Cardio or weights for belly fat loss? Physiologist answers

cardio or weights for belly fat loss

What is the best way to lose belly fat?

Should you do cardio or weights?

Or, should you combine cardio and weights for maximum effect?

The experts from the American Physiologist Society did all the work to determine whether cardio or weights for belly fat loss.

Cardio or weights for belly fat loss: the research

American Physiological Society compared the efficacy of cardio and strength training on weight loss.

The research involved 119 participants who lived a very inactive lifestyle and are either overweight or obese.

Also, the subjects had a high count of bad cholesterol, non-smokers, no history of diabetes, hypertension, or heart problems.


The participants were grouped into 3. One group engaged in cardio, another group, did weights, and the rest took a combination of cardio and weights.

The resistance training group followed a regimen of working out 3 days a week doing 3 sets of 8 – 12 reps per day.

And the cardio group did a calorie deficit of running 12 miles per week at the exertion of 65% to 80% of their maximum heart rate. 

If you want to find your maximum heart rate, click here.

Meanwhile, the cardio and resistance training group have to both the same regimen as the cardio and resistance training group.


The graph shows the results after weeks of studies. 

Resistance training did considerably build lean body mass while losing fat, although the fat loss was not significant.

Cardio was effective against fat compared to resistance training.

The combination of cardio and resistance training built lean muscles and lost a good amount of fat. Giving time to do both is a trade-off to achieving optimum results.

[source: Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults]

Should you do cardio or weights for belly fat loss?

So which one is good for belly fat loss? Cardio or weights?

Going by the study, it seems the best method for belly fat loss is cardio. And a combined training of cardio and resistance training is also effective for weight loss.

Resistance training lost some fat mass but by a mediocre amount. 

My suggestion is to ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. Do I only want to lose weight?
  2. Do I only want to build muscles?
  3. Do I want to lose fat and build muscle?

If you choose 1, then you should only work on your cardio. An hour’s worth of cardio can boost your fat loss in the quickest time possible.

When your only priority is to build muscle, then you should ditch the cardio and focus on more sets and reps.

However, if you want to lose fat as well as build muscle, then it becomes the question of do you have the time?

You see, if you only had half an hour to exercise, then there isn’t much time to train.

By focusing on only one goal, the faster you can achieve it.

If you are like me, who have the patience and also want to build muscle as well as lose fat, you should do both. Although it will take longer to look lean and muscular, it will come.

Cardio vs weight training for belly fat

If your goal is to get rid of your belly fat fast, you should focus on cardio and more cardio. 

The best way to torch fat is to get your heart rate to your fat-burning zone. 

To find your zone, go to our calculator.

A caveat. If you are only doing cardio and you’re on a calorie deficit daily. You will lose lean muscles.

Weight training is not ideal for burning belly fat. However, you can lose belly fat in small increments. 

Weight training can help keep your muscles when you are doing cardio and restricting calories. 

So, when you are at a conundrum between cardio vs weight training for belly fat, don’t be. 

Why would you want want to lose muscles? A little bit of resistance training will help you keep them.

Weight training for belly fat loss

What if I told you, you could lose fat similar to cardio during weight training? 

You could cut the amount of time you spend in the gym in half by building muscle and burning fat simultaneously.


Let me tell you about the H.I.I.T. (High-Intensity Interval Training).

H.I.I.T. lets you train your muscles while doing cardio.

It’s the simple fix to your conundrum, cardio or weights for belly fat loss.

How do you do H.I.I.T.?

There are many ways you can do high-intensity interval training. However, our focus is to build muscle while losing fat. So, we have to combine strength training or resistance training with cardio.

No equipment? Just think bodyweights. The resistance you create will be your bodyweight.

Types of bodyweight exercises are pushups, crunches, tricep dips, and many more.

I usually engage in boxing and M.M.A. type of H.I.I.T. But this H.I.I.T. routine can melt the fat off your belly nonetheless.

There will be 3 rounds. Each round consists of 2 circuits. Exercises are 30 seconds each, and there will be a rest period of 45 seconds between circuits.

The first circuit is the following exercises:

  1. Star jump
  2. Fast feet
  3. High knee
  4. Power jack
  5. Toe tap 

The second circuit consists of the following:

  1. Star jump
  2. Hand walkout
  3. Squat
  4. Jumping lunge
  5. London bridge

Star Jump

To do the star jump, you are essentially forming a star up in the air.

  1. Start in a neutral position where your arms are on your side.
  2. When you jump, simultaneously stretch your arms out to your side in line or above your shoulder, and your legs should be spread apart.
  3. Land on the balls of your feet to minimize the impact on your joints.
  4. When you do land, land in the neutral position, your arms on your side and your legs shoulder-width apart.

Fast feet

  1. Run in place using the balls of your feet as fast as you can.
  2. Don’t raise your knees high.
  3. Aim to do 100 in 30 seconds.

High knee

  1. Similar to fast feet but you are emulating running.
  2. Run in place, raising your knee as high as you can.

Power jack

  1. Start with your feet together or shoulder-width apart.
  2. Jump and raise your arms in the air to the side and over your head. Simultaneously spread your legs apart sideways.
  3. Land with your feet wide apart, more than shoulder-width, and do a squat.
  4. Make sure your toes are pointing forward when you do the squat.

Toe tap

This motion resembles ice skating.

  1. Jump to your side, followed by your other leg, and tap on the floor.
  2. Alternate between legs.

End of circuit 1. Rest for 45 seconds

Make sure you engage your abs and slow down if the pace is too much. In saying that, push yourself because the only one you are cheating is you.

Also, make sure you drink water, during and after a workout on to circuit 2.

Star jump

You always start with star jump each circuit.

Hand walkout

  1. Start with a neutral position, arms relaxed to your side, legs shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend over as if to crawl but keep your legs straight as possible until you are at a pushup position.
  3. Once you get to the pushup position, you can do a push up if you want to, then using your hands, walk yourself back to the neutral position.


  1. Start in a neutral position with your feet slightly outside shoulder width.
  2. Lower your butt down as if you are going to sit on an imaginary chair.
  3. Put your hand out forward for balance if you need to.
  4. Drive your body back up using your heels to the starting position.

Jumping lunge

Jumping lunge is similar to a regular lunge where you put 1 leg forward and lower your body down but with a jump.

  1. Jump up, and when you land, 1 foot should be forward and the other foot behind you.
  2. The foot behind you should hit the floor on the balls of your feet.
  3. Do a squat and drive your body back up, ready to make another jump.
  4. When you jump, alternate with your other foot to be in front. 

London bridge

  1. Get into a plank position. Your elbow on the floor, whole body as straight as possible.
  2. Move buttocks side to side.

End of circuit. Rest and move onto round 2.

Cardio or weights for belly fat loss: the short version

What is the best method to lose belly fat? Cardio or weights?

If your sole focus is to lose weight and you don’t have the time, you should do cardio to lose your belly fat.

A caveat to doing only cardio is that you may lose some muscle mass. To counter this, you need to do some strength training. 

Doing cardio together with weights yields similar belly fat loss to doing cardio alone. Although you can preserve and build lean muscle doing cardio and strength training, you’re sacrificing a lot of time.

If you aim to burn fat, preserve muscles, and you don’t have the time like the gym rats, you can try high-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.)