Best Exercises For Burning Calories Fast

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Listen, you’ve got a full time job, stressful deadlines, a baby on your hip – and maybe even a social life.

If you’re like me, when I add the drive time, traffic, parking hassle, and locker room change, my one-hour spin class turns into a 2 or 3 hour commitment.

Nobody’s got time for that.

So, what I want to know is: what’s the most sweat-inducing, time-efficient, bull-busting workout?

A workout that will not only burn the most calories in the least amount of time, but that will continue burning calories later (while I’m watching NetFlix on the couch).

After polling the experts and experimenting with a HIIT boot camp (it kicked my ass), here’s what I found are the best exercises for burning calories fast:

Blog Post Bonus: Download a free infographic with our Best Exercises For Burning Calories Fast!

 

THE KEY: Engage the afterburn

The following workout plans hinge on Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), also known as the “afterburn.”

EPOC is the period of time after your workout that your metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories) remains elevated. The more intense your workout, the longer the afterburn will last.

The most efficient workouts, then, will maximize EPOC to ensure the most calories burned in the shortest time period.

Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)

Only 2 days a week to exercise?
Do 30-minutes of weight training

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What is it?

Using barbells and free weights to do weight-bearing repetitions to gain muscle mass and tone.

Pros

  • Engages EPOC like whoa
  • Builds muscle mass which raises your resting metabolic rate (RMR). The more muscle the body has, the more calories it burns at rest.

 

[RMR is different from EPOC: EPOC is the measure of increased caloric burn after exercise, RMR is the measure of how many calories are burned over the course of an entire day. Weight training raises both: double win!]

Cons

  • Higher risk of injury
  • Takes longer to recover
  • Hard on joints and bones

 

How to ensure the longest caloric burn:

Alwyn_CosgroveFitness coach and author Alwyn Cosgrove writes in his Hierarchy of Fat Loss, that the key to reaping the most benefits from your weight training is recruiting the biggest muscle groups. The more muscles that work simultaneously, the more calories you’ll burn.

The best exercises for afterburn:

  • Squats
  • Squat thrusts
  • Inverted rows
  • Pull ups
  • Push ups
  • Lunges

  • Burpees

  • Kettlebell swings

Only 3 days a week to exercise?
Do 20 to 30-minutes of high-intensity interval training

What is it?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) alternates high- and low-intensity activities through varying bursts of movements with rest periods. Examples include spinning and Tabata.

Pros
  • Engages some craycray EPOC
  • Trains the heart to adjust to changing conditions
  • Doesn’t build as much muscle bulk (a pro for many women)
Cons
  • The body needs more recovery time
  • Can only do 20-30 minute sessions at a time

steve_kambBecause you can only do so much HIIT or weight training, you can only burn so many calories before your body wears out.

Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness

How to ensure the longest caloric burn:

In order to reap the full benefits of HIIT, you’ve got to go all out. Push yourself full throttle during the short sprints, and breathe deep during the recovery periods. The harder you push the longer EPOC will be engaged post-workout.

Here are two HIIT circuits to try:

Treadmill HIIT circuit

Justin_KleinFrom Justin Klein, of HUMANFITPROJECT for Men’s Fitness @humanfitproject

 

  • 1 minute Sprint
  • 90 second Recovery
  • 1 minute Sprint at 3% incline
  • 90 second Recovery
  • 1 minute Sprint at 6% incline
  • 90 second Recovery
  • 1 minute Sprint at 9% incline
  • 90 second Recovery
  • 1 minute Sprint at 12% incline
  • 90 second Recovery

Repeat three to six times depending on level of conditioning.

Kettlebell HIIT circuit

Jeremey_DuVallFrom trainer Jeremey DuVall for Men’s Fitness

 

 

  • 30 seconds of Kettlebell Swings
  • 30 seconds of Right Arm Kettlebell Snatch
  • 30 seconds of Right Arm Kettlebell Push Press
  • 30 seconds of Right Arm Overhead Walking Lunges with Kettlebell
  • 30 second Sprint
  • Rest 90 seconds then repeat on left arm.

