The 10 best workouts for weight loss

WHEN YOU’RE LOOKING to drop pounds, the basic formula is pretty simple: eat less and move more. But there are obviously ways you can optimize this formula.

When it comes to moving, “two types of workouts will burn more calories than the ‘traditional’ workout,” says Franklin Antoian, personal trainer and founder of “Endurance-type workouts—think a marathoner or long-distance swimmer—burn a lot of calories, simply because it takes a lot of energy to work out for 2 hours or so.” The other type is a little easier on your schedule: short, high-intensity bouts, which burn calories both during and after, thanks to that metabolism-boosting effect known as the “afterburn.”

These 10 workouts—from Antoian and coach Lisa Reed, M.S., C.S.C.S., owner of Lisa Reed Fitness in the Washington, D.C. area—get your calorie burn up and your waist size down. Plus, they don’t require two hours—except for maybe the last one!

Before your session of choice, Reed recommends a simple dynamic warmup to get your muscles ready and help prevent injury.

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Do 25 yards or 20-30 seconds each of:

  • Skips (traveling or stationary)
  • Buttkicks (traveling or stationary)
  • Frankenstein walks/kicks
  • Walking (or stationary) knee hugs
  • Walking (or alternating) lunges
  • Walking (or alternating) lateral lunges
  • Walkout pushups


1. Basic Bodyweight Workout

“No gym? No problem. Speed up this circuit of bodyweight exercises to burn calories anywhere, anytime,” says Antoian. Do the circuit of exercises for one minute each four times through, resting for 30 seconds before repeating, for a 30-minute session.

Do this circuit 3–4 times. Do 1 minute each of:

  • Pushups
  • Jumping jacks
  • Forward-backward lunges (30 seconds each leg)
  • V sit-ups
  • Side-stepping squats (30 seconds each leg)
  • Burpees
  • Mountain climbers


2. Beast Mode Bodyweight Workout

“This bodyweight circuit workout raises your body temperature and increases your metabolism,” Reed says. Do the main circuit two or three times through, resting as little as possible. Then finish with the cardio burnout.

Do this circuit 2–3 times. Do 30 seconds each of:

  • Isometric squats
  • Squats
  • Sumo squat jumps
  • Wide-hand push-ups
  • Renegade rows with pushups between
  • Side plank rotations with reach
  • Reverse lunges (right)
  • Reverse lunges (right)
  • Plank tricep get-ups (right-arm lead)
  • Plank tricep get-ups (left-arm lead)
  • Windshield wipers

Then do 30 seconds each of:

  • Speed squats
  • Quick feet
  • Skater jumps
  • Speed jumping jacks
  • High-knee stationary sprint
  • Burpees


3. Classic Gym Circuit

“If you’re short on time and are happy with a basic workout, try this tried-and-true circuit,” Antoian says. Do the whole thing 3 to 5 times through, with little to no rest in between exercises and sets, and use a heavy enough weight that it’s tough to finish the last few reps.

Do the following as a circuit 3–5 times:

  • 20 leg presses
  • 15 dumbbell squats with shoulder press
  • 15 hamstring curls
  • 15 bench presses
  • 25 cable rows
  • 10 dumbbell bicep curls
  • 10 tricep pressdowns
  • 25 crunches

4. Tabata

The definition of high intensity, tabatas have you alternating 20 seconds of hard effort with 10 seconds of rest, straight through for four minutes. “The best thing about the Tabata workout is that you can perform these short, intense routines with your own body weight in the comfort of your own home,” Reed says. “Tabata raises your heart rate, pumps up your muscles, and increases your fitness level.” These ones will have you alternating two exercises targeting the same muscle groups, and going from one to the next provides a kickbutt workout in 24 minutes.

