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How Many Calories Do You Burn from Weightlifting?

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

Weightlifting is a common form of exercise that everybody knows is great for building muscle and getting stronger.


But what about burning calories?


Is intense weightlifting going to help you burn calories and lose weight?


In this post, we'll take a look at how many calories weightlifting generally burns and provide you with some helpful calculators so that you can work out how much you're burning off!



Man doing bicep curls and weightlifting to burn calories in the gym

First of All: Does Weightlifting Even Burn Calories?


It's tough to believe, but many people don't actually know that weightlifting burns calories. Many people believe that lifting weights, and exercising in general burns fat.


This simply is not the case, and has been proven in multiple studies. Weightlifting burns calories, which can then help to burn fat over time if you eat in a caloric deficit for long enough.


It doesn't burn fat.


Read more about how weightlifting can help you burn more fat in the long run than cardio and how fat loss really works in our blog article!


NOTE: Weightlifting is not the fastest way to burn calories. Generally, for the time that you put in, cardio is going to burn more calories than weightlifting will. However, weightlifting is viable and is a great way to lose weight and keep it off long term.


Click the link above to learn more about this!


So How Many Calories Does Weightlifting Burn?


The number of calories that someone burns through exercise all depends on several factors. The number of calories that you burn in a weightlifting session is going to depend on your bodyweight, your height, muscle mass, and training intensity.


However, with just the first and last variables you can come up with a pretty accurate estimate of how many calories you're burning.


Training intensity is measured in metabolic equivalents, or METS. When you're in a resting state (such as sitting on the couch scrolling through TikTok), your body operates at 1 MET. This is the equivalent to burning 1 calorie for each kilogram of bodyweight per hour.


So if you weighed 100kg or 220lb, you would burn 100 calories each hour from sitting on the couch and doing nothing.


However when you exercise, your METS level can escalate quickly up to 6 or even higher. This means that you would be burning 6 times as many calories as you would otherwise if you were sitting doing nothing (at METS level 6).


And you can come up with a rough estimate of the number of calories that you burn each hour if you know the METS level that you're working at during your various activities.


Researchers were able to create a chart showing the METS level that you'd likely be working at for various activities and their intensities.


Please note that the METS values are based off of a 70kg individual.


If you scroll down you'd find that heavy weight training at a high intensity would take your METS level to about 7. Weight training at a moderate intensity would have you working at a METS level of about 5.


Strong man doing barbell bench press and training very intensely to burn more calories

Knowing this, we can now calculate a rough estimate of how many calories you're going to burn.


According to Healthline, you're able to calculate the number of calories you burn per minute doing an exercise by using the following formula:


(METS x 3.5 x bodyweight in kilograms) / 200.


If you need a calculator to convert your bodyweight into kilograms, click here.


So let's use the 70kg individual for example working at a METS level of 7 for an hour lifting weights.


7 x 3.5 x 70 = 1715.


1715 / 200 = 8.575 calories burned per minute.


Multiply this by 60 and you would get the number of calories burned throughout the entire hour (514.5).


Now heavy and intense weightlifting for an hour straight is highly unlikely, but you get the idea. That's how you would calculate the number of calories that you burned. And if you're really clever, you could figure out that dividing everything by 3 and 1/3 instead of 200 would instantly give you the number of calories burned during the hour.


For example: 1715 / 3 and 1/3 = 514.5.


Click here for a free calculator that will do all the math for you.


To recap: the number of calories that you burn per hour can be calculated by the formula: (METS x 3.5 x bodyweight in kilograms) divided by 3 and 1/3.


Remember that there are several other factors you have to keep in mind, and this is only a rough estimate. If you're very muscular, the number of calories that you burn is going to be much higher (read the article we linked to at the beginning of this post to learn why).


If you're a new athlete and haven't yet developed a strong foundational of muscle mass and strength, then the number or calories that you burn may be slightly lower than the estimate.


In fact, if the difference in muscle mass and body composition is big enough, the difference between the calorie burn of two individuals could be well over 100 calories in a weightlifting session.


On top of this, there are also some other factors that you have to think about. And it's important for you to know these factors that have an influence on the amount of calories that you burn throughout the session so that you don't confuse yourself when you come to do your own calculations.


Factors That You Have to Think About


Aside from just your muscle mass and body composition, you also have to take into account several factors throughout your weightlifting session that are going to have an influence on the amount of calories that you burn.


Rest Periods


Fit and athletic woman sitting down in the weight room resting during weightlifting to burn more calories

It should be clear that the rest periods you take are going to have an influence on the number of calories that you burn throughout the weightlifting session.


The more you rest, the fewer calories you're going to burn. The body is going to burn more calories when you take shorter rest periods, or don't rest at all (not that we recommend this).


When you rest, you're simply not doing any more work. Your body has no reason to burn extra calories. This isn't necessarily a bad thing if you're trying to gain strength and muscle, but will be a limiting factor if you're trying to increase your calorie burn from weightlifting.



Training Intensity


We already mentioned this above, but the intensity that you train at is very important. You can't go through the workout without really trying or working hard and expect to burn a lot of calories.


Your body burns calories when it needs to do physical tasks and produce force. If you're not working hard enough and not giving it a reason to do more physical work, you're not going to burn as many calories.


In the chart that we linked above, light weight training only took the METS level to about a 3. For most people, this intensity should only be used when you're either warming up or are doing active recovery. It's simply not enough to get you the gains that most people are looking for.


Even mowing the lawn burned more calories than that!


The Muscles You're Recruiting


The number and size of the muscles that you're recruiting is also going to have an influence on the number of calories that you burn throughout your session.


For example, if you were to spend an hour doing bicep curls, you would not burn as many calories as you would if you were to spend the hour squatting under a barbell.


This is because you're not only recruiting more muscle mass across the body, but you're also recruiting larger muscle groups that require more energy to function and do their job.


A great way that you can increase the calorie burn of your weightlifting session is actually to step away from the machines and head over to the free weights section or do more bodyweight movements.


Strong powerlifter squatting with a heavy barbell to lift heavy weights and burn more calories

Free weights and bodyweight movements require you to stabilize the weight more, which is something the weight machine takes away from the exercise. While you won't be able to move as much weight and build as much muscle, you're going to engage more total muscle mass across the body and therefore burn more calories.


Also, compound exercises are going to give you more bang for your buck when it comes to calorie burning per exercise. You work more muscles throughout the body and naturally burn more calories that way.


The Surrounding Temperature


Believe it or not, the temperature that you're lifting weights in and exercising in can actually have an influence on the number of calories that you burn during your session.


According to The Cosmopolitan, exercising in heat forces your body to work harder to cool itself down, which can cause it to burn more calories. However, science cannot determine exactly how many more calories exercising in the heat is going to burn.


We just know that it can have an influence on your calorie burn.


Wrapping It Up


Overall, weightlifting is a great way to burn calories.


It's pretty simple to figure out how many calories you're going to burn, as long as you use the formula we've given you.


However you need to remember that this is just an estimate, and there are several other factors that you need to keep in mind and take into consideration.


If you found this post helpful remember to share it with your friends so that we can reach more people!


And if you would like some help with getting fitness and want to make it as simple as possible for yourself, upgrade to Gympulsive Pro to get full access to our site!

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