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July 13, 2021 9 min read

If you Google the term "weight loss" more than 3 billion results return in a matter of seconds.  While there's a lot of weight loss information out there, what's the best of it? 

To clear the air, we are sharing our top 10 calorie-burning exercises for extreme body fat loss. Not only will these exercises help you lose weight, but you'll also  build lean muscle mass in the process.

Here are the best exercises for weight loss that you should integrate into your exercise routine ASAP!

before after photos of female fat loss body transformation

What Makes an Exercise Effective for Weight Loss?

In the world of weight loss, not all exercises are created equal. Some exercises help you lose weight better than others, simply because they burn more calories in less time. The primary factors that make these exercises more effective include:

  • Quickly boosting your heart rate into its fat-burning zone
  • Working your entire body
  • Combining cardio and strength training

First off, heart rate is a good indicator of how effective an exercise is for weight loss.  The higher your heart rate is, the better the exercise is for weight loss.  But, there is a particular point at which your heart rate goes so high that you start to burn your body's excess fat reserves.  That point is the start of your fat-burning zone.

Most people’s fat-burning zone begins where their heart rate is at about 70% of its maximum rate.  For example, if someone's maximum heart rate is 220, their heart rate would need to be at least 154 beats per minute to burn excess body fat. 

To get an idea of what your maximum heart rate is, subtract your age from 220.  Whatever that number comes out to be is approximately your maximum heart rate. Second, exercises that work your entire body get your heart rate up higher than exercises that work only one muscle group at a time. 

The more body parts moving, the more work you have to put in.  The more work you put in, the higher your heart rate goes and the more likely it gets into the fat-burning zone. Lastly, exercises that combine cardio and resistance are better for weight loss than pure cardio or pure resistance exercises.

Cardio boosts your heart rate, and resistance training builds lean muscle; these two factors combined are a winning fat loss combination. While we’ve already talked about the benefits of jacking up your heart rate, having muscle on your body raises your resting metabolism.

The higher your resting metabolism, the more calories you burn daily. Double down on weight loss by getting your heart rate up and building up your metabolism. Each of the following exercises incorporates the three winning factors for effective weight loss.  Get going with these exercises to start burning fat right now!

1. High-Intensity Interval Training

HIIT is technically a workout, not an exercise. But, it's so effective for weight loss that we had to add it to the list. HIIT is a workout in which you do short bursts of a high-intensity exercise between 20 and 60 seconds, followed by a quick 10 to 30-second break, then get right back to the high-intensity exercising. 

You usually do between 8 and 16 repetitions of the cycle.  What makes HIIT so effective? It has to do with how it gets your heart rate going. Unlike traditional exercises like running, where you exercise at a constant and moderate pace, HIIT has you bursting between periods of activity and rest.

These bursts cause your heart rate to jump between high and low rates. As a result, you experience an increase in something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

EPOC refers to how many calories your body burns after a workout. HIIT and other workouts that cause your heart rate to fluctuate help your body burn extra calories once your workout is completed. Therefore, you not only burn a significant amount of calories during the workout, but you burn even more once it's finished.

There are several different HIIT workout formats. One of the most effective ones is Tabata, which has you doing 20 second periods of intense calorie-burning exercise followed by only 10 seconds of rest. And, it has you alternating between cardio and resistance exercises.

Get started with HIIT by giving one of our favorite Tabata workouts a try!

2. Burpees

Burpees double as aerobic and anaerobic exercise. When compared to other cardio exercises, burpees burn more calories than almost any other exercise. Estimates show that burpees burn between 240 and 350 calories in a half-hour.

The variance in calories burned depends on a person's body weight. In comparison, biking and swimming burn an average of 223 calories per half hour. Moreover, burpees are a calorie bargain exercise. Here's how to do a burpee step-by-step:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet hip-distance apart and arms by your sides
  2. Do one big jump while lifting your arms above your head
  3. As soon as your feet hit the ground, squat down, bring your hands in between your feet and plant them on the floor
  4. Jump your feet backward so you end in a plank position; make sure that your back is neutral and your hands are planted directly underneath your shoulders
  5. From the plank, do a tricep or wide-arm push-up
  6. Once you press up from the push-up, jump your feet towards your hands and stand up tall
  7. Repeat!

The idea is to go from a jump, to a squat, to a plank, and then to a push-up as fast as you can to burn as many calories as possible. It's a true full-body workout and burns calories better than almost any other exercise.

3. Jumping Rope

The humble jump rope is a seemingly ineffective piece of exercise equipment. But, while it looks easy, it can make for a serious calorie-torching workout. Also, if you struggle with high-impact cardio exercises like running or burpees, then jumping rope can be a good replacement.

It takes a lot of the pressure off of your joints, making it more low-impact on your body. Here's a jump rope progression workout for you to try (do each exercise for 2 to 3 minutes):

  1. Single leg skips (alternating foot jumps)
  2. Double leg jumps (regular jumps)
  3. High knee single leg skips
  4. Side-to-side double leg jumps
  5. Double leg knee tuck jumps

As you make your way through the workout, each jump rope exercise gets more challenging, requires more coordination, and burns more calories.

4. Sprinting

Running is probably the most simple, straightforward exercise that you can do to lose weight. But, if you want to run and lose as much weight as possible, then run sprint intervals rather than long, moderately-paced distances.

Sprints are a form of HIIT. You can sprint for 20 to 60 seconds, walk for 10 to 30 seconds, and repeat.  To be considered a sprint, you need to run with at least 80% of your maximum effort. For a simple way to lose weight, just sprint!

