Weight Training vs. Cardio: Which Is Better For Weight Loss?

So you’re hitting the gym in an effort to get fit and lose a few pounds. Will lifting weights be more effective for weight loss? Or should you focus your efforts on cardio?

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It’s a question that personal trainers get all the time. Fortunately, we’re here to shed some light on the matter.


Weight training encourages muscle growth, and will give your metabolism a boost for as long as 36 hours after your workout is through — not to mention, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest.

A cardio-focused workout, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same post-workout burn effect. To burn the same amount of calories from cardio as you would weight lifting would require you to tack on some seriously lengthy runs. When it comes to giving your metabolism a boost, weight training is a clear winner. Keep in mind, that bodyweight movements also count as weight training in this instance; squats, lunges, push-ups, etc., as you are using your own bodyweight as resistance.

Fat vs. Muscle

Ask yourself what it is you’re looking for when you say your aim is to “lose weight.” For example, if you begin running on a regular basis (coupled with a healthy diet, of course), you will lose weight, but you may also end up losing muscle as well, and you’ll look like an overall smaller version of your original self.

If you’re more interested in building or toning your physique, we recommend focusing on weightlifting or strength training. Resistance training workouts may give you a better chance at shedding excess body fat, while retaining your natural curves.


The hormonal environment is markedly different between weightlifting and cardio. If you’re looking for a slim, toned tummy, we recommend you focus on HIIT-style workouts that combine dynamic, full-body movements and core resistance training, instead of steady-state cardio, like running.

When you perform cardio, your body releases cortisol, which promotes lean muscle loss — so you may lose weight, but that also can result in more fat piling up around your abdominal region. When you practice resistance training, however, you’re putting your body in an anabolic state, which is the opportune condition to bulk-gain muscle mass.

The Right Way To Weight Train For Weight Loss

Having said all that, there are few caveats to consider when it comes to weight-training for weight loss.

Strength training ore weight lifting can help promote fat loss through a number of key mechanisms, especially when it is implemented optimally.

When we say “weight lifting” we are referring to using moderate to heavy weights (relative to your individual fitness level of course) combined with large compound movements (think squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows) using barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells – NOT lifting light dumbbells repeatedly to “get toned” or static, targeted toning of one teeny muscle group at a time.

(Click here for a sample Full-Body Fat-Burning Workout that is based on strength training to get an idea of what we mean.)

Strength training can be a fantastic way to stimulate weight loss when implemented correctly. It not only burns a heap of energy during the session, but also after during its recovery period. Moreover, strength training increases muscle mass, which leads to improvements in metabolic rate that make it easier to lose weight and harder to gain weight.

By opting for full-body sessions where compound movements are prioritized, we can ensure we burn a huge amount of energy (a.k.a, fat) during our session, while also building up strength at the same time. And who doesn’t want that?