6 Exercises That Burn Calories in Overdrive

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6 Exercises That Burn Calories in Overdrive

If your health, fitness, or body composition goals involve fat-burning or losing weight, after working on your nutrition, you’re going to want to focus on fitness routines tailored to those goals. In most cases this means regular workouts that involve exercises that burn calories and build muscle. Most people immediately associate cardio with calorie-burning, and they’re not wrong, exactly—in the moment, cardio can burn more calories than strength training. But the truth is that strength training also plays a critical role in calorie-burning, because the more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn while at rest.

The most efficient way to work out to lose weight or burn fat is to do high-intensity workouts with exercises that work lots of muscles at once—think compound exercises that work your whole body from head to toe and get your heart-rate up at the same time. There’s a lot more to this—you might be interested in our story What Burns More Calories: Cardio or Weight Training? for more details on this topic. Here’s also some more information about the best workouts for weight loss. And you might also find this story about how the afterburn effect works relevant to your interests.

But back to those high-intensity compound exercises that burn calories and work your whole body. For a lot of people, burpees and burpee-variations hit the sweet spot here: It’s a bodyweight exercise that works your muscles and also counts as cardio. But most people have a bit of a love-hate relationship with burpees (less “love you” and more “damn you” most days). Understandably.

So for those of you whose feelings lean toward hatred, we spoke to Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., author of The IMPACT! Body Plan, to ask him for a few of his favorite burpee alternatives. Unlike the classic bodyweight powerhouse, these moves require some equipment—dumbbells, kettlebells, TRX bands—all of which your gym probably keeps around. They’re individual moves (not an entire workout), so incorporate them into your routine whenever. Sure, they might not be the exact same as everyone’s favorite staple, but they torch a hell of a lot of calories, too. And remember: If your goal is to maximize your calorie-burn, focus on intensity, intervals, and minimizing rest between exercises (with the obvious caveat that you should consult a doctor before taking on new training regimens, and also make sure you’re using proper form to avoid hurting yourself.) Got all that? Good, let’s get started.


Hold a pair of dumbbells at your side. Standing with your back straight and your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees as low as you can without letting the dumbbells touch the floor. Return to the starting position. Curl the dumbbells to your shoulders, then press the weights overhead. Lower to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 8 reps.


Grab a kettlebell holding it close to your chest with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat and hold the position at the bottom. Extend the kettlebell as far ahead as possible and then bring it back to your chest (the “heartbeat”). Push through your heels and stand back into the starting position. Extend the kettlebell overhead with both hands until your arms are straight. Return to starting position. Do 3 sets of 8 reps.


Assume a pushup position with your hands holding onto the dumbbells, keeping your body straight. Perform two pushups and then return to the starting position. Do a single-arm dumbbell row on one side and then the other. “Walk” each dumbbell forward as far as possible—will probably be about 5 to 20 inches—moving your entire body forward. That’s 1 rep. Do 2 sets of 8 reps.


Put your feet in the TRX cradles (the band, not the hand grip) so they’re suspended off the ground. Get into the pushup position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the ground. Keeping your body straight, lower until your elbows are at 90 degrees. Push back up to the starting position. Pull your knees and feet toward your chest as far as possible, then return to the starting position. Do 2 sets 10 reps.


Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them just below your chin with your palms facing in. As you step forward with your left leg, punch your right hand straight ahead, your right palm facing the ground. Return to starting position. Repeat on the other leg using opposite arm. That’s one rep. Do 3 sets of 16 reps.


Hold a kettlebell with both hands and stand straight. Extend your arms down so the kettlebell hangs below your pelvis. Using the muscles of your glutes and legs only, swing the kettlebell through your legs approximately up to chest level. Do not round your back or bend your knees too deep. This is a continuous pendulum-type movement using the momentum from your swing. Do 15 reps. After, immediately drop to the ground and perform 15 pushups. Take 1 minute off between sets. Do 3 sets of 15 kettlebell swings and 15 pushups (so 30 per set).

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