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For many years, we have been told that, to lose weight and burn fat, we need to do hours and hours of cardio. There we all were, sweating like mad, slumped over the treadmill, out of breath, etc. Well, recently there has been a shift in how people see weight loss. More and more fitness experts are claiming that the most efficient way to lose fat is through weight resistance training rather than cardio! It’s true that, due to its intensity, weight training does have many benefits when it comes to fat loss. In view of this, we will endeavour to compare it to cardio and reach a conclusion as to which one is the best.


While, the purpose of this article is to consider the relative merits of cardio and weight training, you need to appreciate that, to get the most out of your fat loss routine, you should be eating healthily and watching the amount of calories you are consuming. There are many free sites online that let you enter your body’s measurements and then calculate how many calories you need to be eating for weight loss. If you don’t know how many calories you should be burning in your workouts, then it will be hard for you to gauge what’s working and what isn’t.




Let’s start with the original and classic fat loss exercise, cardio. Cardio is short for cardiovascular and refers to aerobic exercise in its various forms, such as running, swimming, rowing or cycling. Focusing on a cardio workout will usually mean a long session of endurance training. For example, doing 10k on the treadmill may take you around an hour and will burn hundreds of calories, meaning you are aiding your body in the battle for fat loss. The aim of this type of exercise is to get your heart rate up and give your body a hard time – a battle so tough that it needs to look elsewhere for energy, such as its stored fat. Getting your body to attack your fat storage is the key to losing the right kind of weight and this is hard to do. Sadly, there is no shortcut to effective results – you simply have to work hard and ensure you are burning more calories than you are consuming.



Weight Training

So, now that we have covered aerobic exercise, it is time to talk about the increasingly popular weight training.  Just a few years ago, if you went to a gym you would see that the free weights area would be quiet and the cardio section would be busy. However, as time has gone on this has started to change. Gyms are now increasing the size of their weights area to keep up with the high demand, as more and more people are opting for dumbbells over treadmills. So, why is this? Well, there are a number of reasons why weight training has become so popular and why it is so effective for fat loss.


One of the most impressive effects that resistance training has on the body is the ‘afterburn’ which takes place when you are finished. Put simply, ‘afterburn’ is the fuel-burning state your body enters following a session at the gym. Studies have shown that, unlike cardio, weight training increases the amount of calories burnt in your body for up to 39 hours after your session has finished. A common fallacy is that lifting weights will make you bigger. This simply isn’t the case, the only way you can gain weight is by increasing the amount of calories you are consuming. As you are looking to lose weight, this isn’t something you will do; therefore, weight training will not make you bigger. What it will do is strengthen and increase your muscle mass. The fantastic thing about this is that having more muscle enables you to burn more calories each day.


Another great thing about using weights for fat loss is that, by doing this, you can help prevent the weight you lose being muscle, meaning that the majority of it will be fat. With weights, you can actually sculpt your body to the way you want it to be. Okay, you can’t spot reduce fat (unfortunately) but you can tone up certain areas which isn’t something you can easily do with cardio.


As hormones play an important role in exercise, it is important to know which type of exercise produces the right type of hormone. Weight training promotes a fantastic hormone environment which puts the body into an anabolic state. This means your body can gain and maintain muscle, which helps with fat loss. By contrast, cardio training actually promotes higher levels of cortisol which encourages the body to lose lean muscle, meaning you may be losing the wrong kind of weight and getting weaker.


Here is a short summary of the positives and negatives of each type of training:



  • proven to work for years
  • burns the most calories during exercise
  • has a big influence on cardiovascular health and increases circulation throughout entire body
  • increases the number of red blood cells in your body, to enable greater oxygen take-up throughout the body
  • has less impact on joints.



  • has weak after-burn effect
  • can be repetitive and boring (workouts need to be of longer duration)
  • is not sustainable
  • cannot shape specific areas of the body
  • promotes Cortisol leading to loss of muscle mass.




  • burns more calories overall
  • increases strength
  • great for body sculpting
  • makes it easier to target fat loss
  • promotes a healthy hormone environment
  • workouts can be shorter
  • offers a wide variety of exercises.



  • can put pressure on joints
  • higher risk of injury.


As you can see, it would appear there are more benefits from weight training for fat loss than for cardio. This is good news as it means you can have shorter workouts, with better results. However, if you are new to resistance training, you will need to use light weights to begin with and seek as much as advice as possible. Injuries are possible even with light weights, so research thoroughly beforehand and don’t be afraid to ask people around you for help.