Best Fat-Burning Workouts & Exercises - Dr. Axe

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What Are the Best Fat-Burning Workouts?


Fat burning workouts - Dr. Axe

As many of you know from my burst training through my BurstFit program and videos, exercise is one my favorite things to do and share with others. Exercise is essential to good health as well as to lose unwanted fat, even losing 20 pounds of fat. Of course, not everyone is capable of doing intense burst training; however, there are modifications for everything, so don’t stop reading.

Frankly speaking, the most successful fat burning workouts typically take you out of your comfort zone. They require hard work both in the gym and in the kitchen — meaning it’s the combination of healthy meal choices and solid workouts that are most effective.

While that does not mean it’s the only way to go, I believe there are certain types of workouts that truly burn more fat, not only while you are performing the exercises but long after. Fat burning workouts generally deplete you of your energy and are physically and mentally challenging.

But that is where the fun starts! Taking that first step is always the hardest, but you will be amazed at what you can accomplish and the results that come with that accomplishment, such as surprisingly losing weight fast.

Mastering the Fat-Burning Process

So let’s talk about what a fat burning workout is. In order to burn fat, you have to burn calories. Now that sounds easy, right. You can burn calories just walking up a flight of stairs. Yes. That is true. But what if you walked up that flight of stairs 30 times without stopping? You would feel fatigued pretty fast. What if you ran up those stairs 30 times. You would definitely be sweating! That is when the fat burning kicks into gear and what we would call higher intensity training.


By continually fatiguing your muscles, you boost your metabolism. This revving up continues throughout the day because it can take up to 72 hours for your metabolism to reset and you burn calories all that time! Now that is some fat burning, for sure.

Therefore, it’s not a coincidence that the best fat burning workouts are of the intense variety: TabataHIIT (or high-intensity interval training) and CrossFit.

In fact, a study showed that the more fit you become, the higher the intensity level is required in order to burn fat. That is why you may have heard that you have to change things up a bit because you may hit an exercise plateau. This happens with many of the athletes that I have trained because their body gets very used to the activities and simply are no longer challenged; therefore, we know when it is time to make changes.


Fat burning workouts 101 - Dr. Axe


It’s common to see someone who is overweight lose weight walking, sometimes a considerable amount, by doing it every day and changing their diet. Yet, over time, more intense exercise will be needed to continue to make a difference.

This is because oxidation occurs as we breathe harder. In the beginning of any exercise program, an individual is likely to breathe harder but eventually, that exercise may become too easy; therefore, their breathing will be more normal and they will burn fewer calories, thus maintaining a more steady metabolism and cause a plateau where little body change may happen. This steady state will burn less fat. For this reason, it’s important to mix up your exercise routines in order to be most effective and continue the fat-burning process. (1)

In my article about the afterburn effect, I share information about leaning out, building muscle and increasing your cardiovascular health. The great news is that you don’t have to spend loads of time exercising, but rather you can focus on doing brief, but intense, intermittent bouts of exercise, like my BurstFit training.

Other terms you may hear are bootcamp and HIIT, as the benefits of high-intensity interval training are significant. These types of exercise formats provide greater strength, improved speed and better fat burning, something that lower intensity exercise just cannot do. And this fat burning happens during the exercise as well as long after; hence, the afterburn effect! These types of workouts are known as some of the most effective means of improving cardiovascular health, respiratory endurance, as well as metabolic function.

According to a study, HIIT or burst training type workouts were compared to steady state workouts, in particular looking at how the exercise training affects the body fat and muscle metabolism. The study investigated the effects of calorie expenditure and fat loss in young adults and found that although HIIT workouts actually burned fewer calories during the workouts than did steady-state cardio exercise (likely due to its shorter duration), the HIIT program produced more fat loss than steady-state exercise did overall. This is great news, especially for anyone short on time.

Researchers have concluded that not only do interval-type training workouts burn more fat over the duration of the day, they also build more muscle, ultimately improving metabolic function. (2

You want more muscles for obvious reasons, but did you know that muscle burns way more calories than fat? After age 25, most people start to lose muscle mass, specifically, one-fifth of a pound of muscle per year! Meanwhile, there’s a decline in the metabolic rate as well as muscle strength and muscle mass, all of which is linked to a weak immune system, brittle bones, stiffer joints and slumping postures. Muscle mass even effects our response to stress and some studies have shown that it is linked to cancer mortality. (3)

Another study provided confirmation that more strength occurs with proper interval-type training; however, detraining provoked significant decreases in maximal aerobic power and metabolism. While it’s clear that any exercise will yield positive results, this is evidence that the more effort you put into it, the better results you are going to have. (4)  

So what is a fat burning workout? Fat burning workouts are typically a period of time when you are exercising at a higher intensity followed by a short period of rest.

