If you want to know which exercises help you lose weight (fat, not muscle) fast, then you want to read this article.
Weight loss has rules.
They’re mathematical in nature and we’re beholden to them whether we like it or not.
You can’t just break the rules because you don’t like them or because you hope they don’t apply to you. This is where many dieters fail.
A few of these principles relate to food intake and a few relate to what types of exercise you should do, which is what we’re going to focus on here.
There are many opinions on the subject, of course.
- Some people say cardio is the ultimate weight loss exercise. Others say it’s actually quite ineffective.
- Some people say weightlifting is for building muscle and not losing weight. End of story.
- Some people say certain exercises will help you lose fat in certain areas of your body. Some say otherwise.
Well, in this article, we’re going to get definitive answers to these controversies and more.
By the end, you’re going to know exactly what types of exercise are best for weight loss and why, and how to make losing weight as easy as possible.
I want to start by making an important distinction.
So far, we’ve been talking “weight loss.”
Instead, we need to focus on fat loss, and here’s why…
Table of Contents
What do millions of people resolve to do every January?
Lose weight, right?
That’s the wrong way of looking at it, though. What they really want to do is lose fat.
I’m not being pedantic, either–there’s a big difference between those two goals.
Strictly speaking, weight loss refers to reducing a number on a scale.
Well, you don’t know what you’re doing, you can lose plenty of weight…and wind up skinny fat.
If you want a simple demonstration of this, just follow one of the many popular weight loss diets and exercise programs that go something like this:
- Eat very little food.
- Pay no attention to macros.
- Do very little resistance training.
- Do egregious amounts of cardio.
You’ll lose plenty of weight…comprised of both muscle and fat.
And as you can guess, muscle loss is the major concern here because the more you lose, the worse you look, even with a relatively low body fat percentage.
This is how you ruin your body composition.
If you go about it differently, though, and focus on losing fat while preserving muscle, the upshot is very different.
You may lose less weight but you’ll be better for it because you’ll have retained (or even gained) muscle, which means you’ll be much happier with what you see in the mirror.
So, you came into this article wanting to know more about “weight loss.”
I want you to start thinking “fat (and not muscle) loss,” though, because that’s what I want for you.
What kind of exercises do most people think they should do lose belly fat?
Ab exercises, of course.
What about thigh fat?
Squats are supposed to burn away that blight, aren’t they?
And so the list goes…
- Lunges for butt fat
- Rows for back fat
- Curls for biceps fat
- And on and on…
Well, these exercises don’t work like that. In fact, exercise in general doesn’t work like that.
Ironically, if you want a certain area of your body to be leaner or “slimmer,” training the muscles without also reducing your body fat percentage will create the opposite effect.
It will simply end up looking bigger.
(This, by the way, is why many women mistakenly believe that weightlifting will make them “bulky.”)
The reason for this is fat loss is a whole-body process. You can’t selectively lose (or gain) fat in one region of your body or another.
Yes, all of us tend to store our fat differently, but the basic mechanism is the same–when we gain fat, we gain it everywhere, and when we lose it, we see a reduction in total-body fat mass.
What this means is you can use diet and exercise to get leaner, but some areas will lose inches faster than others.
(And unfortunately, the fat we want to lose the most is also usually the hardest to lose, but that’s another discussion.)
The best exercises for weight loss meet several criteria:
- They burn a significant amount of energy.
- They result in little to no muscle loss.
- They don’t place the body under too much stress.
By focusing on these types of exercises, you’ll lose fat (and not muscle) as quickly and “painlessly” as possible. You may even gain some muscle, too.
Now, what most people don’t know is the “secret” to getting ripped isn’t doing a handful of “special” exercises like air squats, planks, butt raises, or anything else.
It’s doing the right type of exercise.
(The truth is there is no “secret,” really, but some approaches certainly work better than others.)
In other words, it’s not so much about the individual exercises that you do as the style of exercise.
Let’s break this down.
If you ask someone that wants to lose weight what they need to do, what will they say?
“Diet and exercise,” right?
And if you ask them what type of exercise, what will the likely answer be?
You know, walking, jogging, swimming, biking, and so forth.
Unfortunately, this guarantees little in the way of weight loss (even when you do quite a bit).
In fact, research shows that you can just wind up fatter as a result, mainly by negating its already meager weight loss benefits by unconsciously eating too much and/or reducing other forms of physical activity.
Hence the throngs of overweight people in your gym crowding the treadmills, wondering why they’re still not losing weight.
There are two reasons why your traditional cardio workout is a mediocre (at best) weight loss tool.
Cardio doesn’t burn all that much energy.
If you’re like most people, running vigorously for 30 minutes is pretty exhausting.
Guess how much energy it burns, though?
Anywhere from 400 to 600 calories, depending on your speed and body weight.
