In a day and age where so many things are instantaneous (or at least pretty darn close), it seems like burning off a few extra pounds should be as quick and easy as one-day shipping from Amazon. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Losing fat takes time and consistent effort. The good news, though, is that by increasing your efforts—working out more strategically and sometimes more intensely—you may be able to speed up the process a bit.
But don’t forget: exercise is only one part of the picture when it comes to fat loss. In addition to increasing the intensity of some of your workouts, you’ll also want to get adequate amounts of sleep, eat a diet made up mostly of nutritious, whole foods and cut back on your alcohol intake if you want to see real results. That said, by incorporating one or a few of the following intense and challenging workouts into your fitness routine once or twice a week (it’s not a good idea to workout intensely every single day), you can maximize your calorie-burn potential and reach your goals more quickly.
The rower is nearly incomparable to any other piece of fitness equipment you’ll find on the gym floor. A workout on this machine combines both cardiovascular and strength training into one sweat-inducing workout, challenging almost every muscle in your body. And, because the faster you row, the higher your heart rate will rise, there’s the potential to burn a whole lot of calories in a pretty short amount of time.
Working with kettlebells also offers the advantage of combining both cardio and strength training into one super-efficient workout session. Using a kettlebell you can perform fast-paced, compound movements that will challenge both your muscles and your cardiovascular system so you can burn fat and build muscle at the same time. Plus, unlike the more rigid movements you might perform using a dumbbell or cable machine, many kettlebell moves integrate the use of momentum, which requires a greater amount of engagement from both your large and small muscle groups. See: 10 Kettlebell Exercises for a Total Body Burn
Circuit workouts typically consist of a series of exercises (usually eight) performed one right after the other with little or no rest in between moves. It’s similar to Tabata or interval training, except you don’t rest until all of the exercises are completed. Circuit workouts are flexible, meaning they can be organized in a wide variety of ways and can include everything from weight lifting and bodyweight exercises to aerobic moves like box jumps and jumping jacks. And just like with rowing or kettlebell workouts, the biggest benefit is that circuit workouts also typically combine cardio and strength training at a fast-paced tempo that will increase your heart rate for a greater calorie burn.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a gym membership (or any equipment at all for that matter) to perform a high-intensity workout. You can get your heart rate up high enough to reap all the fitness benefits of intense exercise with simple, bodyweight exercises that can be executed anywhere you choose. The biggest advantage here is that you can organize bodyweight exercises into any type of routine that you enjoy most. From circuit workouts to Tabata training, moves like squats, push-ups, lunges and triceps dips easily fit in to any type of routine.
Perhaps you’ve seen these yellow and black straps hanging around at your local gym. Used to perform a wide range of different resistance exercises, a TRX workout will challenge your strength, endurance and stability through the leverage of your own bodyweight. Whether at the gym or in the comfort of your own home, you can use the system to target nearly every muscle in your body, building strength and burning major calories all at the same time.
Instead of hitting the same pace every time you head out for a run around your neighborhood, try heading to your local track for a speedier workout instead. Not only will you burn more calories by incorporating some faster-paced running into your workouts, but you’ll also challenge your cardiovascular endurance and eventually improve your overall running performance. See: Speed Workouts that will Kick Your Training into High Gear
Laurie Towers, a fitness expert, former professional bodybuilder and founder and CEO of The Bridal Body Shop in New York City says hill workouts are great for working the posterior chain. In other words, you’ll build lower body strength not only in your larger muscles like the quads, hamstrings and calves, but also in your smaller stabilizer muscles, which typically aren’t engaged as often. Plus, running uphill is no easy feat, so your heart rate will increase greatly, challenging your cardiovascular endurance and maximizing your calorie burn. See: How to Run Hill Repeats
Perhaps the simplest of running workouts, fartlek training involves speeding up your pace at irregular intervals. For example, when you’re out on a run, pick up your speed every time you see a blue car headed in your direction and until it reaches you. The idea is to pick something that will appear fairly commonly along your route and use it as a cue to speed up for a short amount of time. Just like with speed-focused track workouts, fartlek training is another simple way to challenge your cardiovascular endurance by increasing the intensity of your running workouts.
Stair workouts are another fairly simple way to increase the intensity of your cardio workouts. Just like with hill running, the incline involved with running up and down stairs provides an added challenge to both your lower-body muscles and your cardiovascular system. Try adding a set of bodyweight exercises like push-ups or triceps dips at the top or bottom of the stairs to include some resistance training and get your upper body involved, too.
Building muscle with strength or resistance training is an essential part of the fat loss process. Because muscle is what’s referred to as “metabolically active” tissue (meaning it requires energy from your body to be maintained), the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn naturally throughout the day, even when you’re not engaged in physical activity. Strength training can involve anything from lifting traditional weights (like dumbbells or barbells) to bodyweight exercises (like squats, push-ups and lunges) and you can perform strength workouts at varying intensities.
Thanks to studios like SoulCycle and Flywheel, spinning has become an increasingly popular form group exercise and for many, it’s been proven as an effective (and fun) way to lose fat. In addition to a big calorie burn (between 400 and 600 calories in just 40 minutes, according to the official Spinning website), indoor cycling classes offer the benefits of increasing strength and endurance not only in your legs, but also your core and, of course, it boasts the ability to greatly increase your cardiovascular fitness, too. See: 5 Things to Know Before Your First Spin Class
In the 90s Billy Blanks made kickboxing and Tae Bo more popular than ever. That fad eventually fizzled out, but it seems as though boxing-based workouts may be on the rise once again. “Boxing is a great full-body workout, and is one of the more enjoyable forms of cardio,” says Lee Pickering, a trainer with DW Fitness Clubs. “It involves quick footwork and releases a lot of pent-up stress. Bouncing on the balls of your feet challenges your balance while working all the muscles in your legs. The power you put behind the punches works your torso, back and shoulders.” Essentially, it’s a total-body strength workout and cardio combo, which means you can get a pretty killer workout in a short amount of time.
NASM certified personal trainer and creator of TheGetinShapeGirl.com Kyra Williams highly recommends AMRAP, or “as many rounds as possible” workouts. “I like to tie in high-intensity interval training for max calories burned in a short time, with weight training to build muscle,” she said. The following is an example of one of her favorite 20-minute AMRAP workouts: Perform 10 squats to overhead press, 10 close-grip triceps push-ups, 10 burpees and 10 sit-ups. The goal: perform as many rounds of those four exercises as possible within 20 minutes. AMRAP can also sometimes stand for “as many reps as possible,” which applies the same idea, only you would choose a few exercises and perform as many reps of each as possible within 60 seconds. Similar to circuit training, the fast paced-nature of AMRAP presents a cardiovascular challenge while also incorporating resistance training for a true total-body burn.