We all know that exercise and weight loss go hand in hand. However, not all exercises are created equal when it comes to shedding those extra pounds. With countless workout routines and trends swirling around online, figuring out which activities are genuinely effective for losing weight can be challenging. Fortunately, that’s where we come in. We spoke with Rachel MacPherson, CPT, an ACE-certified personal trainer with Garage Gym Reviews, who shares the 10 best weight loss exercises to help you melt stubborn body fat for good.
You’re ahead of the game if you’re already a regular exerciser. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 60% of U.S. adults don’t perform the recommended amount of physical activity, and one-quarter of Americans don’t engage in any exercise.
Regardless of your fitness level, these exercises will torch calories, boost your metabolism, improve endurance, build strength, and elevate your overall health. The best part is you’ll find a mix of strength training and endurance-building exercises, along with high-intensity workouts and low-impact options. This variety allows you to choose exercises that align with your fitness level and preferences.
Keep reading for MacPherson’s 10 best weight loss exercises and detailed instructions for each. Next up, don’t miss The #1 Daily Workout for Women To Melt ‘Saddlebag’ Fat.
First on this list of trainer-approved best weight loss exercises is the barbell squat. Barbell squats are a classic strength training exercise for a reason. “Barbell squats are a compound strength movement that uses multiple muscle groups, burning a lot of calories and building muscle, which helps increase metabolism,” MacPherson explains. “Research shows that resistance training is superior to cardio for weight loss, especially over time.”
Stand under a racked barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward or forward, depending on your anatomy. The barbell should be on your traps (upper back) across your shoulders, using an overhand grip. Keep your back straight and your chest high as you hinge at the hips, bending your knees toward your toes, not allowing them to cave in. Lower until your thighs are at or below parallel with the floor, depending on your anatomy and range of motion. Imagine raising your chest first, not hips first, pushing through your whole feet to raise to the starting position. Repeat for eight to 10 reps for three sets twice per week.
Sprinting is a high-intensity form of cardio that elevates your heart rate, torches calories, and boosts weight loss. Plus, they can be done just about anywhere, making them accessible for all fitness levels.
“Sprinting is a quick way to burn calories and improve fitness. Research shows that sprinting for a short time can be an effective way to lose weight, especially belly fat in women, in even less time than traditional HIIT workouts. Additionally, sprint training can lead to fat loss and increased muscle mass, which can boost metabolism,” says MacPherson.
Try sprinting for 30 seconds four to six times with four minutes of rest between each sprint. Perform this workout two or three times per week.
Swimming is gentle on the joints, and the water’s resistance provides a full-body workout. Swimming also incinerates calories while toning your muscles.
“Swimming can improve cardiovascular health, cholesterol levels, flexibility, endurance, blood pressure, and resting heart rate,” says MacPherson. “It burns many calories, facilitating weight loss while still being low impact.”
Boxing workouts combine cardiovascular exercise and strength training, making them incredibly effective for weight loss.
“Boxing, even at the recreational level, can burn about 500 calories per hour, while more intense boxing blasts through about 900 calories in the same amount of time. Plus, it helps build power and strength while being a motivating and fun activity,” explains MacPherson.
Join a local boxing club, and aim for two or three weekly boxing circuit workouts.
Whether it’s Zumba, hip-hop, or ballroom, dancing increases your heart rate, and you won’t even feel like exercising. MacPherson tells us, “Dancing is a fun activity that burns a lot of calories to help with weight loss. It’s an accessible cardiovascular workout you can do with others, increasing the likelihood of maintaining motivation and consistency, which are crucial for successful fat loss.”
If this sounds up your alley, join a dance class where you can get an hour of dancing two or three times per week.
Deadlifts are a strength exercise that’s particularly beneficial for weight loss. They work numerous muscle groups, increasing overall calorie expenditure and building lean muscle. Lean muscle helps boost your metabolism, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. “Deadlifts are a full-body compound movement that uses a lot of energy to complete and help build muscle, which boosts metabolism,” says MacPherson.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp a barbell with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hinge at your hips, bending your knees until your shins graze the bar. Keep your back straight and your chest high. Take a deep breath, and brace your core. Lift the bar off the ground by thinking about pushing through the floor with your feet. Keep the bar close to your body throughout. At the top, lock out your hips and pause for a count, exhaling before slowly lowering the bar back to the ground while inhaling. Complete five to 10 reps for three sets twice per week.
Next up on this list of the best weight loss exercises is jump rope. Jumping rope is a simple yet highly effective exercise for weight loss. It’s a full-body workout you can do almost anywhere, and research shows it torches calories while enhancing cardiovascular health. “Skipping burns massive calories and is a fun activity that you can build skill in to keep you motivated. It’s easy to implement in between other exercises to create a HIIT or circuit training session,” says MacPherson.
If you enjoy skipping, make it part of your morning routine and do it for 10 to 15 minutes daily.
Rock or indoor climbing builds strength and burns calories while providing a mental workout as you strategize your climbs. Stair climbing is another effective form of climbing if you’re looking to lose weight.
“Rock climbing and vertical climbers like the VersaClimber are excellent for weight loss and building physical fitness,” says MacPherson. “They engage your entire body, building strength and muscle and providing a challenging, motivating cardio workout. Vertical climbers are also low-impact, so you can use them even if you have joint issues.”
Aim for getting in three 30 to 45-minute climbing sessions each week.
Walking is low-impact, suitable for all fitness levels, and can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. A regular walking habit can help you shed pounds and improve your overall health.
“Walking is so accessible, easy to recover from, you can do it for ages and not get tired. It has so many other benefits that support your overall health and weight loss, including stress reduction, improving sleep, boosting mood, and more,” MacPherson explains.
Shoot for a brisk daily walk of 25 to 30 minutes.
Proper breathing techniques can help reduce stress and improve relaxation, indirectly supporting weight loss by reducing emotional eating and cravings. MacPherson says, “Breathwork is a fantastic weight loss activity when combined with resistance training exercises like squats and deadlifts and cardio activities like walking. It banishes stress, improves sleep and digestion, and helps you feel more positive about your life, which is always helpful when trying to lose weight.”