If that sounds like a lot to you, consider that it’s the amount of energy in…
- A handful of nuts, some yogurt, and an apple.
- A large blueberry muffin.
- A plain bagel with cream cheese
- A waffle with a drizzle of syrup
- 4 slices of bacon
- 4.5 ounces of cheese
The point isn’t that you shouldn’t eat nuts, muffins, or bacon when you want to lose weight, of course, but this:
Cardio workouts don’t burn as much energy as we wish they did, making it very easy to eat back all the calories burned (and more).
The same could be said of many other types of workouts as well, by the way.
This is why people that say you just need to “move more” to lose weight are missing the forest for the trees.
Increased physical activity can help, of course, but if you don’t know what you’re doing with your diet, no amount of exercise is going to be enough to keep the needle moving.
Your body “learns” to burn less energy.
You probably know that an energy deficit is required to lose fat.
(If not, read this article.)
And you probably know that in almost all cases, a “weight loss plateau” boils down to eating too much.
(If not, read this article.)
What you may not know, though, is when in a calorie deficit, your body works to diminish it through moving less and promoting overeating.
One of these adaptations is an increase in energy efficiency.
The net effect of this is, over time, your body burns fewer and fewer calories doing the same workouts (it becomes more energy efficient in doing them).
This shrinks your calorie deficit, which slows down your weight loss.
When this happens, many people don’t understand what’s going on and try to fight fire with fire.
They resolve to “move more” (do more cardio) and while this increases energy expenditure (and thus fat loss), it can also accelerate muscle loss and metabolic slowdown.
They often reduce caloric intake to near-starvation levels as well, which only makes matters worse.
All this is why I generally recommend that people keep cardio to a minimum when dieting to lose fat.
Yes, you read that correctly.
If we’re just talking body composition, the less cardio you can do when cutting, the better.
What does all that mean specifically, though?
What qualifies as the “right” amount (and type) of cardio?
There are two types of cardio that I believe are best for losing weight:
1. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
That probably sounds contradictory to you.
How could the hardest and easiest forms of cardio both be the “best” for fat loss?
Well, it’s precisely because of their opposite positions on the “exertion” spectrum.
Let me explain.
Why HIIT is Best for Rapid Fat Loss
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, is a style of exercising where you alternate between periods of (almost) all-out and low effort.
Hence, the name.
The high-intensity intervals push your body toward its metabolic limits (basically as hard as you can go) and the low-intensity intervals allow it to recover (catching your breath).
HIIT is fantastic for weight loss because it burns a large amount of energy in a relatively short period of time (and has semi-significant “afterburn” effects as well).
A study conducted by scientists at The University of Western Ontario shows just how effective it really is.
Researchers had 10 men and 10 women train 3 times per week, with one group doing 4 to 6 30-second treadmill sprints (with 4 to 6 minutes of rest in between each), and the other group doing 30 to 60 minutes of steady-state cardio (jogging at about 65% of VO2 max).
After 6 weeks of training, the subjects doing the intervals had lost significantly more fat.
Yes, 4 to 6 30-second sprints burn more fat than 60 minutes of jogging.
This isn’t just better for your social life–it’s better for your muscles, too.
These effects are compounded and magnified when you’re in a calorie deficit, which is why doing too much cardio while cutting can cause a considerable amount of muscle loss.
Well, with HIIT, you can have the best of both worlds: relatively short workouts that burn a considerable amount of fat and minimally impact muscle.
So, if you’re sold on HIIT, you probably have a few questions, such as…
- How “intense” do the high-intensity intervals need to be in terms of exertion and length?
- How “restful” and long should the rest periods be?
- How long should the workouts be?
- How frequently should you do HIIT?
Basically: what actually qualifies as a HIIT workout and how do you get the most out of this type of training?
Read this article to find out.
Walking: The Easiest Way to Lose Fat Faster
When viewed in terms of fat burning, walking is no HIIT, but it deserves more attention than it gets.
You see, it’s not nearly as effective for maximizing fat loss, but it’s definitely the easiest way to increase energy expenditure and lose weight faster.
Case in point:
A study conducted by scientists at California State University with college-aged men and women found that subjects that ran a 10-minute mile burned about 190 calories.
Subjects that walked a 19-minute mile burned fewer calories, of course, but it’s not as few as you might think–about 111 calories.
If you walked a few hours per week, then, you could augment your energy expenditure by anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 calories, which could translate to an additional 1 to 2 pounds of fat loss per month.
Not too shabby.
Research shows that this is enough to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality (death from any cause), as well.
This is significant because managing stress (and thus cortisol) levels is an important part of minimizing muscle loss while restricting calories to lose fat.
You do this primarily by managing how much you eat and exercise, and this is where many people go astray.
Well, walking is great in this regard because, unlike more intense forms of exercise, it places very little stress on the body.
