What Weightlifting Exercise Burns the Most Fat?

Many factors contribute to the amount of fat burned during a weightlifting exercise. The intensity of the exercise is a significant factor determining the amount of energy used to perform the movement and whether or not the energy burned primarily comes from carbohydrate or fat stores.

A man laying back on a gym bench prepares to do a bench press. (Image: DeanDrobot/iStock/Getty Images)

Burning Fat and Calories

The higher the intensity of the exercise, a larger percentage of calories are burned from carbohydrate stores. High-intensity weight training typically will burn most it calories from carbohydrate stores during the weightlifting set or even the entire session. However, keeping your heart rate elevated throughout your session can help increase the percentage of calories burned from fat stores. Although lower-intensity exercises do burn a larger percentage of calories from fat, higher-intensity exercise burns more total calories. Additionally, high-intensity weightlifting sessions are more effective at keeping your metabolism elevated post-workout than lower-intensity weightlifting sessions, essentially burning more total calories and more calories from fat stores.

Compound Exercises

Compound exercises are the most energy-demanding weightlifting exercises. These exercises are multi-joint movements that require numerous different muscle groups to perform, such as bench press, pull-ups, squats, dead lifts, snatch and power clean and press. These are high-energy exercises because they work nearly every major muscle group in the body. The more muscle groups involved in the movement, the more energy is required.


Intensity is also affected by the resistance, duration or repetitions and rest periods performed or used during the exercise. Vigorous-intensity weightlifting will burn more calories than moderate- or lower-intensity weightlifting sessions when performing the same exercise or exercises. A vigorous-intensity weightlifting exercise might be performing the dead lift using a heavy weight at 85 to 95 percent of your one-repetition maximum, 1RM, for two or three repetitions, or to muscle failure, and then resting two minutes before repeating for four or five sets. It could also mean dead-lifting at moderate intensity 75 to 85 percent of your 1RM for six to eight reps resting 60 seconds between sets. Additionally, including supersets in your routines will also increase the intensity and help to burn more calories. Supersets are when you perform an exercise then immediately without resting, perform a different exercise. The elimination of rest periods significantly increases the intensity, because it keeps your energy demands up and your heart rate elevated, thus burning more calories.

Weightlifting For Fat Loss

A sample high-intensity weightlifting workout will involve mostly compound exercises performed using a moderately high resistance and repetition range with minimal rest periods. A sample workout might start out by completing five pull-ups every 30 seconds for three minutes, followed by five sets of 10 repetitions of dead lifts at 70 percent of your 1RM resting 60 seconds between sets, oncluding with three rounds of 10 repetitions of push-ups, jump squats, bench press and shoulder press. Do not rest between exercises and rest only one minute after each round.

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