Dumbbell exercises build your muscles but don't burn many calories.
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When it comes to calorie-burning, the emphasis has generally been on cardio exercises. An hour on the treadmill typically burns more calories than an hour in the weight room. But building muscle with dumbbells plays an important role in body composition by increasing lean muscle mass, which is more metabolically active than fat. By doing the right exercises with dumbbells at the right intensity, you can maximize your calorie burn.
Calories Burned Lifting Weights
All things being equal, lifting weights for half an hour burns 122 calories - about the same amount of calories as bowling or slow dancing for a 155-pound person, according to Harvard Medical School. That's a pretty low number of calories compared to activities typically thought of as good calorie-burners, such as running and cycling, which can burn 300 calories or more in 30 minutes for a 155-pound person.
You can burn more calories lifting weights by increasing the intensity of your weightlifting workout. According to Harvard, vigorous weightlifting burns about 223 calories in a half hour for a 155-pound person. That's about as many calories as you'd burn downhill skiing or a jogging slowly for 30 minutes.
Metabolic Activity of Lean Muscle
Cardio can help burn calories and fat, but it won't build as much muscle as dumbbell exercises. According to an article published by the University of New Mexico, muscle synthesis and breakdown contribute 20 percent of your total daily energy expenditure, while fat only contributes 5 percent. Lifting dumbbells and gaining muscle mass will help you increase your resting metabolic rate so that you burn more calories even when you're not exercising. It's estimated that gaining 4.5 pounds of muscle will increase your resting metabolic rate by 50 calories per day.
Benefits of Dumbbells
Dumbbells provide a few distinct advantages over resistance machines for calorie burning. Most weight machine exercises are performed seated, while most dumbbell exercises are performed standing. Standing burns slightly more calories than sitting, according to Harvard Medical School. Furthermore, when lifting dumbbells, you have to work harder to support and stabilize your body. This is contrary to machines that provide the support via seats and armrests. That added challenge also increases calorie burning.
In addition, dumbbells are more versatile than weight machines. They can be used to perform a wide range of compound exercises - exercises using more than one muscle group at a time - which burn more calories than isolated exercises that only work one muscle group, according to the American Council on Exercise. With a set of dumbbells, you can perform squats, squat thrusters, deadlifts, lunges with overhead press and other full-body exercises that burn more calories while you're doing them.
Burn Big With Dumbbells
You can maximize your total calorie expenditure in a dumbbell workout by doing compound exercises that recruit major muscle groups - the more at one time, the better. Working out at a vigorous pace without long rest breaks in between sets also increases calorie burn.
You can work dumbbell exercises into a high-intensity interval, or HIIT, workout that combines both strength training and aerobic conditioning. Do intervals of 30 to 45 seconds maximum-effort compound exercises with dumbbells, alternated with 10 to 20 seconds of rest, for a total of 30 minutes. You can also include intervals of cardio such as sprints, jumping jacks and jumping rope to intensify your calorie expenditure. It's a surefire way to torch a lot of calories.