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Many fitness magazines and clickbait articles use phrases like “burn belly fat fast” or “lose the muffin top with this one exercise” — while yes, it is possible to burn fat, we don’t get to decide where on our bodies we feel the burn. Unfortunately, you can’t necessarily isolate and reduce belly fat alone, as spot training is a myth.
If you tire yourself out doing a million crunches, you won’t magically torch your belly fat away. Losing weight is a whole-body process, and involves not only exercise but eating clean and managing stress.
While you can’t “target” specific areas of your body where you want to burn fat, you can tailor your workout routine to help you lose weight. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most effective ways to burn fat. HIIT is a variation of interval training that involves short bursts of rigorous cardio, followed by intermittent rest periods.
Many recent studies have determined that HIIT workouts are one of the most efficient ways to burn calories fast, even more so than steady-state cardio like running.
This is mainly because of how the body uses oxygen during steady-state cardio as opposed to during a HIIT workout. Running or cycling are aerobic exercises, meaning your body has enough oxygen stores to sustain you throughout the entire session. HIIT workouts, on the other hand, are anaerobic, which literally means “without oxygen.”
The intensity of the workout uses up all of your body’s oxygen at once. This increased oxygen debt in turn leads to greater excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Consuming oxygen, and recovering your tired muscles, takes energy (see: calories) — some scientists say that after a HIIT workout, you continue burning calories for about 3 to 16 hours. See HIIT exercises for obese people.
In fact, a 2015 study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that HIIT workouts burned up to 25 to 30 percent more calories than a steady-state workout like running.
While research on HIIT is still in the works, some hypothesize that the metabolism boost it causes, as well as the fat-burning growth hormones your body produces during HIIT, are additional causes of weight loss.
As we said before, you don’t get to decide where you’re burning fat. That’s up to genetics. Full-body workouts will be the most beneficial to your overall strength, and for your fitness and weight loss goals. Here are five of our favorite exercises, that involve the entire body, and that you can incorporate into a fat-burning HIIT routine:
Everybody’s favorite (or perhaps least favorite, given how challenging they can be) full-body exercise, burpees work many muscle groups including your legs, hips, buttocks, abdomen, arms, chest, and shoulders.
How to do it:
Start in a squat position with knees bent, back straight, and feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your hands to the floor so they’re just inside your feet, put your weight on your hands, then kick your feet back into a push-up position. Keeping your body straight, do one push-up. Then, jump your feet back to the starting position and stand, reaching your arms over your head. Jump into the air, then repeat.
The mountain climber exercise is sort of a “moving plank,” and works your core, shoulders, hamstrings, triceps, and quads.
How to do it:
Put both hands and knees on the floor. Place your right foot near your right hand, and extend your left leg behind you. In one swift motion, switch the position of your legs. Repeat.
According to Men’s Health, the kettlebell swing “might be one of the best calorie-torching exercises of all time.” This is one of the types of core exercises that work your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core muscles. Although you’re swinging the kettlebell with your arms, make sure to really engage the rest of your body, especially your hips.
How to do it:
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and a kettlebell on the floor in front of you. Bend slightly at the knees and hinge your hips (keeping your back straight) to grasp the kettlebell, then pull it back between your legs to create momentum. Drive the hips forward and send the kettlebell up to shoulder height, then let it return to the position between your legs. Repeat.
This is another exercise in which you’re using your arms to propel something but actually involves multiple muscle groups. The medicine ball slam, done properly, involves your upper body (shoulders, chest, biceps, triceps, and upper back) as well as parts of your lower body and core (glutes, abdominals, lower back, spinal erectors, and rotator cuffs).
How to do it:
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a medicine ball above your head. Slam the ball onto the floor in front of you as hard as you can. Catch the ball, and repeat.
The trusty lunge, with dumbbells, improves your balance and strengthens your core, legs, and arms. There are many variations of the lunge, besides this one, that you can incorporate into your HIIT workout.
How to do it:
With a pair of medium-weight dumbbells in your hands above your head (palms facing inward), step forward with the right leg into a lunge position. Pause, then return to the starting position. Do the left side, then repeat.
So, we can’t necessarily “target” separate parts of our body that we want to slim down, unfortunately. But, if we incorporate HIIT workouts into our weekly exercise routine, chances are we’ll see faster fat-loss results than if we only relied on steady-state cardio like running or cycling. It also takes less time, so it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule.
You can combine HIIT techniques with almost any type of full-body exercise — and as a result, increase your EPOC, metabolism, and growth hormones that will help you burn fat.