The 5 Best Fat Burning Exercises Are Not What You’d Expect

Best Fat Burning Exercises

Usually when people think of “the best fat burning exercises”, they think of sit-ups, hours on the elliptical, or just straight running until they want to puke. The sad news is, you’re going to have a really hard time trying to lose fat with those exercises . I’m sorry to break it to you but performing 1000 sit-ups a day everyday for the next year will not even get you close to the body you’ve always wanted. In fact, you’d most likely end up with back pain instead.

Luckily, I’m here to tell you the truth and provide you with 5 exercises that are extremely effective when it comes to burning fat.

To keep it simple, the best fat burning exercises should do the following:

  • optimize hormones (increase anabolic hormones and decrease cortisol)
  • lose fat without sacrificing muscle (minimizes muscle loss)

Think of anabolic hormones as you “naturally-given body enhancers”. This hormone is responsible for growing your muscle and keeping your body lean. Whereas cortisol does the opposite. And maintaining or growing muscle is so important because it increases your resting metabolism and will make it possible for you to lose the fat you may be struggling to lose.

What are the best fat burning exercises that do this?

Compound movements! Several studies have found that explosive full-body movements increase our anabolic hormones while decreasing circulating cortisol. In other words, these movements will be your best bet to getting a lean, ripped physique.

So what compound exercises should you be doing to burn off fat? Take a look at the list below for the best fat burning exercises!

1. Barbell Squat

Not only do squats build your booty, they are a compound exercise that burns tons of calories and provide a boost in your anabolic hormones. And few exercises work as many muscles as the squat. They require you to tighten your core and use several stabilizers throughout the movement.

Also, free weight squats have been proven to provide the best results compared to other substitutes. For example, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the growth hormone boost created by the squat and the leg press. In a result that surprised no one, the barbell squats produced significantly higher levels of testosterone and growth hormone. So stick to free weights!

However, to get the full hormonal benefits you need to squat heavy (relative to your strength/size). This means that you can’t play around with a weight where you can do 20 reps on easily, you need to push yourself. As far as sets and reps, I recommend you do 5 total working sets of free weight squats during your leg day routine. Do a couple warm up sets with lighter weight before your working sets. Stick with a rep range of around 6-10 reps for those 5 sets.

Now for the newbies, how exactly do you perform a free weight squat? Here’s an awesome how-to video below:

Squat Tips:

And for those that don’t want to watch, here are some basic tips:

  • Place the bar on your upper traps on your back
  • Stand with feed slightly wider than hip-width apart and point your toes slightly outward
  • Keep your abs tight
  • Squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor
  • Try not to extend your knees past your toes throughout the movement and keep a neutral (straight) back – not arched or rounded
  • Push through the heels of your feet and focus on using primarily your glutes to push the weight back up

Long story short, do your squats! I put barbell squats at the top of the list of best fat burning exercises for a reason!

2. Sprints

Next on the list of best fat burning exercises are sprints. Sprints have been proven time and time again to be one of the most effective forms of cardio for fat loss. I mean, just take a look at the body of sprinters! They’re ripped and have developed a lot of muscle mass.

best fat burning exercises sprints

Sprints are usually performed in a HIIT manner, which explains why they’re so effective for fat loss. You burn tons of calories when sprinting, even up to 44 calories per 30 second interval!  To learn more about why exactly a sprints workout is so effective, click that link to read one of my previous articles on the topic.

The key to reaping all the benefits of sprints is by performing them with all-out effort. No half-ass jogging, you need to be full out sprinting your heart out!

A following sprints routine could look something like this:

  • Full out sprint: 20 seconds
  • Walk: 60-90 seconds

Alternate and repeat the above for about 5-10 rounds depending on your fitness levels. Make sure to do a proper warm up and cool down as well. For a complete 10 week sprints workout plan, check out my HIIT sprints article.

3. Pull-Ups

This is another compound movement that works the upper body, your core, and can slightly engage your legs. Pull-ups are great for adding muscle mass to your back , strengthening your core, and can burn a lot of calories. And as you now know, the more muscle you gain = the more fat you’ll burn around the clock (even when you’re chilling on the couch). These benefits are what make it one of the best fat burning exercises.

For those of you not strong enough to do a pull-up yet (don’t worry, your time will come!), I suggest using an assisted pull-up machine. If that’s also not an option, you can resort to having a workout partner assist you as you try to do a pull-up.

As for the grips, I always recommend choosing the wide-grip overhand pull-ups. However, it’s always good to mix it up and work slightly different portions of your back with different grips. For reps and sets, perform 4-5 sets of 6-10 reps of pull-ups in the beginning of your back routine.

4. Burpees

You were probably hoping these wouldn’t be on the list, right? Truth is, burpees are an effective full-body explosive exercise that burns tons of calories. This makes it one of the best fat burning exercises, especially when performed as HIIT. So make it a love/hate relationship 😉

burpees best fat burning exercises

I suggest performing 40-60 seconds of all-out burpee madness and then resting for 90 seconds. Repeat this for 5-10 rounds for the best results. You can add these into your cardio regiment 1x or 2x per week depending on what you already currently do.

5. Deadlifts

Some of you may be thinking “OMG why aren’t deadlifts higher up in the list?!?”. Well, I decided that they were quite similar to barbell squats in terms of the reasoning and muscles worked so I left it for last.

Anyways, similar to the barbell squat, the deadlift is basically a full-body exercise that requires a lot of engagement from your core as well. And when using appropriately heavy weight for this exercise, you burn a heck of a lot of calories and will spike your metabolism!

Sadly, whether it be their ego or their lack of guidance, this is one of the most frequently incorrectly performed exercises people tend to do. This leads to back pain, then will most likely lead you to never do deadlifts again.

So here’s a quick how-to guide to perform a proper deadlift.

1 – Stand with your mid-foot under the bar and feet about shoulder-width apart.

2- Grab the bar with a width just outside of your knees with an over hand grip.

3 – Bend down with your knees and hips, then push your hips forward, lift your chest and straighten your back.

4 – Engage your core and pull while driving your hips forward.

best fat burning exercises deadlift

The number one mistake people make on this is rounding their back. Don’t be that guy! Or girl! If you can’t perform the above move without rounding your back, then lighten the weight and focus on a straight back and tight core throughout the movement.

I suggest performing 4-5 sets of 6-10 reps of deadlifts on your back or legs day (or whenever you do them).


There you have it, 5 of the best fat burning exercises! Start incorporating these exercises and you will start to see amazing changes happening to your body. And if you’re looking for a way to incorporate various weight training exercises into a circuit, check out my HIIT weight training article. For any questions, feel free to comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Enjoy 🙂

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