It’s pretty much common knowledge that exercising is a great way to boost your metabolism. But while virtually any type of physical activity will provide a metabolic lift, some routines are better than others in terms of ratcheting up your body’s ability to burn fat.
If you’re interested in reducing body fat (and really, who isn’t?), I’m going to make things easy for you. Okay, well maybe the actual workouts won’t be easy, but the template for success certainly is. So without further ado, here are three high-energy fitness routines guaranteed to stoke your fat-burning furnace—all you need to do is put in the necessary sweat and effort to achieve terrific results.
1) HIIT: HIIT is an acronym for high-intensity interval training. The premise is simple: intersperse bouts of high-intensity aerobic with lower intensity bouts. Studies have consistently shown that this style of training helps to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system to burn more fat as compared to steady-state exercise. Better yet, you achieve these superior results in less time! How cool is that?
But wait, it gets even better from a fat-burning standpoint. Not only does HIIT optimize fat burning during the exercise session, it actually keeps your metabolism elevated long after you’ve stopped working out. This is due to a phenomenon called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption)—sometimes called the afterburn. A high EPOC level is associated with elevated metabolism and increased secretion of growth hormone and noradrenaline. These hormones help break down stores of fat and increase their use as a fuel source. In a nutshell, there is a significant caloric cost for the body to return the body to its resting state. This includes replenishing depleted energy reserves, repairing cellular damage, clearing metabolic byproducts and facilitating tissue growth. The net effect lasts as long as 36 hours after exercise, burning as many as 150 calories a day beyond resting levels. The catch: you need to work out intensely to maximize EPOC. That makes HIIT a homerun when it comes to slimming down and shaping up.
2) Circuit Weight Training: The usual way that most people lift weights is to perform a set, rest for a minute or two, perform another set of the same exercise, rest another couple of minutes, and continue along in this fashion until the desired number of sets of a particular exercise is completed. Then it’s time to move on to the next exercise for a given number of sets. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with training in this manner. In fact, it’s an excellent way to build strength and develop muscle. But if you want to rev up your fat burning potential, circuit training can provide a better bang for your workout buck.
Circuit training is carried out by performing a set of an exercise then moving directly to a different exercise and then another and then another…all with little or no rest between sets. The idea is to keep your heart rate elevated so that you continue burning a maximal number of calories as you lift. It’s a good way to tone your muscles as you strip away fat: a win/win proposition.
The best way to approach circuit training is by structuring the workout so you work an agonist muscle and then its antagonist. Thus, you could set up the routine like so: perform a chest exercise, follow it with a back exercise, then a shoulder exercise, then a bicep exercise, then a triceps exercise, then a quadriceps exercise, then a hamstring exercise, then a calf exercise, then an abdominal exercise. After going through the circuit, you can perform the entire sequence again another time or two for a terrific metabolic kickstart.
3) Compound Training: You might not have heard the term “compound training” but I’ll bet you’re at least familiar with the concept. Simply stated, compound training involves combining two different exercises into one movement. While technically any two exercises can be employed, it’s generally best to pair a lower body exercise with an upper body move. A squat into a shoulder press, a lunge into a biceps curl…get creative and you can come up with an almost endless array of moves.
Why is compound training such a good way to burn fat? Because it increases the amount of muscle mass used in the exercises. The number of calories burned is directly related to how much muscle is stimulated during training: more muscle equates to a greater caloric expenditure. Ideally you should strive to include as many multi-joint movements as possible. These are exercises that involve more than one joint, which necessarily will increase the amount of muscle stimulated. For example, a dumbbell row is a multi-joint movement since the shoulder joint and elbow joints are needed to carry out performance. Ditto for the squat, which involves the hip, knee and ankle joints. String together a few compound moves with short rest intervals and you’ll burn hundreds of extra calories while simultaneously cutting your workout time in half!