10 of the Best Workouts for Weight Loss

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10 of the Best Workouts for Weight Loss

Before we get into the best workouts for weight loss and how to use exercise as a tool in your weight loss journey, let’s make two things clear. First, there are a huge number of reasons to work out that have absolutely nothing to do with losing weight. From mental health benefits to better sleep to boosted immunity, regular exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise doesn’t have to be about losing weight, and for a huge number of people, it isn’t.

And that brings us to the second thing: If your goal is to lose weight, you should know that working out isn’t enough on its own to actually make that happen. There’s so much else that goes into weight loss and body fat loss; in fact, exercise isn’t even technically necessary to lose weight for most people. We wouldn’t ever recommend a weight loss regimen that doesn’t include exercise, though, because exercise is good for you and it’s a healthy way to live. And on that note, even if you are doing everything “right”—working out regularly, eating appropriately—lifestyle habits like sleep and stress, and health conditions (think thyroid issues, to name just one of many) can get in the way of your weight loss efforts. Weight loss is an extremely personal journey that doesn’t look or work the exact same way from one person to the next.

With those disclaimers out of the way, however, it’s also true that there are certain exercises and workouts that can be particularly useful in helping you lose weight or burn fat or change your body composition as you please (and, on that token, there are certain mistakes you might be making in your exercise routines that can get in the way of your weight loss goals). The best workouts for weight loss, as we explore below, all have certain elements in common: They’re generally high-intensity and they burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

BEFORE YOU GET STARTED

1. Your food choices—how you fuel your body—are even more important than your workout choices. I covered this above, but it’s worth reiterating: healthy eating habits are even more important than your exercise routine if your goal is to see permanent changes on the scale. Here are 27 tips from registered dietitians on how to eat healthier this year.

2. Exercise should become part of your routine in a meaningful way. In order to see results, hitting the elliptical for 30 minutes while you catch up with the Kardashians once a week just isn’t going to cut it. Instead, aim for three workouts if you’re just getting into a routine again, or five to six sessions if you’ve been at it for a while, says Holly Rilinger, a Nike master trainer, master Flywheel instructor, and star of Bravo’s Work Out New York. “And keep in mind that rest is key to reset mentally, physically, and emotionally, so make sure to build in at least one full rest day.”

3. You’ll need to really push yourself in every workout you do. It’s kind of a big deal that you bring your A-game to each and every workout. “I’d rather see you do balls-to-the-wall workouts three times a week than see you give 50 percent for five days,” says Rilinger. “Decide when you walk through that door you are going to give it 100 percent the entire time, and check in throughout your workout with one simple question: Can I give more?”

4. You’ll need to find a workout you genuinely enjoy if you have any hope of sticking with it.“Finding a trainer or workout that makes you happy is actually really important to weight loss,” says Rilinger. When you enjoy doing it you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Below are 10 workouts that will help you reach your weight loss goal. If you’ve tried one of the classes here and there and didn’t really love it, don’t give up on the sport or practice altogether. You may not have found an instructor you love yet, and that can make or break your goals.

THE WORKOUTS

1. Interval Training

The number one training method the experts turn to again and again for weight loss: interval training. What’s that? “Any form of exercise where your heart rate spikes and then comes down repeatedly,” says Rilinger. This type of training keeps your heart rate elevated, which in turn keeps your metabolism humming. When that’s happening, you burn more calories.

One of the many styles of interval training is indoor cycling, though this workout leans heavily toward cardio over strength training, Rilinger explains. She also notes that cycling requires you to use various muscles in your body—quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core, for starters—which once again translates to weight loss. “The more muscles you have to incorporate, the more calories you’re going to burn because those muscles all require energy in order to work,” she says. “And the more energy you use, the higher those calorie-burning numbers climb. It’s all a cycle.”

Try it: Here are 4 fat-burning stationary bike workouts that you might like. If you’re more of a treadmill person, this 20-minute treadmill interval workout will kick your butt in the best way. And if you want to skip the equipment altogether, this 10-minute lower body bodyweight interval workout is a good place to start.

2. Weight Training

“Do you even lift?” “You mean chocolate dumbbells, right?” #regram from @evachen212

A photo posted by SELF Magazine (@selfmagazine) on

Consider weight training “the mother of all weight-loss techniques, the highest in the workout food chain, the top of the totem pole,” says Rilinger. Resistance training, whether it’s with your bodyweight alone or with added weights, is an effective method to help you drop pounds, if that’s your goal. Lifting weights has been shown to increase your resting metabolic rate, which means you’ll continue to burn calories even after you finish working out. It’s called the “afterburn effect,” and you can read all about it here. Rilinger suggests adding weight training to your routine at least three times a week. And since your body adjusts to workouts after being exposed to the same moves at the same intensity, becoming less effective over time, she says to mix it up about every three weeks to keep your body guessing.

