The Effect of Resistance Training in Healthy Adults on Body Fat Percentage, Fat Mass and Visceral Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Sports Med. 2022 Feb;52(2):287-300. doi: 10.1007/s40279-021-01562-2. Epub 2021 Sep 18.


Background: Resistance training is the gold standard exercise mode for accrual of lean muscle mass, but the isolated effect of resistance training on body fat is unknown.

Objectives: This systematic review and meta-analysis evaluated resistance training for body composition outcomes in healthy adults. Our primary outcome was body fat percentage; secondary outcomes were body fat mass and visceral fat.

Design: Systematic review with meta-analysis.

Data sources: We searched five electronic databases up to January 2021.

Eligibility criteria: We included randomised trials that compared full-body resistance training for at least 4 weeks to no-exercise control in healthy adults.

Analysis: We assessed study quality with the TESTEX tool and conducted a random-effects meta-analysis, with a subgroup analysis based on measurement type (scan or non-scan) and sex (male or female), and a meta-regression for volume of resistance training and training components.

Results: From 11,981 records, we included 58 studies in the review, with 54 providing data for a meta-analysis. Mean study quality was 9/15 (range 6-15). Compared to the control, resistance training reduced body fat percentage by - 1.46% (95% confidence interval - 1.78 to - 1.14, p < 0.0001), body fat mass by - 0.55 kg (95% confidence interval - 0.75 to - 0.34, p < 0.0001) and visceral fat by a standardised mean difference of - 0.49 (95% confidence interval - 0.87 to - 0.11, p = 0.0114). Measurement type was a significant moderator in body fat percentage and body fat mass, but sex was not. Training volume and training components were not associated with effect size. Resistance training reduces body fat percentage, body fat mass and visceral fat in healthy adults.

Study registration:

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat
  • Male
  • Resistance Training*