By clicking on the product links in this article, we may receive a commission fee at no cost to you, the reader. Sponsorships and affiliate commissions help support our research so we can help you find the best products. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.
When setting out to lose weight, many people assume they'll have to put in countless hours of boring cardio to meet their goals. While it's true that cardio exercise accelerates the weight-loss process, there is an arsenal of exercises, workouts, and training techniques that can help you lose weight faster.
Here's our breakdown of the best workouts to help you kick-start your weight-loss journey, while enjoying the process.
Benefits of Working Out to Lose Weight
While weight loss can most certainly be achieved simply by manipulating your diet, there are a number of significant benefits that can be realized by incorporating exercise into your weight-loss plan. Here are the top benefits of adding exercise to your daily routine when looking to lose weight.
You Can Burn More Calories and Fat
Weight loss comes down to an equation of calories in versus calories out. To lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis. Sure, you can reduce the calories that you take in by eating less, though by regularly working out you can also burn more calories. Typically when you take in less calories than you burn, your body turns to its fat stores for energy—which means more fat loss. Research shows that people who include exercise in their weight-loss plan usually end up losing more weight than those using diet alone.
When you compare someone who follows a diet and exercise regimen versus someone who only diets, the person who exercises will often be able to eat more calories while still achieving weight loss. This is huge for managing your hunger levels while losing weight.
You Can Gain Muscle
Another benefit of working out to lose weight is improvement in your muscle mass. This doesn't mean you will turn into a bodybuilder, though by regularly participating in resistance and cardio exercise, you can gain a noticeable amount of muscle.
Muscle is your friend when it comes to losing weight, since muscle burns more calories at rest than fat. Generally speaking, this means the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. This can help boost your weight-loss success by increasing the calories you burn on a daily basis.
You Can Improve Your Heart Health
While not everyone who sets out to lose weight is necessarily concerned with their heart health, improved cardiac health comes as a positive side effect of exercising. Specifically, those who exercise regularly are at a significantly reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition, regular physical activity also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, a disease that affects how your body processes carbs. These are just two of the countless health benefits of working out.
Resistance Exercises to Lose Weight
Resistance exercise, also known as strength training, requires your body to work against a weight or force in order to increase muscle strength. There are many forms of resistance exercise, with the most popular ones being free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, and bodyweight exercises.
Resistance training can help boost weight loss by burning calories and fat, as well as increasing your muscle mass, resulting in an improved metabolism. This type of exercise also helps shape your body, giving you a more proportional look. These are the top picks for resistance-training exercises to promote weight loss.
Compound exercises are movements that utilize more than one muscle group at a time. These exercises are particularly impactful for weight loss as they tend to really get the heart pumping and burn a lot of calories.
Some of the top compound exercises for weight loss include:
- Overhead press
- Bench press
- Weighted lunge
- Farmer's walk
- Good morning
- Power clean
- Barbell row
Bodyweight Resistance Exercises
Bodyweight resistance exercises use solely the resistance of your own body to put force on the working muscles. Some bodyweight exercises are also considered compound exercises such as the push-up and dip. Using your body weight for resistance training can be a great option for those who work out at home and have limited equipment.
Here are the most popular bodyweight resistance exercises for weight loss:
- Dip (assisted or unassisted)
- Pull-up/Chin-up (assisted or unassisted)
- Bodyweight squat
- Single-leg bodyweight deadlift
- Glute bridge
- Bodyweight back extension
CrossFit is a unique blend between conditioning and resistance exercise. It incorporates a number of Olympic weightlifting movements such as the:
- Front squat
- Squat snatch
- Squat clean
- Power clean
These are all high-intensity resistance-training movements that are excellent for getting the heart pumping and burning calories. In addition, CrossFit takes advantage of metabolism-boosting conditioning exercises such as rowing, running, sled push/pulls, battle ropes, burpees, and kettlebell swings, among others.
For many people, CrossFit is a great introduction into various strength-training and conditioning exercises, many of which can be used to promote weight loss.
HIIT Workouts to Lose Weight
HIIT—or high-intensity interval training—refers to short bouts of intense exercise, usually around 30 seconds, followed by a brief recovery period. The overall workout usually only lasts 10-30 minutes in total. The main advantage of HIIT is that you can get a maximal amount of health benefits in a relatively short amount of time. This makes it particularly useful for busy people trying to lose weight who can't seem to find time to incorporate cardio into their routine.
Research shows that HIIT can provide similar benefits to longer duration exercise in less than half the time. In terms of weight loss, this means you can burn a large number of calories quickly, resulting in more efficient fat burning.
HIIT is most often performed in reps or rounds. Following a short warm-up period you would start your first rep by exercising as hard as possible for 10-30 seconds at high resistance, followed by a cool-down period of 1-3 minutes at low intensity. Your first workout may only include 3-5 reps at 10 seconds each with a longer cool-down period, though as you progress you can increase the number of reps and decrease the cool-down period. Be careful not to overdo it in the beginning, as the intensity of HIIT can sneak up on you.
