Your time is valuable — especially at the gym. So if your goal is to burn body fat, you'll need to be strategic about the kinds of workouts you do. The goods news, though, is that you don't need a ton of time for these workouts. Even 30 minutes will boost your fat-loss efforts.
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But keep in mind that when it comes to losing body fat, you diet matters just as much (if not more) than your workouts. That likely means reducing the number of calories you're currently eating, so that you're burning more calories than you're consuming.
While maintaining a proper diet can help you shave off excess calories, your body composition (ratio of fat to muscle) will change faster with the right fat-burning exercises for women. Hit the gym several times a week with a fitness regimen that combines cardio and strength training.
Start your workouts with strength training and finish with cardio or HIIT. Another option is to lift weights at least three times per week and do cardio or full-body circuits on separate days.
1. Cardio Machines
One of the best ways to blast away calories is through cardiovascular exercise. Cardio causes your heart rate to increase, which gets your heart pumping harder, your body sweating and calories burning. In fact, depending on your weight, workout intensity and the machine you choose, you can expect to burn between 250 and 750 calories in 30 minutes.
The treadmill, elliptical trainer, stationary bike and stair stepper are among the best cardio machines at the gym. They allow you to alter the speed, as well as the resistance, during your workout, keeping your body challenged. Perform cardio exercise three to four times a week for 30 to 45 minutes to burn calories and shed excess body fat.
While cardio exercise torches more calories during the workout than lifting weights does, building lean muscle mass helps you burn more calories in the long run. Lean muscle requires more energy (read: calories) to maintain, even when you're not working out.
Plus, you'll experience what's called "the after-burn effect" (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, EPOC). High-intensity strength training increases resting energy expenditure for up to 24 hours after exercise, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise.
Lift weights at least three times a week using a combination of upper- and lower-body exercises to build lean muscle. In general, most women tend to store fat on their arms, legs and backside, so focus on these areas.
To work on your arms, perform exercises like the shoulder press, push-ups and triceps extension.
Move 1: Shoulder Press
- Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, palms facing out.
- Press the weights straight overhead without raising your shoulders or locking out your elbows.
- Lower back down to your shoulders.
Move 2: Push-Ups
- Start on all fours, hands under shoulders. Straighten your legs straight out behind you so that you're in a high plank — your body forming a diagonal line from feet to head.
- Bend your elbows out at a 45-degree angle to your body and lower your chest to the ground (or as far as your strength and mobility allow).
- Press back up to the start.
Move 3: Triceps Extension
- Hold either a dumbbell in each hand or one large dumbbell with both hands above your head.
- Lower the weights slowly behind your head.
- Press back up to the start without shrugging your shoulders or locking out your elbows.
When it comes to toning your lower body, look no further than the sumo squat, walking lunge and Bulgarian split squat.
Move 1: Sumo Squat
- Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, feet pointed out slightly.
- Bend your knees and hinge your hips to lower your butt toward the ground, keeping your back straight and your knees tracking over your toes.
- Lower down as far as your strength and mobility will allow.
- Press back up to standing.
Move 2: Walking Lunge
- Stand tall, then take a step a few feet forward, bending both knees to 90 degrees.
- Press off your back foot and bring it to meet your front foot as you return to standing.
- Step forward again, but this time with the opposite leg.
Move 3: Bulgarian Split Squat
- Start in a split stance with one foot in front of the other. Place your back foot up on a weight bench or chair.
- Bend both knees to lower straight down. Your front knee should be bent to 90 degrees and your knee in line with your ankle.
- Drive through your feet to return to standing.
Thus, a fat-burning strength training workout for women might look like this:
- Warm up for 3 to 5 minutes with light cardio and dynamic stretches. Then do:
- 20 sumo squats
- 10 push-ups
- 20 Bulgarian split squats (10 each leg)
- 10 shoulder presses
- Repeat for 4 rounds.
- Finish with 10 minutes on the step mill.
- Cool down with 3 to 5 minutes of static stretching.
3. HIIT Workouts
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves short but intense bursts of activity followed by less-intense active recovery or rest. This type of workout helps promote weight loss and reduce belly fat in a shorter amount of time than steady-state cardio, according to a 2017 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
HIIT comes in many forms, but it's easy to get started on cardio machines, such as the treadmill. For example, try this HIIT treadmill workout:
- Warm up for 3 to 5 minutes at an easy pace.
- Run at a challenging pace for one minute.
- Jog or walk for two minutes.
- Repeat this 3-minute block five times for a total of 15 minutes.
- Cool down for 3 to 5 minutes at an easy pace.
HIIT workouts are supposed to be intense, so it's best to work your way up with the number of intervals you are doing. Start with five, and as your fitness improves, increase workout duration and intensity.
4. Circuit Training
Circuit training is a combination of strength-training and cardio exercise, offering the best of both worlds. This makes it one of the best fat-burning workouts for women. According to a 2017 research paper featured in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, high-intensity circuit training improves body composition aka muscle-to-fat ratio while increasing overall strength.
A typical training session involves different strength-training exercises for each muscle group; you move quickly from one exercise to another, which keeps your heart rate elevated and the calories burning.
Instead of resting after a strength-training circuit, you can also perform cardio exercises in between, such as jumping jacks and jump rope to ramp up your overall calorie burn.
Fat-Loss Workout Gym Plan
Now that you have the workouts that will help you burn fat at the gym, remember that consistency is the key. Create a workout plan, clean up your diet and set clear goals. Exercise three to five times per week to fully reap the benefits.
Beware that there's no one-size-fits-all solution for weight loss. Experiment with different fat-burning exercises for women and keep your workouts diverse. Track your results and adjust your gym plan accordingly. For example, if you're having trouble losing those last few pounds, add HIIT to the mix.
- JHSE: Effect of Muscle Strength at Different Intensities on Resting Energy Expenditure
- Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: High-Intensity Interval Training in the Real World: Outcomes From a 12-Month Intervention in Overweight Adults
- Frontiers in Physiology: Functional High-Intensity Circuit Training Improves Body Composition, Peak Oxygen Uptake, Strength, and Alters Certain Dimensions of Quality of Life in Overweight Women