Fitness

The Best Exercises for Weight Loss
Serious Calorie-Burning Workouts

Your Complete Guide To Exercising For Weight Loss
Isaac Robertson
Written by Isaac Robertson

One of the biggest reasons people see disappointing results from their weight loss efforts is that they don’t complement healthy eating and nutrition with exercise.

Of course, cutting back on carbs in the food you eat is crucial to any good weight loss plan, but you also need to burn off the calories you’ve been carrying around on your gut, butt and elsewhere.

​Exercise will help build lean muscle and give form to your new body.

It will also help keep the weight off once you’ve met your targets.

So make the following exercises part of your nutrition and weight reduction plan and get the results you’ve been hoping for.

​Top 10 Exercises To Lose Weight

1. Strength Training

woman doing a squat exercise

If people include any sort of exercise as part of their weight loss routine, it’s almost always cardio. They hit the treadmill or sign up for an aerobics class and that’s about it.

But recently more and more folks have discovered that there’s weight loss to be had by lifting weights.

Resistance and weight training are about more than getting big arms.

 An average sized guy will burn about 500 calories per hour doing squats, curls and such in the weight room. But the calorie consumption doesn’t stop there. In the hours after your workouts, as the amino acids get busy, your body devours even more fat repairing damaged muscle and building new muscles.

Pro tip: If you really want to max out your strength training/weight loss efforts try Tabata workouts. Tabata training (named after Dr. Izumi Tabata) calls for 20 seconds of flat out effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Then another 20 seconds of effort and 10 seconds of rest, for a total of 4 minutes.

2. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

That’s one reason why HIIT has become so popular. HIIT calls for outbursts of intense effort followed by a short period of rest and then another intense outburst and another rest, for anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes or more. (1)

But wait. Isn’t that Tabata training? It’s true the two workouts are similar. But they diverge in the amount of time you spend on the intervals. 

Whereas Tabata calls for strict adherence to the 20/10 4 minute rule, HIIT workouts may call for 90/20 and 40 minutes. While the exact number of calories you shed will vary depending on the exercise, on average, you can expect to burn about 200 calories per 20 minutes of HIIT training.

Pro tip: Regardless of the exercise you do, with HIIT workouts it’s all about maintaining proper form. You’ll be exerting yourself to such a degree that poor form could open you up to injury.

You can read more about HIIT here.

3. Kickboxing or Boxing

Any type of boxing is great for toning, improving coordination and losing weight. It’s a true full body workout that engages parts of your body you may have forgot you had. It’s particularly effective at calorie-burning and helping to turn your 1 pack into a 6 pack. (2)

Someone who weighs 180 pounds can expect to burn about 850 calories during an hour of kickboxing. 

If you weigh 125 pounds, you can expect to burn in the neighborhood of 600 calories, which is a very good neighborhood to be in if you want to lose weight.

Pro tip: Meditating before your boxing sessions is one of the best ways to improve focus and reaction times. You’ll likely become a far better boxer and enjoy a wider range of benefits from your workouts if you center yourself before you enter the gym.

4. Jump Rope

A jump rope can fit into a daypack, weighs about a pound, costs about as much as a T-shirt and can be used by practically anyone to help shed weight.

There’s a reason boxers jump rope while training for big fights. It helps build stamina and lean muscle, improves coordination and melts fat like crazy. The jump rope typically burns about 10 calories per minute. 

Which means that if you just jump twice a day for 10 minutes at a time, you’ll melt away about 200 calories per day. Besides losing weight, jumping rope is also great for toning your butt, legs and gut and strengthening cardio.

Pro tip: To lose weight and tone more effectively it’s best to alternate your feet as you jump. Go from landing with both feet to just the right foot, to just the left foot to the right foot to the left foot to both fee and so on. Not just both feet the entire time.

5. Running (Moderate Pace)

If you have a decent pair of sneakers you can start running.

Running is one of the most effective exercises there is for promoting fat loss and keeping weight off. (3)

You can do it any day of the year any time of the day and both alone or with other people. As a general rule the more you weigh the more you’ll burn while running. 

 So a 140 pound runner moving along at a moderate pace may burn 300+ calories over 30 minutes. While for a 180 pounder also running at a moderate pace it may be more than 400.

Pro tip: A University of Glasgow study showed that exercising prior to breakfast generated greater weight loss and significantly lower levels of adipose in the blood. So hit the road before hitting the breakfast table.

6. Rowing

The rowing machine is hard to beat for muscle growth and endurance training. It’s also one of the best resistance machines in the gym for losing weight and keeping it off.

In addition to helping you burn fat, the rowing machine will also improve your metabolic rate so you’ll burn fat even while sitting at your desk.

With moderate effort, a 150 pound person will burn about 250 calories over 30 minutes with the machine set to 5 on a scale of 10. With the machine set to 10 (or the equivalent), that same person will burn just over 300 calories in 30 minutes.

Pro tip: When you drive your legs into the heel rest on each stroke you force the muscles in your lower body to work harder and burn more fat. So make sure you’re using your whole body to row, not just your arms and shoulders.

7. Crossfit

A Crossfit workout routine is typically short, intense, and requires you to engage every part of your body in one way or another.

The WOD or Workout of the Day often includes things like kettlebell swings, burpees, weight training and box jumps with other activities like rope climbing, chin ups, squats and rowing tossed in for good measure. The point of each WOD is to build strength and increase endurance.

