When asked about their goals for their physical appearance, many people mention wanting to appear “lean” or “toned” or even “muscular.” Whether you want to see your pecs rippling underneath your shirt or are coveting a lean, toned midsection, you’ll need to burn off the layer of fat that is covering your muscles. Having a toned, firm body isn’t just about building muscle, although that is also an important component; you have to reduce the amount of fat on your body and change your body composition. That means that no matter how many crunches you do, six-pack abs aren’t just going to appear one day. After all, targeted fat loss isn’t possible, so if you want to improve the appearance of a specific part of the body like your glutes, triceps, or quads, you’ll need to lean out and lose weight and fat across your entire body. A full-body fat-burning workout is a key to success if you’re looking to lean out and build muscle, but what are the key components of a full-body fat-burning workout?
The first key component of a full-body fat-burning workout is high-intensity interval training or HIIT. HIIT is having a major fitness moment across the world right now as more and more people are realizing the benefits of this workout routine. During a HIIT full-body workout, you’ll work at high intensity for short intervals followed by a period of rest. For example, you might do jumping jacks for one minute to get your heart rate up, followed by 15 seconds of rest, before moving on to the next exercise. Although there are many fitness studios and gym classes that embrace the principles of HIIT, you can get your full-body exercise at home if that’s your preference. You may find that you love HIIT because it’s extremely efficient; the average HIIT workout is only 10 to 30 minutes long, and you’ll burn a ton of calories in a short amount of time. How many calories? Depending on the length of the workout, HIIT can burn up to twice as many calories as performing a moderately intense exercise for the same amount of time, so it’s a great way to burn fat quickly. Another cool aspect of HIIT is the “afterburn” it provides; afterburn refers to the increased metabolic rate you’ll experience after exercise. HIIT produces a higher rate of afterburn for a longer period of time, which helps you burn calories long after your workout is over. One study showed that performing just two minutes of sprints increased the body’s metabolism over the course of a day the same amount as 30 minutes of running. If you’re pressed for time but ready to work on your body composition, make sure to incorporate HIIT into your routine.
2. Build Muscle
Any effective full-body fat-burning workout should also incorporate strength training in order to build muscle, but the reason is different than you might think. While of course, you want your muscles to be toned and chiseled, the real reason why you need to incorporate strength training if you want to burn fat is that the added muscle will help you burn more calories throughout the day. The more muscle you add to your body, the more calories your body will burn throughout the day. For example, while ten pounds of fat burns about 20 calories per day while resting, ten pounds of muscle burns about 50 calories in a day while resting. That adds up to a boost to your metabolism for every ounce of muscle that you add on, which can make a big difference in your fat loss over time. When strength training is combined with a healthy diet and lower calorie consumption, weight loss and fat burning occur even more quickly because they happen throughout the day in addition to your workout. Regardless of your age, strength training is important to help burn fat, but it’s especially important as we age because our metabolisms naturally slow down as we get older. If you don’t belong to a gym or have access to equipment, don’t worry. While it’s great to have access to equipment and dumbbells, you can do strength training at home with just your body weight. There are many toning bodyweight exercises that you can do to build muscle, including push ups, squats, lunges, pull-ups, burpees, and other movements that use simple equipment like a resistance band or kettlebells. At the gym you can do deadlifts with a barbell, overhead presses, or even dumbbell bench presses with a pair of dumbbells.
3. Rediscover Cardio
Many of us associate cardiovascular exercises like running, spinning, or working out on the elliptical with weight loss because of the high caloric burn associated with these activities. Our bodies use carbohydrates for energy when we work at a high intensity, such as while running, and fat for energy when we work out a moderate intensity, like walking. It would make sense that you’d want to perform more exercise at a moderate intensity if you want to burn fat, right? While that has been the conventional wisdom, the reality is a bit more complicated. The body does use different macronutrients for fuel depending on the level of intensity during your workout, but you also need to burn more calories than you eat in order to lose weight. As we’ve already established, the fastest way to burn calories is to work out at a high intensity, but that doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself during every workout. Your goal should be to stay consistent and incorporate several different types of cardio workouts into your routine, including several different intensities. For some people, you might warm up with a brisk walk one day and then do a high-intensity cardio dance video the next, while others may mix up yoga and running. The key is to find a workout plan you love and do it consistently!
Remember, your workouts are important, but you won’t become a lean, mean, fat-burning machine without doing some work in the kitchen, too. Try to burn more calories than you consume and incorporate whole foods into your diet like lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.