Fitness Kettlebells swing exercise bearded man workout at gym

5. Kettlebells

Kettlebells are perhaps the best full-body exercise on this entire list. They target just about every muscle group in your body, from your shoulders to your calves. The great thing about kettlebells is that there are so many exercises you can do with them, including:

  • Traditional swings
  • Snatches
  • Clean and press
  • Turkish get-ups
  • Windmills

Traditional kettlebell swings are a classic, can't-go-wrong kettlebell exercise. If you're new to kettlebells, we suggest starting with this one. Here's how to do them with proper form:

  1. Place a kettlebell in between and slightly in front of your feet on the floor
  2. Send your hips backward, so your upper body comes close to parallel with the floor
  3. Grab the kettlebell with both hands, swing it back and between your legs, then drive your hips forward so that it swings up towards your shoulders
  4. As the kettlebell drops back between the legs, send your hips backward again
  5. Repeat! Continue powering your hips forward and back to keep the swing movement going

The idea is to generate a fluid swinging movement that is derived from hip power. Once you have the movement down, you get a great cardio workout and fire up all of the muscles in your posterior chain!

6. Kickboxing

Kickboxing has become increasingly popular in recent years. Olympic athletes, supermodels, and everyday gym-goers attest to how effective it is. According to Harvard Health, a 185-pound person burns about 420 calories from a half-hour of kickboxing. That makes it one of the most effective calorie-burning exercises.

Kickboxing, however, is very technical and typically requires the guidance of a professional trainer. Therefore, we suggest trying a kickboxing class!. Also, make sure to read our complete guide to kickboxing for weight loss.

If you're going to kickbox, do it the right way and burn the maximum amount of calories in the process!

7. Cross-Country Skiing

Not everyone has cross-country skis at their disposal. But, if you can get your hands on them, cross country skiing is one of the exercises you can do for weight loss. Not only is cross-country skiing an effective calorie burner, but it also helps to:

  • Build muscle in the lower and upper body
  • Improve cardiovascular endurance
  • Relieve stress due to being out in nature

If you ever get the chance to go cross-country skiing, we suggest taking it! In the meantime, you can get an effective workout by doing exercises that mimic skiing movements.

Ski jumps will help you lose weight and prepare for the slopes! Here's how to do them:

  1. Start standing with your feet together, knees slightly bent, and arms bent by your sides
  2. When you're ready, keep your feet together and jump as far as you can to the right
  3. Right after you land the jump, immediately jump back to the left with the same form
  4. Keep alternating between jumping to the left and the right

Another great way to practice ski jumps is to do them while hanging on to a TRX. The TRX will help you float from side to side while putting extra emphasis on strengthening your arms.

8. Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers target your core and shoulder muscles while getting your heart rate up. Get into a plank position on your toes and hands.  Create one long line with your body from your head to your heels.  Plant your hands firmly on the ground, directly underneath your shoulders.

When you're ready, pull your right knee towards the center of your chest so your abs crunch. Once it touches your chest, press it back into the starting position. Then, repeat with the left knee. Continue alternating between your right and left knees.

Once you get the hang of the movement, pick up the pace and start running your knees forward and back. It's the same motion as pulling your knees forward then pressing back, but at a quicker, jogging-like pace.  As you run your knees, make sure that your back stays neutral.

The reason it's called a mountain climber is that you're supposed to look as if you're climbing a mountain and the floor is a mountain. If you've got that look down, then you're probably doing the exercise correctly.

9. Lunges

Lunges target the entire lower body, including the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Standing up tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands on your hips, step your right foot about two to three feet forward. Then, bend your knees until your right thigh is parallel with the floor and your left knee hovers right above the ground.

Squeeze your lower body muscles at the bottom of the lunge, then press back up to standing. Repeat with the left leg. You can also step backward rather than forward if that's more comfortable for you. Lunges are both a great cardio and strength training exercise.

Rather than running or walking, you can do lunges while holding small hand weights for cardio. Or, you can hold heavier dumbbells and do a couple of reps at a time to strengthen your entire lower body.

10. Stationary Bike, Treadmill, or Rowing Machine

Stationary cardio equipment, including the bike, treadmill, and the rowing machine is good but not great for weight loss. At least, that depends on whether or not you use them effectively. The reason that stationary pieces of equipment aren't always the best for burning calories is that they require less work from your stabilizer muscles.

For example, when you ride a traditional bike, you need to engage your abs to keep the bike balanced. But, when you ride a stationary bike, you're already completely stabilized and don't need the help of your abs for balance. Therefore, the number of calories burned reduces significantly. Additionally, when using stationary equipment, many people default to moving at a steady, moderate pace, which is not the best if your goal is to burn tons of calories. 

However, there are some modifications you can apply when using stationary equipment to make them more calorie-burning and better for weight loss, including:

  • Doing intervals rather than a steady pace
  • Increasing the resistance on the machine (bike or rowing machine)
  • Setting the treadmill to an incline

When you apply one of these modifications, your stationary workout will burn a significant amount of more calories.

Final Thoughts

Weight loss can be challenging, but that doesn't mean it has to be complicated. Make weight loss simple by adding these top exercises to your workout routine.

There is a lot of weight-loss advice out there, and most of it is just noise. If you clear out that noise and replace it with these exercises and healthy eating, you will be on your way to dropping pounds in no time!

Bonus tip: Conventional advice says that eating breakfast is essential for weight loss.  But, is that true?  Here’s everything you need to know about  eating breakfast for weight loss!