That means that you can “safely” add several hours of weekly walking on top an already rigorous exercise schedule without risking overtraining.
Most people mistakenly associate weightlifting with “bulking up” and not “slimming down.”
That’s probably because, as we discussed earlier, they’re too focused on weight as opposed to body composition.
You see, weightlifting isn’t a good way to lose weight because it causes muscle gain, which makes you heavier…but research shows that it’s an extremely effective way to speed up fat loss.
For example, let’s review a study conducted by scientists at Duke University.
196 men and women ranging from 18 to 70 years old were separated into three groups:
1. Resistance training (RT)
This group did three 60-minute resistance training workouts per week that consisted of 24 sets of machine exercises.
2. Aerobic training (AT)
This group jogged three days per week for about 45 minutes per workout.
3. Aerobic and resistance training (AT/RT)
This group did both of the workouts above, which summed up to about 5 hours of exercise per week.
Which group do you think lost the most weight?
Well, after eight months, scientists found at the aerobic training group topped the weight loss charts.
They also lost the most muscle.
Guess who lost the most fat (and gained muscle to boot)?
You got it–the aerobic and resistance training group.
The bottom line is this:
If you want to lose fat as quickly as possible while preserving or even building muscle, then you want to do both resistance and aerobic training.
What Type of Weightlifting Is Best for Weight Loss?
The weightlifting best for losing fat would do two things:
1. Burn a significant amount of energy without over-stressing the body.
2. Overload the muscles to stimulate muscle growth.
Well, there happens to be a weightlifting workout that fits that bill perfectly: One that emphasizes heavy compound lifting.
By “heavy,” I mean handling weights that are 70%+ of your one-rep max (and ideally closer to 80 to 85%).
The reason for this is simple: it burns a lot of energy.
A study published by scientists at Democritus University of Thrace (Greece) found that training with weights in the range of 80 to 85% of 1RM significantly increases metabolic rate over the following three days, burning hundreds more calories than training with lighter weights (45 to 65% of 1RM).
Similar effects were seen in a study conducted by researchers at Gama Filho University (Brazil) as well.
By “compound,” I mean focusing on compound exercises, which are those that train multiple major muscle groups (like the squat, deadlift, and bench and overhead press).
As luck would have it, this style of weightlifting is also best for building muscle and strength, which serves our purposes perfectly.
If you want to see all this in action, do the following:
- 3 to 5 1-hour heavy weightlifting sessions per week
If you need help creating a weightlifting routine, check out this article.
- 2 to 3 25-minute HIIT sessions per week
If you’re not sure how to best program your HIIT workouts, read this article.
- 2 to 3 30 to 45-minute walks per week
If you’d like to know a bit more about the benefits of walking, this article will help you.
If you do that and follow a proper meal plan, you will lose fat (and not muscle!) faster than you ever have before.
I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than everything else we’ve covered so far.
You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.
Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.
Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.
So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.
The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.
As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.
Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.
That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.
I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.
For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your efforts to lose fat.
As weight loss boils down to energy consumed vs. energy expended, caffeine helps you lose fat by increasing your body’s daily energy expenditure.
Part of maximizing the fat loss benefits of caffeine is preventing your body from building up too much of a tolerance, however. The best way to do this is to limit intake, of course.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Before training, supplement with 3 – 6 mg caffeine per kg of body weight. If you’re not sure of your caffeine sensitivity, start with 3 mg/kg and work up from there.
- Keep your daily. intake at or below 6 mg per kg of body weight. Don’t have 6 mg/kg before training and then drink a couple of coffees throughout the day.
- Do 1 – 2 low-caffeine days per week, and 1 no-caffeine day per week. A low day should be half your normal intake, and a no day means less than 50 mg of caffeine (you can have a cup or two of tea, but no coffee, caffeine pills, etc.).
Personally I get my caffeine from my pre-workout PULSE, which contains a dehydrated and concentrated form of caffeine (caffeine anhydrous) shown to be more effective for improving performance than what is naturally found in beverages like coffee.
PULSE also contains clinically effective dosages of 5 other ingredients scientifically proven to improve workout performance:
- Beta-Alanine. Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that reduces exercise-induced fatigue, improves anaerobic exercise capacity, and can accelerate muscle growth.
- Citrulline Malate. Citrulline is an amino acid that improves muscle endurance, relieves muscle soreness, and improves aerobic performance.
- Betaine. Betaine is a compound found in plants like beets that improves muscle endurance, increases strength, and increases human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 production in response to acute exercise.
- Ornithine. Ornithine is an amino acid found in high amounts in dairy and meat that reduces fatigue in prolonged exercise and promotes lipid oxidation (the burning of fat for energy as opposed to carbohydrate or glycogen).
- Theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found primarily in tea that reduces the effects of mental and physical stress, increases the production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow, and improves alertness, focus, attention, memory, mental task performance, and mood.