Aim for completing two to three circuits on each arm.

Up to 5 days a week to exercise?
Add steady-state aerobics

What is it?

“Steady-state aerobics” is basically endurance cardio. By keeping your heart rate below the aerobic zone, you’ll be able to sustain effort for longer periods of time.

Examples of steady-state aerobics are endurance running, jogging, or low-impact cardio equipment like the elliptical machine.

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Pros
  • Low impact
  • Easy learning curve
  • No need for special equipment

MedhiThe longer you do cardio, the more total calories you’ll burn. You must be in really good shape to handle 30 minutes of HIIT, while anyone can do 45 minutes of moderate-intensity, steady-state cardio.

Mehdi at StrongLifts

Cons
  • Doesn’t engage EPOC

Although it trains your heart to be in shape by remaining at a higher level of operation while exercising, it doesn’t train your heart to prepare for moments of extreme stress because it never really has to deal with rapid changes.

Steve Kamb

How to ensure the longest caloric burn:

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Although low-intensity cardio doesn’t result in much afterburn, it is an excellent way to increase endurance, expand your cardiac capacity, and burn major calories.

In fact, when combined with weight training it’s the most effective at fat loss, and 44% more effective than cardio alone.

The Caveats:

Nothing will happen if you don’t eat right.

No matter if you’re putting in 5 days a week of alternating HIIT, weight training, and endurance jogs, your body will not change if you eat like shit.

It’s been proven over and over. Nutrition is the biggest factor in physical performance.

Get juiced up with some clean pre-workout fuel and stay hydrated – and you’re pretty much guaranteed to see results fast.

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You gotta recover.

The most important day of your workout is your day off.

If you want to make progress quickly, you’ve gotta learn to recover. That doesn’t mean you get a free pass to an eat-athon. Employ these speedy recovery tricks, and prioritize cleansing post-workout meals.

That will ensure your body fully recuperates, meaning your performance will be ever better during your next workout.

Summary

All things equal, weight training burns the most calories in the fewest amount of time, and HIIT comes in at a close second, but both are highly stressful on the body and require more recovery time.

Cardio, on the other hand, burns fewer calories, but thanks to its less stressful nature, enables you to do activities longer and more frequently.

Ideally, you’ll want a combination of all three to keep your body in optimal condition.

Want some more help, right at your fingertips? Check out some of our favorite fitness trends and fitness apps.

Image sources: Featured Image, boot camp, arm curls, highway runner, apples

One response to “Best Exercises For Burning Calories Fast”

  1. Stephen Reed says:

    Hey Emily:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article. Couple of points. I was pretty sure that the whole concept of significant calorie burning via EPOC was pretty much out the window, the post exercise consumption is too insignificant to be focused on as a way to burn extra calories with weight loss in mind.
    To be honest, I think touting exercise as a decent strategy for burning calories to help with weight loss is a pretty dicey one, the relatively small use of calories during exercise, along with the adaptations in economy with low intensity, steady state exercise like running etc, where the body adapts quite quickly, become more economical and the body uses less calories for the same volume of training.

    Weight training, depending on the mode, doesn’t use a lot of calories really, certainly not enough to make much difference, but the metabolic adaptations are excellent, as is the addition of extra lean muscle mass to your frame, resulting in increased calorie usage at rest, although this is still not a significant number.

    So, on the whole, exercise is good, HIIT is good, strength training is great (and also provides some aerobic adaptations that few people realise)

    By the way, ‘cardio’ really does not exist as an exercise mode, there is nothing at the cellular level that know that you are doing exercise to increase the efficiency of the heart and vascular system, the body does not work like that. Sure, there is aerobic training, which uses oxygen as the main substrate to produce energy at the cellular level, and anaerobic, where glycogen becomes the main source, but ‘cardio’? Doesn’t really exist, just a figment of the clever marketing imagination of the fitness industry to sell us fancy machines.

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