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Calories Burned Lifting Weights

Calorie tracking apps and wearable technology has gotten pretty good at estimating the number of calories you burn while running, walking, or climbing stairs. But so far, there has been little progress when it comes to quantifying how many calories are burned while lifting weights. There are a number of reasons for that, which we will go into in this article.

We will also attempt to give you a decent estimate of the number of calories you can burn performing certain resistance exercises, and which exercises are the best for burning calories.


The Problem with Estimating Calories

If you type into google “calories burned while …” you’ll get a lot of results, and sadly very few of them will be particularly useful. The reason is that everybody is different. This means that people will find different exercises easier or more difficult than others and will burn more or less calories while performing them.

Think about it like this. There are two people who are about to deadlift 50kg. Person A lifts weights every single day and has been doing so for 10 years. This person is in great shape, and often deadlifts 200kg for one rep. Person B hasn’t exercised in three years and has a one rep max of 60kg for deadlifting. Both people are asked to lift 50kg for 3 sets of 12 reps.

Do you think that both people are going to burn the same number of calories? No of course not. Person A will barely notice a difference, while Person B will probably need smelling salts and a personal fan between sets.

But type into Google “deadlift calories” and you’ll get an answer like “100 calories for a 175kg deadlift”. It’s basically nonsense.

Don’t get us wrong, it is possible to get an estimate of your calorie expenditure for weight exercises. It’s just going to vary massively from person to person. You can always create your own measurements if you own a FitBit or similar technology. Just type in your age, gender, height, weight, and activity levels, and then measure your heart rate during a set of deadlifts. There will be enough information there for you to estimate your personal calorie expenditure for that exercise.

Of course, you’ll then need to repeat this hundreds of times to create a data set big enough to use, and the information will be basically useless for anyone who is not you. But it is possible.

Instead of trying to find the exact calories burned for every single reader of this article (an impossible task) we are instead going to name 5 of the biggest calorie burning weight lifting exercises that you can perform, and then give you a (very) rough estimate of the calories burned for a 100kg male. You can then change the info to suit your actual weight.


Five Biggest Calorie Burning Weight Lifting Exercises

  • Barbell Deadlift
  • Walking Lunges
  • Barbell Squats
  • Overhead Barbell Press
  • Leg Press

As you can see, all the exercises listed above are compound movements, and only one of them is machine-based. Exercises that work multiple muscle groups almost always burn a lot of calories. Although, there is no hard and fast rule. 40 bicep curls could burn more calories than a single rep on the leg press. There are many factors that come into play such as:

  • Rest intervals (shorter rest periods between sets can increase calories burned)
  • Volume (how much weight or how many reps)
  • Intensity (training at a high intensity can burn more calories)
  • Session duration (longer sessions can burn more calories provided intensity is still high)

You can manipulate these to increase calories burned, shortening rest periods, increasing intensity, increasing session duration. But don’t go overboard. Too short a rest period, too high an intensity, or too long a session duration and you could end up performing worse than usual as you’re too tired!


Calories Burned During a Weights Session

Calories Burned HQ is a website that specialises in estimating the calories burned performing a number of different tasks [1].

It’s never going to be that accurate, but as we mentioned before, that’s an almost impossible task anyway. They base their calculations on “average”. So the “average” person will burn (x calories) during a 60 minute workout.

  • Here is what they have for a 100kg male lifting weights for 60 minutes: 630 calories
  • Here is what they have for a 90kg male lifting weights for 60 minutes: 567 calories
  • Here is what they have for a 80kg male lifting weights for 60 minutes: 504 calories
  • Here is what they have for a 70kg male lifting weights for 60 minutes: 441 calories

As you can see, the difference in calories burned between a 70kg man and a 100kg man training for the same time (and performing the same exercises) is huge. Almost 200 calories difference! This is why calorie estimation for lifting weights is almost impossible to estimate for large groups of people.






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