The 6 best weight loss exercises, ranked by calorie-burn

  • 09 Jan - 15 Jan, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly

If you're dedicating valuable time in your day to sweat, you want to know it's actually worth your time, right? When it comes to the best weight loss exercises, though, the confusion is real. Some people say cardio is the ultimate calorie-burner, while other swear by strength training. Well, it's time to set the record straight.

It’s true that people tend to expend more calories while doing cardio, like running, compared to lifting weights. But anaerobic workouts (think weights) keep our excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or post-workout calorie-burn, going from hours to days.

That said, not all of the best calorie-burning workouts involve weights. Truly, just how many cals you torch depends on multiple factors, like how much you weigh (the more you weigh, the more calories you burn doing any particular task) and just how all-out you go.

While it's not an exact science, certain workouts generally burn more than others. This list ranks the top six weight loss exercises by calories torched.

1. Jumping rope

The burn: 667–990 calories/hour (jumping at 120 skips per minute)

Yep, this blast from your playground past is a total torcher. Plus, jumping rope is great for developing coordination, calf and ankle strength, core strength, posture, and cardiovascular endurance. It also helps build bone density, which guards against bone loss, osteoporosis, and bone loss.

Ideally, the best way to start jumping rope is to go slow and do it in 20- to 30-second bursts. Once you've mastered that flick-of-the-wrist and your timing, work on increasing your speed and duration to burn more calories.

2. Sprints

The burn: 639–946 calories/hour

Whether you're on a tread, at a track, or on the sidewalk, charging ahead at top speeds during a sprint workout is guaranteed to rev that inner engine.

Sprinting is a maximal effort that requires a lot of power from your glutes and hamstrings. By alternating between maximal efforts and recovery periods, you build cardiovascular endurance and promote fat-burning.

To make the most of your efforts, you want to sprint at a pace you can only maintain for about 20 seconds. Follow that with a recovery run at half of the intensity but double the time.

Start with 10 to 15 stairs at a time. Once you've found your groove, you can even take two steps at a time to amp up the power required of each stride.

3. Kickboxing

The burn: 582–864 calories/hour

Kickboxing works your upper body and core without a lot of impact to your legs, so it’s great if you can’t jump or have knee pain while jumping. Plus, kickboxing has been shown to improve cardio, strength, agility, balance, coordination, upper body fitness, and aerobic power. And, let’s be real: Hitting something is seriously stress-relieving.

To get started, you'll want to learn common boxing moves (like jabs, crosses, uppercuts, and hooks) and be ready to incorporate squats, lunges, and ducks. Pro tip: Learn the handwork before you start the footwork, and decrease rest times between sets.

4. Spinning

The burn: 568–841 calories/hour

Cycling is great for no impact-cardio and for strengthening your knees and hamstrings. It’s an excellent form of cardio if you have knee pain with running or are recovering from knee issues. In addition to improving both aerobic and anaerobic function, doing intervals on an exercise bike has also been shown to be particularly effective for reducing body fat.

For best results, make sure you maintain good posture (chest up, shoulders back and down, and a flat back) as you cycle. From there, adding sprint intervals at fast paces and recovery intervals and a moderate pace will burn more calories and yield a greater after-burn than a steady state ride.

5. Running

The burn: 566–839 calories/hour (10-minute mile pace)

One major reason running is such an effective weight loss exercise? In addition to working the large muscles in your legs, it's high-impact. You have to push your body weight off of the ground with every stride.

If you're just getting started (or if running at a steady pace bothers your ankles or knees), opt for intervals of runs, alternating with intervals of light jogging or walking. If you are new to running, use a 1:2 work to rest ratio, or recover for twice as long as you run.

6. Kettlebell circuits

The burn: 554–822 calories/hour

Haven't hopped on the KB train yet? Kettlebell circuits or complexes (sequence of movements you perform without putting your weight down) are our favourite calorie-burning exercise because they work both strength and cardio. You’re lifting weights in a way that keeps your heart rate up the whole time, so you build muscle and burn fat!

The key to KB success: Include a squat, swing, push, pull, and core move in order to work your entire body.