A. Lower-body tabata #1 (do circuit 4 times)

  • 20 seconds of speed squats
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds isometric squat hold
  • 10 seconds rest

B. Lower-body tabata #2 (do circuit 4 times)

  • 20 seconds of walking lunges
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds of squat jumps
  • 10 seconds rest

C. Upper-body tabata #1 (do circuit 4 times)

  • 20 seconds of dumbbell bentover rows
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds of dumbbell chest press
  • 10 seconds rest

D. Upper-body tabata #2 (do circuit 4 times)

  • 20 seconds of dumbbell bicep curls
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds of dumbbell tricep kickbacks
  • 10 seconds rest

E. Cardio tabata (do circuit 4 times)

  • 20 seconds of skater jumps
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds of frog jumps
  • 10 seconds rest

F. Tabata abs (do circuit 4 times)

  • 20 seconds of bicycle crunches
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds of supermans


5. Battle Ropes

“If you’ve never incorporated battle ropes into your training, you’ll soon find out why they burn so many calories so quickly,” says Antoian. “Repeat this workout four times for an ultra kick-butt 20 minute workout.”

  • 1 minute of rope alternating arm waves
  • 30 seconds of pushups
  • 1 minute of rope double-arm slam jumping waves
  • 30 seconds of bicycle crunches
  • 1 minute of rope outside circles
  • 30 seconds of mountain climbers
  • 30 seconds of rest


6. Killer Kettlebells

“Training with kettlebells is very beneficial because they improve your body composition, generate total body power, and build strength simultaneously,” says Reed. “Due to how the weight is distributed, kettlebells force your muscles to counterbalance, improving your stability and balance as well.” These exercises should all be performed unilaterally, meaning with one arm at a time, which further engages the core. Go from one move to the next, then rest for a minute or two before repeating the whole thing two more times.

Do 10 reps each arm or leg. Perform the complete group of exercises as a circuit, doing 3 circuits total.

  • Single-arm swings
  • Squat to single-arm overhead press
  • Single-arm bentover rows
  • Single-leg Russian deadlifts
  • 1-2 minutes rest


7. TRX Training

TRX workouts not only increase total body strength to burn more calories throughout the day, but will also increase your heart rate to help improve body composition. In addition, the TRX engages more muscles of your core. With all of your core muscles being worked, you will condition your entire body and get tight lower abs at the same time!

Perform each exercise on the TRX for 30 seconds each:

Set 1 (do 3 times)

  • TRX squat jumps
  • TRX push-ups
  • TR pull-ups

Set 2 (do 3 times)

  • TRX reverse lunge to knee up (each side)
  • TRX tricep extensions
  • TRX bicep curls

Set 3 (do 3 times)

  • TRX hamstring curls
  • TRX pike-ups

Set 4 (do 3 times)

  • Side oblique crunches (each side)

8. Fiery 50

“The combo of sprinting, getting down to do abs, and then jumping as high in the air as you can for the burpees is a sure way to tear through some calories,” Antoian says. Repeat the workout five to 10 times with no rest between exercises and just one minute between rounds.

  • 50-yard sprint
  • 50 sit-ups
  • 50-yard reverse sprint (run backwards)
  • 50 reverse sit-ups
  • 10 burpees


9. Metabolic Strength

“A metabolic workout increases your strength and stamina, burns fat, and increases your metabolism to boost energy and weight loss,” Reed says. The secret is not scrimping on the load and going from one exercise to the next with little break.

Do each move for 45 seconds with enough weight that you’re pretty wasted as the time runs out—Reed suggests using the same amount on the first four exercises, and the same (lighter) load for the last three. At the end of the circuit, rest for two to three minutes before doing the whole thing another time or even two.

Do the circuit 2–3 times

  • Barbell squat
  • Barbell push press
  • Barbell front squat
  • Barbell bentover row
  • Pushups
  • Barbell skull crushers
  • Barbell standing bicep curls
  • Barbell walking lunges


10. Try-a-Tri

We’d be remiss to totally ignore those long-duration workouts Antoian mentioned. “Hit the road, trails, and water for this long-duration calorie-burning workout,” he says. “As a bonus, you’ll be prepping yourself for a beginner triathlon.” Take only as long a break as it takes for your to transition between events (swimsuit to biking clothes, etc.).

  • Swim a quarter mile (in a pool, lake, ocean)
  • Bike 10 miles (outdoors or in)
  • Run 3 miles (outdoors or in)

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