And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:
- No artificial sweeteners or flavors..
- No artificial food dyes.
- No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.
The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.
Yohimbine is made from the Pausinystalia yohimbe plant, and it helps the body “tap into” fat stores.
(Not a very technical explanation, I know–if you want to know exactly how it works, check out this article of mine on how to lose stubborn fat.)
I’ve cut both with and without fasted training and yohimbine and I can say with absolutely certainty that with is noticeably faster. So much so that I think the biggest benefits of fasted training are that it lets you use yohimbine and it makes the other supplements discussed in this article more effective.
By itself, fasted training will make a slight difference in how quickly you lose fat. Combined with these supplements, however, it’s quite dramatic.
In terms of dosages, research has shown that .2 mg/kg of body weight is sufficient for fat loss purposes, and that ingesting it prior to exercise is particularly effective.
Some people get overly jittery from yohimbine, so I recommend you start with .1 mg/kg of body weight to assess tolerance. If you feel fine, then increase to the clinically effective dosage of .2 mg/kg.
Furthermore, yohimbine can raise blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, I don’t recommend you use it.
In terms of which specific yohimbine supplement I recommend, you’re probably not surprised that I’ve included a clinically effective dosage in every serving of my pre-workout fat burner FORGE.
FORGE is a fat burner made specifically for use with fasted training and it contains clinically effective dosages of…
- HMB. β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate (also known as HMB) is a substance formed when your body metabolizes the amino acid leucine.
Research shows that HMB is an extremely effective anti-catabolic agent, which means it’s very good at preventing muscle breakdown. And this means you will recover faster from your workouts and experience less muscle soreness.
- Yohimbine. Research shows that yohimbine enables your body to reduce fat stores faster, and it’s particularly useful as you get leaner and are battling with stubborn fat holdouts.
- Citicoline. CDP-choline (also known as citicoline) is a chemical that occurs naturally in the brain that increases levels of another chemical called phosphatidylcholine, which is vital for brain function.
Research shows that supplementation with CDP-choline improves attentional focus, and I included this in FORGE because most people find fasted training more mentally draining than fed training and CDP-choline can help counteract this.
The bottom line is FORGE helps you lose fat–and “stubborn” fat in particular–faster, preserve muscle, and maintain training intensity and mental sharpness.
PHOENIX Fat Burner
And for the same reasons it’s also no surprise that fat burners are some of the most expensive supplements on the shelves and feature some of the loudest marketing claims, often making big promises of “scientifically proven” rapid fat loss.
The reality is most “fat burners” are junk but there are a handful of natural, safe substances that have been scientifically proven to accelerate fat loss. And that’s why I created PHOENIX.
PHOENIX’s caffeine-free formulation is helps you burn fat faster in three different ways:
- It dramatically increases metabolic speed.
- It amplifies the power of fat-burning chemicals produced by your body.
- It increases the feeling of fullness from food.
It accomplishes this through clinically effective dosages of several ingredients, including…
- Synephrine. This increases both basal metabolic rate and lipolysis, inhibits the activity of certain fat cell receptors that prevent fat mobilization, and increases the thermic effect of food (the “energy cost” of metabolizing food).
- Naringin. This stimulates the production of a hormone called adiponectin, which is involved in the breakdown of fat cells, and that it activates a type of receptor in fat cells that regulates fat mobilization (the PPARα receptor).
Through these mechanisms, naringin also works synergistically with synephrine and hesperidin to further accelerate the basal metabolic rate.
- Hesperidin. Like naringin, this also stimulates the production of adiponectin and activates the PPARa receptor. It also improves blood flow and reduces the inflammation of blood vessels.
- Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). This inhibits the activity of a different enzyme also responsible for breaking down neurotransmitters that induce lipolysis. It has also been shown to reduce abdominal fat in particular.
- Forskolin. This increases blood plasma and intracellular levels of a molecule known as cAMP. When cAMP is high, it signifies a lack of ATP (the most basic form of cellular energy in the body) and thus initiates a process to make more ATP by burning through energy reserves (body fat).
- And more…
The bottom line is if you want to lose fat faster without pumping yourself full of stimulants or other potentially harmful chemicals…then you want to try PHOENIX.
We’ve covered a lot in this article, so here’s a quick summary:
- Focus on losing fat, not just weight.
- Don’t starve yourself and don’t eat too little protein.
- You can’t use certain exercises to lose fat in certain areas of your body (spot reduce).
- You don’t have to do much cardio.
- HIIT cardio is best for maximizing fat loss and walking is best for minimizing stress.
- Resistance training is very important for maximizing fat loss and preserving muscle.
- Heavy compound lifting gives you the best of both worlds (fat loss and muscle gain).
Make that your mantra and I promise you’ll get better results in the gym than you ever have before.