But WODs can vary slightly from day to day. Because of that, it’s hard to pin down precisely how much fat you’ll lose from Crossfit. But as a general rule, an average sized person can expect to burn about 12 calories per minute.

Pro tip: Crossfit workouts can be super intense and really help in gaining muscle. But if you’re in pain or feel something is just not right with some part of your body, put down the weights and talk to your Crossfit coach. They don’t give awards for “Most willing to endure injury”.

8. Sprinting

When people think of running to shed excess weight they normally think of jogging.

But sprinting can be a great way to shed the fat and build up your legs.

Studies have shown that just 2 1/2 minutes of these types of high-intensity workouts can melt off as many as 200 calories. While some trainers contend you can burn as many as 50 calories for every flat-out 100 meter sprint you run.

Pro tip: To increase calories burned, make sure to kick your knees up while you run. The goal should be to get your thigh parallel to the running surface at the top of your stride. The greater your level of physical engagement the more you’ll burn.

9. Swimming

Swimming is one of the best low-impact ways known to burn calories and build muscle. Swimming utilizes most of your muscles and is excellent cardio training because your heart and lungs have to work hard to supply all those muscles with blood and oxygen. (4)

The number of calories you burn swimming will depend in large part on how hard and how long you swim.

On average, a 130 pound swimmer will burn around 600 calories an hour swimming hard and 400 swimming slow. While for a 180 pound swimmer the numbers will be more like 800 per hour swimming fast and 550 swimming slow.

Optimize your workout by getting a fitness tracker for swimming.

Pro tip: If you want to ramp up the number of calories you burn while swimming, get some equipment involved. Flippers for instance, do a great job of elevating the heart rate. They also stimulate muscle activation all the way from your toes to your torso.

10. Cycling

Cycling itself won’t help you add kilos of bristling muscle mass, but it is another low-impact form of exercise that is ideal for helping you shed weight and keep it off.

It’s easy on your joints, you can do it alone or in a group (like running) and you can even do it indoors on the stationary bike. A 140 pound cyclist going 15-20 mph for an hour will consume on average about 750 calories.

If that person were to ramp up the average speed to more than 20 mph they could potentially burn just over 1,000. The trick to losing weight and gaining muscle cycling is to keep pedaling and keep the heart rate up.

Pro tip: If you need a bit of motivation to keep your legs pumping while you’re on the bike try listening to music. Music produces what’s known as the “rhythm response” which is a natural tendency to sync our physical movements with the beat.

​Other Training Tips To Consider

While the workout you come up with will likely vary considerably based on your own preferences, needs, and goals, there are some general guidelines that you’ll want to follow.

If you put these into place, you can feel more confident that you are stepping forward on the right foot.

  • Rest Days - Rest is key! Without rest, your body will not recover and grow back stronger than it was before. It’s rest that allows you to make progress. Everyone should take at least one day off for rest and recovery each week. Some people may need two days off, and others may even need three.
  • Combine Resistance Training & Cardio - To form a well-rounded workout program, you’ll want to include both resistance training as well as cardiovascular exercise. This gives you benefits of both worlds and helps you achieve the highest level of fitness.
  • Always Focus On Form First - Don’t ever let your form slip while doing your exercise training. If you move out of good form due to fatigue, stop and rest until you can continue using the right form.If you aren’t sure how to use proper form in any given exercise, get help from a trained professional. Most gyms have staff who can assist with this.
  • Regulate Your Breathing - Breathing during your workout is a must, but many people hold their breath. This is especially the case with weight lifting workouts.Keep your breathing regulated and you’ll have more energy and a greater overall strength output.
  • Warm Up Every time - Your warm-up is key to preventing injuries, getting your body ready to perform optimally, and for getting your head in the zone.Take 5-10 minutes and perform some light cardio exercise, some arm and leg swings, and some gentle range of movement stretches.
  • Eat Well Beforehand - before any higher intensity session, it’s important to have the right fuel in your body. You’ll want to be giving your body a combination of lean protein along with complex carbohydrates, eating this about 90-120 minutes prior to your workout session beginning.

Exercising for Weight Loss: The Bottom Line

The key to losing weight and keeping it off is to combine healthy eating with a workout routine. Any of the above listed exercises and training tips will help you lose the weight faster, build muscle and sculpt your new body into one that is more fit and responsive.

They’ll also enable you to keep the weight off once you achieve your weight reduction goals. So what are you waiting for? Sustainable weight loss is not an impossible dream.

All it takes to get and stay healthy is the willingness to get up off your butt and invest a bit of time in exercise. 


​References

​1. Marissa Gold, High Intensity Interval Training: What Is HIIT, And How Do You Know If You're Doing It?, retrieved from https://www.self.com/story/what-is-high-intensity-interval-training-benefits

2. Kara Mayer Robinson, Kickboxing, retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/kickboxing-benefits

3. Kiera Carter, Hailey Middlebrook, 6 Science-Backed Tips on How to Approach Running for Weight Loss, retrieved from https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a25646745/running-for-weight-loss/

4. Bethany Cadman, Physical and mental benefits of swimming, retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321496.php

About the author

Isaac Robertson

Isaac Robertson

I’m a personal fitness trainer and nutritionist living in sunny Indianapolis, IN. I’ve spent the last 8 years staying at the forefront of the health and fitness industry. In that time, I’ve helped hundreds of people shed the excess weight and get into shape, maintaining their healthy new lifestyle through proper training and eating habits. You can read more about me here​.

  • Hey man, thanks for this article. The current physical activity I’m into is running. Guess I have to add another weight loss exercise to burn more calories.

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