As you probably already know:
Losing stubborn body fat and getting in shape may require for you to do some aerobic activity.
Cardio has received quite a lot of hate recently with people saying that aerobic exercises are responsible for muscle loss, that they are a waste of time and effort and bring nothing to the table.
There was even a video produced and released by Vox about a year ago claiming that cardio is [scientifically] completely unnecessary for weight loss.
However, scientific literature shows us a different perspective:
That cardio is in fact a very powerful tool that carries with itself a number of weight-loss and [even] muscle-building benefits:
For example, cardio exercises can help you lose those extra pounds of body fat (due to their high caloric requirement and the afterburn effect), improve your power output when at the gym, enhance your strength and endurance, boost muscle growth (by positively altering protein metabolism), raise nitric oxide production, which improves the blood flow to your muscles, as well as improve your VO2 max.
Love them or hate them, aerobic exercises have been proven time and time again to be one of the fundamental pillars to a successful physique.
Something worth nothing is the fact that not all cardio is equal – there is good cardio and there is bad cardio.
I am not going to bore you with too much details, but the main difference is that bad cardio is all low intensity exercises that involve you being active for prolonged periods of time (we’re talking hours even) that are shown to cause muscle loss and even weight loss plateaus.
One of the best examples include: jogging, light walking, yoga workouts, stretching, etc.
Good cardio is the type of cardio that really gets your heart rate pounding, makes you sweat, is short and powerful, and leaves you completely exhausted.
So the question that remains is:
“What are the best cardio exercises to burn fat”
In today’s article I am going to answer exactly that question by listing the…
Top 7 Best Cardio Exercises to Burn Fat
So that you have a better understanding which cardio exercises are going to deliver the best weight loss results without hindering muscle mass.
And most importantly so that you have a selection of exercises to choose from and switch it up so you 1) don’t get bored; and 2) you don’t hit a plateau.
OK, enough chit-chat, let’s dive in!
#1. Jump Rope Workout to Burn Belly Fat
My personal favorite and probably the best cardio exercise on the list.
I remember watching Rocky 4 as a kid where Stallone was preparing for the big match and he had a nice little montage of him skipping rope as a form of cardio exercising.
I remember thinking to my self:
“Damn, that looks so cool!”
Jump rope training has been proven study after study to be one of the best aerobic exercises out there as it carries a vast number of benefits that help increase your physical fitness.
One study carried out by the Department of Physical Education and Sport Science followed the progress of two different groups of students – one group used jump rope training alongside their regular training routine and the other one did not for 15 weeks.
As you could probably guess the group that was doing jump rope training were shown to have improvement in their balance, agility, endurance, strength, power output, and muscle coordination.
Those are great and all but let’s not forget:
Jump rope training burns a crap-tone of calories!
Because it involves nearly every muscle and even brain power to keep up that coordination and make sure that you don’t trip over and fall.
According to Lifesum 30 minutes of Rope Jumping can burn as much as 400 calories at a normal pace
The best part is that you can easily increase the intensity of the exercise and thus increase the amount of calories you burn by:
- Adding some extra weight as a weighted backpack or weighted vest
- Using some techniques such as double jumps or high jumps
- Spinning the rope at a much faster rate
- Adding variations to the rope jump such as jumping on sand
- Alternating your hand movements, etc.
I know, right? So badass!
What is even better is that rope jumping is a high intensity exercise which means that it will increase your caloric expenditure for hours after finishing. This is the so-called afterburn cardio effect.
It’s cheap, it’s portable, it helps you build strength and agility, and most importantly it’s one helluva fat-burning cardio exercise.
#2. Battle Rope Exercises For Quick Weight Loss
OK, not as cheap nor as accessible and portable as the jump rope, but nevertheless it’s one of the best cardio exercises for quick weight loss.
Here is what’s so awesome about Battle Ropes:
Battle Rope training is notorious for its insane caloric expenditure. Strength coach Josh Henkin of Ultimate Sandbag Training tested out how much calories you can burn with battle rope exercises by using a formula based on the participants’ average heart rate (read more about it here).
What he found was quite impressive:
Male participants were able to burn about 80 calories within just 5 minutes of battle rope training; and female participants managed to burn 45 calories in 4 minutes of exercising.
That is the equivalent of burning about 480 calories within 30 minutes! And this is without considering the afterburn effect that the training delivers.
