Just about everyone is looking for the best calorie burning exercises when it comes to working out. The biggest goals are usually to increase lean muscle and decrease body fat in the least amount of time.
The truth is, though… the perfect exercise is not the same for everyone! And we now know that what matters most is how much exercise you get overall throughout the week. So in order to be consistent, you want to find effective movements you can do easily—and enjoy doing!
That being said, there are definitely certain exercises that are most effective for getting a good burn and seeing more results in a smaller amount of time. That’s why, in this article, we’ll give you some specific best calorie burning exercises you can try to add into your routine.
Cardio Workouts You Can Do Anywhere
When most people think of cardio workouts, it brings to mind endless bouts of running on the treadmill or some other gym-based activity that isn’t enjoyable. But you don’t have to workout like that! In fact, there are many options for getting cardio into your day without suffering or using gym equipment you don’t like.
Here are some great examples of cardio-based workouts that can be fun and also really effective:
Jumping rope is a great way to burn calories and bring some playfulness into your workout. Remember jumping rope as a kid? It’s just as good for you now.
Here’s the proper jump roping form:
– Make sure your rope is the right length. While standing with your feet together on the middle of the rope and pulling the rope up your body, the handles should go to just underneath your armpits.
– Keep your body upright and your feet slightly apart with the rope behind you. Use a slight flick of the wrist to get the rope going and jump over it.
– Stay low to the ground—you don’t have to jump very high for the rope to go under you. Just 1-2 inches off the floor is fine.
– If you find yourself without a usable jump rope, just pretend you have one! The workout benefit will be the same.
Grab yourself an adult-size hula hoop and get started! It’s a simple movement, but you’re working a lot of your body, especially the core.
Here are some tips for hula hooping for exercise:
– Get a hoop that’s big enough so that when you stand it straight up in front of you, it reaches your chest.
– If you have trouble keeping it going, stand with one of your feet in front of the other. Instead of thinking about moving your hips in a circle, just shift your weight back and forth.
– Don’t get discouraged if you have trouble with it at first—like anything, it gets easier with practice!
You can’t go wrong with jumping jacks. It’s simple to do them anywhere, and they get your whole body involved. Try seeing how many you can do in a row. These are also great for adding at the beginning of end of a workout—or even in between work meetings of while waiting for dinner to cook.
Walking, Jogging, or Running
While they aren’t always the most exciting, walking, running, or jogging will always be good options—and you can do them anywhere, whether you’re at home, at the gym, or on vacation. If you need some more exercise for the day and can’t decide what to do, just find a path outside or jump on a treadmill and go for a walk or jog! Bring your phone and some earphones to listen to good music for motivation. Look for a good hiking paths with hills, if possible.
If you’re not a runner, just power walk—or alternate between running and walking.
Tabata is a popular form of exercise because it involves variety and can be really fun to do! The idea is to spend 20 seconds “working,” doing an exercise at a really high intensity, followed by 10 seconds of rest. For example, you could spend 20 seconds doing squats or running (or any of the exercises we mentioned above) at your max intensity followed by 10 seconds of resting. That completes one set, and a Tabata workout usually has eight sets.
Even though Tabata intervals are short (the example workout below is only four minutes long), you’ll more than likely feel like you worked out much longer than that when you’re done! If you push yourself as hard as possible during the 20-second periods, research has shown you can burn more calories than a traditional cardio workout.
Tabata Workout: (that you can do anywhere!)
– Do five minutes of a warmup exercise, such as a boxer shuffle or walking in place.
– 20 seconds of jumping jacks followed by 10 seconds of rest (jogging or marching in place)
– Repeat one more time
– 20 seconds of squats followed by 10 seconds of rest– Repeat one more time
20 seconds of push ups followed by 10 seconds of rest
– Repeat one more time
20 seconds of crunches followed by 10 seconds of rest
– Repeat one more time
Also, if you don’t like one of these exercises, such as push ups, just sub in another similar workout to customize it to your liking.
Other Calorie-Burning Cardio Workouts
Although you can’t do the below exercises anywhere or from home, they’re great options if you go to the gym or in the right outdoor setting. Plus, having a combination of exercise ideas under your belt is a great way to prevent boredom and always have ways to get in your at least five hours of exercise a week!
If you’re not so much into walking, running, or jumping for exercise, you might try swimming! Swimming causes you to use your whole body, so it’s a great all-in-one workout. In fact, it’s one of the best workouts you can do for calorie burning and for minimal strain on your joints.
