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Published on December 25, 2019

10 Best Workouts to Lose Weight and Burn Fat

10 Best Workouts to Lose Weight and Burn Fat

If you’re a regular gym-goer and have indulged yourself a bit too much over the festivities, you might be looking for the quickest strategies to burn off the extra layers you’ve gained around your waist.

A common question my new clients ask me at the start of each year is “what are the best workouts to lose weight and burn fat?” and, very likely, that’s something you’re wondering as well since you’re reading this article.

The reality is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to this question, but there are ways to maximize the calories and fat you consume while exercising.

In this article, I’m going to explore which type of exercise consumes the most calories and why that may not matter when it comes to fat loss. I will also give you a framework of 10 activities you can do each day that will help you maximize the amount of fat you burn (yes, even belly fat).

What Exercise Burns the Most Fat?

Before getting to the meat, let me break a myth: no exercise will burn more belly fat. That’s a sad truth, I know.

Different types of exercise have a different metabolic impact on the body. This means that some types of exercises consume more calories while you’re doing them, and other types consume less.

If you’re looking for pure calorie-consumption, the science is clear: some activities burn more than others. Exercises like weight training don’t burn as much as cardio, but they have an afterburn effect.[1] A common trick to add the afterburn effect to the most calorie-consuming cardio activities is to implement the HIIT strategy (I’ll explain how to do that for each of the activities I’m going to suggest).

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for net fat loss, you might have to take into consideration several variables in addition to what exercise you’re performing (such as sleep, rest, nutrition, and stress management).

For now, I’m going to explore the most and least calorie-consuming type of exercise, and I’ll tell you how to make them even more calorie-consuming.

1. Jumping Rope

The burn:

667-990 calories/hour (if you’re jumping at 120 skips per minute)

The bonus burn:

As it turns out, this little rope is actually a big-time fat burner. Try using a weighted jump rope to engage your arms and shoulders even more.

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2. Running Up Hills/Stair Sprints

The burn:

639-946 calories/hour

The bonus burn:

You want to sprint at max effort on stairs or a hill at a pace that you can only maintain for about 20 seconds, and follow that with a recovery run at half of the intensity of the sprint and double the time. The harder you push yourself during those sprints, the greater the burn. This is a type of HIIT, a renowned type of cardio training that consumes more calories per minute than steady-state cardio.[2]

3. Kickboxing

The burn:

582-864 calories/hour

The bonus burn:

Whether you’re kicking it on your own or in class, make sure you keep the rest periods between rounds of jabs and kicks super short. Aim for 30 seconds of rest for every 90 seconds of sparring. Once again, follow the HIIT principle.

4. Cycling Intervals

The burn:

568-841 calories/hour

The bonus burn:

Riding at a sustained high intensity will give you a greater burn as compared to a steady-state ride at a low intensity, but adding high-intensity intervals throughout that training time will increase the afterburn even more.

5. Running

The burn:

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566-839 calories/hour (10 min/mile)

The bonus burn:

After running at a steady pace, you’ll continue to burn extra calories over the rest of the day. To torch more during and after your workout, add short bursts of sprints into your run. I recommend keeping a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio to get the most afterburn. For example, if you run for 60 seconds, walk 30 seconds.

6. Kettlebell Circuit

The burn:

554-822 calories/hour

The bonus burn:

A HIIT circuit using kettlebells can keep the afterburn going for 36 hours after you leave the gym. To get the best results, make sure you’re doing a fluid circuit and not stopping to rest between each move. I recommend switching between upper- and lower-body movements so you can keep exercising for a longer period of time. Try doing a set of kettlebell swings, kettlebell squats, and kettlebell push presses. Then, rest for 15 to 20 seconds after completing the three moves.

7. Stationary Bike

The burn:

498-738 calories/hour (at a vigorous pace)

The bonus burn:

To get the most afterburn, start with 10 seconds of intense pedaling (100 RPMs or more) and 50 seconds of rest. Then, move to 15 seconds of sprints and 45 seconds of rest, and do 20 seconds of sprints 40 seconds of rest after that. Don’t forget to turn up the resistance as you progress.

8. Rowing Machine

The burn:

481-713 calories/hour (at 150 watts, which you can check on the machine)

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The bonus burn:

To get maximum calorie burn, row in fast, one-minute intervals (150 watts), and take 30- to 60-second active rest periods by alternating between squats, pushups, and planks.

9. Stairs

The burn:

452-670 calories/hour (when going 77 steps/minute)

The bonus burn:

Whether you’re working the StairMaster or running steps around town like Rocky, stair climbing provides a good mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. To up the ante, hold a dumbbell in each hand to get your upper body fired up, too.

10. Strength Training

The burn:

341-504 calories/hour

The bonus burn:

You’ll increase your afterburn by working your muscles to exhaustion each set instead of stopping at an arbitrary rep range like 10 or 12. And focus on compound movements that employ more muscle groups over more joints like deadlifts and overhead presses.

Surprise surprise, weight training ranks at the bottom of the chart, and you might be wondering whether cardio is better than weight training for weight loss. Let me answer that.

Is Cardio Better Than Weight Training for Weight Loss?

And the answer is…drum roll…

Yes!

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Yes, if you want to see that number on the scale drop, cardio will do a better job than weight training. For example, a study from the University of Copenhagen looked at the effect of cycling to work versus hitting the gym for weight loss among overweight people.[3]

They divided the participants into two groups: Group one was asked to cycle a 14k commute to work twice a day when group two was asked to exercise five days per week at the gym from 35 to 55 minutes per session. Surprisingly, the group that cycled was the one experiencing the highest amount of weight loss.

Does this mean that doing cardio five times each week will burn the most fat? Not necessarily.

The main issue with only focusing on cardio when trying to lose weight is that combining long sessions with a daily caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than what we consume each day), inevitably leads to muscle loss.

Having more muscle tissue has been linked to a multitude of benefits like increased thyroid function (that also boosts metabolism), improved blood sugar levels (that, in turn, help with fat loss), reduced stress levels (that contribute not just to health but also to fat loss) and improved energy (that makes you more likely not to skip training sessions or to snack on comfort food).[4]

The big question in your mind at this point might be: how do I maximize the calories I burn without losing muscle?

The solution: combining weight training with HIIT cardio.

A new study by researchers at Wake Forest University suggests combining weight training with a low-calorie diet preserves much needed lean muscle mass that can be lost through aerobic workouts.[5]

This evidence leads us to consider a mixed approach to exercise (that incorporates weights, HIIT, and regular cardio) as the best approach to a healthy and quick fat loss.

How Much Should I Exercise to Lose Weight?

The answer to this question is extremely personal, and it needs to take into considerations:

  • Your current level of exercise
  • Your schedule
  • Your ability to rest and recover (dictated by sleep and stress)
  • Your diet

That being said, a good idea to kickstart your fat-loss journey would be to pick one of the top 3 calorie-burning activities I’ve listed above and combine it with a few weight training sessions each week.

If you’re a beginner, start with one hour each week and build up according to how you feel. If you’re a seasoned athlete, you can probably handle anywhere from five to twelve hours of mixed cardio and weights each week.

Once again, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Experiment and find out what works best for you.

More About Losing Weight

Featured photo credit: Jonathan Borba via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Davide Alfonsi

Online Weight Loss And Exercise Specialist

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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