Fat Burning Workouts
Strength training is important when working on reducing body fat, because it keeps you from losing muscle while you’re eating fewer calories. If you avoid strength training, you’re likely to lose muscle when you lose body fat. Having less muscle not only means having less strength, it also means that you’ll burn fewer calories. With a proper strength training program, you’ll not only counteract the muscle loss, but slightly increase your muscle mass and give your metabolism a boost.
For fat burning workouts, we recommend that you focus on movements, rather than on exercising specific muscles. There’s nothing wrong with single-joint/isolation exercises, but compound exercises such as squats and push-ups use more muscles than isolation exercises such as biceps curls or leg extensions, giving you the most “bang for your buck” in terms of the time you spend in the gym. Focus on these key movement patterns: squatting, hip hinge (like deadlifts), pulling, and pushing.
You’ve likely heard of squats. What you might not realize is that in the squat family, there are many variations, including split-stance movements like lunges and single-leg movements like Bulgarian split squats. Squats are a great exercise for both improving lower body strength as well as core strength and stability. Take a look at this article for more details about squatting.
Hip hinge exercises are another type of lower body exercise. Instead of starting by bending at the knee like in squatting movements, the movement starts by bending (or hinging) at the hip. Exercises in the hip hinge family include deadlifts (all variations), Romanian deadlifts, glute bridges, step-ups, and hip thrust. Here are a few great articles about deadlifts and hip thrusts.
Pushing exercises involve, you guess it, pushing with the upper body (though some pushing exercises can involve the entire body, such as prowler pushes, or push presses). Examples of pushing exercises include all variations of push-ups, shoulder presses, bench presses. Here are two great articles about pressing movements and push-ups specifically.
Pulling exercises are also typically upper body exercises where you pull (though, as with pushing exercises, there are some pulling exercises that involve the entire body, such as sled pulls). Examples of pulling exercises include all variations of inverted rows, chin-ups (with or without assistance), pull-ups (with or without assistance), bent-over rows, and lat pull-downs.
Pick one exercise from each group (squat, hip hinge, push, and pull). Ideally, you will pair a lower body and upper body exercise (this is called a superset). With each superset perform five to 12 reps of the first exercise, rest for 60 seconds, and move to the second exercise, perform five to 12 reps, and rest for 60 seconds. That’s one round. Perform three to five rounds per superset, then move to the next pair of exercises (the next superset).
The weight you use should be the heaviest load possible with which you can maintain perfect form, while being able to finish the reps and still have one or two reps left “in the tank” (meaning you could do one or two more reps).
Other Exercises to Burn Fat
Yes, we’re talking about cardiovascular training. There are two main types of cardiovascular training: high intensity with breaks, and moderate intensity. Some examples of aerobic exercises include:
- Stair climbing
- Cross-country skiing
- Bodyweight exercise
Keep in mind that most of these exercises can be used to perform high or moderate intensity cardio, depending on how you program them.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High-intensity interval training (or HIIT), an important element of fat burning workouts, alternates between very short periods of intense exercise and periods of rest. For example, after an easy jog for five to 10 minute as a warm-up, sprint as fast as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 60 seconds. That’s one round. Sprint again for 20 seconds and rest for 60 seconds. That’s round two. You would typically complete three to five rounds and then cool down for five to 10 minutes.
The most important thing with HIIT is to work as hard as you can when you’re ‘sprinting.’ We’ve heard people say they’re “advanced” and 20 seconds isn’t long enough for them to feel anything. Nope, they’re just not going all out. The intensity for those 20 seconds should be along the lines of “a bear is chasing you, and it’s incredibly close!”
To progress, you can increase your work time (the sprinting), decrease the rest time, or increase the number of rounds. I suggest only changing one thing at a time.
You can do almost anything for HIIT, running, cycling, rowing and bodyweight exercise.
NOTE: if you’re new to high-intensity cardio or haven’t exercised in a while, remember that jumping into a workout program and working at a super high intensity probably isn’t a good idea. Instead, make sure you’re working at an intensity level that’s safe for your ability level.
Moderate intensity cardio (MIC)
Many of you have read that “cardio” is bad for you, and many of you have read that “cardio” is all you should be doing for fat loss. While your fat burning workouts definitely shouldn’t be cardio-only, some cardio is helpful. When used properly, it can help you recover more quickly from strength training and HIIT.
Moderate intensity cardio is any activity (such as walking, jogging, cycling, rowing) that you can do while holding a conversation. Your heart rate should be between 120-140 beats per minute the whole time. Twenty to 30 minutes, one to two times a week is a sufficient starting point for most women.
How To Burn Fat: Pulling It All Together
Depending on how much time you have, you can combine strength and cardio training in different ways.
For fat loss, in an ideal world, you’d be training four to five hours a week.
- Monday: 50 minutes strength training + 15 minutes HIIT
- Tuesday: 50 minutes strength training + 30 minutes MIC
- Wednesday: OFF
- Thursday: 50 minutes strength training
- Friday: 50 minutes strength training + 15 minutes HIIT
- Saturday: 30 minutes MIC
- Sunday: OFF
TOTAL TRAINING TIME: 4 hours and 50 minutes
Lastly, consistency matters more than you think when it comes to how to burn body fat. Rather than adding more to your workouts and eating less to lose weight faster, focus on sustainability. If you experience some hiccups and setbacks in your original plan, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just get back to it at the very next opportunity.