Try it: First, if you’ve never done it before, be sure to read these strength training tips for beginners before you get started. And check out this primer on how to choose the right weights for your workout.

Now here’s a quick 10-minute total-body dumbbell workout and another 10-minute living room dumbbell workout to get you started. Here’s a 20-minute strength workout for when you have a bit more time. (Just be sure to use actual dumbbells, not the adorable dessert dumbbells above.) Here’s some info about how to superset at the gym. And if you’re going to use kettlebells and barbells in your strength workout routine, be sure to work with a personal trainer to make sure you’re using proper form. You’ve got this!

3. Boot Camp

For a workout that’s going to keep your metabolism elevated all day, turn to boot camp, as these classes (think Barry’s Bootcamp) combine two of the most effective styles of training: interval and resistance. “You’ll perform exercises, some more cardio-focused and others strength-focused, full-out for short bursts of time, coupled with short periods of rest,” says Adam Rosante, certified personal trainer and author of The 30-Second Body. But if it’s your first time giving it a go, speak up. He says a good instructor will help you determine when you need to crank up the weight or intensity (tip: if you can cruise through 10 reps without any trouble, it’s too easy), keep your form on par, and can always provide a modification for any move that might be too tough or irritates an injury. If you can’t make it to a studio, though, you can virtually sweat it out with Rosante in his 20-minute C9 Challenge, or try this bodyweight-only 16-minute routine.

4. Boxing

@fizzle_28

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“At its essence, boxing is really another form of interval training,” explains Rosante. But it also makes you feel insanely badass. Here’s the trick to remember: it’s a common mistake for beginners to punch using only their arm strength, but the majority of your power is going to come from your core and you’ll use muscles that are typically ignored in other workouts (hey there, obliques).

It’s best to log this type of workout in a class, as Rosante says it’s crucial for beginners to learn proper form from an instructor who can help keep your intensity level high. Here are 15 boxing gyms worth visiting. But if you want to brush up on your skills at home, try this beginner-friendly video from Milan Costich, founder of Prevail boxing gym in Los Angeles.

5. Running

All you need is a pair of sneakers before you head out the door. But if weight loss is the name of your game, the lackadaisical head-out-for-a-light-jog style of running isn’t the way to go. Instead, find a hill you can sprint up, or crank the incline on that treadmill. “Running up hills forces you to work your glutes and legs—two of your body’s biggest muscle groups—even more, which requires smaller muscle recruitment and more energy expenditure,” explains Rosante. As noted earlier, the more energy you’re using, the brighter that calorie-burning fire burns. But proper form here is key. “Lean into the hill, and drive your knees as high as you can, striking the ball of each foot down directly under your body,” he says. “Keep your hands open and arms bent at 90 degrees, and drive your arms straight forward up to face level, then backward to the top of your back pocket.” And try not to let your arms cross over your body—that’ll just waste the precious energy your muscles need. If you’re training indoors, here are a few fat-burning treadmill routines to get you started.

Try it: You can do these 4 fat-burning workouts on a treadmill. Or you can take them outside if you’d like—for incline work, just fine a good hill.

6. CrossFit

There’s a reason CrossFit has become such a booming part of the workout industry—it works, so long as you don’t overdo it. Workouts are varied—you may be doing anything from kettlebell swings to rope climbs and box jumps to front squats—and the routines are designed to be short and intense. The most important thing to find when looking for the box (CrossFit slang for “gym”) that fits you best: a well-informed coach who can explain and modify the moves, and make sure that you don’t push yourself to the point of injury. Here are a few things to keep in mind before every WOD, and here are 11 of the best CrossFit gyms in America.

7. Tabata

If your biggest excuse for skipping a workout is being crunched for time, Tabata is your dream come true. It’s designed to be four minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that consists of 20 seconds of all-out effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times, explains Shanon Squires, an exercise physiologist and human performance lab coordinator at Colorado University Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. And you can use this protocol with different exercises, including the battle rope slams above. You’ll spike your metabolism and heart rate in four minutes, but Squires warns against making this time frame a habit if you’re trying to lose weight. “Your body will quickly adapt to that interval, and you’ll need to increase the volume or intensity to continue getting a benefit from it,” he says. To do that, Rosante suggests extending your session to 20 minutes and following the same format. Simply pick four exercises—think jump rope, squats, mountain climbers, and squat jumps—then do each for 20 seconds as hard and fast as you can (while maintaining proper form, of course), then recovering for 10 seconds and 10 seconds only. Repeat for eight rounds on that one move (so, four minutes of work) before resting for one minute and moving on to the next exercise.

