Best Fat Burning Workouts for Men and Women-Not a One-Sided Solution

Strength training with barbells

The best fat burning workouts for men or women don’t start with the workout. It begins with the food you eat, or don’t.

Been hitting the gym pretty hard but also hitting those pretzel chips and beer pretty hard too?

And maybe some fries and a slice of pizza here and there, or maybe just a few too many helpings of pasta or white rice?

If you have, you’ve probably been noticing your stomach is starting to talk back to you when you look in the mirror. Jiggle jiggle, wiggle wiggle.

But not to worry, starting with cutting out those extra carbs and simple sugars, there is a simple plan to get you back on track to that dream body you’ve been sculpting. Fat down, energy and muscle up!

Burn Fat with Cardio!

Yes it’s true! You can actually burn fat by running, swimming, walking and other so-called boring cardio. There are better ways to do cardio than the villainized long, boring cardio that gets smashed by YouTube trainers so often though. Plus, there are a lot of benefits to getting outside of the gym and disciplining your mind to push your body through a couple miles of constant motion.

Here are a couple of tips for making cardio one of your go to fat burning methods:

  • Get outdoors. Who wouldn’t be bored going nowhere on a machine inside of a building? Also, how is the air you’re breathing in there? Get outside, preferable not next to a freeway. Go to a trail, a park, the beach. Get out early before there are tons of cars on the road. There is a huge difference in how your brain reacts when you get outside, and you’re more likely to go farther and longer.
  • Go harder. You can’t always spend 90 minutes doing endurance training workouts, and it takes time to build up that kind of aerobic and muscular conditioning. You can go hard for 20 minutes however, or break up your 90 minutes into fast/slow intervals. Try doing a warm-up, followed by a pace that forces you to a speed that is fast enough to make you wonder if you can keep it up for an extended period of time. In longer sessions, include ‘all-out’ sprints for brief periods throughout the session.
  • Include cardio at the end or beginning of your resistance training workout. As a thorough general warm up or a finisher at the end, adding 20-30 minutes of biking, running or other cardiovascular activity (or a fast 15) sends your metabolism into overdrive and is a great way to burn off fat.

cardio benefits of sprinting

Aerobic exercise seems to have no shortage of benefits on longevity, especially in extreme aerobic athletes, according to Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Wael Jaber, M.D. (“Better cardiorespiratory fitness leads to longer life.” sciencedaily.com.)

Of course, that extreme endurance comes with the sacrifice of a lot of muscle and strength as well as fat. You are still improving bone strength, however, and may experience some initial muscle gains when starting out.

The key for non-endurance athletes is to balance strength training with cardio training, and perhaps one of the best living examples of this in a human being is Cameron Hanes. If you don’t know, check him out on Instagram @cameronhanes.

Build Muscle and Endurance with Complexes, Giant Sets, Circuits

Some of the best fat burning, muscle-building workouts you can do involve complexes, giant sets and circuits. Technical definitions aside, barbell or dumbbell complexes, giant sets and circuits all have the same idea behind them. Resistance training with little to no rest between exercises.

Circuits:  You can set up as many exercises as you like, but 6 is a good number to cap it off at. Have your equipment laid out before you start, in an easy to follow circuit if possible. This way you don’t forget what comes next when you start getting exhausted.

Make sure you are warm, or do a warm-up circuit. Then get started, going from exercise to exercise with no rest or as much as 30 seconds max. Do each exercise to failure. Complete the circuit. Rest a minute, and repeat 2-3 times. Try setting up 2 or 3 different circuits for 3 sets each and watch the fat fall away while your fitness levels skyrocket.

Sample Circuit

  1. Pushups or Bench Press
  2. Pullups or TRX rows
  3. Barbell or dumbbell cleans or overhead press
  4. Hanging leg raises
  5. Deadlifts

Giant Sets:  Giant sets originated in the bodybuilding world, and usually mean 4 exercises strung together for opposing muscle groups. These are done with no rest between exercises, so have your weights set up before you start. Example:

  • Deadlifts/Pullups/Dips/Presses (bench, overhead, etc.)

You could also structure this as:

  • Deadlifts
  • Presses
  • Pullups
  • Dips

The second sequence keeps the grip from getting too tired for pullups or the triceps from getting too tired to carry out the second pushing exercise.

Complexes

Complexes are essentially the same type of workout. When people talk about complexes, they are usually referring to a circuit done with a barbell/s or dumbbells. Istvan Javorek popularized several barbell and dumbbell complexes many years ago, and are the basis for most of what you see on the internet today. These are also great done with kettlebells.

For a complex, choose 3-6 exercises which will work the whole body. Then choose a number of repetitions (hint: if you’re new to these, start with a low number!) and a number of sets. So for example:

  • Barbell deadlifts x 6 reps
  • Barbell bent over rows x 6 reps
  • Barbell hang snatch x 6 reps
  • Barbell back squat x 6 reps
  • Barbell behind-the-neck push press x 6 reps

Depending on your fitness level you may choose to do 1 set or 5. Keep the rest to 90-120 seconds between complex sets, and do not rest between exercises. In the example above, you should never have to put the bar down to move to the next exercise.

Muscle, Metabolism, Cardio and Diet

Diet plays a huge role in your body composition, so it’s important to develop a lifestyle around eating healthy and giving your body a scheduled day to allow anything. (See “How to Lose 100 Pounds on The Slow Carb Diet” on the Tim Ferriss blog.)

