Should I be Lifting Weights to Lose Fat?

Young Adults

Should I be Lifting Weights to Lose Fat?

When trying to lose fat, most people think that cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercise is the most effective. While aerobic exercise can burn fat, it is not the only form of exercise that promotes fat loss. In fact, the latest research indicates that weight lifting plays a pivotal role in fat loss, and it would be remiss to fail to include this sort of exercise in a fat loss program.

Weight Training and Belly Fat

The research suggests that weight lifting can help to keep belly fat at bay. A 2015 study in the journal Obesity found that men who did the most weight training exercise gained the least amount of fat in their waists over time. While waist size tends to increase with age, weight training seems to burn belly fat and slow this increase.

Researchers have found similar results for women. In 2007, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when women performed strength training twice per week, they gained significantly less belly fat over a two-year period when compared to women who did not engage in weight training.

Abdominal Fat Loss with Weight Training

Not only does weight training prevent abdominal fat gain over time; it can also induce belly fat loss in the short-term. In 2003, researchers for the Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science compared aerobic training alone to a combination of aerobic training and weight training. Women in the aerobic training group did aerobic exercise six times per week, whereas those in the combined group did aerobic training three days per week and weight training three days per week. Study results showed that women in the combined group lost more abdominal fat than those who did only aerobic training. This suggests that abdominal fat loss is enhanced when weight lifting exercises are incorporated into a routine that also includes aerobic exercise.

Overall Fat Loss with Weight Training

A study with women also found a relationship between weight training and total body fat. Researchers for a 2016 edition of Age conducted a study with post-menopausal women and had them perform either no exercise, low volume weight training, or high volume weight training. Results showed that women in both training groups lost a significant amount of fat after 16 weeks of weight lifting. The women performed weight lifting exercises three times per week; women in the low volume group did three sets of eight exercises, and those in the high volume group did six sets. Just three days per week of weight lifting can promote body fat loss.

Another study, published in a 2016 edition of The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, found benefits for resistance training. About half of the study participants had metabolic syndrome, and half did not. After eight weeks of resistance training using free weights, there was no significant change in body weight among the participants, but female participants and those with metabolic syndrome lost a significant amount of body fat. In addition, all of the participants experienced an increase in lean body mass. Weight training appears to be effective for promoting a lean physique.

Possibility of Spot Reducing with Weight Training

weight lifting is so effective for fat loss that it can even be utilized to reduce fat in certain areas of the body. Researchers for a 2017 edition of The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness divided female study participants into two groups. One group performed upper body weight training exercises followed by half an hour of cycling, whereas the other group completed weight training exercises targeting the lower body followed by a half hour of exercise on an arm ergometer. After eight weeks, the women who completed the upper body weight training lost more fat in their upper bodies, whereas those who did the lower body weight training lost more fat in their lower bodies. Weight training followed by aerobic exercise can therefore be useful for losing fat in specific areas of the body. For example, upper body exercises, such as bench press and triceps extensions prior to a bout of jogging could be useful for reducing body fat in the arms.

Increased Metabolism with Weight Lifting

The research shows that weight lifting can promote fat loss, and this effect might be due, at least partially, to the fact that weight lifting can speed the metabolism. A 2001 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise analyzed the impact of 24 weeks of weight training on both young and older men and women. Study results showed that resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories the body burns per day at rest, increased by about 7 percent after weight training. Weight training was found to increase resting metabolic rate more in men than in women, but young and older participants experienced the same increase in metabolic rate.

A study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings in 2015 found that weight training increased metabolic rate among women. After six weeks of weight training, resting metabolic rate increased significantly among women in the study. This effect occurred among women of all ages and body weights.

Increases in Lean Body Mass

Not only does weight training burn fat and increase the metabolism; it can also increase lean body mass, and researchers have known this for years. In 1985, a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology compared the effects of resistance training, aerobic training, and combined resistance and aerobic training. Study participants completed their respective exercise program for eight months. Results showed that those who completed resistance training or the combined resistance training and aerobic training program increased their lean body mass more than those who completed only aerobic training did. Weight training appears to play an important role in achieving a lean body.

Weight Lifting Compared to Diet Alone

Weight training on its own is effective for fat loss, but recent research has shown that combining weight lifting with dieting can increase fat loss. In 2017, researchers for the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism analyzed the effects of diet only, weight training only, and a combination of weight training and diet on fat loss among a group of women. Results showed that women in all three groups lost fat, but those did who did a combination of dieting and weight training lost the most body fat. When added to a low-calorie diet or a healthy diet designed to promote weight loss, weight lifting can augment the loss of body fat.

Dietary Adaptations to Increase the Effect of Weight Lifting

The research shows that weight training is effective for fat loss, and altering the diet during periods of weight lifting can augment this effect. In a 2018 study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, female athletes completed eight weeks of resistance training while consuming either a low protein or a high protein diet. Those on the high protein diet lost a significant amount of body fat during the course of the study, whereas those who consumed low amounts of protein did not lose a significant amount of fat mass.

A second study found similar results. Researchers for a 2015 edition of the Journal of theInternational Society of Sports Nutrition conducted a study with men and women who were healthy and completing heavy weight training. Some of the participants consumed a normal amount of protein, and the others followed a high protein diet. Results showed that those on the high protein diet lost more body fat than those consuming a normal amount of protein did. This research indicates that protein can enhance the fat loss that occurs with weight training.


The entire body of research on weight training suggests that it is effective for fat loss. Research shows that weight training programs can promote abdominal fat loss, as well as total body fat loss. Weight training can even be used to enhance fat loss in specific regions of the body, and it appears to be effective when combined with aerobic training. weight lifting can also increase the metabolism and lean body mass, and it is especially effective when combined with a high protein diet. Based on the relevant research related to weight lifting, it should be incorporated into exercise routines to promote body fat loss. Those who aim to reduce their body fat should do two or three weekly weight training sessions in addition to aerobic exercise, instead of only engaging in aerobic exercise. The addition of weight lifting can enhance fat loss and contribute to a lean physique.