Muscle Matters

by MyFitnessPal
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Muscle Matters

Tips for logging and calculating non-cardio calorie burn.

Some of you have been wondering why we don’t calculate calories burned for strength training, in addition to calculating calories burned by doing cardiovascular exercises. You’re gettin’ ripped, you’re pumped up, and dangit you want some credit. All that sweat and strain must count for something!

The body does burn calories during strength training, but calculating that calorie burn is much trickier than calculating those burned by cardio exercises because so much of the data is subjective and harder to accurately track.

Estimating those calories depends on a variety of factors, including how much weight you lift per repetition, how many reps, how much rest you took between sets, and how vigorously you performed an exercise. And therein lies the rub: assessing one’s own ‘vigorousness’ is difficult, since everyone has a different threshold. With running or biking, for instance, speed and distance are monitored and a hard number is calculated, but with a weight exercise like bench press it just ‘feels hard.’ One person might consider it vigorous if they push themselves to the limit, while another person might think it’s vigorous to push the vending machine button for the sports drink.

One easy way of getting an approximate calorie count is to search our Cardio database for similar exercises, or you can enter the “Strength Training” exercise and receive a rough estimate. Another way is to use a heart-rate monitor to help figure out how many calories you’ve burned, you can then easily create and add custom exercises into your personal profile.

It can be frustrating not to have numbers to add and subtract if you’ve become accustomed to precisely tracking every calorie and step you take. Maybe this is a good time to go old school: If your clothes are feeling tight, or loose in the right places then it must be working! Just make sure to log every day – the more consistently you log your activities, the greater your chances of being successful.


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17 responses to “Muscle Matters”

  1. Avatar Carrie says:

    Then why don’t you just get rid of the strength training component and go exclusively with cardio count? It would save us a lot of frustration when trying to log.

    • Avatar Erin says:

      It can be used to track weights and reps so you can see improvements or change as your current weight routine gets too easy for you.

  2. Avatar Diane says:

    I’m not so concerned with the calorie count as the time spent exercising. If I split my time between cardio & weights, the program only gives me credit for time spent doing cardio. I try to meet the goal of 60 minutes a day so I find myself not doing as much strength training as my trainer recommends just so I get the 60 minutes in. I know – dumb, but for some reason I feel the need to get credit for time spent.

  3. Avatar JJ Sobey says:

    so… you’re suggesting to people to use a HRM to calculate a calorie burn for weight lifting. Something that a HRM is not designed to do. Great idea MFP.

  4. Avatar West Omaha Dad says:

    I’ve always worn a HRM during weight training, how else would you accurately track it. Come on people!

    • Avatar TigerSword says:

      Come on what? HRM’s are about as accurate for strength training as just making up a number randomly. They calculate calorie burn based on perceived aerobic effort. Strength training is anaerobic. Completely unrelated energy systems, and completely unrelated calorie burn calculations.

  5. Avatar Emma says:

    I wear my HRM when weightlifting. My heart rate gets up in the 160’s and the calories burned are greater than the estimate provided in the database. I personally find this motivating and helpful (to a small extent). I also have a Polar HRM designed for weight training.

    • Avatar BeenThereDoneThat says:

      No such thing as a HRM “designed for weight training”.

      • Avatar Emma says:

        Polar FT80: The Polar Strength Training mode, meanwhile, helps you optimize your strength training by reading your heart rate and informing you when your body is ready for the next set–an ideal way to optimize your weight training. Finally, the Polar OwnCal mode shows your energy expenditure during one exercise session, as well as your accumulated kilocalories during several exercise sessions. You can also set daily and weekly exercise goals in terms of calorie expenditure, helping you achieve both short-term and long-term goals.

        Also, FYI- It would be nicer if you came from a place of appreciative inquiry (“I haven’t heard of a HRM that is designed to be used for weight training,” for example), I am a real person you know, and your comment seems unfriendly. Just saying…

  6. Avatar Becky Disner says:

    I use Might not be exact, but at least I get credit for lifting in addition to cardio.

  7. Avatar davpul says:

    ummm…..i can see why no particular staff member attached their name to this blog piece.

  8. Avatar Steve says:

    Why do you need “credit” for weight training? For most people, the burn is so low it won’t make much of a difference. If you need credit, make a post that says, “Weight training: xx minutes – xx exercises” or something like that. Using a HRM is a very bad way of determining your caloric burn for the very reasons stated in the blog. If you do this, you’d be smart to use no more than half the calories it reports. I personally like the idea that I have a few extra calories in the bank that will cover times when I may have underestimated my food. Just my 2 cents.

  9. Avatar bengalengs says:

    The other responses on here are hilarious and spot on.

    “Maybe this is a good time to go old school: If your clothes are feeling tight, or loose in the right places then it must be working!” I think a more accurate title for this post would be “Tracking Calories Burned During Strength Training: Don’t Even Try.”

  10. Avatar Be says:

    Don’t you think people should be able to log how and what they want. I mean really this is totally on each person. If you cheat, you are cheating yourself. If you log incorrectly you won’t see the results you want. Anyone can put down what ever they want. So the debate over what is correct to log has no validity here. Its called THE honor system. And if your friend or neighbor logs their strength as cardio, its none of your business. I have not seen a competition form for who did what, how, where. The only prize you will gain is either a healthy body or handful of lies to yourself. I have seen logging, I have seen good nature challenges. But a competition to see who can log the most correct to my standards or yours is ludicrise. This is my LOG. Not yours. ENOUGH Said.

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