It’s also important to build muscle as this is the number one consumer of energy in our body while sleeping and awake. The effects of this tend to be exxagerated however. Building muscle alone won’t keep the weight off, especially if you are eating to satisfy the increased hunger from the greater metabolic burn. Nonetheless, a regular strength training routine is essential.

Cardiovascular health is one of the greatest indicators of good heart health and longevity. It’s also a great activity on light training days to help your body recover by delivering more oxygen to the muscles and flushing out CO2 and lactic acid (mayoclinic.org). balancing strength and cardio

As with most things, there is a simple solution that gets more complex the longer you look at it. Losing weight and getting fit are simple in one respect-just get started and keep working.

As you get into better condition, though, you run into things like boredom, soreness, plateaus and so on. However, by the time you get to this point you should have a good idea of what works for you and what doesn’t, and more important, you’ve developed the habit of being a healthy, fit. person.

So what are the best fat burning workouts for men and women? Ultimately, it’s the one you stick with for life, and keep improving and evolving as your body adapts. So get started, and don’t look back!

Squat Substitutes for the Home Gym- Yes you Can Build Big Legs without Back Squats

Squats, specifically the back squat, are an excellent lower body developing exercise, but if you work out at home and don’t have a power rack, how are you supposed to do them safely?

There are a number of solutions, some requiring basic carpentry skills, and others nothing more than the ability to set up a sawhorse. If you are handy, building a rack from two by fours is a cheap solution, if you have the space available. The sawhorse solution is a possibility, but they are inevitably too short to be practical (you usually have to squat all or most of the way down to get under the bar.) Another possibility is a self-spotting system with rope or chains hanging from the ceiling. (See: http://www.mosladder.com/2011/05/want-easy-to-adjust-homemade-suspension.html )

But unless there is a powerlifting meet in your future, why not just substitute alternative leg exercises for the back squat? The back squat is not a magical exercise. It focuses on your lower body and calls into play stabilizing muscles all over the body. It is one of the best compound barbell exercises in existence,  but it is not irreplaceable. Here are some good home gym substitutes for the back squat. Just like with the back squat, the real results come from effort, so work hard if you want to build big, strong leg muscles.

Weighted Step-ups: Set up some cinder blocks, a plyometric box or similar object so that when you step up, your thigh is parallel to the object. With a dumbbell in either hand, step up, standing tall at the top, and back down again. Repeat for as many reps as desired, doing one side at a time, or alternating legs each rep.

You can hold the dumbbells at your sides, but with heavier weights, the arms might get tired before the legs. If this is a problem, clean the dumbbells (or kettlebells) to your shoulders and then do the exercise.

Lunges:  Even better, since there is no need for a platform to step up on. Hold the weights by your sides or at the shoulders, or even use a barbell across the back of your shoulders. Step forward until the thigh is parallel to the ground and push back to the standing position.

Deadlifts: While it is hard to hit the quads as well as the squat with this exercise, they still get put to work, along with the lower back, hamstrings, glutes, and to some extend the biceps, lats, traps, well you get the idea; and all you need is some floor and either dumbbells or a barbell.

Now this is one exercise I prefer to use a barbell with, but dumbbells will suffice if they are the available tools. Experiment with putting them in front or at the sides of your legs; the former will hit the lower back and hamstrings harder, the latter will get the quadriceps working more.

Want to emphasize the hamstrings? Do the Romanian, or Stiff-legged Deadlift, where the legs stay straight through the concentric and eccentric part of the lift.

Pretty sure his legs are working here.

-Skateboard or Medicine Ball Squats: Thanks to Scoobysworkshop (scoobysworkshop.com) for the skateboard idea. With this squat, you put your back on a skateboard against a wall, hold dumbbells or kettlebells at your sides, and squat to parallel and back up. If you do not have a skateboard, or would prefer to keep the board off your walls, try using a medicine ball or swiss ball. A great quad workout which still engages the core for stabilization.

-Front Squats: Cleaning a barbell to your shoulders takes some practice, not to mention wrist flexibility to hold it there. When you master this skill, light to moderate weight front squats are an excellent sub for the back squat. They also make it easier to keep your back straight while squatting.

Crossing the arms for the Front Squat

You can also do these by crossing your arms and resting the barbell on your shoulders. This works well if you have some sawhorses for stands. For some reason, it is easier to ‘unrack’ and ‘re-rack’ the weight for the front squat, so be sure to give this one top priority.

Wow, Crossfit does teach fine form…

-Pistols or Airplane Squats:  The Pistol is squatting on one leg with the free leg extended in front of you. The Airplane Squat has the free leg trailing behind you, usually with the arms out to your sides (the wings.)

These usually start as bodyweight exercises only, but when they become easy, simply hold a dumbbell, kettlebell or sandbag in or at your chest while squatting. There is a lot of instruction available for this movement, so I won’t go into it. Just remember not to discount the strain put on your leg muscles when performing either one. Aim for a specific number of sets and reps, and if you cannot do a full set of 6 or more, add in one of the exercises above or some basic bodyweight squats.

Here are some other moves that get honorable mention, but for one reason or another, don’t make this list

Plyometric squats, split jumps, box jumps, etc.: While definitely amazing (and frequently painful) exercises for developing power, these movements have limited potential as muscle and strength builders. A good addition, but not a substitute for squats.

Atlas/Sandbag or other Odd Object Lifting: By definition these movements require nearly every muscle in the body to execute, including the leg muscles. For this reason, they are not ideal back squat substitutes. Instead, try dedicating an entire workout once a week to one of these lifts. They demand that kind of dedication.

There you have it! A few simple exercises that make great substitutes for the back squat and will develop  your leg muscles just as well; IF you are willing to put in the effort!