The Best Workouts to Burn Fat & Lose Those Inches from Your Waist!
The middle age spread is unhealthy and it makes you look older than you really are.
Yup, that middle age spread or what’s commonly known as belly fat is actually very detrimental to our health.
“But hey, almost everyone above 40 has it! Heck! Some folks start having in their 30s!” So does that mean it is okay to be fat especially around the belly which is also known as abdominal obesity?
Of course not, for one thing like I said it’s extremely unhealthy.
Accordingly to WebMD, the problem with belly fat isn’t the subcutaneous fat i.e. the fat that’s just below the skin, the type that you can grab with your hands. It’s the visceral fat – the fat that accumulate in the viscera and around the internal organs like the stomach and the intestines that’s dangerous because your risks of chronic conditions like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and even certain types of cancer increase dramatically.
Now that we know why belly fat is so detrimental to health, are we going to look at the best exercises and workouts to burn belly fat?
Well, yes and no!
First, I want to emphasize that you cannot spot reduce through exercise; this means that when you lose fat, it’s not just at the tummy area but all over your body. That being said, the only way that you can spot reduce is through surgery – liposuction to be precise; and as you probably are aware, all types of surgeries entail risk.
Second, there aren’t any best exercises – there are definitely good exercises to burn fat but what’s more important is how the exercises are structured together in a workout; thus the best workouts to burn fat. And when you burn fat, the good news is, the visceral or belly fat will also get torched as well.
Different Folks for Different Strokes
How fast you lose the fat will depend on many factors.
- Your diet and lifestyle – you cannot lose fat without cutting calories and/or carbs. Period! In fact I’d go so far as to say that you must have sufficient protein and essential fats in order to maintain your lean muscle mass as you burn fat because retaining or even increasing muscle mass will by itself increase metabolism since muscles burn more calories at rest than fat. And before you think that you can burn fat just by working out hard, I need to say that fat loss is 80% diet and 20% working out hard because you just cannot out train a bad diet, period!
- Your age – if you’re a senior like me you’ll find that you’ll lose fat slower than younger folks because as you age your metabolism slows down and you’ll need more time to ramp it up to burn fat.
- Your gender – generally speaking, it’ll be easier for men to burn fat than women because guys have more testosterone than ladies; testosterone builds muscles and increased muscle mass burns more calories at rest. But that doesn’t mean ladies can’t burn fat; in fact, anyone can burn fat and retain lean muscle mass with the right diet and workout.
- Your present fitness level – obviously if you’ve been sedentary and out of shape for a long time, you’ll have to slowly work yourself back into being fit otherwise you won’t be able to withstand the intensity of the best fat burning workouts.
The Best Types of Fat Burning Workouts in Descending Order
We’ll go into the specific types of workouts that will burn those extra inches away. Now, I won’t go into the specific exercises in these workouts because there as just too many of them. But I’ll give an example of how I’d structure the exercises or movements for each specific type of workout.
1. Metabolic Weight or Resistance Training
This is by far the best and most effective way to torch fat fast and at the same time retain or even increase your lean muscle mass. This should be the cornerstone of your fat loss program.
Essentially it’s using resistance training to work out every muscle group hard and intensely so that this creates a metabolic turbulence that keeps the metabolism elevated for many hours after the workout thereby enabling fat burning even at rest.
And there are numerous studies that support this.
In a 2002 study by the Ohio University in the US, researchers used a workout comprising the bench press, power cleans and squats: 4 circuits were done within 31 minutes. The results showed that EPOC (exercise post oxygen consumption) was elevated for 38 hours after the workout.
What this means is this: if you worked out on Monday morning, your metabolism will still be elevated and you’d still be burning fat on Tuesday night!
In another study by the West Virginia University, 22 participants were divided into 2 groups. The first group did aerobics workouts that totaled 4 hours per week; the second group was put on resistance training 3 times a week on non-consecutive days. The weight training comprised 10 exercises of 2 to 4 sets with a rep range of 8 – 15 reps before muscular failure.
Both groups lost weight since they were put on just 800 calories a day but what stood out was that the resistance training group lost considerably more fat than the aerobics group but managed to retain muscle mass. This was because the resistance training group had their metabolism elevated while the aerobic group’s metabolisms actually slowed down.
Okay now that we know this is all backed up by scientific evidence, the question that you probably have is: what’s metabolic resistance training?
Metabolic resistance training is characterized by 2 things:
- Total body training where all the major muscle groups are worked out.
- Very little or no rest between sets.
Let’s take a look at some examples of metabolic resistance training workouts.
This is where you do one exercise after another with no rest between them. After you complete 1 set of each exercise continuously and without rest, then it’s counted as one circuit. Let me give you an example.