The best part about battle ropes however is the vast variability that they offer – there is no singular exercise that you can do but rather a selection of exercise combinations that battle ropes offer .
Check out “Torch Body Fat With Battle Ropes” by Shannon Para over at Bodybuilding.com who explains perfectly what are the different battle rope workouts that you can do and how to do them for the best fat burning results.
Or you can check out this dope video by Adrian Bryant:
Ropes are also known to help with the symmetrical strength and muscle development around the body – making sure that weaker/slacking body parts are growing stronger.
The only downside is that they are a bit more expensive than other cardio equipment (with an average price of $60 but can go as high as $100) and is not a widely provided gym equipment.
Which is pretty weird when you think about it because:
Battle ropes offer an opportunity for very dynamic, explosive, effective and compound cardio exercises that will deliver the best results for your physique.
So if you’re wondering:
“What exercise burns the most stomach fat” – Battle Ropes is your answer.
#3. Shadow Boxing Routine to Burn Fat
The reason why I love shadow boxing, except for the obvious boxing appeal, is that it’s one of the cardio exercises you can do at home.
Or anywhere for that matter.
It requires no equipment and it can help you burn a ton of calories!
According to most sources you can burn up to 400 calories within 30-40 minute of shadow boxing.
Obviously if you have access to a punching bag and/or an opponent against whom you can box, then even better because you can increase the amount of calories burned with about 30-50%.
But here is the best part:
Shadow boxing helps you work on your abs!
Boxing in general is a very compound exercise as it essentially activates almost every muscle in your body. Certain movements however such as the uppercut and the hook that really work on the upper-body rotation have an extreme impact on your obliques and upper abs.
You can increase your caloric expenditure by adding movements that are of higher intensity such as knee kicks, elbow hits (which also work your abs), spinning-back-fist, etc.
Or you can even purchase some small dumbbells for a couple of bucks to hold in your hands while swinging left and right.
#4. Rowing – The Fat Burning Exercise
Rowing is a killer cardio exercise that gets your heart rate fast while also engaging nearly every muscle in the body.
The main downside is that you need a Rowing Machine or an actual boat and river where you can, you know, row.
I usually go with the machine, because…well, I don’t really consider myself as an experienced rower and I might end up drowning after the first stroke.
I absolutely love, love, LOVE the rowing machine exercise. And for good reasons:
- You can burn up to 400 calories in a 30 minute span
- It’s a multi joint compound exercise that activates nearly every muscle in the body
- It gives a really good pump for the legs, back and biceps
- Improves core strength
- Boosts muscle growth
- Improves muscle coordination
- Is perfect for muscle hydration (pump)
And these are just some of the benefits that the rowing machine workout offers that make the rowing machine, in my opinion, the best gym equipment for weight loss and toning.
What is also really comfortable is that the machine allows you to adjust the force and thus alter the intensity of the rowing.
This is perfect because it allows you to carry out very explosive HIIT when at the gym.
As I already mentioned, the exercise hits three big muscle groups – the back, legs and abs.
You might be wondering:
“How is that of any importance?”
Essentially, large foundation muscles such as the legs, abs, chest and back require far more calories to move and recover than other smaller muscle groups like the biceps and triceps.
What this means is that not only will the calories burned while rowing be a lot but also the calories burned as a result of the afterburn effect.
If you have always wondered:
“What’s the best cardio machine to burn fat?”, well now you know!
Here is a really cool video that explains what is the correct form and technique behind the rowing machine:
Another great video I strongly recommend watching by Dark Horse Rowing (a youtube channel literally committed to making informative YouTube videos about the rowing exercise) that is about how rowing can help you lose weight:
#5. Burpee – Best Cardio to Burn Fat?
Ah yes, the notorious Burpee exercise.
One of the simplest exercises that can be done anywhere at anytime, that leaves your heart thumping against your chest, your lungs on fire, and every muscle completely exhausted.
Burpees are estimated to burn approximately 355 calories within a 30 minute time-frame.
The Burpee is definitely one of those cardio exercises that doesn’t just help you burn fat but it will also help you build some muscle definition.
There is quite a number of ways in which you can add some variation – one of my favorite ways of doing the Burpee is by doing a push-up instead of just a plank.
If you really want to increase the intensity and the amount of calories that you burn with the aerobic exercise then what you can do is you can add pull-ups into the equation.
