There are so many exercises out there billed for weight loss, to shrink this body part or build that muscle. But when you’re looking to transform your entire body and improve your cardiovascular health, where do you start?
While there is no one best exercise to lose weight, there are effective exercises using compound movement for weight loss.
As you know, losing weight is more than just a smaller number on the scale. You want to keep the muscle that you’ve earned while burning fat. Logically.
Meet the body composition exercise. This is the ideal exercise to reach your weight loss goal. Pair with a fast pace and good form and you’ll be well on your way to building bone density (fight osteoporosis!), burning belly fat, and increasing your lean muscle mass.
Your body composition is your body’s ratio of fat to lean muscle. Note: this includes all of your muscles, bones, and organs (1).
This equation gives you a body fat percentage. For a woman, a “fit” percentage is between 21 and 24. For a man, it’s between 14 and 17%.
Naturally, this means, if you want to change your body’s shape or rid yourself of weight gain, you need to decrease your percentage of body fat. Makes sense. But how?
A great way to do this is to engage in different exercises that build your muscle while burning fat, consuming fewer calories, and a diet of lean protein.
Adding workouts to lose weight is the best way to increase your aerobic capacity and torch that belly fat.
You can add a variety of workouts like pilates, aerobics, or kickboxing. You can pedal hard on a stationary bike in a spin class, go on a long run on a treadmill, swim laps, or take HIIT workouts.
But those costs can add up or take up time you don’t really have.
Work smarter. The best way is to add the exercises in the high-intensity workout described below to your weekly routine.
But it’s not quite entirely that simple. Your metabolism is the process that converts what you consume (food and drink) into energy (2). This is your metabolic rate.
Exercise boosts your metabolism. This burn effect is called your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. Logically, this means you’ll burn a lot of calories with more activity.
Adding these seven exercises below will boost your metabolism by burning extra calories and packing on more lean muscle.
Before we get into the seven best exercises, let’s talk about interval training.
This type of exercise alternates between short, intense bursts of activity with recovery in between (3). It is also called Tabata or HIIT.
This targets both your aerobic and anaerobic systems. Your aerobic system uses oxygen to convert carbohydrates into energy for longer periods of time.
On the other hand, your anaerobic system uses the carbs stored in your muscles for your short bursts of activity.
Intervals allow you to work harder for a shorter period of time while increasing your endurance, decreasing your risk of injury, and burning more calories for weight loss. It’s also fun!
You can combine the physical activity covered below with any type of cardio to create your own interval workout!
To do so, choose the cardio-intense activity and length of time you want to exercise. If you’re a beginner, start with 10 – 20 minutes of exercise. For the advanced, try 30 – 60 minutes of strength exercise.
Then choose your work to recovery interval. Your recovery interval can be stretching or even a brisk walk.
Don’t know where to start? Try 60 – 120 seconds of a high-intensity all-out effort to fatigue your muscles combined with up to 300 seconds of rest or 5 minutes of lower intensity.
As you progress onto the next exercise, you can lengthen the work interval and shorten the recovery periods.
7 Best Strength Training Exercises to Lose Weight
Before starting HIIT workouts, an exercise routine, weight training, aerobic exercise, or any type of workout, a warm-up for about 5 – 10 minutes.
End every session with a 5-minute cooldown form of exercise and stretch.
For these best exercises, you don’t need fancy gym equipment like expensive treadmills, a stair master, or an exercise bike. You don’t need to jog or sprint for hours on end.
You don’t need to hire a personal trainer or take a pilates or hot yoga classes. Those are expensive!
These can all be performed as bodyweight exercises. But know that a great way to kick it up a notch for building muscle is to add dumbbells. Kettlebells are also a great option.
Note: consult a medical professional or physical therapist for medical advice before starting a new daily routine, especially if you have preexisting health conditions.
As a personal trainer, the plank is a personal favorite isometric exercise. It’s a popular way to work your abs, back, glutes, arms, and legs. It’s great for good posture and toning your muscles.
The key to this low-impact exercise is proper form.
Plant your hands directly under your shoulders and spread your fingers wide to create a stable base.
Tuck your toes and engage your glutes and core, lifting your hips. Do not lock your knees. Gaze slightly forward. There should be a straight line from the tip of your head to your heels.
Hold for 30 seconds to start. Don’t forget to breathe!
Add time with experience for stronger abs. It’s mind over matter in this highly effective move.
The best part about this exercise is that the variations are endless! You can perform on your forearms or on your side. You can also add Russian Twists or hip dips. These are a great way to target your obliques.
Rows are not the only effective way to burn fat and tone your arms!
To build strength in your upper body, add pushups to your routine. This great move will target your biceps, triceps, abs, shoulders, and pectoral muscles. They will also strengthen your lower back and core.
Start in a plank with straight arms. Note: you can also perform on your knees.
Slowly lower your torso towards the ground without losing proper form, arms at a 90-degree angle, elbows in. On an exhale, return back to the starting position. That is 1 rep.