Repetitions wise, it should be anything between 10 and 15 for those in condition; less experienced trainees should aim for lighter weights and higher reps i.e. between 15 and 20 reps. Depending on how conditioned and advanced you are, do anything from 2 to 6 circuits.
Beginners: 2 circuits. Rest between circuits: 3 minutes.
Intermediates: 3 – 4 circuits. Rest between circuits: 90 seconds to 2 minutes.
Advanced: 5 – 6 circuits. Rest between circuits: 60 to 90 seconds.
What if you prefer to workout at home instead of the gym but don’t have weights?
You can still do resistance training circuits using your own bodyweight with a suspension trainer like the TRX. Here’s an example of a bodyweight resistance training circuit which you can do at home.
- Decline Push-ups
- TRX rows
- TRX Y Raises
- TRX Mountain Climbers
- Bodyweight Bulgarian Split Squats
- TRX Leg Curls
For bodyweight resistance training circuits, since it’s relatively less intense than those done with free weights or weight machines, I’d recommend training to failure in all the movements.
What do I mean when I say training to failure? It means you do the movement until you can’t do any more repetitions.
Again, depending on how conditioned and advanced you are, do anything from 2 to 6 circuits; here are the recommended number of circuits depending on how advanced you are:
Beginners: 2 circuits. Rest between circuits: 2 – 3 minutes.
Intermediates: 3 – 4 circuits. Rest between circuits: 60 seconds to 90 seconds.
Advanced: 5 – 6 circuits. Rest between circuits: 30 to 60 seconds.
Supersets & Tri-sets
A superset comprise 2 exercises or movements done continuously in succession without rest while a triset are 3 exercises that are done in succession without rest.
These metabolic movements usually involve agonist/antagonist muscle groups. Here are examples of a superset and triset:
Keep the rep range between 10 and 15 for each exercise or movement with no rest until a superset or tri-set is completed. Then rest 30 to 60 secs and do the superset or tri-set again. Again, depending on how advanced or conditioned you are, 2 to 4 supersets or tri-sets should suffice.
Please bear in mind that these are just examples of supersets and tri-sets, NOT entire workouts which can comprise of both supersets and tri-sets.
Barbell, Dumbbell and Kettlebell Complexes
I know what you’re going to ask me…. What the heck are complexes?
A complex is just a series of weight training movements strung together and performed seamlessly one after another without putting the weight down. The weights can be a barbell, a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells.
Let’s look at an example of a barbell complex.
This barbell complex comprises the following movements:
- Power Cleans
- Push Press
- Burpees (finisher)
As you can see all the movements are done continuously without putting the barbell down until the last exercise burpees which is used as a finisher.
Personally I wouldn’t recommend complexes for newbies and beginners because at this level you’re still learning how to do the exercises/movements correctly.
If you’re a beginner, I’d suggest learning the movements and exercises first, then slowly transition into circuit training. I’ve written 3 blogposts for seniors who want to start on resistance training at home.
Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.
Now even though it’s written for seniors, if you’re a younger total newbie, overweight, out of shape and sedentary for years if not decades, then please go and read my blogposts to start from ground zero!
Before you can actually burn fat, you need to start get into condition so 1 step at a time.
2. High Intensity Interval Training aka HIIT
After metabolic resistance training, the second most effective way to increase metabolism and torch fat is through high intensity interval training aka as HIIT.
Like metabolic resistance training this high intensity cardio type of training revs up metabolism so that you burn fat way after your workout is over. It’s far superior than the usual steady state cardio.
A study by the Laval University, Ste-Foy in Quebec, Canada found that high intensity interval training or HIIT elicit a fat loss that was 9 times more than the endurance type steady state cardio.
The HIIT group trained for 15 weeks whereas the steady state cardio group trained for 20 weeks and yet the energy cost of the steady state training was only 13,614 calories against 28,661 calories, the energy cost of HIIT training.
So what exactly is high intensity interval training or HIIT and how different is it from the usual steady state cardio?
In steady state cardio you’re often advised to aim between 55% to 70% of your maximum heart rate from 15 min to 30 min or even longer so stay within the so called fat burning zone.
HIIT is different. As the term high intensity infers, a HIIT session comprises high intensity aerobic cum anaerobic work interspersed with low intensity periods for recovery.
Let me give you an example of a HIIT workout using burpees.
Warm-up: Jogging on the spot for 5 min
Set 1: Burpees 30 secs, rest & recovery for 90 secs.
Set 2: Burpees 30 secs, rest & recovery for 90 secs.
…. And so on until you’re fatigued.
You can also do HIIT runs i.e. sprints interspersed with jogging or brisk walking, or HIIT on stationary bike – bike sprints interspersed with less intense peddling.