Try it: Here’s a 4-minute Tabata you might want to try.

8. Yoga

OK, so yoga alone isn’t a great workout for weight loss. But Rilinger says it can be a secret weapon in your weight loss arsenal because it keeps you flexible and healthy for your other, more intense workouts (like that boot camp class). But that’s not all. “Yoga requires balance and stability, which promotes functional strength, and it helps our mental health,” she says. Aim to squeeze it in at least once a week. And if you can’t make it to the studio, there are plenty of flows you can do at home.

Try it: Here’s a yoga flow sequence for stronger abs. Here’s one to help you wake up in the morning. And here’s a yoga workout for arms.

9. Swimming

Stretch your boundaries.

A photo posted by Speedo USA (@speedousa) on

If you can’t stand the thought of running, or just want to work out without a ton of pounding on your joints, do a few laps in the pool. Rosante says you can burn over 750 calories in an hour of swimming and you’ll work all of your major muscle groups. As with most workouts, it helps to go in with a plan. Try this one, from Rosante: Tread water for as long as possible by standing upright in the deep end and using your arms and legs to stay afloat. Then rest for two minutes. Now swim 10 sets of 100 meters (that’s back-and-forth lap in an Olympic-sized pool), resting for one minute in between sets. By the time you climb out of the pool, your muscles will be pleasantly worn out.

10. Jumping Rope

The only way you skip your workout. #jumpingrope : @shauna_harrison

A video posted by Under Armour Women (@underarmourwomen) on

It’s time to kick it back to the good ole’ days of P.E. class, when you first learned how to swing a jump rope. This tool is cheap, portable (it’ll fit in the tiny parts of your suitcase!), and can be used just about anywhere. After just a few minutes you will feel your heart rate racing!

Try it: Here’s a speedy routine to try from Rosante:

  1. Warm up with a light 3-minute skip with the rope
  2. Do 100 traditional jumps (both feet leave the floor at the same time, and no extra hops in between)
  3. Once you finish, immediately do 100 jump rope sprints (think regular jumping rope but at an even quicker pace)
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3, but follow this format: 50/50, 21/21, 15/15, 9/9
  5. If you want more, work your way back up the ladder until you reach 100/100 again

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t do it barefoot. “Few things compare to the pain of missing a skip and smacking the tip of your toe with a jump rope,” says Rosante. Noted. You can do this entire sequence mock-style, though, if you don’t have a rope handy.

You got this!

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  • Mark Ronald Kolman

    Good ideas. I don’t agree that every workout needs to be a 100%, “balls to the walls” exertion, unless you’re in training for a race, big game, other competition. For daily fitness, the key to consistency is to find an exercise program that you both can and WILL do consistently. Nothing kills enthusiasm like having exercise become an unwelcome task.

    Making exercise part of your workday instead of an extra one more thing to do, is both economical and efficient. Walk to the bus/train, walk during your lunch break, ride your bike to/from work, to/from the store. I think it’s ridiculous that people drive to the gym, circle the parking lot looking for a close to the door parking space, then go inside and ride a stationary bike.

    Exercise should be a pleasant experience that leaves you feeling better, not a job. You already have at least one of those.

    • mdg2188

      I agree. I enjoy doing Zumba I do it at least 45mins everyday. Making exercise fun is the key for me and I’m finally seeing results!

      • Mark Ronald Kolman

        That’s the key.

    • Maxine Downing

      So true! Some people just need to learn how to move, period. When I preach exercise to the executive team I support, (who are all younger than I & all need to drop some pounds), they look at me like I have a horn growing straight outta my head. You will never regret taking better care of your body. Ever.

  • Anna

    yes i agree with Mark, consistency is the key and eventually you will be able to bring your A game almost every workout. The idea of all or nothing.. is not correct. Everyday you feel different and sometimes do feel like A game but a little A game is better … and again… once you’ve got it down.. your A game will come more frequently. :-)— i’ve learned this the hard way.

  • bennycc

    No cycling, really? Low impact plus you enjoy the outdoors and yes, you can ride the bike outdoors during the winter time.

