and calf raises.

The best way to help your clients lose weight more quickly and efficiently is to include both cardio and strength training along with healthy eating. Cardio workouts are great for overall fitness and health, as well as for burning calories. Lifting will help them get stronger, prevent injuries, build lean muscle mass, and burn more calories each day. A healthy diet includes proper nutrients and enough calorie intake to support the additional activity.

Check out the ISSA's course in Strength and Conditioning Certification to be better prepared to offer clients effective, efficient lifting routines to support weight loss.

  1. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. (2018, August 13). Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities

  2. Lemmer, J.T., Ivey, F.M., Ryan, A.S., Martel, G.F., Hurlbut, D.E., Metter, J.E., Fozard, J.L., Fleg, J.L., and Hurley, B.F. (2001). Effect of Strength Training on Resting Metabolic Rate and Physical Activity: Age and Gender Comparisons. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 33(4), 532-42. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11283427

  3. Schuenke, M.D., Mikat, R.P., and McBride, J.M. (2002). Effect of an Acute Period of Resistance Exercise on Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption: Implications for Body Mass Management. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 86(5), 411-17. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00421-001-0568-y?LI=true

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