Lifting weights is great for building muscle, increasing your strength, and improving your overall health. But how many calories does lifting weights burn?
In this article, I’ll answer that question by first showing you a simple formula (and a calculator!) for calculating how many calories you burn lifting weights. Then, we delve into the details of what actually affects the caloric burn of your weightlifting workouts.
- Lifting weights for 30 minutes burns roughly between 110 and 210 kcal, depending on your body weight and the workout volume.
- You can calculate how many calories you burn lifting weights with our weight-lifting calorie calculator below.
- The most important factor for how many calories your weightlifting workout burns is the total amount of work you do. Medium to high-rep training typically results in more work done than low-rep training.
Table of Contents
Calculator: Calories Burned Lifting Weights
Check the buttons to calculate how many calories you burn lifting weights!
How Does This Weight Lifting Calorie Calculator Work?
The calorie calculator uses these equations to estimate the caloric cost of weight training:
- Men: [Minutes working out] × [Bodyweight in kg] × 0.0713
- Women: [Minutes working out] × [Bodyweight in kg] × 0.0637
These equations are the same that we use to calculate calories burned in our workout log app. They reflect your total energy expenditure during the workout, meaning both your basal metabolic rate plus the extra energy expenditure from the weight training.
The equations are based on the results from a study where 52 healthy adults (both men and women, between 20–58 years old, and 88.7 ± 42.6 kg bodyweight) performed a strength training session consisting of seven exercises × 2–3 sets × 8–12 reps with about 90 seconds of rest between sets.1
Note that these equations are still only rough approximations, and your caloric expenditure may differ. Read on to learn more about how different factors affect how many calories you burn weight lifting.
Understanding Calories and Energy Expenditure
A calorie is a measure of energy. If you’ve studied physics, you are familiar with joules (also a measure of energy), and 1 calorie = 4.184 joules.
When we say “calorie” in English, what we often actually mean is kilocalories, or kcal, which means a thousand calories. For example, the typical man has a daily energy need of 2 500 kcal, and the typical woman needs 2 000 kcal.
Every second of every day, we expend calories to keep our bodies going and fuel our movements.
When we talk about calories burned from weight lifting or other forms of exercise, it’s important to distinguish between your constantly ongoing basal metabolic rate and the extra calories you burn from the actual lifting.
Your Basal Metabolic Rate
Even when you are not moving, your body uses a lot of energy to keep your heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and other organs running.
This constantly ongoing energy burn is called your basal metabolic rate, or resting metabolic rate, and it is simply the energy it takes to keep you alive.
Your basal metabolic rate (shortened BMR) is fairly stable, but it can increase or decrease slightly depending on things like how much food you’re eating or if you’re injured or sick.
Mostly, however, it’s determined by your lean body mass.
Body fat, it turns out, isn’t very biologically active compared to your other organs (including muscle), and doesn’t affect your metabolic rate too much.
Instead, lean body mass is the single best predictor of BMR, and can be used to estimate it with this equation:2
BMR(kcal/day) = 500 + 22 (LBM in kg)
Calories Burned Lifting Weights
So your basal (or resting) metabolic rate is the energy it constantly takes to keep you ticking. But in addition to that, you might also move your body, which costs additional energy.
In physics, the movement of mass (such as your body or a barbell) is called work, which requires energy.
For example, the amount of work required to lift 100 kg one meter up in the air is 0.23 kcal (kilocalories).
This is calculated with m×g×Δh where:
- m is the mass of the object
- g is Earth’s gravitational force (9.8 m/s2)
- Δh is the difference in height
(and the answer is given in joule)
The work efficiency of the human body is somewhere around 20%, meaning that for every calorie of work, we expend around five calories. The rest is mainly lost as heat.
That means it would cost a human body approximately 0.23 kcal × 5 = 1.15 kcal to lift 100 kg one meter into the air.
Lift 100 kg a hundred times, and you’ll have burned around 115 kcal extra, on top of your ongoing basal metabolic rate.
Let’s say your basal metabolic rate is 70 kcal per hour, and you lift 100 kg one hundred times in an hour at the gym. Then your total calorie expenditure that hour is 70 kcal (from BMR) + 115 kcal (from lifting) = 185 kcal.
This is a simplified example, and many other factors determine how many calories you burn when you’re lifting a certain weight, such as your efficiency, your leverage, your body mass (and how much it shifts position during the lift), and much more.
Manually calculating how much energy you use when weight lifting is impractical, and there is another way to do it.
