The Amount of Calories Burned Doing Chest & Back Workouts

One of the reasons you may hit the gym is to burn calories to manage your weight. Strength-training, however, burns fewer calories than high-intensity cardio exercise such as running. Even a vigorous 60-minute training session that targets the major muscles of your back and chest can't compare to an hour-long session on the treadmill. But that doesn't mean you should skip strength training. Building your muscles offers numerous health benefits, so your sessions will pay off in the long run.

During the Workout

A traditional back and chest workout in which you do three sets of three different exercises for each muscle group burns about 112 calories per 30 minutes for a 155-pound person. Each of these sets should consist of eight to 12 repetitions with about a minute between sets. Choose weights that feel heavy enough to make you struggle to do the last couple of repetitions with good form. People weighing less than 155 pounds will burn fewer calories during the same session and people weighing more will burn more calories. If you don't work to fatigue, chances are you will burn fewer calories than average.

Sample Exercises

The Amount of Calories Burned Doing Chest & Back Workouts

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Exercises that you might include in a traditional back and chest strength session include the bench press, chest flyes, pushups, pullups, rows, pulldowns and pullovers. Although you're targeting major muscle groups, you aren't moving your body continuously, which is necessary to maximize your caloric burn. A strength-training session can feel hard and make you sweat, but you also experience a lot of downtime between sets, which lowers the burn rate.

Upping the Intensity

A circuit session can help you burn about 30 percent more calories during your chest and back workout. Instead of resting between sets of an exercise, you move from exercise to exercise with minimal rest -- just taking enough time to change equipment and position. For example, a chest and back circuit can start with a set of pushups, then have you move directly to rows, followed immediately by the chest press, pullups and cable flyes. Take 30 to 60 seconds to breathe, then start the sequence over again for two to five total circuits. You can even do a few cardio bursts between your sets of back or chest exercises to burn up to 10 calories per minute.

By alternating between chest and back exercises during the circuit, you allow one muscle group to rest as you train the other group. For example, rows primarily target the back muscles, which receive a rest while you do chest presses, which primarily target the front of the shoulders and the pectorals.


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Don't shun chest and back workouts because they don't burn calories as efficiently as a cardio routine. Strength-training workouts build lean muscle mass. A leaner body burns more calories at rest and burns them more efficiently during exercise. Working your chest helps you perform activities that require pushing more efficiently. It also improves athletic skills such as throwing and tackling. A strong back helps keep you free of injury, helps you pull and enhances posture. Developing lean mass in the upper body also makes you look healthy and strong -- rather than diminutive and fragile.