An example of how to achieve this intensity would include 20 minutes of exercising — involving exercises such as sprints or burpees — as fast as you can for 30–45 seconds, repeated for 10 rounds with 15–90 second rest periods between each round of exercise. This will have a higher fat-burning effect as compared to steady-state exercises like running moderately for 30 minutes.


Key Benefits to Fat-Burning Workouts

1. Raises Both Aerobic & Anaerobic Fitness

As noted in the above studies, fat burning workouts, such as interval training, helps improve both aerobic and anaerobic fitness. During high-intensity efforts, the anaerobic system uses the energy stored in the muscles, called glycogen, for short bursts of activity.

The anaerobic system works without oxygen creating lactic acid, which is known as that “burn” you feel during exercise. As lactic acid builds, the body creates an oxygen debt. When in the recovery phase, the heart and lungs work together to get the oxygen back by breaking down the lactic acid.

The aerobic phase is the more steady-state phase that I mentioned. It’s considerably more moderate, which allows the body to perform at that phase for long periods of time. Regardless, fat-burning workouts help improve both aerobic and anaerobic types of exercise.

2. Improves Blood Pressure, Cardiovascular Health & Insulin Sensitivity

It’s no surprise that exercise helps your heart. Your heart is a muscle, too, and for it to be healthy, it requires some regular exercise. A study was reported stating that there are positive effects to interval fat-burning workouts for blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health.

Essential arterial hypertension is the most common risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Regular exercise is a well-established intervention for the prevention and treatment of hypertension. Several studies have shown that high-intensity intervals and fat-burning training improves cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity, which helps the exercising muscles more readily use glucose for fuel to make energy, improve arterial stiffness, and ultimately prevent and control hypertension. (5)

3. Helps Cholesterol Profiles

A study reported that the effects of high-intensity interval training helped to lower cholesterol naturally. This study examined the impact of an eight-week program on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), total cholesterol (TC) and the atherogenic index (TC/HDL-C) in 36 untrained men ages 21–36 years.

Participants were randomly assigned to an interval training group or a control group. Participants performed interval running three times a week for eight weeks at an intensity of 90 percent of maximal heart rate. It was concluded that high-intensity interval training, as an alternative mode of exercise, improved blood lipid profiles for individuals with normal physical fitness levels. (6)

4. Burns Belly Fat, Reduces and Regulates Body Weight, & Maintains Muscle Mass

Belly fat is one of the most frustrating areas for most people, giving way to that all-too-familiar “muffin top.” I share lots of ways to reduce belly fat in this article, one of which is burst training or interval training. Also learn how to get rid of back fat.  In addition to eating the right foods and eliminating sugar, interval training helps you lose that muffin top and back fat due to its fat-burning characteristics provided by a higher metabolism lasting throughout the day.

Ever wonder how some people have a six-pack while others, who seem to spend hours at the gym, do not? They are very lean — meaning they have little body fat allowing the muscles beneath the skin to be more prominent. They achieve this by fatiguing their muscles with shorts bouts of intense training, leading to a higher metabolism that is burning fat all day long. Fat burning workouts also burn calories, which help to eliminate body fat, and help build muscle. While building muscle will improve your physical appearance and strength, what’s even better is that muscle burns fat! (7)

Fat-Burning Workout

After the warm-up, perform the following exercises for 45 seconds with a 15-second rest between each exercise and a one-minute rest between each set. Perform 2–3 sets per session.

Warm-Up: Stand with feet hip-distance apart and perform each warm up exercise for one minute.

March in place
Shallow squats
Easy side to side lunges
Jog in place
Butt kicks

Now start the fat-burning workout!

1. High knees

Standing with feet hip-distance apart, begin running with high knees. Keep upper body upright and knees as high as possible the entire time.

Modification: Do the same as above but instead of running, just lift the knees as high as possible, alternating.

2. Push-ups with a side knee tuck

Facing the floor, get into push-up position with hands and toes on the floor. While keeping your neck and back aligned in a flat position, bring your right knee to your right elbow as you lower the body down. As you push back up, return the leg to starting position and repeat on the other side. Keep abs tight!

Modification: You can perform this exercise on your knees. Maintain the neck and back alignment while keeping abs tight.

3. Deep squats with a jump

Stand with feet hip-distance apart, push the butt back as if sitting in a chair while you go down into a squat position and explode upwards into a jump, reaching up towards the ceiling. Continue this movement without stopping for the entire 45 seconds.

Modification: Do the same as above but without the jump.

