11 of the Best Fat-Burning Exercises

11 of the Best Fat-Burning Exercises

When it comes to dropping pounds, most people go about it the wrong way: They underestimate the importance of diet and overestimate the power of low-intensity, steady-state cardio. Jogging, bike riding, and other low-intensity exercises can benefit your heart, lungs, and mood, but they’re the scenic routes to a flatter belly. So what are some of the best fat-burning exercises?

Many studies agree: A combo of strength training and healthy eating is an effective and efficient way to burn fat. And if you really want to dial up the fat burning, add some moderate- to high-intensity cardio, such as sprint intervals, to your weekly training plan.

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When it comes to burning fat, the most effective resistance exercises are those that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Trainers refer to such moves as “compound” exercises, and the more “metabolically active tissue” (i.e., muscle) they engage, the more calories you’ll burn doing them. Here are 11 of the best exercises for burning fat.

If you want even more workouts and ways to burn fat, check out some of the full programs on Openfit, like the one-month TOUGH MUDDER T-MINUS 30 program filled with 30-minute HIIT workouts, or the shorter (and still very effective) 600 Secs workouts that are just 10 minutes long!


1. Mountain Climber

This classic move blasts your core, challenging it to maintain your stability and resist rotation as you move your legs. And the continuous movement of this fat-burning exercise provides a serious cardio burst and muscle burn, helping increase your endurance and exercise capacity.

How to do it:

  • Get in a high-plank position with your body straight and your shoulders stacked directly over your elbows and hands. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core engaged and your back flat, quickly draw your right knee toward your chest and tap the floor with your toes.
  • Return to the starting position, and repeat with your left leg.
  • Keep alternating sides.


2. Glute Bridge to Chest Press

By adding a glute bridge to the chest press, this exercise turns an upper-body move into a total-body one. “And in so doing, you crank up its fat-burning potential,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Openfit’s director of fitness and nutrition content.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent, and feet flat and shoulder-width apart, holding two dumbbells at arms’ length above your chest.
  • Squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your core engaged, glutes squeezed, and upper arms close to your body, lower the weights until your elbows touch the floor.
  • Reverse the move, pressing the dumbbells to arms’ length to return to the starting position.


3. Dumbbell Skier Swing

Don’t let this simple-looking exercise fool you: It’s a heart-pounding, muscle-burning, total-body move that hammers your hamstrings, glutes, and deltoids while requiring your core muscles to work overtime. If your heart isn’t pounding by the time you finish this fat-burning exercise, you’re holding back. Give it your all.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent, holding a pair of dumbbells at arms’ length by your sides, palms in.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, push your hips back and swing the dumbbells in the same direction, hinging forward slightly at your waist.
  • Quickly reverse the movement, thrusting your hips forward and squeezing your glutes as you raise your torso and swing the dumbbells up to chest level.
  • That’s one rep. Continue swinging in a fluid, continuous motion without pausing.


4. Jump Rope

What other form of exercise is equally appealing to six-year-olds having fun on the playground and heavyweight boxers prepping for a prizefight? “I’m a big fan of jumping rope,” says Jolie Kobrinsky, owner of the Prime Movement Studio in Monterey, California. “You can get your heart rate elevated, increase coordination, and tap into your childlike exuberance.”

How to do it:

  • Stand upright, holding the handles of a jump rope by your sides, with the rope resting on the floor behind you.
  • Swing the rope up over your head, and then jump over it as it swings down to your feet.
  • Continue for time.
  • Experiment with different rhythms (faster or slower) and foot patterns (skipping, hopping) as you improve.


5. Sit-Through

“Don’t underestimate the value of moving around on the floor for burning fat,” says powerlifter David Dellanave, owner of The Movement Minneapolis, in the Twin Cities. “The sit-through is surprisingly taxing — you’re supporting your entire body weight on all fours and then moving through a wide range of motion while synchronizing the actions of multiple limbs and muscles.” In short, this fat-burning exercise challenges every aspect of athleticism: mobility, strength, power, stamina, and coordination.

best fat burning exercises - sit through

How to do it:

  • Start in a bear crawl position with your back flat, balls of your feet and palms of your hands on the floor. Your knees should be a few inches off the floor directly below your hips.
  • Keeping your core engaged and left hand on the floor, pivot on your right foot, reach your right arm above your head, rotate your chest toward the ceiling, and bring your left leg underneath your body and extend it out to your right side.
  • You should now be sitting with your left leg straight and your right leg bent.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat to your other side. Continue to alternate sides with each rep.


6. Side Lunge to Single-Arm Row and Curl

This is another combo exercise that hits both big and small muscle groups from head to toe. “You’ll work your quads, glutes, core, back, and biceps with each rep,” says Thieme. “It’s a tough, total-body exercise that pays off big time in terms of muscle growth, strength gains, and fat burning.”