Measuring Calories Burned During Weight Lifting
The most accurate and practical (but still pretty impractical) way to measure the caloric cost of lifting weights is to do so while having your exhaled air analyzed.
Because oxygen can generate a specific amount of energy, one can calculate how much energy someone uses by measuring the difference between inhaled and exhaled oxygen concentration in the air.
In a strength training context, this is accomplished by hooking participants up to something called a metabolic cart and then wheeling that around with them while they complete a gym workout.
The study that I mentioned previously did precisely that. They had 52 healthy adults (27 men and 25 women, between 20–58 years old, and 88.7 ± 42.6 kg bodyweight) perform a strength training session consisting of seven exercises:
They did 2–3 sets × 8–12 reps with 60%–70% of their predicted one-rep max for each exercise and started a new set every two minutes. As the average set took 30 seconds to complete, this leaves around 90 seconds of rest between sets. The whole workout took 51 minutes on average.
Because the participants’ exhaled air was collected and analyzed, the researchers could calculate how many calories each participant burned in total during the workout.
Using their data, we can derive the two equations for the caloric cost of a strength training workout that you saw previously.
Calories Burned Lifting Weights:
- Men: [Minutes working out] × [Bodyweight in kg] × 0.0713
- Women: [Minutes working out] × [Bodyweight in kg] × 0.0637
The more closely your workout mimics the test workout above, the more accurate the equations (and the calculator) will be for you.
- If you do sets of 8–12 reps and rest ~90 seconds between sets, the accuracy will be higher.
- If you do powerlifting-style workouts with 1–5 reps per set and five minutes of rest between sets, the accuracy (and your caloric burn per minute) will be lower.
The more work you do in your workout, the more calories you will burn.
Typically, doing a medium-to-high number of reps per set with short rest intervals and lighter weights will allow you to do more work and burn more calories per minute than low-rep training with heavy weights and long rests between sets.
Also, doing compound exercises where you use multiple muscle groups will allow you to use heavier weights, meaning you will do more work and burn more calories than with isolation exercises that use light weights and only work individual muscle groups.
Lower body exercises will often enable you to lift more weight and do more work because of the large muscle groups in this region. However, compound upper body exercises like the bench press or lat pulldowns will also allow you to do plenty of work.
The Afterburn Effect: EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption)
You might have heard of something called the afterburn effect.
It refers to the fact that after an intense workout, your metabolism is elevated above resting levels for some time, burning additional calories.
This is reflected in increased oxygen consumption following strenuous exercise, and the scientific name for the phenomenon is Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption – or EPOC.
One reason for the EPOC effect is that your body needs to restore depleted energy storages like glycogen and creatine after anaerobic exercise (like weight lifting), thus consuming more oxygen than normal until this is done.
So how much does the afterburn effect, or EPOC, contribute to the calories burned from lifting weights?
Luckily for us, this was also measured in the previously mentioned study.
Nine of the participants kept their masks on to collect their exhaled air for an additional hour after the lifting session was completed, and their oxygen consumption was compared to their resting levels, thus enabling the researchers to calculate the extra calories burned in the afterburn effect.
The results disappoint anyone hoping on a large effect: only a net additional 7 kcal was burned compared to their normal resting levels, most of which was burned within the first 20 minutes after the workout’s cessation. After that time, there were no longer significant differences in oxygen consumption compared to their normal breathing.
So while there is an afterburn effect, or EPOC, from lifting weights, the effect is minimal, with a mere 7 kcal on average after a 51-minute intense strength training workout.
Weight Lifting vs. Cardio: Calorie Burn Comparison
About now is a good time to mention two things:
- If you want to burn calories, lifting weights is not the most effective form of exercise.
- If you want to change your physique (e.g. gain muscle and lose fat), then lifting weights is precisely what you should do – but not because of the calories burned.
I will explain both points, but let’s start with number one.
As you’ve read several times by now, the amount of calories you burn when exercising is determined mainly by the amount of work you do. That is: kilos lifted or miles walked, cycled, or swam.
Lifting weights, with its short bursts of activity followed by (relatively) long rest periods, is not an effective way for humans to do a lot of work.
We can do way more work when we work continuously in a low-to-medium intensity for a prolonged time.
- As a rule of thumb, we burn about 0.7 kcal per kilogram of body weight per kilometer walked. Example: a person weighing 100 kg burns 70 kcal every km.
- In imperial units, this translates to about 0.5 kcal burned per pound of body weight and mile walked. Example: a person weighing 220 lb burns 110 kcal every mile walked.
