To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, but the most effective way is by combining a healthy diet with an exercise routine that burns calories.

Weightlifting is an important part of any weight loss program. Lifting weights not only helps you burn calories during your workout, it also keeps your metabolism revved up long after your workout is over, allowing you to continue burning fat throughout the day.

If you’re new to weightlifting or if you don’t know where to start, here’s how to build a weight loss program that includes weightlifting:

Choose a resistance level based on your fitness goals and current fitness level. If you are just starting out or want to focus on toning rather than building muscle mass, choose light weights such as 3-5 pounds (1-2 kg). If you want to build strength and increase lean muscle mass, choose heavy weights such as 8-10 pounds (3-4 kg). If you want to work on both toning and building muscle mass then start with medium weights such as 6-8 pounds (3-3 kg).

Choose compound exercises over isolation exercises. Compound exercises involve multiple joints and muscles at once while isolation exercises target

Weights Workout For Weight Loss

Everything You Need To Know About Weight Training For Weight Loss, According To Experts

Tired of racking up miles on the treadmill and still not hitting your goals in the gym? You’re not alone. Recently, many women have sprinted away from traditional cardio exercises toward weight training—and there’s a good reason why.

Cardio used to be the go-to for losing weight while getting fit at the same time. But, once social media (and even government organizations) started shifting their stance on what it means to be active, people turned to weightlifting instead.

“The nature of social media has helped women break free from the old cardio indoctrination,” Joy Cox, PhD, a body-justice advocate and weight-stigma researcher at Rutgers University, previously told WH. “Everyone is sharing their own narrative, and you see a lot of people with different experiences and different bodies doing all sorts of feats.”

With fitness influencers and trainers dominating Instagram and TikTok, it’s easier than ever to get the #fitspo you need to switch up your current routine. Plus, there’s evidence to support that lifting weights does more than build muscle. It also has powerful effects on your bones and body composition (more on that in a min).

Best of all, you don’t even need to go to the gym to get started. With a little extra space and a set of dumbbells, you can start setting and achieving brand new personal bests in no time.

Ready to dive into the basics? Here’s everything you need to know about weight training for weight loss, from how it works to how to get started.

woman working out with weights while exercising in home

Why Weight Training Is Key For Weight Loss

While cardio has plenty of benefits, lifting weights can help build muscle, strengthen your bones, and more, says exercise physiologist Stacy Sims, PhD. She adds that older theories behind losing weight emphasized doing lots of cardio and delaying meals. With this kind of plan, your body’s cortisol level—(a stress hormone that regulates your metabolism—skyrockets. But in actuality, this strategy often “backfires and makes people put on weight,” she explains.

“With resistance training, you’re actually building the muscle tissue, and it’s not quite as taxing,” says Sims. “So you don’t get that cortisol bump.” The result? A powerful workout that actually changes your body composition.

  • ‘I Lost 70 Lbs. When I Started Lifting Heavy’

Over time, lifting weights also makes your muscles more efficient. This is one reason why you may have heard that weightlifters eat a lot, according to Sims: “Because their muscles are like, ‘Great, I can use this, I’m going to do it.’ ” Your muscles are working overtime, so they need all the fuel they can get.

But why focus on building muscle mass, anyway? At the beginning, Sims says, you may not actually notice significant weight loss. “You’ll start noticing a change in your clothes, you’ll start feeling fitter, you’ll start looking toner—but the weight on the scale might not change,” she explains.

That’s your body composition changing. You’re losing fat, while building muscle mass. Muscles are incredibly dense, according to Sims, because they’re packed with lots of different elements that help move your metabolism along (compared with body fat, which is just… fat).

So, if the number on the scale doesn’t change right away, don’t give up—keep going. It’s worth it, in the long run!

