Which Workout Burns the Most Fat?

Learn which workout burns the most fat, how to choose popular workouts for fat loss, what exercises to include with a fat burning workout and how to speed up fat burning.

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read


Buy Now

As an Amazon Associate and a Bookshop.org Affiliate, QDT earns from qualifying purchases.

Zumba. TRX. P90X. Pump. Spinning. Yogalates. Beach Body Insanity. The list goes on and on! With so many choices, how can you pick an exercise or workout that will burn the most fat, the fastest? In today’s article, you’re going to learn exactly how to make your own fat-burning workout to ensure that you burn fat as fast as possible.

What Are the Different Types of Fat-Burning Workouts?

The majority of workouts that advertise themselves as high calorie-burning events can be broken down into three different categories: cardio, resistance training, and cardio plus resistance training.

Cardio: An example of a cardio class would be spinning, a class in which you ride a stationary bike with varying levels of resistance and pedaling speeds, typically to a choreographed series of songs and movements such as standing, hovering, and jumping. Dance workouts like Zumba or Hip-Hop would also fall into the cardio category.

Resistance training: A resistance training workout would include activities like power yoga, which consists of body weight resistance exercises combined with stretching; Pilates, which is primarily focused on abdominal and lower back resistance training; TRX, which involves pulling and pushing the body with a special type of band; and pump, which uses dumbbells, barbells, and step benches for resistance.

Cardio plus resistance training: As you may have guessed, cardio plus resistance training combines the elements discussed above. P90X and Beach Body Insanity are two popular examples of activities that have you lifting weights one moment, then performing jumping jacks or step-ups just a few moments later. Another term for this type of sequential exercise is “concurrent training.”

Which Workout Burns the Most Fat?

If your focus is pure fat loss, then you should absolutely combine your weight lifting and cardio in one workout.

Now that you know the different workout categories, the ultimate question remains: which workout burns the most fat?

A 2008 study at the University of California asked this very question, and had one group 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, and

  • 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 the fastest. 

Quick and Dirty Tip: If you decide you simply don’t want to do your cardio and resistance training at the same time, you may be interested to know that additional research shows a greater total amount of calories burned when cardio is done first, followed by weight lifting. For example, you could go to the gym, run for 20 minutes on the treadmill, and then do 30 minutes of weightlifting.

How to Make Your Own Fat-Burning Workout

So if you’re ready to do a fat-burning workout, but don’t feel like going to the gym and signing up for a class, there is a way you can do combined cardio and resistance training at home. Try this workout:

  • Do 10 push-ups or knee push-ups,

  • Then stand and do 15-20 jumping jacks.

  • Next to 10 squats or lunges,

  • Then do 15-20 more jumping jacks.

  • Next, move on to 10 crunches, again followed by 15-20 jumping jacks.

  • Finally, pick a set of dumbbells off the floor and lift them overhead up and down a total of ten times, and

  • Then finish with a final series of 15-20 jumping jacks.

I have  great video for a workout that demonstrates these techniques here.  That last dumbbell exercise is called a “deadlift to overhead press”, and you can see a video of it here: http://www.pacificfit.net/members/Workouts/exercises/deadlifttopress.htm

Quick and Dirty Tip: If you get tired of jumping jacks, try squat-thrust-jumps, vertical jumps, lunge jumps, or horizontal jumps.

How to Burn Fat Faster

To ensure that reap the greatest fat-burning benefits, remember to also follow these simple rules:

Don’t exercise hungry. A fed body will burn more calories.

Warm up first. Warm muscles will be able to burn more fat.

Use good form. Doing cardio before a resistance exercise makes that exercise more difficult to do properly, so don’t injure yourself. It’s tough to burn fat if you’re laid up on the couch with a thrown out back.

Eat after your workout. Post-workout nutrition will help you build metabolism-boosting fibers of lean muscle. For more on what to eat after a workout, see my article on what to eat before and after exercising.

Lastly, always keep your mind muscle connection strong.

When Shouldn’t You Combine Cardio and Resistance Training

So when wouldn’t you want to combine cardio with resistance training? If your focus is not to burn fat, but to build strength, you’d be better off doing your resistance training as a separate workout. Similarly, if you’re training for endurance, then you should focus on a high-quality cardio workout that isn’t interrupted by strength training. But if your focus is pure fat loss, then you should absolutely follow the recommendations in this article and combine your weight lifting and cardio in one workout.

Woman Doing Abdominal Workout image 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.