For beginners who have had some conditioning, I’d recommend a work rest ratio of 1:3 and progress from there.
For total newbies and seniors who are overweight and have been sedentary for ages, my recommendation is that you start with steady state cardio and get into condition first before progressing to HIIT.
All that having said about the benefits of HIIT, it isn’t with its pitfalls. Just like metabolic resistance training, HIIT shouldn’t and cannot be done every day because it hits your central nervous system or CNS hard. My recommendation for HIIT is 3 times a week on non-consecutive days just like metabolic resistance training. Doing more than that can and will lead to overtraining and you’ll feel tired all the time.
Bear in mind that I’m writing this for the average newbie who’s overweight, sedentary and wants to burn fat, retain or even build some muscle and get in shape.
If you’re an advanced trainee, you’d probably be better off doing HIIT using the Tabata protocol which is extremely demanding and is only recommended if you’re already well-conditioned and are in shape but want to get your body fat level down to a very low level e.g. 10% or lower for men and 15% or lower for women.
So what does the Tabata protocol looks like?
Very simply put its high intensity work for 20 secs, rest 10 secs, work again for 20 secs etc. for a total of 8 minutes at the end of which you should be breathing hard like a locomotive and wanting to puke from the hard workout!
This video is an example of a Tabata workout with a kettlebell:
As you can see the lady is alternating 8 sets of kettlebell swings and kettlebell thrusters, all done for 20 secs with a rest period of 10 secs for to a total of 4 minutes. Here she does 2 rounds of 4 sets. And these 8 minute workouts done at the end of a normal strength training workout will rev up your metabolism like never before. And if coupled with a diet geared for fat loss, you’ll be ripped to shreds (a bodybuilding parlance) in no time.
3. Steady State Cardio
This is the usual brisk walking, jogging, running, cycling, rowing on a machine and swimming that’s supposed to get your heart rate up for at least 20 min or longer done 5 to 6 times a week. It’s also known as aerobic exercise.
However, there’s a distinction here because you can also need to vary the intensity according to your fitness level. Obviously if you’re a senior like me and/or have been sedentary for decades as well as being overweight then it’s best to take it slow and start easy, possibly with brisk walking, cycling on a stationary bike or swimming at a pace you can keep up with.
As you improve your fitness, you can increase the intensity of these steady state cardio sessions.
All that being said, steady state cardio is the least effective in fat loss because although it does burn calories when you’re exercising it doesn’t rev up your metabolism like the rest that we’ve discussed.
The Optimum Fat Loss Workout Plan
This is probably what you’ve been waiting for all along isn’t it?
The optimum fat loss workout plan for you really depends on how much time you can realistically put aside each week for working out since everyone’s schedules are different.
If you can spare, say 3 to 5 hours a week on working out, then I’d recommend a comprehensive full-body metabolic resistance training circuit program comprising anything from 3 to 5 circuits done 3 times a week on alternate days. Once you’ve completed your resistance circuit training then finish off with 10 minutes of HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training.
If you can spare 3 hours a week tops, then a full body metabolic resistance training circuit program comprising 3 to 4 circuits done on non-consecutive days 3 times a week will do the trick.
If you’re really pressed for time and can spare only at most 1.5 to 2 hours a week then HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is the way to go. 10 to 20 minutes of HIIT movements e.g. burpees, kettlebell swings, rowing, cycling or runs etc. will do the trick in ramping up your metabolism after your workouts are over. That being said, your challenge will be increasing the intensity of the movement you’ve chosen. One way to break the monotony of doing the same movement every workout is to do, say HIIT burpees on Monday, HIIT runs on Wednesdays and HIIT cycling on Fridays. You get the picture.
I’d rather risk being called a broken record than failing to mention this: please get the okay from your doctor before embarking on any exercise especially if you’re a senior, overweight and have been sedentary for ages.
If you’ve worked out intensely for quite a while before in the past, your progress will be faster than someone who is starting out for the first time. Why? Well, there’s this thing called muscle memory which enables your body to respond much faster than if you’re working out for the first time in your life.
It was because of muscle memory that enabled me to lose 5 inches of fat from my waist within 3 months and regained the muscle mass that I lost. If I were working out for the first time, it would have taken me longer to achieve those results.
Lastly, be patient – you didn’t put on the extra pounds or kilograms overnight so please don’t expect miracles. Give yourself a minimum of 3 months to see results. And don’t forget that exercise is only 20% of the equation, the other 80% comes from your diet so if you don’t change your diet, you’re not going to see much improvement even if you are going to work out hard.
In my next blogpost I’m going to focus on the other 80%: that’s right – your diet for fat loss.
Till then, ciao!