The best workout for weight loss is the workout that you will actually do. The best workout is the one that you don’t give up on 2 weeks in. You can theoretically have the best workout exercises, sets, reps, progressions, and training schedule all mapped out, but if you can’t (or won’t) do it–it does you absolutely no good!
(Stick with me here. I promise, I’ll give you some workout videos at the end of this post, beginner, intermediate, and advanced).
Which are you more likely to stick with: an hour long bone-crushing workout that leaves you wiped for the rest of the day, 6 days/week? Or 30 minutes of challenging exercises 3x/week that leaves you feeling energized?
If you have the time, and energy to do 2 hour workouts then more power to you, if it helps you meet your goals. But simple and fast for most women, (who are already running ragged) is the workout that is actually going to get done.
I typically do only 3 exercises, 3 sets of each, reps vary, with the rest periods varying according to how insistent my children are.
Here’s how my training sessions usually go:
5 minute warm up.
Respond to crying child who just fell off swing set.
Start single leg glute bridges, half way through set, 30lb child starts jumping on my chest. Yell at child to get off. He doesn’t. I stop to find something to distract said child.
I go back and finish my set.
During rest, play with children.
Do a couple sets uninterrupted (Wow! So awesome!)
Older child starts screaming she is bored! bored! BORED! Mom you must find me something to do!
So I do. Then younger child needs nap. An hour later I come back to start my pull ups.
You get the idea. (If you want to see how frustrated I get, watch my workout plan for moms.)
And the thing is–it still works.
I am still building muscle, staying lean, and getting stronger.
Your workout doesn’t have to be perfect. Be consistent. Challenge yourself and you will see results. Tweet This.
Stop obsessing about whether you’re doing the right exercises, sets, reps, weights. Yes, keep learning, challenging yourself, and trying new things, but the most important thing is to show up consistently. Staying active and weight training is something you want to do for a lifetime, so make it sustainable.
What are your long term goals?
Think beyond fat loss. What is your end goal? Do you simply want to get the excess fat off? Do you want to have defined muscles? Do you want 6 pack abs? Do you want to be able to lift really heavy things? Do you only care about how you look in a bikini and could care less about how much weight you can throw overhead? Do you want more energy? Do you want to maintain a fully functioning healthy body that has very few limitations into old age?
Really it boils down to 2 questions: Are you working out to change how you look or is it about what you can do? Or, if you’re like me, is it some of both? Then, you need to figure out which is your priority. Both goals can’t come first. You can achieve both looking how you want and having a healthy body, but one thing must come first and that will guide your training choices.
Be patient. Some physical changes and a lot of strength gain will happen very rapidly, but for continued change you have to be consistent–for years. Here’s a really great article by Bret Contreras on 10 Things all Beginning Lifters Should Know.
You have to take into account your diet for weight loss.
I know it sucks to hear, but it’s the truth. The biggest factor for fat loss is diet. As much as 80-90% off your fat loss results is diet. It is so easy to out-eat your workouts and then you’re just breaking even. Think you burned 1000 calories on the stair master? Think again. Do you know how many calories you really ate today? Think you only ate 1200 calories? Think again. (The majority of us grossly underestimate our caloric intake).
You don’t have to count calories, but calories do count. If you’re not cultivating an awareness of how much you’re eating, you are likely eating more than you need, and certainly more than you need to create fat loss.
What does evidence show to be the best workout for weight (fat) loss?
Now, I know you still want to know what the best workout for weight loss is–as in what workout gives you the most bang for your buck for burning calories and changing your physique. So here’s the answer, (provided of course that you do it)
Circuit training and HIIT (high intensity interval training), also known as metabolic conditioning, or met con, are the winners in my book. And by this, I mean resistance circuit training and intervals using weights. While it is true that aerobic exercise seems to be better than straight weight lifting for calories burned during the workout, some promising studies are now showing HIIT to be as good as, or better than, steady state aerobics for burning calories. Plus, you have to take into account some other factors.
- You need a significant amount of time to devote to aerobic exercise. HIIT can be done in a very short amount of time (30 minutes or less)
- Aerobic training does not build muscle and the more muscle you have the more calories you burn even at rest. Also only doing aerobic training tends to result in a waif-y look. If that is what you are after than fine. But in my opinion, the curve of muscles is much more attractive on both men and women!
- Lifting heavy things increases bone density and growth hormones. We all need these as we age to keep us young and vital.
To see more from Mark Sisson on maintaining muscle while losing fat, and the evidence on what the best workout is go here.
( I do not currently do any intentional steady state aerobic training, like running or stair master–haven’t for years.)
Circuit training is basically performing all your exercises back-to-back with no rest in between. You take your rest at the end of the circuit and then repeat the whole circuit.
High intensity interval training, consists of short intervals of work at a percentage of your maximum heart rate (80-90%) with a prescribed amount of rest periods in between exercises.
Circuit training and HIIT can be accomplished in many different ways, but may fave ways are kettlebell complexes or kettlebell chains, and body weight circuit training.
I keep it as simple and fast as possible, so that I can actually get it done with 2 demanding children, and my other priorities (like working on this blog, and making out).
All you need are a few simple tools: a kettlebell or two, a place to do pull ups, and a timer.
Some of the best workouts for weight loss to get you started (with Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced options–all under 20 minutes)
Beginner: Body weight circuit training
Subscribe to get the basic Body Weight Workout ebook (Its FREE!)
Intermediate: Kettlebell Complex (Check out the sexy vibe going on between Hunk Man and me during the hooping–until he realizes I’m filming!)
Overhead Press 30 seconds each side
Goblet squats 30 seconds
Swings 30 seconds
Rest 2-4 minutes (hooping while you rest is optional)
Repeat 2 more times for a total of 3 sets
Option 1: Body weight circuit training.
Option 2: Advanced double kettlebell complex, see video below.
If you’re proficient with double kettlebells, then you can do the following double kettlebell complex with two 12kg kettlebells. I was sucking wind at the end of this workout. I think some spit was flying too. This complex will kick your ass!
Double kettlebell snatch 30 seconds
Double kettlebell press 30 seconds
Double kettlebell front squat 30 seconds
Double kettlebell swings 30 seconds
Rest 4 minutes (you’ll need all of it!) Repeat 2 more times for a total of 3 sets.
Thanks to Geoff Neupert for this complex. I’ve learned a ton from him.
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