    • davedave12

      if you can push the whole time you are on the bike good for you — for me I notice that when I am running I can’t sit down

      • DaBoss

        Maybe you just need to adjust your running style. Try bending your legs to a 90 degree angle, or less.

    • Nathan Jones

      There’s loads of great indoor cycling workouts too (though with smart trainers and the like they do get a little expensive) – swift and the sufferfest being two of the most popular for interval type training

  • Thomas Satterly

    May I make a suggestion?
    I am finding that snow shoveling is as good an all around exercise that is available to me.
    If you live in Montana, or any similarly located geographic area, you are set. You already have your workout clothing. The required tools are not expensive, in fact many already have the starter set.
    It is variable. I need not overdo it, but I can test my limits. Often.
    It is an excellent cardio workout.
    It provides ample opportunity for lifting.
    It’s environmentally sound. No need to drive anywhere. The “gym” is a short walk from my front door. A very short walk.
    The cup of cocoa tastes wonderful when you’re finished!

    • davedave12

      the cup of cocoa replaces all the calories you just burned

  • Alison Shirley Perrin

    5 or 6 workouts a day?!? This is insane, not realistic. How about some realistic advice for real people?!?

    • Amy

      5 or 6 sessions a week, not a day.

      • Steffy Bi

        Yea a week, I can’t even do two 45-minute HIIT workouts a day and not want to pass out 🙂

    • Stuart Wolfe

      lol

    • Jared

      Lol, I work two jobs (almost 60 hours a week) and still make time for working out 5 times a week. Is it hard sometimes? Yeah. Do I get exhausted and want to skip the gym and go sleep? Absolutely. But it’s all about making the habit pattern. If you want to be fit, you have to be active somehow.

    • DaBoss

      By posting on here you allow everyone access to all the comments you have made on other sites, (including Learnvest and Patch). I see that every one of them is negative. Be happy Alison. You will feel much better!

  • Kristin-Marie

    Check out Orangetheory Fitness in your area, it’s 1 hour classes of interval training. It’s been a year for me and I’m down 65 lbs it works. The people are great, and it really is a lot of fun!

  • Laneisha Walker-Bryant

    what about dancing?? I was just dancing and that was all the exercise I’ve done in weeks!

    • Robyn

      As a former dancer – Heck yes!! It is not only fun, but u work out your entire body. Dancing is also good for balance, stamina, confidence, flexibility and of course your figure!!! Be sure to stretch religiously!! Have fun with it. There are so many different types of dancing. Just like other forms of exercises- different types of dancing will illicit different pros and work your entire body. Same applies- change it up . Our bodies are miraculous and smart. They catch on quickly to everything we do so changing up styles , pace etc is important!!
      **However- I found with hip hop and salsa dancing no changes needed! Self explanatory!! Have fun dancing!! I am no longer able and a dancer who can no longer dance is a sad one. The good news is- I’m slowly improving to hopefully be able to at least return to a disabled dancing class here! I’m not joking. I wish I was!! Dancing is not only good for your physical health but it’s amazing for your mental health as well!!!
      Keep me posted! Btw- love ur name

  • davedave12

    sitting at the bench press checking your instagram account burns no more calories than doing it at home

    • Ashley

      This annoys the crap out of me! Every day I go to the gym and see people hogging up machines and weights because they are too busy sitting there on the phone instead of finishing their sets. I’m old school o guess. I still use my old IPod so I don’t have to have my phone with me for 2 hours.

  • Erich Sterzing

    I never understood why HIIT isn’t built into MyFitnessPal’s exercise tracker. Almost all of these fall under that category. Add that treadmill workout please!

  • Leilani Aki

    What about someone with a injured meniscus plus arthritis. Do you have exercises to strengthen the knee.

  • Pascal Aschwanden

    I prefer a bit more moderation and consistency. If you advise people to work out 5 or 6 times a week, it’s less likely to be consistent, unless you make it part of your everyday routine – like jogging to work or something.

    Balls to walls will probably get you injured and discouraged, unless it’s something safe, like swimming. Why not go 50 to 70% and do it consistently?

  • Ang

    Roller skating! So much fun and a great calorie burn! My fitbit logged me 950 calories burned in 75 minutes the other day.

    • robinbishop34

      Maybe if you’re 300lbs and went “balls to the wall” the entire 75 minutes. It’s probably more like half that amount.