The most common forms of HIIT training include:
- Jumping rope
One unique aspect of HIIT training is the ability to continue burning calories even after you finish exercising. This is due to a phenomenon called EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption which increases your metabolic rate for potentially hours after exercising. This means—you guessed it—more fat burning in the long run, a great bonus when your goal is weight loss.
AMRAP Workouts to Lose Weight
AMRAP, or as many reps (or rounds) as possible, refers to a style of training in which you aim to complete as many reps as possible of a given exercise or as many rounds as possible of an exercise circuit. If you are familiar with CrossFit, you will likely know how AMRAPs work.
When following a rep-based AMRAP workout, you would complete as many reps as you can within the allotted time. For example, if the workout said to do 60 seconds of bodyweight squats, you would do as many as you can in one minute.
When following a round-based AMRAP workout, rep ranges are usually specified. For example, if the workout says do 10 push-ups, 20 medicine ball slams, and 15 squats, you would complete as many rounds as you can of those exercises within the allotted time for the workout. Find the perfect slam ball to perform this workout here.
Like HIIT workouts, AMRAPs are quite time efficient in that they pack a lot of high-intensity work into a relatively short amount of time, making them ideal for weight loss. That said, they are a bit more flexible than HIIT considering that they utilize a variety of exercises, including resistance training movements. This makes it easy to hammer out both your resistance training and cardio for the day all at once.
Here is a sample 20-minute AMRAP workout that is perfect for weight loss:
Equipment required: Set of medium-weight dumbbells that allow you to perform even your weakest exercise with perfect form.
- Bodyweight or dumbbell front squat: 10 reps
- Reverse dumbbell lunge: 10 reps, 5 reps per side
- Renegade row: 10 reps
- Mountain climber: 10 reps, 5 reps per side
- Dumbbell push-press: 10 reps
- Bent-over reverse dumbbell fly to dumbbell Romanian deadlift: 10 reps
- Lateral burpee over dumbbell: 10 reps
Complete this circuit as many times as possible in 20 minutes, taking 1-3 minutes of rest in between rounds. This workout is sure to get your heart pumping and boost your weight-loss progress.
LISS Exercises to Lose Weight
LISS stands for low-intensity steady-state exercise. These are your typical low-intensity cardio methods, which include:
- Walking (either outside or on the treadmill)
- Elliptical trainer
- Cycling (machine)
- Rowing machine
While some may see this type of exercise as boring, it has a few advantages when it comes to losing weight. The first advantage is simply that it can be done almost anywhere. Barring any bad weather, you can almost always just go outside and take a walk, which doesn't require any fancy equipment.
Secondly, LISS cardio is significantly more sustainable than other high-intensity cardio variations. Meaning, you are much more likely to stick to it. This is due to the fact that you don't need to psych yourself up mentally just to complete a workout. In fact, some research suggests that taking a 10-minute walk after meals is just as good, if not better than, completing cardio exercise once per day. This is an extremely doable approach for most people to add cardio to their weight-loss plan. Alternatively, you could track your daily steps with a sports watch and make a daily step goal to gradually increase your physical activity.
One final reason that LISS cardio may be beneficial is that it doesn't often interfere with your resistance training. For example, if you complete a challenging strength-training workout in the morning and plan on doing high-intensity cardio later in the day, your muscles may not be recovered enough. On the other hand, if you do low-intensity cardio, your muscles don't necessarily need to be fully recovered and you can often burn a similar number of calories.
When setting out to lose weight, it is very important to be realistic with your expectations. Start by determining what would be a reasonable, comfortable body weight for you to walk around at, and set that weight as your long-term goal. From there, it may be helpful to work in 5- to 10-pound increments until you reach that big milestone weight. This puts you in a better place mentally by allowing you to celebrate the small wins, as losing 5-10 pounds is no small feat.
Experts recommend sticking to a slower rate of weight loss of 0.5-1.0 percent of your body weight per week to prevent negative side effects such as muscle loss, fatigue, irritability, headaches, and weight regain.
While exercising plays a big role in weight loss, there are also a number of other factors that will determine your success—the big one being diet. Other factors include your starting weight, age, sex, genetics, medical conditions, and even the quality of your sleep.
By regularly incorporating a variety of exercise methods such as resistance training, HIIT, AMRAP, LISS, or a guided fitness program, you are well on your way to shedding some pounds. While weight loss doesn't happen overnight, a bit of consistency and determination will go a long way in helping you reach your fitness goals.
How to Lose Weight Fast | Workouts to Lose Weight | How to Lose Weight Without Exercise | How to Eat to Lose Weight | How to Burn Belly Fat | Best Weight Loss Apps | Fat-Burning Foods | Best Fat Burners | Best Weight-Loss Supplements