Neoprene Coated Dumbbell Set

5 Tips To Build A Weight Training Regimen For Weight Loss

  1. Assess your mobility. Before you pick up any weights, it’s a good idea to understand what your body’s mobility and stability looks like, according to Alex Silver-Fagan, CPT, RYT, nike master trainer and creator of Flow Into Strong. Try hanging on a bar, holding a plank, or sitting in a squat. “If you can’t hold your body in those places, I wouldn’t add load to those movements,” she says. Keep working at your tough-for-you exercises with your body weight until you feel more in control.
  2. Master the basics. Silver-Fagan adds that there are four functional moves you should be able to conquer before starting your weight training routine: squat, push-up, deadlift, and horizontal or overhead row. Having these under your belt will help prevent injuries in the future. Not sure how your form stacks up? Consider working with a trainer for even just a few sessions (virtual or IRL) for feedback and guidance.
  3. Gather your equipment. To start, Silver-Fagan suggests finding three sets of dumbbells: a light, medium, and heavy pair. Usually, these sets only need to be 5 to 10 pounds apart (unless a trainer says otherwise). You should be able to easily lift the lightest ones with little to no effort, while the heavy ones should be tougher. Sometimes, even your own body weight can be enough, she adds—start where you’re most comfortable.
  4. Eat plenty of protein. Sims says protein contains amino acids, which are what actually help build up your muscles. They also “keep signaling your body to build the lean mass and lose the body fat,” she explains. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating at least 0.35 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day if you’re sedentary. But if you’re active and looking to build muscle and lower your body fat percentage, aim for more like 0.73 grams of protein per pound of body weight, per the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
  5. Listen to your body. Pay attention to how you’re feeling while lifting weights. “There’s a difference between pain and discomfort,” Silver-Fagan notes. “If something is painful, then you should be backing off. If something’s uncomfortable, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this because I haven’t done it? Is it hard?’ ” Plus, remember that you can always take a break in between reps.

Sample Weight Training Plan

Equipment: Hand weights or dumbbells

Best for: Total-body strength

Instructions: Do each of these three workouts once a week for four weeks. Each new week, try to either use a heavier weight or do more reps, Silver-Fagan suggests. Combine with one to two cardio days (jogging, walking, rower, cycling, Tabata, HIIT—whatever you enjoy that gets your heart rate up!), one to two yoga days, and a rest day for the best results. She also recommends warming up by moving through the exercises without weights first.

Sample routine:

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Cardio
  • Wednesday: Workout 2
  • Thursday: Cardio or yoga (choose one)
  • Friday: Cardio or yoga (choose one)
  • Saturday: Workout 3
  • Sunday: Rest

Workout 1

Goblet Squat

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How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a weight in front of your chest, elbows pointing toward the floor. Push hips back and bend knees to lower into a squat. Push yourself back to start. That’s one rep. Complete three to five reps with a heavy weight.


Bent-Over Row

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How to: With your feet under your hips, hinge at your hips with your knees slightly bent and your arms just in front of your legs. Drive your elbow back toward your hips with weights in hand, feeling your shoulder blades squeeze together, then slowly lower them back down. That’s one rep. Complete three to five reps with a medium-heavy weight.

Complete five sets total of these two exercises.

Lateral Lunge

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How to: Holding a weight at your chest, stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take a large step to the left, sit your hips back, and lower down until your left knee is nearly parallel with the floor. Your right leg should be straight. Return to start. That’s one rep. Complete ten reps on each side with a medium weight.

Renegade Row

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How to: Place two dumbbells on the floor shoulder width apart. Assume a plank position with your feet wider than shoulder-distance apart. Grasp the dumbbells so your hands are elevated off the floor, maintaining a neutral wrist position. Drive your right arm through the dumbbell into the floor, stiffen your entire body, and row the left dumbbell up and to the side of your rib cage—your elbow should be pointed up and back. Keep your body stable as you slowly lower the dumbbell back to the floor. Then repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Complete 12 alternating reps with a medium weight.

Russian Twist

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How to: Sit on the floor and bring your legs out straight. Lean back slightly so your torso and legs form a V-like shape, bracing your abdominal wall to engage your core. Balancing here, twist your torso from side to side without moving your legs. That’s one rep. Complete 16 reps with a medium weight.

Complete four sets total of these three exercises.

Workout 2


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How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart, with a weight positioned in front of you. Hinge at your hips and lower down, with a slight bend in your knees, until you’re far enough down to grab the weight (you can choose an overhand grip, underhand grip, or mixed grip). Keep your spine neutral by looking forward, not up. While grasping the weight, keep your shoulders back, then squeeze your glutes and your core as you stand up straight, tuck your pelvis, and lift the barbell. Pause for a moment at the top, then slowly lower back down to the ground. That’s one rep. Complete three to five reps with a heavy weight.

