3 Tips to Exercise For Fat Loss

Discover the best way to exercise for fat loss, get fat loss workout instructions, and a plan for losing weight quickly.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #116

3 Tips to Exercise For Fat Loss

When it comes to exercise for fat loss, it can be very easy to waste your valuable time in the gym, or even damage your body, joints, or metabolism by exercising the wrong way or using the wrong workout. So in this article, you’re going to discover the best way to exercise for fat loss, get fat loss workout instructions, and a plan for losing weight quickly – using weight loss methods that actually work.

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Before we jump into 3 ways that you can exercise for fat loss, it’s important to realize that for your long term health and weight loss, rather than simply restricting calories and beating yourself up in the gym, it’s also very important to address crucial issues such as:

  • Hormone balance

  • Nutrient deficiencies

  • Elimination of a sedentary lifestyle

  • Sleep habits and stress management

Talk to your doctor and come up with a plan to address these or any other underlying issues that may be hindering your fat loss goals. But even if you’re taking care of those aspects of your life, exercise can certainly accelerate the process of fat loss, so here are 3 quick and dirty tips to exercise for fat loss.

Tip #1: Know Your Fat Burning Zone

In the episode What Is the Fat Burning Zone?, you learn that if you burn 200 calories per hour while walking, and burn 60% fat, then you burn 120 fat calories per hour. But if you burn 600 calories per hour while jogging, and only burn 40% fat during that time, you still burn 240 calories of fat per hour, twice as much as when you were walking. So the point at which fat burning peaks during exercise is referred to as your maximum “fat burning zone.”

Here’s how to find your personal fat burning zone:

  1. Warm up on a bike for 10 minutes.

  2. Pedal at your maximum sustainable pace for 20 minutes. You should be breathing hard and your legs should be burning, but you should be able to maintain the same intensity for the full 20 minutes.

  3. Record your average heart rate during those 20 minutes.

  4. Subtract 20 beats from that heart rate. Add and subtract 3 beats from the resulting number to get a range, and that is your peak fat burning zone.

For example, if your average heart rate was 160 during the 20-minute pedal, then your calculation would look like this:

160 - 20 = 140

140 + 3 = 143

140 - 3 = 147

So your peak fat burning zone is when you have a heart rate of 137-143 beats per minute.

While it’s useful to know this number to maximize the fat burning efficiency of morning walks, hikes, or easy bike rides, at the end of this article, I’ll tell you exactly what to do with your fat burning zone in a weekly fat loss workout!

Tip #2: Do the Best Workout for Fat Loss

In the episode Which Workout Burns the Most Fat?, you learn about a study that had one group of test subject do cardio, another group do resistance training, and a final group do a “concurrent” training workout in which they ran for 30-60 seconds after completing each weight lifting set.

Even though each group did the same amount of work, the combination group experienced the following:

  • a 35% greater improvement in lower body strength

  • a 53% greater improvement in lower body endurance

  • a 28% greater improvement in lower body flexibility

  • a 144 % greater improvement in upper body flexibility

  • an 82% greater improvement in muscle gains

  • a 991 % greater loss in fat mass!

That means the combination group not only burned fat and built muscle at the same time, but the amount of fat they burned was a ten-fold increase over the amount burned by the groups that did cardio or resistance training only.

So without a doubt, combining cardio and resistance training will burn fat the fastest.  One of my favorite ways to do this is by performing back-to-back exercises (known as “supersets”), followed by a cardio burst.

Here are a few sample combinations for optimized fat loss:

  • Standing overhead press with pulldowns to 60 seconds of jumping jacks

  • Squats with leg curls to 60 seconds of treadmill

  • Chest press with seated row to 60 seconds of bicycle

  • Lunges with planks to 60 seconds elliptical

Do each superset 3-4 times through, 10-15 reps for each, with minimal rest between everything.

Tip #3: Include High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

In the episode How to Do High Intensity Interval Training, you learn that besides weight training, one of the best ways to create high post-exercise metabolic rate and calorie burning is via the hard cardio efforts of a HIIT routine. Check out my episode for details, but at its most basic, HIIT is when you warm-up, and then you do an intense burst of cardio, followed by a full recovery period. When you do this, your body goes into an “oxygen debt,” which means your muscles begin to burn and you begin to breathe hard, which in turn burns more calories.

While it would be virtually impossible to create oxygen debt by riding a bicycle as hard as you can for 10 minutes, you can easily split those 10 minutes into several 30-60 second efforts followed by long recovery periods, and still achieve the same calorie burning effect!

Here are some of my favorite HIIT workouts, each of which should include a quick warm-up and cool-down:

  • 30 seconds hard, 2 minutes easy, repeat 8 times

  • 1 minute hard, 4 minutes easy, repeat 4 times

  • 2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy, repeat 5 times

You could do any of these intervals on a bicycle, treadmill, elliptical trainer, or any other cardio machine. For more details and tips on HIIT, click here.

A Fat Loss Workout Week

So now that you know how to improve fat loss in your workouts, I’m sure you’re wondering what would a sample fat loss workout week look like. Here’s a perfect example:

Monday: Fasted 15-30 minute morning cardio in fat burning zone, followed by 30-45 minute afternoon or evening weight training session (or do them at same time in morning or evening if you can’t work out twice a day).

Tuesday: Fasted 15-30 minute morning cardio, followed by 15-30 minute afternoon or evening cardio intervals using HIIT.

Wednesday: Same as Monday.

Thursday: Same as Tuesday, but use different length of cardio intervals in your HIIT routine.

Friday: Same as Monday

Saturday: 1-2 hour fasted cardio in fat burning zone

Sunday: Off or make-up day

That’s it! While you can slightly accelerate your fat loss results when you combine the routine described above with elements such as cold exposure or fat burning supplements, those components aren’t as crucial as ensuring that you eat properly for fat loss. And you can check out Nutrition Diva’s show for more on that.

Click here for a free hour-long audio lecture and PowerPoint presentation to accompany this episode. And if you have more questions about how to exercise for fat loss, then join the conversation at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy.

Man Jogging and Woman Spinning images from Shutterstock

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.