Benefits of strength training over cardio for weight loss 

Scratching your head about which exercise is better for weight loss, cardio or weights? Don’t worry, it’s a common gym mystery!

Here’s the surprising truth: you don’t have to pick just one. Combining both cardio and strength training is the real champion for lasting weight loss.

Let’s see why lifting weights might actually be a bigger winner than running on the treadmill, and how to put together the perfect exercise combo for you.

Cardio: The Calorie-Burning Machine: 

a women running

Think running, swimming, or cycling. Cardio is fantastic for burning calories during your workout, making it a go-to for many.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week for weight loss (*).

But here’s the catch: the calorie burn stops once you stop moving. 

Strength Training: Building a Calorie-Burning Machine: 

a man doing biceps culrs

Now, picture yourself lifting weights, doing squats, or lungs. Strength training builds muscle, and muscle is metabolically active, meaning it burns more calories at rest than fat.

This is called the afterburn effect, and research shows it can elevate your calorie burning for up to 38 hours (about 1 and a half days) after your workout.

Studies like this one published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that resistance training led to greater weight loss than cardio alone in overweight adults (*)

But wait, there’s more. Strength training offers a buffet of additional benefits

  • Stronger bones and reduced risk of injuries: This is especially important as we age. 
  • Improved posture and confidence: Feeling good about how you look can be a powerful motivator. 
  • Boosted metabolism: Strength training can even slightly increase your resting metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories throughout the day. 

Don’t ditch cardio entirely. Combining both is ideal. Fitness influencers like Kayla Itsines and Chloe Ting often incorporate strength elements into their high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routines, maximizing both calorie burning and muscle building

Finding Your Perfect Balance: 

a women doing exercise in a gym

Research shows that combining both cardio and strength training leads to greater weight loss and fat loss compared to doing either alone.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that individuals who combined cardio and strength training lost twice as much body fat as those who only did cardio [*]

Here’s the best part: you don’t have to become a gym rat. Even bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks can be incredibly effective for building muscle.

Fitness influencers like Pamela Reif (@pamelareif) offer tons of free, bodyweight workout routines that you can do at home. 

Finding Your Fitness Fit: 

The ideal ratio of cardio and strength training depends on your individual goals and fitness level. However, a good starting point is to aim for 2-3 strength training sessions and 2-3 cardio sessions per week, with at least one rest day in between.

Beyond the Scale: Focusing on Fat Loss: 

a women measuring her waist

Weight loss isn’t just about the number on the scale. Focus on fat loss, which is healthier than simply losing muscle mass.

Track your progress by measuring your body fat percentage or taking progress photos to see the definition emerging beneath the surface. 

Let’s say you’ve been hitting the gym consistently, focusing on both cardio and strength training. However, the scale hasn’t budged much.

This doesn’t mean you’re not making progress. You might be building muscle, which is denser than fat, and therefore, the scale might not reflect the fat loss you’re experiencing.

Measuring body fat percentage or taking progress photos can provide a more accurate picture of your body composition and progress.  

Diet: Your Other Essential Weapon: 

a plate full of healthy fruits and veggies

While exercise is a crucial pillar of weight loss, a healthy diet is equally important for sustainable success.

Focus on incorporating whole, unprocessed foods into your diet, practicing portion control, and ensuring a balanced intake of essential macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Consulting a registered dietitian can be incredibly beneficial. These professionals can help you create a personalized eating plan that aligns with your goals, preferences, and any existing dietary restrictions, ensuring you receive the proper nutritional support to fuel your fitness journey and achieve lasting results. 

Also Read:

Starting Strength Training: Conquering Your Challenges: 

a group of people doing workout

Feeling intimidated by the weight room? Don’t worry. Many people feel that way initially. Here are some tips: 

  • Fear of bulking up: Don’t worry, ladies. Building significant muscle mass takes dedicated training and a specific diet, which most of us don’t have. 
  • Lack of motivation: Find a workout buddy, join a group fitness class, or find activities you enjoy. 
  • Proper form: This is crucial to avoid injuries. Start with light weights, focus on form overweight, and don’t hesitate to ask a trainer for guidance. 
  • Start with bodyweight exercises or light weights and gradually increase the intensity as you get stronger. 
  • Set realistic goals and celebrate small wins along the way. 


While both cardio and strength training are valuable for weight loss, strength training emerges as the champion due to its ability to build muscle, which burns more calories at rest (thanks to the afterburn effect).

It also offers additional benefits like stronger bones, improved posture, and boosted metabolism. 

However, don’t ditch cardio entirely. Combining both cardio and strength training leads to greater fat loss compared to either exercise alone. 

Remember, consistency is key. Start with bodyweight exercises or light weights if needed, and gradually increase intensity as you get stronger. Most importantly, find an exercise routine you enjoy and celebrate your progress along the way. 

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