Chest Press

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How to: Lie flat on your back, or on a bench, with your feet flat on the ground. With a dumbbell in each hand, extend your arms directly over your shoulders, palms facing toward your feet. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and slowly bend your elbows, lowering the weights out to the side, parallel with your shoulders, until your elbows form 90-degree angles. Slowly drive the dumbbells back up to start, squeezing your shoulder blades the entire time. That’s one rep. Complete three to five reps with a medium-heavy weight.

Complete five sets total of these two exercises.


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How to: Hold a dumbbell with both hands using an overhand grip and stand with feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back, knees slightly bent, and lower your chest to bring the dumbbell between your legs. Keeping your core tight, push your hips forward and swing the dumbbell up to shoulder height. Reverse the movement, swinging the weight back between your legs. That’s one rep. Complete ten reps with a medium weight.

Split Stance Shoulder Press

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How to: Grab a pair of pound dumbbells. Stagger your stance into a wide step, one foot forward and one back with hips squared, and hold the weights just above your shoulders, elbows close into your sides. Leaning forward ever so slightly, bend both your knees to come down into a lunge position. Press up through your front leg while simultaneously lifting the weights straight up into the air, keeping your elbows pointing forward and your arms in line with your ears. As you lower back into the lunge for the next rep, lower the weights back to your shoulders. That’s one rep. Complete ten reps with a medium weight (instead of a resistance band), alternating your feet for each set.

Half Turkish Get Up

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How to: Lie face-up with kettlebell in right hand resting in front of shoulder. Bend right leg, placing foot flat on floor. Stretch out left arm and leg to the side at a 45-degree angle. Get a good grip on handle and press weight up toward ceiling, locking out elbow completely and keeping gaze on kettlebell. With eyes still on bell overhead, rise onto left forearm, then push into palm of left hand to sit up. Engage abs, then push through right heel and squeeze glutes to lift hips until right thigh is parallel to floor. Reverse the steps until you are lying on the floor again. That’s one rep. Complete five reps with a medium weight on each side.

Complete four sets total of these three exercises.

Workout 3

Single Leg Deadlift

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How to: Stand with both feet under hips. Shift your weight to the right leg, which should be nice and straight with a soft bend in the knee. Begin to drive your left foot back like you’re stamping the bottom of your foot on the wall behind you, keeping your leg straight. Simultaneously, slowly start hinging at the waist, tipping your torso forward until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Keep your arms straight, at shoulder height, and perpendicular to the floor at all times. At the bottom of the position, your body should be in a straight line from the top of your head to the bottom of your left foot. Then, begin pulling your left leg forward while keeping it straight, and lift your torso up until you’re standing again. That’s one rep. Complete ten reps with a medium weight.

Kneeling Chest Press to Tricep Extension

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How to: Start kneeling with knees slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in both hands and extend arms straight out in front of chest. Bend at elbows to pull dumbbell toward your chest, then press arms back out to straight. Next, raise the dumbbell up overhead, and bend at elbows to lower weight behind head. Finally, extend elbows to press dumbbell back up overhead and reverse the movement to return to starting position. That’s one rep. Complete 12 reps with a medium weight.

Complete three sets total of these two exercises.

Dumbbell Thruster

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How to: Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and engage your core. Now stack the weights on your shoulders. Once you’ve gone as low as your mobility will allow (ideally, your thighs will be parallel to the floor), drive through the heels to return to standing. As you come up, push the weights overhead, keeping your knees soft. That’s one rep. Complete ten reps with a medium weight.

Alternating Lunge to Bicep Curl

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How to: Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them at arm’s length next to your sides, your palms facing each other. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward with your right leg and lower your body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees. At the same time as you lunge, curl both dumbbells up to your shoulders. Lower the dumbbells, and then return to the starting position. Step forward with the other leg and repeat. That’s one rep. Complete 12 reps with a medium weight.

Rainbow Slam

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How to: Kneel on the ground, with your knees slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in both hands, rotate your upper body slightly, and extend your arms so you’re holding it towards the right side of your body. Forcefully, but with control, swing the dumbbell over your head in an arch or rainbow shape, until you reach the same position on the opposite side of your body. Alternate directions, and swing the dumbbell back to the other side. That’s one rep. Complete 16 reps with a medium weight.

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