How Many Calories Can You Burn Lifting Weights?

a guide to how many calories you can burn with various weight lifting workouts

Strength training via weight lifting has always been popular in certain circles but in recent years the number of fans has risen dramatically.

This includes in the weight loss community, and it’s not hard to see why when looking at the big picture.

Many health and weight loss specialists believe that weight lifting should be a regular part of any weight loss and workout program. While it’s great to think in the long run, it is also really important to keep track of the current numbers.

So not looking at increased metabolism, not looking at long-term fat burn, how many calories can you expect to burn lifting weights?

How Weight Lifting Impacts Weight Loss

There are several starting factors that make a huge difference when it comes to figuring out the exact number of calories that get burned from a weight lifting based workout.

The numbers can vary quite a bit between two different individuals based on these factors.

1. How Much Weight You Use Matters

Weight is a big one. The larger the body, the more calories a person is going to burn. A 200 pound individual is going to burn more calories weight lifting than a 110 pound individual.

2. Male or Female?

Gender is also an important factor, as well. Male and female bodies burn different levels of calories as well.

3. Age

In addition to this the age of the individual, prior fitness level (and thus how much of a heart rate they will get while working out) also makes a difference.

4. They Type of Weight Lifting Workout

There are many different types of weight lifting workouts out there, and the calorie burn between each can make a big difference. For one, the muscle groups matter.

A standard all-around weight lifting workout, like the one you get from a home gym (see our favorite one here), will have a different calorie count than one focusing on just legs or just upper body.

5. More Reps, More Calories?

There’s also the question of reps vs. weight. Circuit training, for example, is designed to up the heartbeat and therefore acts as a weight lifting version of cardio.

This will burn far more calories than a traditional strength training workout and although not many individuals practice HIIT with weight lifting, that can also affect the total numbers.

So How Many Calories Can the Average Person Burn?

Keeping in mind these are very basic rules of thumb and that the real numbers for individuals are going to vary, here is a basic “rule of thumb” type of list that will help you get at least a basic idea of how many calories you can burn in one weight lifting work out.

Assuming an average 30 minute workout time for a person in average shape:

  • 125 lb person – 90 calories
  • 150 lb person – 112 calories
  • 175 lb person – 133 calories
  • 200 lb person – 158 calories
  • 225 lb person – 179 calories
  • 250 lb person – 200 calories
  • 300 lb person – 230 calories

Obviously you need to double these numbers for a full hour, but most weight lifting workouts are designed to fit within a half hour time frame and these are estimates.

These numbers have been backed by various university studies including those done by Harvard Medical School and it has been found that most numbers online are actually incorrect to the high side, promising more of a calorie burn.

some weight lifting gear

This could be from including calories that would be burned anyway from base metabolism, this could be because it simply is an inexact science since 20 men or women of the same weight can have different reactions to the same workout thus bringing different results home.

Also generally speaking, numbers for individuals lower in overall body weight are likely to be a little bit more accurate than the bigger numbers because at that point there are issues like body fat vs. muscle percentage, athletes who weigh more because they’re in good shape, but also obese individuals who have good muscles underneath.

In other words, it is much harder to control all the various factors involved.

Important Note: These numbers are directly related to the workout itself. Studies have shown that one of the major benefits of a solid weight lifting exercise is that the person’s normal metabolism will burn at a higher or above average rate for 12-14 hours after the actual workout.

While it can be virtually impossible to measure just how many calories that will add up to, it is a high quality benefit that continues to pay off after the original workout has long since finished for the day.

Weight Lifting Calculator

a weight lifting calculator

Never take an online tool as gospel, but an online calorie calculator taking measurements like weight, height, and fitness level can be a great way to get a little bit more of an ideal of the level of calories you’ll burn while weight lifting.

Wearing fitness trackers can have a limited benefit but keep in mind the calories counted will include those that were going to naturally be burnt simply by being awake and up and moving.

These are good tools and it’s always recommended to check on a few different ones and look at the many answers and the average.

If five tools put you in the same range but one is much lower and one is much higher than chances are you can toss out the outliers.

Beyond the Calorie Burn

a woman tries to burn the most calories during a weight lifting workout

Many of the biggest benefits of including weight lifting into any fitness program isn’t the direct calorie burn, but the long-term weight loss, health, and overall wellness benefits that come from building up your muscles.

Muscle tone not only makes your overall body look much better and much healthier, but having more muscle means you will burn more daily calories just from having a higher metabolism and that can really add up over time!

The Bottom Line

The main benefits from weight lifting is not direct calorie burn, and that is probably a good thing. Directly there will be more calories burned than by doing nothing but this isn’t where the pounds get shed.

The afterburn that can last for 12-14 hours in many cases will add up to far more calories than the direct workout, and the long-term boost in metabolism from building up more muscle will also add to that total, meaning weight lifting is definitely worth being part of your workout regimen, even for weight loss.