Keeping in mind the eating well and the sleeping enough, there are certain exercises and workouts that can be particularly useful in helping you lose weight or burn fat or change your body composition. These workouts tend to have a couple elements in common: They’re generally high-intensity and they burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time. Here are the types of exercise trainers recommend to get the most out of your gym (or park, or living room) time.
- 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 generally means going hard for a set interval of time (hence the name), followed by active rest, then going hard again. That active recovery portion is key. You need to take it down a notch—OK, several notches—before ramping back up to a higher intensity interval.
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is one of the many styles you can do. Another popular one 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.”
- Weight Training
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 build muscle and burn fat. Lifting weights has been shown to increase your resting metabolic rate, which means your body burns more calories even when you’re not working out. The effect isn’t enormous, but building muscle means more muscle mass to churn through calories as you go about your day. Plus, more muscle means you can go harder next time, increasing your weight, and getting even more out of each workout. Plus, if you’re lifting at a high intensity, you get the added bonus of the “afterburn effect,” which is when you’ve put down the weights but your body is still using up extra energy.
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.
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.
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. It’s a low-impact exercise that will 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.
- Rope Jumping
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:
- Warm up with a light 3-minute skip with the rope
- Do 100 traditional jumps (both feet leave the floor at the same time, and no extra hops in between)
- Once you finish, immediately do 100 jump rope sprints (think regular jumping rope but at an even quicker pace)
- Repeat steps 2 and 3, but follow this format: 50/50, 21/21, 15/15, 9/9
- 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.