Have trouble losing weight despite spending hours on the treadmill? Longer workouts won't necessarily help you achieve a lean and thin body. When it comes to fat loss, some exercises and training methods work better than others.
From machine-based circuits to burpees, box jumps and other body-weight movements, there are plenty of exercises that make you lean. The key is to choose those that engage the most muscles at once and get your heart pumping faster.
Exercises That Make You Lean
Regular exercise doesn't guarantee weight loss. In theory, you could work out more to raise your energy expenditure. The problem is that you'll hit a plateau sooner or later. As you get leaner, your body begins to use energy more efficiently, burning fewer calories during exercise. The same goes for strict dieting, explains a February 2014 review published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
While there is a dose-response relationship between exercise and weight loss, some training methods are more effective than others. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), for instance, can help you burn more calories in less time compared to steady-state cardio. This effect is due to the increase in excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Simply put, you'll torch calories during and after training.
In addition to high-intensity workouts, you may try circuits, strength exercises, plyometrics and more advanced techniques like drop sets and supersets. Compound movements, for example, target multiple muscle groups at once, making it easier to build mass and strength. Muscle tissue requires more energy to sustain itself compared to adipose tissue, explains the University of New Mexico. Therefore, the more lean mass you have, the more calories you'll burn at rest.
If you're looking for exercises that make you lean, be prepared to get your heart rate up. Use a mix of compound movements, body-weight exercises, HIIT and full-body circuits to shed stubborn fat. Here are some examples to help you out!
Experiment With Body-Weight Training
When done right, body-weight training can be just as effective as traditional gym workouts. As the Mayo Clinic notes, some body-weight exercises engage all of the major muscle groups. Therefore, they can help you build and preserve lean mass while burning fat.
Sure, if you're an athlete, you may not get the same results from body-weight training as someone who is just getting started. Your body is adapted to heavy lifting or vigorous workouts. However, you can perform body-weight exercises to keep fit on the go. For the average person, this training method can be extremely challenging.
The crab walk, planks and other ground-based exercises, for instance, build core strength while improving your balance and coordination, states the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). The push-up, a classic body-weight movement, works your chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps, back, quads and core muscles. For a more challenging workout, try diamond push-ups, spiderman push-ups, staggered push-ups and other push-up variations.
Read more: 12 Essential Squat Variations to Try
Likewise, you can try squat variations using your body weight only. Squats with side leg lifts, squat jumps, box squats and Bulgarian-split squats are all a great choice. These dynamic movements will skyrocket your heart rate and improve your overall fitness. The more intense your workout is, the higher your energy expenditure.
A review featured in May-June 2013 issue of the [Health and Fitness Journal](https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/fulltext/2013/05000/high_intensity_circuit_training_using_body_weight.5.aspx)_, a publication by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), recommends high-intensity circuit training using body weight as resistance. This approach is time effective and may facilitate weight loss. The key is to keep the rest periods short (under 30 seconds) between sets and exercises.
Depending on your fitness level, you may try planks, high knees, jumping jacks, lunges, burpees and more. Aim for about seven minutes per circuit and repeat two or three times. If you're on the heavier side or out of shape, start with a basic version of the exercise you want to perform and make it more challenging as you progress, recommends the NASM.
Try Full-Body Circuits
Have you ever tried full-body circuits? It's a perfect way to maximize your calorie burn without spending hours in the gym. Do it in the gym, at home or on the go to reap the benefits.
Machine-based circuit training, for example, can help you achieve a lean and thin body. It may also relieve stress and improve glycemic control, according to the American Council on Exercise. By moving quickly from one machine to another, you'll keep the intensity up and get your heart pumping faster.
The American Council on Exercise recommends performing each set to a point of mild fatigue. Alternate between upper- and lower-body exercises to get a complete workout or focus on either the upper or lower body during each session. Keep your routine varied to prevent boredom and keep your muscles guessing.
If you can't make it to the gym, body-weight exercises are your best bet. As the ACSM points out, high-intensity body-weight circuits increase maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max), leading to better cardiorespiratory health. In the long run, they may improve insulin response and lower your risk of diabetes.
Get creative with your exercise routine. Use benches, exercise balls, balance trainers, steppers and other accessories for a more challenging workout. For example, you may use a basic wooden box for step-ups, elevated push-ups, box jumps, Bulgarian split squats other plyometric movements.
Don't Skip the Weights
Body-weight exercises have their perks, but they are not your only option. Strength training has its role in a balanced workout program and can help you get leaner, stronger and fitter. Over time, it may increase bone density and relieve the symptoms associated with heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other chronic illnesses, states the Mayo Clinic.
Training for fat loss is different from training for hypertrophy or strength. If you're trying to achieve a lean and thin body, prioritize compound movements and keep your rest periods short between sets. Deadlifts, lunges, overhead presses and other compound exercises hit all of the major muscle groups, increasing oxygen consumption. As a result, you'll burn more calories and torch fat.
Start with light to moderate weights that allow you to perform 12 to 15 reps with perfect form. Increase the weight gradually as you get stronger. Change the number of reps and sets every few weeks to keep your body guessing. Consider adding drop sets to your routine to build lean mass and achieve muscle definition.
This lifting technique involves performing as many reps of an exercise possible until you achieve muscle fatigue. Reduce the weight and start all over. Continue to drop the weight from one set to the next until the muscle reaches absolute fatigue, suggests the American Council on Exercise.
For best results, use this strategy at the end of your training session. Perform drop sets for just one or two muscle groups or exercises per workout to prevent overtraining. This lifting method is taxing on the body and central nervous system, so be prepared to deal with muscle soreness and fatigue the day after.
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: "Metabolic Adaptation to Weight Loss: Implications for the Athlete"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "Benefits and Risks Associated With Physical Activity"
- America Council on Exercise: "8 Reasons HIIT Workouts Are So Effective"
- University of New Mexico: "Controversies in Metabolism"
- Mayo Clinic: "Is Body Weight Training Effective as a Strength Training Exercise?"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "Rise of the Body-Weight Workout"
- ExRx.net: "Push-up"
- Health and Fitness Journal: "High-Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight: Maximum Results With Minimal Investment"
- American Council on Exercise: "The Benefits of Machine-Based Circuit Training"
- Mayo Clinic: "Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier"
- American Council on Exercise: "How to Use Drop Sets to Improve Muscle Definition"