How to do it:

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in your left hand at arm’s length by your side. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your left leg straight, and without moving your left foot, take a big step out to your right with your right foot.
  • Push your hips back and lower your body until your right thigh is nearly parallel to the floor. Allow the dumbbell to hang at arm’s length toward the floor.
  • Row the dumbbell to the side of your torso, lower it, and then return to the starting position.
  • Without moving your upper arm, curl the weight toward your shoulder, and then lower it to return to the starting position.
  • That’s one rep. Complete all your reps, switch sides, and repeat.


7. Burpee

The burpee is popular in fat-burning workouts for a reason: By alternating repeatedly between a push-up and a vertical jump, it not only works both your upper and lower body, it also taxes both your muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness. The higher you jump, the more you’ll hammer your legs. Move quickly, but don’t ever sacrifice form.

How to do it:

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Push your hips back, bend your knees, and place your hands on the floor in front of you.
  • Jump your feet back into a push-up position (hands in line with your shoulders, body straight from head to heels), and perform a push-up.
  • Jump your feet back to your hands, and then explode upward, reaching overhead as you jump off the floor.
  • Land softly, and immediately drop into your next rep.


8. Goblet Shooter Squat

This innovative squat-lunge hybrid combines one of the best lower-body moves you can do, the squat, with a rotational element that nails your core. “It’s a killer exercise,” says Dellanave. “You get tremendous time under tension, a huge range of motion, and some good mobility work — especially in your hips.” And its fat-loss dividends are worth every drop of sweat equity.

How to do it:

  • Grab a dumbbell and hold it vertically in front of your chest, cupping the top end with both hands (imagine it’s a heavy goblet).
  • Set your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, push your hips back and lower your body until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
  • Rotate to your right, dropping your left knee to the floor, and then stand up.
  • Reverse the move, lowering your body, returning your knees to the squat position as you rotate back to center, and then standing up. That’s one rep.
  • Repeat the entire sequence, this time rotating to your left and dropping your right knee to the floor.
  • Continue alternating sides with each rep.


9. Squat to Press

“Squatting and pressing are both moves that belong in everyone’s workout,” says Rachel Cosgrove, 2012 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and author of The Female Body Breakthrough. The squat to press combines them into a single move, hammering your legs, shoulders, and every muscle in between.

best fat burning exercises - squat to press

How to do it:

  • Hold a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing each other) in front of your shoulder, and stand with your elbows tucked and feet hip- to shoulder-width apart. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat, push your hips back and squat down until the tops of your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
  • Pause, and then drive through your heels as you stand up and press the weights directly above your shoulders.
  • Pause, and then return to the starting position.


10. Deadlift

“In the hierarchy of fat loss, resistance training comes right after nutrition, as it has the largest impact on metabolism,” says Craig Rasmussen, C.S.C.S., a trainer at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. And few other exercises work more muscle simultaneously than the deadlift, which targets your glutes, hamstrings, quads, core, back, and shoulders. “It’s a true total-body exercise, which is exactly what you need when training for fat loss,” says Rasmussen.

How to do it:

  • Load a barbell with weights and roll it against your shins. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, push your hips back, bend your knees slightly, and grab the bar using an overhand grip with your hands just beyond shoulder-width. This is the starting position.
  • Drive through your heels to rise to a standing position, keeping the bar close to your body as you pull your torso up and thrust your hips forward.
  • Pause, and then slowly lower the bar back to the floor to return to the starting position.


11. Sprint Intervals

“It’s easy to spot a sprinter,” says Angelo Poli, ISSA, owner of Whole Body Fitness in Chico, California. “Even compared to other athletes, they look muscular and lean.” Since you’re working several of your largest muscle groups (quads, glutes, hamstrings) at a near-maximal intensity through large ranges of motion, sprinting challenges your fast-twitch muscle fibers like few other exercises. “That’s good news,” says Poli. “Fast-twitchers are the fibers with the most potential for both growth and serious fat burning.”

How to do it:

  • Head to the track at your local high school or university.
  • If you’re just starting out, run 200 meters (half a lap) as fast as you can, and then walk 200 meters. That’s one interval.
  • If you’re already fit, run 400 meters (one lap) as fast as you can, and then walk 200 meters. That’s one interval.
  • Repeat this work-rest cycle four to eight times.

Don’t have access to a track? No worries — perform the workout on a smooth even trail, sidewalk, or beach, and measure each interval by time instead of distance. Sprint for 20 to 60 seconds (depending on your fitness level), and then walk for an equal amount of time.


How to Burn Belly Fat

It’s impossible to spot-reduce. There are no exercises that will “tighten and tone” your stomach muscles. But with a combination of a healthy, balanced diet and exercise, you can reduce your overall body fat.

If you’re wondering how to burn fat, the key is to match your diet and workout program to your fitness goals. In practice, that typically means focusing on high-intensity workouts packed with heart-pounding, muscle-burning exercises, and eating more strategically and healthfully, consuming slightly fewer calories per day than you do right now. Here are a few tips to make your fat-burning routine more effective:

  1. Implement a cardio routine
  2. Eat a high protein diet
  3. Get more sleep
  4. Eat more fiber
  5. Enjoy that morning cup of coffee
  6. Avoid excessive calories by cutting sugar