The Best Weight Loss Exercises for Maximum Results

Shed pounds effectively with our tailored weight loss exercises. Designed for sustainable results, our routines combine cardio, strength, and flexibility to boost metabolism and burn fat. Start your transformation journey with exercises that work.

Weight loss requires a combination of diet and exercise. Regular exercise helps burn calories and strengthens muscles, which can aid in burning more fat.

The best exercises for weight loss are those that involve many muscles at once, known as compound movements. “This elevates the heart rate and promotes positive muscular change that transfers to functional activity,” Wing says.

1. Squats

Squats are one of the most effective exercises for weight loss because they target multiple muscles in the legs and core. They’re also a complex movement, meaning they require more energy than isolated movements and thus burn more calories. And because squats target so many muscle groups, they help build muscle mass — which increases your metabolism and helps you burn more calories at rest.

Squatting helps improve balance and posture, which can also make you look slimmer and increase your confidence. And squatting builds lower body strength, which can reduce the risk of injury while performing other physical activities like running or jumping.

Adding weights to squats can challenge the muscles even more and help you burn more calories. If you’re new to lifting weights, start with a barbell in front of you that’s 60 to 70 percent of your max weight and perform three to five sets of six to 10 reps. Avoid bouncing or using momentum, and focus on squeezing your glutes with each repetition.

If you’re more advanced, try single-leg squats or go up in weight with a back-loaded squat. A back-loaded squat allows you to hold your own weight against the back of your body (e.g., on a barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells). This type of squat challenges your posterior chain and can be more challenging because it’s difficult to keep your balance while lowering into the squatting position.

Wing says squats are one of her favorite exercises because they “work every single major muscle group and create the most metabolic change in the body.” They also strengthen the knees and hips, which can reduce injury during other exercises and improve performance and everyday activity. And squats can be combined with other exercises to create high-intensity interval training workouts, which pair short bursts of exercise with low-intensity recovery periods, to burn more calories.

Weight Loss Exercises

2. Push-ups

Push-ups are one of the most well-known bodyweight exercises and a staple in any exerciser’s workout. They strengthen the chest, shoulders and triceps muscles, and engage the core, improving posture and stabilization. And because they are performed with bodyweight, push-ups can be done virtually anywhere and can be easily modified to fit any ability level.

For beginners, starting with a wide-stance push-up (each hand is farther apart than the shoulder or hips) may make the movement easier. This variation is also a good choice for those with shoulder problems or those who want to focus on strengthening the triceps.

Another technique to increase the difficulty is pausing for a count of three to five on the way down or lower to the ground, which increases the time under tension and targets the chest muscles more specifically. This can be difficult for even experienced exercisers, but can help build the strength necessary to progress to more advanced variations.

Other ways to increase the difficulty are to do the standard push-up on an uneven surface, such as a bench or step, to work the core and balance muscles, and to do a guillotine push-up, which works the upper pectoral muscles (major and minor) by lowering them past the plane of the hands. The incline push-up, which requires you to raise your face toward the floor in 1 second or less, is another great way to target the pectoral muscles.

Push-ups also offer the added benefit of building a sense of what’s called “kinesthetic awareness,” or an understanding of how your body moves through space. This is important, particularly when you’re working with more complex movements such as dead lifts or squats.

3. Planks

Planks are one of the best core exercises to strengthen your entire midsection, as they engage the abs, back, chest and shoulders. They’re also a great alternative to traditional sit-ups, which only target a few of your core muscles and can strain the neck and lower back. Plus, they’re easy to perform anywhere.

The key to performing a plank correctly is making sure your core is engaged at all times and that your shoulders are down and wide, not scrunched up toward your ears. It’s also important to avoid arching your back, which indicates you aren’t engaging the abdominal muscles and can put extra strain on your arms. Lastly, make sure to squeeze your glutes to keep your hips in a neutral position and create a true straight line from head to tailbone.

If you’re not ready to do a full plank, start out with a modified version: Rest on your forearms with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders, or if you’re comfortable leaning against a wall to increase the difficulty, try a dolphin-style forearm plank. You can also do side planks to target oblique muscles on the sides of your torso or add a leg lift into your forearm plank to work the abs even more.

Then once you’re strong enough to hold a full plank, try increasing the duration gradually. Start with a few sets of 10 seconds planks and work your way up to 30 seconds, then 45 and finally 60. Be careful not to overdo it as you’re building strength; holding a long plank without proper form can actually decrease the effectiveness of the exercise. Instead, it may cause the spine to compress, which can lead to neck and lower back pain.

4. Leg Press

With the leg press, you can target all of the big muscles in your lower body (the quads on the front of the thighs, the hamstrings on the back of the thigh, and the gluteal muscles in the buttocks) in an integrated fashion. It’s great for adding strength to those muscle groups and can even improve the performance of Olympic lifts like squats, as well as everyday functional movements like walking, running, and jumping.

This exercise has the added benefit of being relatively low-impact, so it’s more accessible for beginner weightlifters than some other leg exercises like the barbell squat. As a result, the leg press is an excellent way to build strength and confidence before making the jump to squats and other more advanced exercises.

For beginners, it’s important to start small and increase the weight gradually. You should always be able to control the movement and avoid using too much weight so that you can maintain proper form and prevent injury. If you are not able to do that, you should reduce the weight and focus on perfecting your form before increasing the weight again.

For a more challenging leg day, consider switching out the standard horizontal leg press for the 45-degree leg press machine that has a seat that reclines at an angle to target the quads and hamstrings in a different way. You can also try the single-leg leg press, which targets each leg independently rather than both together. With these five simple but effective weight loss exercises, you can make real progress towards your fitness goals and achieve long-term results. Keep track of your progress with a fitness app like Spren for motivation and personalized insights.

5. Burpees

Burpees are an all-in-one bodyweight exercise that is both effective and challenging. The total-body movement burns calories, sculpts muscle and boosts your metabolism. The burpee’s versatility makes it a great addition to any workout routine. With its combination of squats, push-ups and jumping, the simple burpee works muscles in ways that most exercises cannot. This is one of the best exercises to use if you want to lose weight and build lean muscle in the process.

Burpees require no equipment and can be performed anywhere. However, they are a high-impact exercise and can be difficult on your joints, especially for beginners or those with joint issues. For this reason, it’s important to be mindful of proper form while performing burpees and avoid pushing yourself too hard.

The burpee gets its name from its inventor, Columbia University applied physiology doctoral student Royal H. Burpee, who developed the exercise in 1939 as a way to administer fitness tests. Since then, it’s become a staple in many gym classes and the military, where it is used to test fitness levels.

To perform a basic burpee, start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands resting on the floor in front of you. Then, squat down until your chest is touching the floor and then move into plank. From there, jump straight up into the air to return to the standing position. Then, repeat the whole sequence. To make it harder, you can increase the jump height each time or add a tuck jump.

If you’re a beginner, try adding the basic burpee to your daily workout and gradually work up to higher counts. For advanced trainers, you can try variations of the burpee like Hindu push-ups, a plank with side kicks or an overhead tuck jump.

Weight Loss Exercises

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