  • davedave12

    I am sure science works on the margins, but 95% of weight loss is common sense and discipline (things that cannot be bought or sold) —the biggest part of weight loss is diet, small portions, lots of veggies. —- Carbs is a new invention, everyone has known for over a hundred years to go easy on starches i.e. potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, — also brand new scientific info — no dessert (unless it is a piece of fruit) be careful with animal fat and dairy — the purpose of milk is to make babies gain weight

  • Kathy Gomez

    Great article! The hardest part for me is figuring out what to eat. Keto seems intriguing but so many of those recipes are greasy and unappealing. Is there a middle ground? I used to eat oatmeal for breakfast but friends say that has way too many carbs. It’s so confusing.

    • Kira

      Hi Kathy, it’s all going to depend on what works for you! If you want to go low-carb, many of your recipes are going to be on the greasy side because the majority of your usable calories in a low-carb diet come from fat (our bodies can only break down a certain amount of protein for energy — usually protein gets broken down into amino acids for building up cells in our body. Eating too much protein with too little fat and carbohydrate leads to a condition they used to call “rabbit starvation,” because rabbit meat is only about 8% fat and hunters who were forced to live on rabbits in the lean season got sick very quickly from a diet that had too much protein.)

      However, carbohydrates aren’t intrinsically bad any more than fat is bad: the problem with them for weight loss is that refined carbohydrates, like refined fats, add calories without adding nutritional value. Research is suggesting more and more that refined sugar in particular can be a problem because it absorbs so quickly into your bloodstream, causing a quick spike in blood sugar and a following spike in insulin to deal with the blood sugar (the “sugar crash”), a pattern that can wind up driving insulin resistance long-term. Be careful of your overall calorie intake, try to get most of your carbohydrates from whole grains (oatmeal is a whole grain, and is fine! Just be careful of those instant packets, because they’re full of sugar) and make sure you’re eating a good balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates. My parents swear by the Mediterranean diet, which is heavy on fresh vegetables, lean meats like chicken and fish, olive oil and whole grains. I’m a vegetarian myself, so I tend to wing it with plenty of legumes, tofu and eggs! As long as you’re tracking the overall balance of your meals and overall calorie consumption, I think the most important thing is to pick healthy foods that you find appealing and tasty, because a diet made up of food you like eating is a diet you’ll be able to maintain long-term and not have any urge to “cheat” on or slide back to unhealthy eating habits from.

  • Jill

    I have a disability. I can’t walk for exercise. What else can I do?

  • joelilawrence

    Why are there never photos of people with BMI of more than 30 doing these exercises?

    • funkybro

      For the same reason swimsuit manufacturers don’t use tubbies in their ads. The exercise mavens want to convince you of how you’d look if you adopted their ideas. Kind of hard to be inspired by a fat person walking on a treadmill, just like you don’t want to look at a fat person modeling a bathing suit while thinking, “I’d sure like to look like that!”

  • VictorLandry

    I’m handicapped from a stroke and can’t walk well on rough surface. I walk on a treadmill for 2 hours a day at 2.2 mph, the fastest I can manage. I do weights for upper body strength. Anyone have any ideas for something I can be doing?

    • Tonya

      @VictorLandry you can try leg lift with light ankle weights or chair aerobics.

  • fmrleftchick

    Any regular activity that elevates heart rate for any significant amount of time will burn a good amount of calories. Running from the cops with a television in your arms is an effective calorie burner.

    If you are interested in building/maintaining muscle and overall body composition (lean mid-section, broad shoulders/lats, etc), intense cardio can really inhibit not only the recovery necessary for muscle growth, but burn muscle instead of fat if not following a strict dietary protocol… mainly pre-workout protein/carbs, and more importantly post-workout protein/carb consumption.

    I would advise those who are serious about weight training, I would suggest brisk walking, mobility drills, and warm up sets to get in some moderate cardio and prep for weightlifing, followed by 10 min of brisk walking and static stretching afterwards. Also, when I say weight training, I don’t mean swinging around kettleballs or little neoprene hand weights, I mean a full body/compound workout .. deadlift, squat, bench, overhead, rows, and pull-ups.

    Warm ups can include some moderate abdominal work like planks, hanging leg raises, and proper crunches. This is more important to strengthen your core rather than building a six pack. A six pack is developed in the kitchen 🙂

  • Ann Oymous

    I’m 72 years old. I’d risk serious injuries trying most of the suggestions in your article. Brisk walking or swimming seem to be the safest options for me. Please follow up by adding an article on elderly folks attempting a fitness routine to maintain their strength and loose weight.

  • Rodney C Foster

    The sport of squash is an amazing workout for weight loss. 🙂

  • sw

    Do only women do these workouts? That’s all there are pictures of.