As with most things in health and fitness, there is no simple answer to these questions, but there is some information that can definitely guide you on the right path.
Firstly, there is one issue you need to be clear about which is very important to understand:
You cannot ‘spot reduce’ or in other words, lose fat from specific areas by performing exercises for those areas.
Your body loses fat from wherever it wants, regardless of what exercises you perform or what body parts you work. Exercises can strengthen muscles and shape up specific body parts, but they do not target specific fat stores. In other words, abdominal crunches do not make you lose abdominal fat.
When you lose enough total fat, you will lose fat from the places you want. It just may not happen in the order you would like. Normally the areas that hold the highest amount of body fat will be the last areas to lose it.
Therefore, what exercises are best for burning body fat? I would love to give you a list of secret exercises that burn body fat better than everything else, but it is not that simple. If it was, everyone would be doing the same exercises and getting great results.
In truth, any properly designed exercise program can make you lose fat. Your body shape and physical abilities are directly affected by the exercises you perform and the way you train.
For optimal fat burning, you need to push your body hard enough to create a stimulus for physical change and improvement. This does not mean you have to push yourself as hard as possible all the time, but you should feel like you have done something at the end of your workout and break out a sweat. If a workout is too easy or your body is used to doing it, then there is no stimulus for improvement. Even though the workout does burn some calories, it is a very inefficient way to stimulate fat loss.
Action: Make your exercise challenging without being too difficult and always allow your body enough time to recover between workouts. It is also important to keep variety in your workouts, because the more your body has to adapt to new exercises or workouts, the more likely you will experience positive improvements.
Physiologically, exercises that focus on the larger muscles burn more calories. Fat burning does not happen without calorie burning, so exercises that burn more calories are technically better fat burning exercises. For example, a push up uses a lot of upper body pushing muscles, especially the chest, shoulder, triceps and core. Compare that to a bicep curl, which is a popular upper body exercise but it only works the biceps. As a result, a challenging set of push ups burns many more calories than a challenging set of bicep curls and is therefore a better fat burning exercise. For a cardio example, you could compare walking to running. Both activities are similar, but running is more challenging and requires stronger contractions, so it works your leg muscles more than walking. Therefore, it is also more efficient at fat burning.
While it is obvious that some types of exercise burn more calories than others, it is important to keep things in perspective. Just because running is technically a better fat burning exercise than walking, it doesn’t mean that everyone should run and walking is bad. The first priority is to make sure that each exercise is appropriate for your current ability level. If walking provides a challenging workout for you at this point, then running might be too stressful for your body and walking would be a better activity. In addition, many people do not like walking or running and that is fine too. Just choose a different type of exercise appropriate for you. This requirement is really about time efficient workouts. People doing easier types of cardio exercise or exercising small muscle groups can still end up with a similar level of fat burning, but they may have to exercise twice as long or more to burn the same number of calories as someone who focuses on challenging workouts for their larger muscle groups.
Action: Focus on exercises for your larger muscle groups for faster results, but keep things in perspective. Even though exercising large muscle groups are more efficient, it does not mean you should never perform exercises for smaller muscle groups. It is always important to work all your muscles equally to ensure balance within the body and prevent injuries.
When it comes to fat loss, the simple truth is nothing is more important than nutrition. Even a great workout routine will not overcome poor nutrition or frequent overeating. The bottom line is you have to burn more calories than you consume if you want to burn fat.
(ie): Calories In has to be LESS than Calories Out!!!
While exercise does burn calories, your metabolism burns a lot more calories than exercise. If your eating habits are poor or you are eating too much, you could be sabotaging your metabolism and preventing your body’s ability to burn fat. Good nutrition is also important for recovery, so even if you are training hard enough to burn fat, if your body does not get enough nutrients, you will not be able to maintain that routine because your body will eventually break down.
Action: If fat loss is your main priority, really focus on having a solid nutritional plan in place and sticking to it. Exercise is crucial, but good nutrition is the most important thing when it comes to fat loss.
Exercise alters the way your muscles look, how you feel and improves fitness in a variety of ways, depending on how you train. Those changes are what matter most when it comes to exercising. This combined with good eating habits, will set you well on your way to losing fat in general. Exercise provides an extra boost to help you burn fat faster but always keep the big picture in mind and choose the exercises that are best for all your health and fitness goals.
Written by: Vix Erber of Mama Moves