Want a more intense variation for that calorie burn? Try performing on an incline.
The glute bridge is a low-impact lower-body workout that targets your posterior chain, hamstrings, core, buttocks, and hip muscles.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Have your arms by your sides, palms down.
Ground your shoulders, arms, and feet. On an exhale, use your hamstrings and quads to lift your hips to create a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Squeeze your glutes. With control, slowly lower your hips to the ground. Keep a steady pace.
Kick it up a notch by holding weights or a barbell in front of your lap as you lift and lower or add crunches.
Strengthen your glutes, quads, and abs with the squat exercise.
This compound exercise is all about control. Take your time.
To perform the basic squat, stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Evenly distribute your weight between both feet and keep your weight in the heels and balls of each foot. Avoid any weight on your toes.
Extend your arms out in front of you, palms down. Your arms should be parallel to the floor.
With a neutral spine, engage your core as you slowly start to bend at the hips and knee joints, lowering your seat until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Your knees should not go past your toes.
On an exhale, press through your feet to return to the starting position. Continue for your desired number of reps.
Want muscle gain? Add weight! You can hold a dumbbell in each hand, hold a kettlebell in front of your chest, or a barbell in your hands for front squats. To take it even further, add kettlebell swings or a deadlift! Add heavier weights with strength training experience.
Burpees get a lot of hate. They are a tough bodyweight full-body workout!
But this exercise is a great workout that will set your entire body on fire while increasing your heart rate and burning extra calories. They target virtually every muscle group in your body. They are a great exercise to add to your High-Intensity Interval Training, HIIT for short.
This exercise will test your stamina, elevate your heart rate and burn a large number of calories in a short amount of time.
Burpees can be broken into 4 high-intensity movements.
Step 1: Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width distance apart at the top of your mat. Lower into a squat, placing your hands on the ground, underneath your shoulders.
Step 2: Hop back while simultaneously straightening your legs, landing in a plank position. Keep your arms extended.
Step 3: Hop your feet back to the top of your mat, framing your hands, and return back to the squat position.
Step 4: Explode through your legs and calves, jumping as high as you can while stretching open your body. Reach your arms above your head.
That is 1 rep. Keep a steady pace.
If that seems intense, consider a modification: take it slower, move at your own pace, or skip the hop at the end to protect your joints.
If you want to make it more intense, perform at a faster pace, and add a pushup or any plank variation at step 2. You can also add weight via barbell for the squat section.
Not enough? Add crosses, hooks, and uppercuts or box jumps in step 4.
Mountain Climbers are a full-body workout that will test your coordination and exertion and get your heart pumping, similar to running up a flight of stairs.
This low-impact exercise targets your shoulders, chest, and upper back muscle groups while simultaneously lighting up your core, quads, and glutes.
Begin in a pushup position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Using your core strength, pull your right knee into your chest. Return back to the starting position and switch sides by pulling your back knee into your chest.
Alternate legs as you speed up the movement for a higher intensity with a moderate pace.
Battle ropes are not the only rope exercise for the best results in burning belly fat!
Jumping rope is a versatile and fun type of exercise (that this personal trainer loves!) that is one of the most effective forms of cardio.
You can incorporate it as a 10-minute warm-up or as a 3-minute break between rounds of resistance training, weight training, or a HIIT workout.
A study found that jumping rope at a moderate pace is the equivalent of running an 8-minute mile. (4)
This cardiovascular exercise is also good for preventing heart disease, coordination strengthens your entire body, and burns a ton of calories in a short amount of time.
Hold each end of the rope in each hand with the middle of the rope behind your heels. Keep your elbows in as you turn your wrists to swing the rope overhead and hop over the middle as it comes around.
There are many variations you can try once you get the hang of it. Start at a moderate pace and speed up your tempo. Cross your arms. Swing the rope around twice per jump. Try fancy footwork. Be creative and have a blast!
Don’t forget to warm up your calves and leg ligaments with some leg raise beforehand!
Transforming your body while building strength is a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be! Especially with these 7 best workouts to lose weight.
There are many effective ways to target your major muscle groups through weight loss exercises using your own body weight.
You don’t need expensive equipment like a Stairmaster or fancy HIIT classes.
You also don’t necessarily need to hire a trainer to gain muscle mass, get rid of that belly fat or get that body burn.
What you need are these 7 body composition exercises to lose weight. Cardiovascular exercise is the best way to get started on your journey to fat loss. Regular exercise targeting all of your muscle groups is the first step.
Add a healthy diet of lean protein with a calorie deficit (track your calorie intake) to your routine and boost your metabolism (EPOC) with interval, weight training, resistance, and strength training. Have a regular exercise plan to get to a healthy weight.
But most importantly (before we finish), remember to have fun! Exercising and weight loss don’t have to be super serious.
Enjoy yourself. You’ll be more likely to stick to it if you do.