Every muscle building exercise is helpful for fat loss… overall. Unfortunately, there’s no way to dictate what part of your body loses fat.
BUT! Strength training can still have a big impact on your fat loss or weight loss. Here’s why:
Back in 1992, research was done to determine the metabolic rate of different tissues in the body (1). The results confirm the old gym -and-weight-loss saying, “muscle burns more calories than fat”. In science terms, it is more metabolically active – almost three times as much. The original findings still stand, telling us that:
- Each kg of muscle burns 13 calories per day
- Each kg of fat burns 4.5 calories per day
(One kg = 2.2 pounds, for anyone on the imperial system.)
There has been additional research based on the 1992 findings, which has confirmed the above findings (this is how we know that the previous results didn’t just happen by chance). This additional research has also shown that the above figures don’t vary much, regardless of age, sex, or overall bodyweight (2).
By confirming that muscle is indeed more metabolically active than fat – that it burns more calories than fat does, simply by existing – we can be confident that adding any amount of muscle anywhere will aid in fat loss.
Fat storage and loss happens without any conscious control. We don’t get a say in where our bodies store fat. We also can’t control which fat stores might get used first. So as much as you might want to “spot reduce” or “spot tone” to decrease the fat storage in a specific area… We just can’t (without liposuction). If you’re burning fat through diet and exercise, that fat is going to burn off from all over your body, not just here or there.
Consistent strength training will generally increase your muscle mass, especially if you are training in the rep ranges that stimulate hypertrophy (muscle growth). So chest building exercises will support your fat loss, especially if done at high volume – at least three sets of 8-12 reps.
If you are training for building size, I’d also consider not just focusing on your chest. For both fat loss and weight loss reasons, as well as symmetry and aesthetic considerations, you’ll benefit from training all major muscles. The large muscles on the back of the body often get less attention, but working your traps, lats, glute, and hamstrings can have a huge impact on your overall size and muscle mass. Balanced front-to-back and left-to-right training can also decrease risk of overuse injury – because injury is one of the sure-fire ways to put all that fat right back on.
Want to learn more?
- Elia, M. Organ and tissue contribution to metabolic rate. In: Kinney, JM.; Tucker, HN., editors. Energy Metabolism: Tissue Determinants and Cellular Corollaries. Raven Press; New York: 1992. p. 61-80.
- Müller MJ, Wang Z, Heymsfield SB, Schautz B, Bosy-Westphal A. Advances in the understanding of specific metabolic rates of major organs and tissues in humans. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 Sep;16(5):501-8. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328363bdf9. PMID: 23924948.