Yeah, you heard me right:
From a standing position you go down into a squat, you put your hands to the ground and keep them extended, and you kick your feet behind you – you are now in a plank position.
Instead of stopping there drop yourself to the ground and do a push-up. From there as you push yourself back and you return back to your starting position as you jump in the air you grab on a pull-up bar and you do a pull-up.
This is going to leave your body completely exhausted after a couple of repetitions.
The pull-up + push-up technique is a really good way to amplify the already great cardio exercise so that you burn even more body fat.
There are also a couple of other really good variations of the classic Burpee that will essentially help you increase the intensity of the exercise and burn some more calories
Here are some great variations that you can test out:
Rotational Jump Burpee
Mountain Climber Burpee
Box Jump Burpee
Renegade Row Burpee
Side Plank Burpee
Pike Push-Up Burpee
Tuck Jump Burpee
Medicine Ball Burpee
Single-Leg Push-Up Burpee
Broad Jump Burpee
However, I would recommend starting out simple and working your way up.
#6. Mountain Climbers – Belly Fat’s Worst Nightmare
Another quintessential cardio exercise.
Mountain climbers have long been the staple of cardio.
When it comes to burning calories and shedding off extra pounds – mountain climbers is the first exercise you would think of.
It’s also one of those cardio exercises that you can do at home without the need of any expensive equipment or gym memberships.
The amount of calories that you can burn is usually around 300-360 per 30 minutes – making this exercise an excellent fat-burner.
Mountain climbers, similar to the Burpee, has a vast number of variaton that can be applied to help you increase the intensity and burn some extra calories.
Some of the different ways of executing the exercise are designed in a way to help you work more on your core strength, muscle coordination, agility, and endurance.
One of the most important attributes to the variations is that they “spice up” the exercises making it more fun and entertaining than just switching from one leg to the other.
Men’s Health recently released a video with 52 Mountain Climber Variations that I would strongly recommend you check out – my personal favorites are the running mountain climbers and the plyo spider mountain climbers.
Or the side running mountain climbers that really work on your obliques:
#7. Box Jump Squat – Best Exercise to Lose Fat
Last, but definitely not least, on the list we have box jump squats.
This exercise is also a pretty good Glute workout – so not only will you be burning fat but you’ll be working on those buns of steel.
Sorry, I had to.
Don’t let the name of the exercise fool you!
You do not necessarily require one of those large boxes you can find in most gyms, all you need is an elevated and secure surface.
Notice how I used the word SECURE, you don’t want this happening to you:
Make sure that the surface which you’re trying to reach with your jump is stable, secure and a height that you can manage to actually jump at.
The premise of the exercise is quite simple:
You go from a squat into a jump and land on an elevated surface where you go for the full range of motion and then you fall back down to repeat the movement.
Pretty simple and straightforward, but let me tell – this exercise is going to leave weeping on the ground!
Its explosive nature where you are literally fighting against gravity really leaves you sweating!
Most sources out there claim that jumping squats burn approximately 100 calories for every 10 minutes of doing the exercise – which makes this an extremely powerful weight loss exercise.
There isn’t much variation that you can add to the exercise to increase its intensity (because it’s already pretty intensive) except for maybe adding some weight so that it essentially becomes harder for you to perform.
Here is a pretty well structured and informative video about the correct form when doing box jump squats:
So there you have it – The best cardio exercises to burn fat!
Something worth remembering is that even with all of these powerful fat-burning exercises you really need to pay attention to your diet and nutrition.
You can do all the Burpees and Mountain climbers in the world, but if your diet is bad then your results are going to be the same – bad.
The purpose behind this article is to provide with an arsenal of extremely effective weight loss exercises that you can interchangeably use when at home or when at the gym.
To also add some variation and entertainment to your workout and to make sure that you do not hit a plateau.
Another question that I presume you have is:
“How much cardio should I do per week to lose weight?”
Something important remembering is that while these exercises are really going to deliver weight loss results, you must understand that just like anything else in life – if you do too much of something it’s only going to cause harm.
Do not overdo it!
I would recommend doing these cardio exercises about 2 to 3 times a week for the best results.
If you do too much, say 5-6 times a week, then you’re risking of over-training which will not only lead to muscle loss but will also cause a weight loss plateau, or even worse a fat gain – due to the increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
So be cautious!