The best exercises for weight loss
Everyone has different reasons for hitting the gym – to build strength, prepare for a sporting event or even to socialise. But what we also hear from many of our members is that they’re using their time in the gym to help with their weight loss goals, whether that’s toning up or losing body fat. Here we’ve gathered some of the best exercises for losing weight and shaping up.
However, before we start, we want to run you through some of our top advice to bear in mind when exercising for weight loss:
7 Top Tips for Exercising to Lose Weight
- Calorie Deficit - Weight loss needs to involve an energy balance, so you need to be in a calorie deficit. That’s why diet and nutrition need to also play a major role in your weight loss plans. Learn more about how many calories you should be eating to lose weight here.
- It’s not just diet and exercise - Bear in mind that there are many other important factors that can affect your weight loss, including sleep, hormones and stress. You can’t always control all of these, but it’s worth looking at your total lifestyle when you’re planning to lose weight. Our sleep and exercise guide explains more.
- Be realistic - Set realistic goals – if you aim too far too soon you could end up disheartened, which could lead to giving up. Set yourself small challenges to celebrate and build your way up from there. We show you how to set fitness goals here.
- Beginners can get support - If you’re just setting out on your fitness and weight loss journey, we recommend trying a class, booking an induction or getting a PT so you’re creating good habits and getting your form right.
- Mix cardio and weight training - While cardio is great for burning calories, it’s also helpful to include weight training to help prevent the loss of muscle mass. Bring elements of both into your weekly fitness plans for best results.
- Quality beats quantity - More is not necessarily better when it comes to how you spend your time in the gym. Overloading yourself with too many exercises could inadvertently decrease the overall quality of your workout and stop you from getting the results you’re after. Instead, focus on making sure you’re really nailing the exercises you’re doing for maximum effectiveness.
- Pick an exercise you love - Ultimately, the best type of exercise is one you enjoy and can stick to, so don’t punish yourself with a fitness regime you feel you should be doing rather than want to do. Fitness can be fun – you just need to find the activities, classes, sports and training methods you’re more likely to stick to in the long run.
8 of the Best Workouts and Exercises to Lose Weight
So, with all that in mind, here are eight of our top exercises for losing weight.
Kettle bell swings
Kettlebell swings are one of the most effective exercises for burning calories in a short amount of time. Not only do they burn fat, but they’ll also help you improve strength and build muscle.
Try a few different sized kettlebells, starting lower and working your way up, to ensure you find the right weight for you.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart with the kettlebell firmly gripped in both hands. Fold at the hips into a half squat keeping your head up and chest out. Make sure to keep the knees soft as you pull the kettlebell back between your legs. Keeping your arms straight and your core engaged, swing the kettlebell up to chest height, by thrusting through the hips and squeezing the glutes at the top.
Find out more about kettlebell swings with our guide.
Love them or hate them, burpees are an excellent, intense full-body workout that tackles lots of different muscle groups in one go. They’ll also burn plenty of calories, not just when you’re exercising, but for hours afterwards too.
From a standing position drop into a squat with your hands on the floor just in front of your feet. Kick your legs back to form a raised plank position, before lowering your chest to the floor. Push back up on your arms, bring the legs back into the chest and then perform an explosive jump up to finish.
Burpees can be pretty challenging, so if you find them too tough, you can try ‘down ups’ instead, which cut out the push up. Just jump your legs back into a raised push up position, before jumping them straight back in again ready to jump up.
Learn more about how to master the burpee with our guide.
This monster exercise works all the muscles of the lower body, your core, your lower back and your abs, with pretty much all other muscles engaging too. As part of an exercise plan, they’ll help increase your lean muscle mass and your metabolic rate, helping you burn calories more efficiently.
Stand holding on to a barbell with weights loaded or dumbbells, keeping your feet shoulder width apart and either your palms facing you (for dumbbells) or the bar in front of you (for a barbell). Hinge at the hips, bend your knees slightly and keep your back straight as you lower the weight to the floor, keeping it close to your body as you drop it towards the floor. Return slowly to starting position, squeezing your glutes as you go.
Find out more about deadlifts with this guide.
The rowing machine could hold the secrets to great fat burning and muscle development, with the perfect blend of cardio and strength training. It’s low impact and a full body workout, which can be used as part of a HIIT or LISS approach.
Keep your back straight, your core engaged and the balls of your feet in the straps of the machine. Start by pushing back with the lower body before pulling your hands towards your chest, focusing on using the muscles in your upper back. Glide back to starting position, leading with your arms.
Our ‘learn to love the rower’ guide gives some examples of effective rowing workouts you could use.
Not just one for the gym, mountain climbers are a fantastic full body workout that can be performed anywhere. This exercise will help with your weight loss by burning a huge number of calories and strengthening your arms, back, shoulders, core and legs.
Start in a press up position with a straight line through the shoulders, hips and ankles, supporting your weight on your hands and toes. From this position keep the core tight and bring the knees up to the chest one at a time, going as quickly as you can.
Check out our mountain climbers guide for more info.
While a long slog on the treadmill will burn calories and improve fitness, you can use your time and energy more effectively by working high intensity sprints into your workout. This highly effective exercise strategy involves bursts of intense sprinting followed by a reduced pace or jog.
Try starting with a 30 second sprint followed by a minute jog. Do this for 15 minutes and you’ll get the same workout that would have taken twice the time via conventional running.
Our treadmill HIIT guide has more information and advice.
Dumbbell goblet squats
Squats are another impactful and effective exercise for weight loss, improved only by the addition of weights to really feel the benefits of the whole-body burn. This full-body exercise works your quads, calves, glutes, core, arms and grip strength.
Hold a kettlebell or one end of a dumbbell in your hands, with palms facing each other. Keeping your spine tall, back straight and core engaged, bend your knees and sink your hips back, while dipping your hips downwards until they sinks below your knees. Straighten your legs back to standing.
Discover other types of squats with our guide.
Walkout push up
An effective bodyweight exercise that will target your chest, core, shoulders and triceps, burns calories and will help strengthen and tone your upper body – what’s not to love! Plus, this can be done anywhere, not just the gym.
Bend at the hips, planting your hands on the floor just in front of your feet and shoulder width apart. Walk your hands out until you’re in a push-up position and perform a press-up. Now walk the hands back to your feet and repeat.
This guide will help you improve your press up form.
While these are some of our favourite exercises for weight loss, it’s also important to find a way of moving that suits you. You’ll find plenty more workouts over on our How to Lose Weight section, as well as plenty of ideas for nutritional, healthy recipes ideas on our Nutrition & Diet Advice pages.