What is Best for Weight Loss – Strength Training or Cardio?

Last Updated on January 20, 2024 by Martin

What is best for weight loss? Cardio or strength training?

What is best for your weight loss strength training or cardio?

For decades, we have been taught that losing weight is best done by lowering your calorie intake and by burning extra calories by doing some cardio training a couple of times during the week.

Strength training was more something that would make you look good in the form of a six-pack, nice-looking legs, and arms.

But does this approach still hold water today? Is cardio still the best practice when we want to lose weight? Let’s take a closer look!

Cardio Burns More Calories While Doing It Than Strength Training – But

The truth today is that a high-intensity cardio workout will still burn more calories than strength training while doing it.

But when we talk about the afterburn, the number of calories you burn after your session, a good strength training workout outnumbers your cardio session. You will burn more calories in 24 hours of lifting weights.

A cardio session burns a lot of calories while doing it but is insufficient two hours after your session.

Burn up to 600 to 800 Calories in an Hour Doing Cardio Sounds Good, right?

You, with a high-intensity cardio session, can indeed burn as much as eight hundred calories in an hour.

Remember, it takes around 3500 calories to burn one pound of body fat, so it means that a little more than four hours of cardio will make you burn one pound of body fat, right?

Yes, that is correct, but remember, to maintain that weight loss, you will have to keep doing cardio, else you will gain it all back again. With time, when your body adapts to cardio, you will have to increase the amount of time you spend doing it. You will be burning fewer calories in each session, and your resting metabolic rate will stay the same or go down.

Also, keep in mind that it is tough to keep your motivation high for so long, and your approach will eventually backfire on you.

By doing strength training, you will be able to burn 400 calories in one hour, at the max, but you will not end up with the same problem as with your cardio, having to do more to keep losing weight. You’re after burn will keep burning the same number of calories, and your resting metabolic rate will go up due to the extra muscle mass you have on your body.

It will be easier for you to maintain the results you are getting from strength training. You will not have to increase the length of your sessions. You may end up decreasing the time you spend working when you have reached your weight loss goals.

But There is One Problem with Strength Training

So, let’s conclude that strength training is better for losing weight than cardio. Mainly because of the calorie afterburn, your metabolic rate increases, and you don’t have to increase the time you spend in the gym later.

But there is one problem with strength training. It is so easy to do wrong and ineffective!

So many people are doing their strength training all wrong; they pull some cables or some free weights for around fifteen reps and spend the next two minutes on their smartphones. As soon as the exercise starts to hurt in lactic acid in the muscles, they give up.

As soon as the exercise starts to hurt in the form of lactic acid in the muscles, they give up and stop the extra reps that make the difference.

Others, just starting, go to a cross-fitness glass and get injured because their form is wrong for heavy deadlifts or squats.

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Wait for a Little with Cross Fitness

There is no doubt that cross-fitness is an excellent way to strength train because it also contains some good elements of cardio. But if you are just starting, I recommend you wait for a little.

First, get started in a regular gym and work on getting your form right in each exercise. It will benefit you so much overall, and you will not get injured due to a bad form.

Ask for one of the instructors to give you some exercises to get you started. And work on doing them correctly.

When your form is correct, and you have gained a little strength, you can start with the fun part.

Compound Exercises

As I mentioned before, many people are doing it all wrong when lifting weights in the gym. Often the weights are too light, or their exercises are too isolated, meaning they only work out one muscle at a time.

I recommend you do compound exercises because they involve a lot of muscle mass in each exercise. Compound exercises involve not only anaerobic but also aerobic energy, meaning they are great cardio workouts as well.

Classic compound exercises are bench presses, pulldowns, deadlifts, military, and squats.

A post shared by Cathy (@thenextsupervillain) on

Check out how well thenextsupervillain is performing her squats in a slow controlled movement.

She is training her quads, hamstrings, calves, buttocks, back, and abdominals, all in the same movement.

Then imagine how many calories this exercise will make you burn.

Squats are, despite their toughness, a simple multi-compound exercise that involves one movement.

Multi-Compound Exercises

Let’s have a closer look at another one that involves more movements like Bicep Curls, deadlifts to Plank Push-up.

A post shared by Monica Topete (@whollygirl) on

Here whollygirl with some effortless movements combined are almost training her whole body, which will give her good afterburn when it comes to calories.

The above are examples, and both trainees have experience and know what they are doing. I suggest you talk to an instructor in your local gym to get you started.

Does It Mean You Should Leave Out Cardio Completely?

Of course, not, cardio does give you many health benefits, such as a better respiratory system, and will strengthen your heart. It is also an excellent way to avoid any age-related diseases later in life.

It would help if you always incorporated cardio into your workouts. You can either do it as a stand-alone workout right after your strength training. Or you can do your cardio as a circuit workout or cross-fitness training involving weights. See the example below.

A post shared by Amber Dodzweit (@amberdodzweit) on

It does take some practice to reach that level. You should start with something easier if you are just starting. But wanting to improve and have some goals makes it much more fun to work out and lose weight.

And it is a lot better than using a treadmill for thirty minutes.

Cardio vs. Strength Training

So, to sum up, and to make it more understandable, let’s have a final look.


Cardio alone does burn many calories while you are doing it but does not burn extra calories as an afterburn.

It does not improve your metabolic rate. You will have to increase the time you spend doing cardio with time, to keep losing weight.

Speaking of cardio, make sure you are doing the best cardio workouts for your weight loss to optimize your results.

Strength Training

Do not burn as many calories while doing it as cardio does. It is straightforward to do wrong, so it becomes ineffective.

But it does give you a better after-burn where you are burning extra calories 24 hours after your session.

It will also improve your metabolic rate, and you will be able to decrease the time you spend on strength training when you reach your weight loss goals.

To get an even deeper understanding of how resistance training can increase your fat burn, I highly recommend you to check out the article The Benefits of Strength Training for Weight Loss.


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