If you have a tennis partner to play with, that’s great! But you can get just as great a workout in by yourself. Look for a flat wall somewhere outside, such as near your garage door, that you can throw a tennis ball against and have it bounce back evenly.
– Give yourself at least ten feet of space between you and the wall. This is not only give you room to hit the ball but also make you work a little harder and move more.
– Practice switching between forehand shots and backhand shots to workout different areas of your arms and move more.
– See how long you can go consecutively hitting the ball against the wall as it comes back to you. But don’t worry if you keep missing it—running to bend and pick it up again is another great way to keep moving!
While strength workouts might not burn as many calories while you’re doing them, they keep your metabolism running for hours afterwards. Plus, maintaining lean muscle is important for health.
When doing strength workouts, complex movements are some of the best because they use multiple joints in the body versus a movement that only uses one muscle group. Plus, they’re more efficient! You can give yourself a full-body workout quickly with just one or two exercises.
For example, using the leg extension machine at the gym will isolate your quadriceps. You sit in the machine and push your leg up, focusing only on that one muscle. While that’s definitely not a BAD exercise by any means, doing something like walking lunges (preferably with weights) is way better.
Try a few of these great complex movement-based exercises:
Walking Lunges + Dumbbell Curls
– Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Take one step forward, bending both legs into a lunge until your knees are at a 90-degree angle and your front knee is right above your ankle.
– Keep your torso straight up and down and your shoulders back.
– As you do each lunge, turn your palms forward with the dumbbells in each hand and do a bicep curl.
– Come out of the lunge and stand up with your legs together as you lower the dumbbells back down to your sides.
– Take another step with your other leg and repeat the same movements. Repeat on each side as you do walking lunges across the floor. Do 8-10 reps per leg.
This exercise works not only your quadriceps but also your hamstrings, butt, abs, calves, arms, shoulders, and back… plus many more! If holding weights is too much for you to start, feel free to drop them and continue the lunges and curls without added weight.
A complex exercise like walking lunges also gets your heart rate up high, which supercharges your metabolism.
Squat + Overhead Press
This move works both your upper and lower body at the same time and really gets your heart pumping.
– Grab a set of dumbbells that are a good weight for you. Hike them up to comfortably rest on your shoulders.
– Slowly lower into a squat, with your back straight, your hips back, and your feet planted firmly on the ground.
– Press back up through your legs until you’re straight. After you reach the top, position the weights with your palms facing forward and push them straight above your head.
– Slowly lower the weights back down on your shoulders. That’s one set. Do 8-10 reps.
Hip Raise + Tricep Extension
This is another simple exercise that works your legs, core, and triceps.
– Begin on your knees and sitting back on your heels. Hold a dumbbell at your chest and keep your torso straight up and down. (Keep your core engaged the whole time too.)
– Raise your hips and torso so that they’re directly above your knees.
– Press the dumbbell up above your head, then bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell with both hands behind your head.
– Press the dumbbell back up and lower it back to your chest as you sit back on your heels. Do 8-10 reps.
Other Strength Exercises
Don’t forget some of the simple moves you can do anywhere to keep yourself strong:
- push ups
- body weight squats
- body weight lunges
- planks and side planks
- downward dogs and tricep push ups (or any other yoga move)
- bicycle crunches
Supersets and Compound Sets
While you’re doing these complex exercises, there are two other ways to bump up the benefit even more: with supersetting and compound sets.
Supersetting means that directly after you’ve completed a set of an exercise, you do a set of another exercise back-to-back with the one before it. The exercises you superset should work opposing muscle groups, such as doing an exercise that works your chest followed by one that works your back.
Try not to rest in between until you’ve completed one set of each exercise, then give yourself about one and a half to two minutes to rest before repeating.
Compound sets are similar to supersets in that they are done back to back. The difference is that each exercise in a compound set works the same part of the body, such as doing a chest press followed by a row.
Try combining all of the strength exercises mentioned above into one workout by doing the exercises back to back, then rest after you’ve done one set of each exercise before repeating. And why not add some of the cardio options into the mix too?
So, as you can see, there’s not really ONE best calorie burning exercise for everyone. You might have different areas you want based on your fitness goals. But the best types of exercises for prime calorie burn and results are complex exercises that work several areas of the body at once.