Three strength training exercises you need to lose weight, according to research

Multi-muscle compound moves elevate your heart rate, burn calories, and build muscle

Man working out with dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to strength training, many of us imagine exercises designed to help you build big muscles and bulk up. But working your muscles can be an effective way to get stronger and lose weight, especially if you use these three research-backed exercises.

Thankfully, you also don't need much equipment or a gym membership to get started, just a set of the best adjustable dumbbells. These customizable weights combine several dumbbells into one, so you can save space and still get an effective workout.

Whether you're at the gym or exercising at home, you can use the dumbbells for a wide variety of resistance training moves. But with so many workout options out there, it's not always clear which are the best if you want to burn fat and lose weight.

Fortunately, the team behind a recent meta-analysis, a review of scientific papers, published by IntechOpen (opens in new tab) has found that squats, deadlifts, and Olympic lifts like dumbbell snatches are the most effective way to reach your weight loss goals. 

You'll need dumbbells for the two lifting moves, but you can do squats with weights or as a bodyweight-only exercise. This workout staple is a compound move, a movement that trains multiple muscle groups at once—in this case, your legs and core. Of course, you can also go the other way if you have a gym membership, or an advanced home gym setup, and try the deadlift and squat moves with heavier barbells instead. Our guides to how to deadlift properly with barbells and how to do a barbell squat can offer all the information you need. 

These exercises elevate your heart rate, burn more calories, and train different areas of your body to work together. This makes them a valuable way to get stronger and lose weight.

Three strength training for weight loss exercises

To help you get started, we've outlined how to do the researcher's top compound resistance training moves with dumbbells; deadlifts, squats, and snatches.

You don't need any other equipment to get started, but it can be worth rolling out one of the best yoga mats for underfoot support and to reduce noise if you're in an apartment or shared household.

1. Deadlifts

Woman doing a dumbbell deadlift

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • To deadlift with dumbbells, stand slightly bent in your knees and feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, slightly in front of you.
  • Lower your torso slowly by bending at the hips and knees, keeping your back straight until your upper body is parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your arms in front and hanging towards the floor, dumbbells just in front of your shins.
  • Hold here for a few seconds before squeezing your glutes and pushing back into a standing position.

2. Squats

30 day legs challenge: woman demonstrating squats with dumbbell

(Image credit: Future)
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold a dumbbell at chest height, keeping it close to your chest with elbows slightly forward.
  • Bend your knees, push your hips back, and lower down with your weight in your heels as if you were going to sit in a chair.
  • Hold the position for several seconds before rising back up to standing.

3. Snatches

Woman performing a dumbbell snatch

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Lower into a squat with a dumbbell between your feet, keeping your back straight and head up.
  • Maintain the squat for a few seconds and grab the dumbbell in an overhand position.
  • Keep your weight in your heels and use your legs to explosively push up to a standing position, raising the dumbbell vertically.
  • When the dumbbell is around shoulder height, flip your elbow to be underneath the weight and press the dumbbell overhead with a straight arm.
  • Reverse the movement slowly to finish the repetition and return to your starting position.
James Frew
Staff Writer

James is a London-based journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.


In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.