Hate cardio? Strength training just as effective for weight loss, study finds

Find out why strength training can be an excellent addition to your weekly training to help you shed off unwanted fat

Older workout class squat while carrying a kettlebell
(Image credit: Getty)

Weight loss is not just a product of burning lots of calories on a long run or during an intense HIIT session. There are lots of factors that impact your body weight and a new study has emphasised the importance of strength training for fat loss.

Analyzing 58 different research papers on strength training and body fat, researchers concluded that participants taking part in strength training programs lost around 1.4% of their total body fat - this equates to approximately half a kilo in fat mass and is similar to how much weight you can lose with cardio or aerobics training. 

The scientists found that all of the participants in the various studies worked out for around 45-60 minutes for an average of 2.7 times a week, and did so for around 5 months.

Since the information was taken from different studies, the type of training programs varied. Some strength training regimes might see people working their upper body using a guide like the best chest workouts with resistance bands (if you are looking for a set of bands, our of best resistance bands may come in handy), whilst others might feel a greater burn from resistance training using one of the  best kettle bells or a set of the best adjustable dumbbells

Dr Mandy Hagstrom, the senior author of the study and senior lecturer at UNSW Medicine and Health, noted how many people assume an activity like running is the key to weight loss. “But our findings show that even when strength training is done on its own, it still causes a favourable loss of body fat without having to consciously diet or go running,” said Hagstrom.

Personal Trainer, Scott Laidler, also says that strength training is an essential part of trying to lose fat. “If you have an intensive (not necessarily heavy) resistance training workout, your heart rate will be elevated in the same way it would with cardiovascular training, which is most people’s 'go-to' for fat loss,” he says. “This means you will see fat loss directly from the workout itself.”

A 2017  study also found that combining weight training with a low calorie diet can be good for preserving lean muscle mass, which is sometimes lost through cardio workouts.

Not only can strength training help you lose weight but you can also use it to target specific areas of your body. Want to tone up your tummy? Try the best workout for abs. Alternatively, the best leg workouts can help if you wish to sculpt your lower limbs.

There are clearly many benefits of resistance training for those in pursuit of fat loss, but it is advised to have a well rounded approach to your health and fitness. Hagstrom does recommend that eating nutritiously (there is plenty of helpful information in our how to eat healthily guide) and adding aerobic, cardio and strength training exercise into your routine should promote results. 

Laidler agrees, “The other areas of the exercise quadrant you should include in your training regime should be HIIT cardiovascular workouts, a mobility practice, and regular hobby or play activity.”

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.