Walking six kilometers (or 3.75 miles) would mean that a 100 kg person has burned about 420 kcal, which could be done in an hour by a decently fit person. That is the same number of calories that we get if we plug in 100 kg body weight and 60-minute workout time in the weight lifting calorie calculator at the beginning of this article, but I would wager that most people find walking for an hour to be far easier than an hour of intense weight lifting, with 90 seconds of rest between sets of ten reps at 65–70% of your 1RM.
If you were to jog, you would both be able to cover distance faster and increase your calorie cost per kilometer by about 30–40%.
My point is: it is usually easier to burn a large amount of calories doing some form of low-to-medium intensity, steady-state cardiovascular exercise, than by lifting weights.
Even cardio, however, isn’t actually very effective for weight loss.4 This is probably because we tend to compensate by over-eating the rest of the day, in combination with being less active following a workout.
This brings us to point number two: burning calories shouldn’t be your main reason for lifting weights.
The Critical Role of Weight Lifting in a Weight Loss Program
Strength training sculpts your body, but not because of the calorie burn.
It does so by building muscle and burning fat.
What happens when someone starts lifting weights, even if they don’t change anything about their diet?
Strength training signals your muscles to grow, and simultaneously, your body draws from your fat storages.
If you want to lose fat, you accomplish that mainly by changing your diet and inducing a calorie deficit. You should strength train throughout the weight-loss phase to ensure that it is the fat you lose, not lean muscle mass.
If you want to change your physique and body composition, don’t stare yourself blind at how many calories lifting weights burns. The effects go beyond that.
Choose a Workout Routine
We have plenty of training programs available for free on this site and in our workout app.
Here are some of our most popular free beginner programs:
- Beginner Barbell Workout Plan. 2–3x/week. Simple and effective, this training program gives you a perfect start in your training career. You will build muscle and strength swiftly by doing two to three barbell-based, whole-body strength training sessions per week.
- Beginner Machine Program. 2x/week. Don’t want to head into the free weight section just yet? Check out this machine-based program. Machine training offers a safe start in the gym and time-effective workouts. Train two times per week, or up to three to increase the tempo.
- Bodybuilding for Beginners. 3x/week. Do you want to get started in bodybuilding? Begin your muscle-building journey with three full-body workouts per week!
Looking for something a little more advanced?
Check these out:
- StrengthLog’s Full-Body Hypertrophy. 3x/week. Maximize your hypertrophic potential with this free full-body training program. Three days per week to sweet gains!
- StrengthLog’s Upper/Lower Body Split Program. 4x/week. One of our most popular programs. Four workouts per week, emphasizing getting stronger in the compound lifts. For both muscle growth and strength gain!
- PHUL Workout Routine. 4x/week. PHUL stands for Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower and is a popular 4-day workout routine that combines training for strength and hypertrophy.
- StrengthLog’s 5-Day Split. 5x/week. A premium program designed for the intermediate to advanced lifter who wants to build muscle like a bodybuilder and get stronger in the three powerlifting lifts.
Or you can see all of our training programs here.
In summary, lifting weights for 30 minutes burns roughly between 110 and 210 kcal, depending on your body weight and the workout volume. You can calculate how many calories you burn lifting weights with our weight lifting calorie calculator.
You can read more about weight loss in our article on losing fat while keeping your muscle.
Or you can read about how to build muscle and lose fat at the same time.
Protein is important for maximizing your muscle growth and fat loss, and you can find everything you need to know about it in our guide on protein for strength training.
More nutrition calculators:
- Protein Calculator for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain
- Calorie Calculator: Resting Metabolic Rate and Daily Need
Thanks for reading, buddy!
- Predicting Energy Expenditure of an Acute Resistance Exercise Bout in Men and Women. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Jul;51(7):1532-153.
- A reanalysis of the factors influencing basal metabolic rate in normal adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 Nov;33(11):2372-4.
- A new predictive equation for resting energy expenditure in healthy individuals. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Feb;51(2):241-7.
- A systematic review and meta-analysis of interval training versus moderate-intensity continuous training on body adiposity. Obes Rev. 2017 Aug;18(8):943-964.
- Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 29(9):1170-1175, September 1997. Effects of cross-training on markers of insulin resistance/hyperinsulinemia.
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 58, Issue 4, October 1993, Pages 561–565. Muscle hypertrophy with large-scale weight loss and resistance training.
- Ann Nutr Metab 2000;44:21–29. Effect of a Hypocaloric Diet, Increased Protein Intake and Resistance Training on Lean Mass Gains and Fat Mass Loss in Overweight Police Officers.