Lifting weights can help you burn calories.
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While lifting weights can be an effective means for bulking up and adding muscle mass, you can also use the activity to spur weight loss. Hitting the gym for resistance-training sessions can burn calories rapidly, enabling you to achieve the calorie deficit required for weight loss. As with other activities, the type of lifting you do will impact how many calories you burn. Both maxing out and lifting submaximal weights can encourage calorie burning, albeit in slightly different ways. Ask your doctor before starting any exercise or weight-loss plan.
Maxing vs. Lifting
While all weightlifting workouts may appear the same to the casual observer, you can take many different approaches. The two basic divisions are maxing, or maxing out, and submaximal lifting, usually referred to simply as lifting. Maxing refers to workouts in which your primary goal is to lift the most weight you can for just one repetition on each exercise. Thus, the workouts have a low volume of repetitions but a high degree of resistance. Regular lifting workouts involve lifting weights under your one-repetition max for various numbers of repetitions. These workouts have a higher volume of repetitions with a lower degree of resistance. You can estimate your one-repetition max from regular lifting workouts by using an online calculator. For example, if you can perform five repetitions at 225 pounds, your one-repetition max would be 253 pounds.
Calories Burned During Exercise
Although lifting with your one-rep maximum or just below it is intense, the lower volume of work means you'll burn fewer calories during your workout compared to lifting lighter weights for a higher volume. Research published in the December 2009 issue of the journal "Diabetes Care" found that study participants who lifted heavy weights with fewer repetitions burned significantly fewer calories than those who lifted less heavy weights for higher numbers of repetitions. Meanwhile, participants who lifted a moderate amount of weight for a middle-range number of repetitions burned more calories than the max group but fewer than the high-repetition group.
Calories Burned After Exercise
While the during-workout calorie burning found maxing to be the least effective lifting method, the researchers from "Diabetes Care" found that this group burned more calories for several days afterward than the other groups. The maxing workout appeared to have significant, long-lasting metabolic effects, while the regular lifting workouts did not. Thus, if you exercise infrequently, maxing workouts may be preferable because they can keep your metabolism fired up for several days even if you don't get to the gym.
Enhancing Calorie Burn
Altering your workouts from maxing to regular lifting sessions and vice-versa isn't the only way in which you can enhance the calorie-burning potential of your workouts. Performing many compound exercises, such as squats and deadlifts, which work multiple muscle groups, can help enhance calorie burning. Additionally, finding ways to pack more repetitions into a shorter amount of time, such as by using circuit training or drop-sets, can also help you increase calorie burning.