It’s always interesting to see what happens when you ask a group of people what calories are. You’ll hear all sorts of stuff, though the most common response usually sounds something like “the things that make you fat.” And, while this can be true, it’s not the whole truth.
Calories are, strictly speaking, a measure of energy. When you take in more calories than you use up, your body stores the excess as fat. To lose weight – and to stop gaining weight – then, a two step-approach is needed. First, you need to cut out the excess calories to stop the storage of fat. Second, you need to create a larger caloric deficit; A fancy way of saying that you need to increase the distance between the amount of calories you eat and the calories you burn. To do this, you need to exercise.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to workout: to build muscles, to increase strength, to improve endurance, just for fun. But if losing weight is your primary goal, here are the top 10 exercises that burn the most calories to help you design your workouts.
10. Steady-state (SS) Cardio – While the classic approach to weight loss is just a plain old, long jog, it’s not the best. Of course, at about 10 calories burned per minute, SS will do something. The impact just won’t be as major as the other options on our list.
9. Indoor Rowing – Not only is that rowing machine an awesome way to get your heartrate up, it will help build muscle. That muscle, in turns, helps burn more calories – even when you aren’t doing anything. In general, a vigorous bout of rowing can torch about 12.5 calories per minute.
8. Jumping Rope – This childhood-game-turned-torture-device is an excellent way to burn about 13 calories each minute since it works more muscle groups than running while challenging your balance – an oft-forgotten element of strength.
7. “Cindy” – A favorite CrossFit Workout of the Day (WOD), Cindy uses a nonstop combination of push-ups, pull-ups and squats to work all of your major muscle groups. The workout consists of as many round of 5 Pull-ups, 10 Push-ups, 15 Squats as you can crank out in 20 minutes.
6. Tabata Jump Squats – Tabata drills, in general, are extremely difficult. This form of HIIT requires you to work all-out for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Keep this up for four minutes. Using jump squats as the exercises-of-choice uses your biggests muscles (your legs) which will require the largest amount of calories.
5. AirDyne Bike Sprints – This specific brand of stationary bike increases resistance as you pedal harder, making it steadily more challenging as you get better at it. According to Men’s Health magazine, one man (in a totally unscientific experiment that relied on the devices own computer) burned a whopping 87 calories in just one minute.
4. HIIT – High intensity interval training (HIIT) can refer to all sorts of things these days, including the above-noted Cindy and Tabata Jump Squats. The most common form, though, simply requires you to spring for a set period and walk for a set period. Once you find a protocol that you can do and enjoy, use that instead of your standard SS cardio. Not only will it burn more calories, it will help you improve your running speed.
3. Circuit training – Similarly, circuit training is kind of a broad, umbrella term that refers to a whole style of training instead of just one exercise. Still, it works. To perform a circuit, pick several exercises and perform them back-to-back with no rest. Crank of the amount of calories you burn by targeting every major muscle group you have. Chest, legs, back and shoulders are the common focal points.
2. Burpees – Originally created as a test of an athletes prowess, this complex movement is still one of the best calorie burners out there. Depending on your size and fitness level, a single burpee could burn as much as 1.5 calories.
1. Compound lifts – Yet another general category, compound lifts are by far the best way to burn calories. This includes things like the squat, bench press and bentover row; Those exercises that cross multiple joints and work many muscle groups all at once. While they might not immediately burn as many calories as some other exercises – depending on your fitness level and the weight you’re working with – compound lifts work in the long-term. Since muscle burns calories 24/7, adding muscle to your burn is the ultimate way to continually burn excess calories.