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Strength training for fat loss

Strength training for fat loss

Those who want to lose weight usually do so because they are overweight or simply to further reduce their body fat. Most dieters engage in some form of exercise to support their weight loss journey. Unfortunately, more often than not, strength training is neglected, even though it can be very helpful for weight loss.

The role of a calorie deficit

Before we get into the benefits of strength training, let's talk about the most important factor when trying to lose weight: the caloric balance.

It is absolutely vital that you burn more calories (energy) than you take in. Even though this isn't a great secret, most people find it difficult to lose weight. Why is that?

Surprisingly often, the problem is a caloric deficit that is too high. It is generally true that the greater the caloric deficit, the more weight you'll lose. However, a very high caloric deficit over a long period of time is accompanied by many negative effects. These include, but aren't limited to: lethargy, fatigue and general weakness.

In addition, running a too high caloric deficit for too long is extremely unhealthy and can lead to illness. To avoid this, you should aim for a low to moderate deficit. Patience is the key to success and expecting too much too soon is often why so many fail to lose weight.

To lose weight, a caloric deficit is required! Use our calorie calculator to calulculate your daily calorie expenditure.

The easiest way to achieve a caloric deficit is dieting and we'll talk about that more towards the end of the article. But let's start with how you can use exercise to achieve or support a deficit.

Strength training

Before you embark on your weight loss journey, you should first get a clear idea of what exactly you want to achieve. Is the goal simply to \"lose weight\" or is it to \"lose fat, build or maintain muscle and tone the body\"? If the answer is the former, you can achieve the desired result without strength training. However, you should keep in mind that this way you will not just lose fat but also muscle mass.

If, on the other hand, you want to lose fat and maintain or even build muscle, you cannot do it without targeted and effective strength training.

Through strength training, you signal your body that the existing muscle mass is needed. Otherwise, your muscle tissues will slowly but surely break down. This is because in a caloric deficit, the body wants to reduce anything that consumes energy and that isn't absolutely vital.

To protect your muscle mass during a weight loss period, make sure to also consume enough protein!

Calories burnt

Direct caloric expenditure during the duration of a strength training session is often overestimated.

In addition, the caloric expenditure is dependent on a number of factors. These factors include bodyweight, lean muscle mass and the duration and intensity of the workout. The main benefits of strength training in terms of energy expenditure are the afterburn effect and the increased basal metabolic rate.

Deinen akuten Kalorienverbrauch kannst du ganz leicht mit unserem Kalorienrechner ausrechnen.

The afterburn effect

The afterburn effect (EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) describes an increased energy expenditure after intense physical exertion. It is due to an increased oxygen demand after exercise, even while resting.

This effect accelerates your breathing and pulse for some time after the workout. Even though the calories burned by the afterburn effect are not as high as during the intense exercise itself, it should not be underestimated.

The afterburn effect provides increased energy expenditure after intense exercise.

Increased basal metabolic rate

More muscle mass = more calories burnt

Strength training, or rather the muscle mass you build through training, increases your basal metabolic rate. This is because your body needs a lot of energy to maintain muscle.

Muscle mass consumes energy even while resting. So more muscle mass = more fat loss!

More testosterone = more calories burnt

In addition, intense strength training boosts the body's production of testosterone. Mostly, testosterone is associated with muscle growth. However, the hormone also helps with fat loss. Bodyweight and testosterone levels are in fact connected. Often, overweight individuals have low testosterone levels, which hinders fat loss. A study by Abdulmaged M. Traish (2014) showed that very overweight people were able to increase their fat loss with the help of testosterone replacement therapy.

This represents another reason why you really must consider strength training when trying to lose weight - especially if you're overweight.

Strength training increases testosterone production, which in turn has a positive effect on fat loss!

Cardio training

Cardio burns more calories per minute of training than weight lifting. Still, you shouldn't do too much cardio, as it can severely fatigue your body and thus affect your strength training performance.

Furthermore, lots of cardio is very time consuming. So if you're mindful of your time, it is more efficient to adjust your diet instead of focussing on burning calories through cardio.

On the other hand, as the name suggests, cardio has obvious positive effects on your cardiovascular system. If you want these health benefits, it makes sense to integrate cardio into your workout plan - regardless of how efficient it is in terms of burning calories.

Cardio burns more calories per minute than strength training. However, too much cardio is fatiguing and will negatively affect your weight lifting.


When trying to lose weight, the main focus should be on nutrition. Namely, the principle applies: \"Weight loss is made in the kitchen\". No amount of training is going to help with weight loss if you eat more calories than you burn.

In addition, reducing caloric intake is the most time efficient way to create a caloric deficit. Eating 700 kcal less does not cost time. Spending an hour on the treadmill to burn 700 kcal, on the other hand, is very costly in terms of time (and fatigue).


To lose weight, you don't necessarily have to do strength training. However, if you want to tone your body and build and maintain muscle while losing fat, strength training is a must! Even though you don't burn that many calories during your lifting session, your basal metabolic rate is raised by having more muscle mass. In addition, the afterburn effect ensures that you burn some additional calories after the workout.

If you want, you can do cardio to burn a few extra calories. It is not a must, but it also has health benefits for your cardiovascular system.

The biggest factor in weight loss is your diet, however. For sustainable weight loss, don't set the caloric deficit too high. Follow all these steps and your next diet will be a smashing success!