3. Mountain climbers

Start in push-up or plank position with hands and toes on the floor. Begin by bringing the right foot towards the right elbow and switch to the other side by jumping or quickly alternating, taking the left foot to the left elbow in a continuous movement.

Modification: Do the same as above but walk the foot forward instead of jumping.

4. Jumping lunges

Start in a lunge position with the right foot and leg extended way back so that you create a 90-degree angle with the left knee. Switch legs by jumping, then landing in the same position with the right knee at a 90-degree angle. Continue this movement making sure that you land softly in the lunge position.

Modification: Position your body in the same way, but eliminate the jump by stepping backwards, then pushing off the heel and back to the start position, alternating legs.

5. Burpees

Start in standing position. Feet hip-distance apart. Squat down placing hands on the floor. Jump both feet out behind you so that you are in push-up position, jump feet back into squatting position, then jump upwards into the air and repeat in a continuous movement.

Modification: Begin the same as above, but instead of jumping the feet back behind you, just walk them back one at a time. Also, eliminate the jump upwards.


Fat Burn Workout - Dr. Axe

Fat-Burning Ab Workout

To really get a slimmer core, you should also incorporate some ab workouts into your week. Here’s a great one. Perform the following exercises for 30–45 seconds with a 10–15 second rest between each exercise and a one–minute rest between each set. Perform 2–3 sets per session.

1. Double leg extension

Lie on the floor with arms extended behind your head. Raise your arms and feet at the same time reaching up towards your feet, slowly lowering to a couple of inches off the ground and repeat. Keep your lower back pressed into the floor. If you are arching, do not lower legs too much. Add a 10–15 pound weight, by holding it with your hands, for added fat burning.

Modification: Perform same as above but do not lower the legs as much. The lower the legs, the more difficult.

2. Plank

Facing the floor, get in push-up position with hands and toes on the floor, arms extended. While keeping your neck and back aligned in a flat position, hold the abs tight and slightly tuck the hips to help maintain the correct flat position the entire time.

Modification: You can perform this exercise on your knees, but maintain the same neck and back alignment while keeping abs tight.

3. Bridge

Lie flat in the floor. Bend knees so the the heels are close to your butt. Pushing off with the heels, raise the hips towards the ceiling squeezing the butt. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat. For an added challenge, hold for 20 seconds while lifting one leg, then switch sides. Make sure to keeps the hips up. Abs are always tight.

Modification: Perform as above but hold for 5 seconds, release and repeat.

4. Side Plank Left

Lie on left side with hand near side of chest. Raise so that the arm is extended. Feet can be staggered or on top of each other. Keep hips lifted and neck aligned with the body. Tighten abs.

Modification: Get into the same position, but instead of extending both legs, bend the lower leg at the knee, keep the knee on the floor, then lift hips.

5. Side Plank Right

Lie on right side with hand near side of chest. Raise so that the arm is extended. Feet can be staggered or on top of each other. Keep hips lifted. Tighten abs.

Modification: Get into the same position, but instead of extending both legs, bend the lower leg at the knee, then lift hips.

6. Walk Out Roll-Ups

Start in push-up position. Walk hands in towards feet to a slightly squatted position until you can stand up, (rolling up to standing position). Then reach down to touch the floor in a slight squatting position and walk back out to push-up position. Repeat. If you are very limber, you may be able to keep knees mostly straight during this exercise.

Modification: Perform the same way but eliminate standing, instead just coming to a squatted position, then walking back out to the push-up position.

7. Challenge Exercise!

If you have a stability ball, (make sure it is firm), place your belly on top of the ball, hands over the front edge and reach to the floor. Walk out until just the tops of the feet are on the ball. Raise the butt into the air until you have formed an upside down “V” position and slowly roll back out to the starting position.

Risks of Fat-Burning Workouts

If you have not been in an exercise program, please make sure to go into any fitness routine with caution. Start slowly and add on over time. You will get more fit and be able to do more as long as you are consistent. Consider working with a personal trainer or check out my Burstfit videos. Every exercise has a lower impact option for you.

Family history, cigarette smoking, hypertension, diabetes (or pre-diabetes), abnormal cholesterol levels and obesity will increase risks, so get with your doctor to make sure you are ready to move forward with a fitness program. Prior to beginning any fitness program, it is important to understand your level of fitness, also known as base fitness level.

Regardless of age, gender and fitness level, one of the keys to safe fitness training is to modify the intensity of the work to your level, then as you get fitter, you will be able to increase that level. Not all exercise programs are suitable for everyone, and some programs may result in injury if not performed properly. If you have a heart condition, dizziness, pain in your chest, have joint or bone problems or on medication, please consult your doctor first.

Read Next: 6 Natural Metabolism Boosters

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