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, says physical therapist and fitness coach Laura Miranda, CSCS, DPT. “But anaerobic workouts (think weights) keep our excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or post-workout calorie-burn, going from hours to days,” she explains.
The reason weight training has this prolonged calorie-burning effect? When you work at that higher intensity, your body needs more oxygen afterward in order to recover and repair muscles, Miranda says. By choosing exercises that ramp up that after-burn effect, “you get more bang for your buck in the long-term,” she says. “Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue, so the more of it we have, the more effective we are at burning calories all day long.”
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 10 trainer-backed weight loss exercises by calories torched. (FYI: Calorie burn is estimated for a 125-pound person and a 185-pound person, per American Council on Exercise estimates.)
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,” explains Berkow. “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, Berkow suggests. Once you’ve mastered that flick-of-the-wrist and your timing, work on increasing your speed and duration to burn more calories.
For a full-body workout challenge, give this calorie-torching jump rope workout from Carrie Underwood’s trainer a try. (It helped her score those iconic legs!)
The bonus burn: Use a weighted jump rope to engage your arms and shoulders even more.
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…