Breaking Down the Science: How Strength Training and Cardio Affect Calorie Burn

Are you curious about the best way to burn calories during your workouts? Today, we’ll dive into the science behind how strength training and cardio affect calorie burn and provide practical tips for incorporating both forms of exercise into your routine.

The Physiology of Strength Training for Calorie Burn

Let’s start with strength training, also known as resistance training. Strength training involves using weights or resistance to build muscle mass and strength, and it can actually help you burn more calories over the long term. That’s because muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain than fat tissue, which means the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest.

So, how exactly does strength training increase calorie burn? Well, it causes muscle damage and inflammation, which requires energy to repair. This process, known as muscle protein synthesis, also burns calories. Additionally, the metabolic demand of strength training is higher than that of steady-state cardio, which means you burn more calories per minute during a strength training session than during a cardio session.

The Role of Cardio in Calorie Burn

Now let’s talk about cardio, or aerobic exercise. Cardio involves activities that elevate your heart rate and keep it elevated for an extended period, such as running, cycling, or dancing. Cardio is known for burning a high number of calories per session, and it can also improve the efficiency of your cardiovascular system.

During cardio, your body requires more oxygen to fuel the increased metabolic demand. This increased oxygen consumption, or VO2, burns calories both during and after the exercise session. But here’s the thing: cardio alone isn’t necessarily the best way to burn calories or lose weight, because it doesn’t build muscle mass.

Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)

One thing that both strength training and cardio have in common is the concept of EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. EPOC refers to the increased calorie burn that occurs after a workout, as your body works to restore oxygen levels and repair muscle tissue. Studies have shown that EPOC is higher after high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training than after steady-state cardio.

Comparing and Contrasting Strength Training and Cardio for Calorie Burn

Strength training and cardio have different mechanisms for burning calories, but both can be effective for calorie burn and overall health. Here’s a comparison of the two forms of exercise:

Strength Training:

  • Builds muscle mass, which increases resting metabolic rate
  • Requires more energy to repair muscle damage and inflammation
  • Has a higher metabolic demand than steady-state cardio
  • Can prevent the loss of muscle mass during weight loss


  • Burns more calories per session than strength training
  • Increases oxygen consumption, which burns calories during and after the workout
  • Improves the efficiency of your cardiovascular system

Incorporating Strength Training and Cardio for Maximum Calorie Burn

So, how can you incorporate both strength training and cardio into your workout routine for maximum calorie burn and overall health? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Aim for at least two strength training sessions per week to build muscle mass and increase resting metabolic rate. Don’t be afraid to start small, with bodyweight exercises or light weights, and gradually increase the intensity.
  • Incorporate HIIT workouts, which combine strength training and cardio, for maximum calorie burn and EPOC. Try a circuit training workout,
  • alternating between resistance exercises and cardio exercises.
  • Alternate between cardio and strength training days to prevent overtraining and allow for adequate recovery. Remember, rest is just as important as exercise for building muscle and burning calories.
  • Combine resistance training and cardio exercises in a circuit training workout for a high-intensity, full-body workout. This type of workout can be both fun and efficient, and can help you stay motivated.
  • Seek guidance from a personal trainer or exercise specialist to design a personalized workout routine that meets your individual goals and needs. A professional can help you safely and effectively incorporate both strength training and cardio into your routine, and can provide guidance on proper form and technique.

Remember, the most important thing is to find a workout routine that works for you and your individual needs. Whether you prefer strength training or cardio, or a combination of both, the key is to stay consistent and challenge yourself over time. And don’t forget to fuel your body with nutritious food and stay hydrated, because proper nutrition is just as important as exercise for maintaining a healthy weight and overall well-being.

We hope this post has helped you better understand how strength training and cardio affect calorie burn, and provided you with some practical tips for incorporating both into your workout routine. So go out there and crush those workouts, and don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it!