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10 Best Exercises For Fat Loss and Whole-Body Fitness

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

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In this article I’m going to share with you 10 brilliant whole-body fat loss exercises that you can include in your training regime. These exercises have been selected because they:


  • Stimulate multiple muscle groups

  • Help to develop all-round fitness

  • Are dynamic, multi-dimensional and modifiable

  • Engage the cardiovascular system

  • Develop functional strength

  • Burn fat whilst sculpting lean musculature

  • Require little equipment or technical expertise


In addition to the exercise overview and tutorials, each one of which is accompanied with a quick video demonstration, I have included two circuits for you to pit yourself against.


10 best exercises for fat loss


Now, before rushing enthusiastically into the exercise tutorials, it might be worth considering your method of approach. By this I mean, it would be unwise, after one reading, to try to implement the technical points of all 10 fat loss exercises.


Each exercise is accompanied with a comparatively extensive overview as I wanted to ensure that you were adequately informed on how to perform each exercise properly. Many exercise tutorials that I’ve seen are far too parsimonious and some omit important teaching points.


I advise learning two at a time then, when you feel confident with the exercises, coming back to learn two more. This way you will be able to digest the technical points and have the time to embed the techniques before attempting to advance your repertoire.


Right, now the pleasantries are out the way, let’s get straight into it!


10 best exercises for fat loss #1: Kettlebell Swing

Muscles worked: all of them! But primarily the gluteus maximus (bum), transverse abdominus (tum), latissimus dorsi (back).


The kettlebell swing is synonymous with whole-body, functional training. And though it is arguably the best single exercise for all-round fitness it is deceptively simple – at a glance. You are, effectively, swinging a steel ball between your legs.


Related: Need advice selecting a Competition Kettlebell?

However, there’s a bit more to this exercise than meets the untrained eye. But the small investment required to master the kettlebell swing is paid back in substantial fitness rewards. So what’re you waiting for, get mastering!


Swing key techniques

  1. Stand directly over the KB feet spaced 1.5 should widths apart.

  2. Bending at the knee – not rounding at the lumbar region – grasp the bell and straighten: smoothly and under control.

  3. To initiate the movement pull the bell back and, on contracting the glutes, drive forward through the hips – remember: you are not pulling the KB up with the shoulders; you are thrusting it forward with your love-making muscles.

  4. Keep the eyes fixed on an indefinite point in the distance as this will help stabilise posture and reduce back rounding.

  5. When receiving or ‘catching’ the KB in the groin – sounds painful but it shouldn’t be (if it is you’re not doing it right!) – absorb the energy in the hips and transverse abdominus and redirect it into the next repetition.

  6. To complete the exercise return the kettlebell back to the floor the same way you picked it up: bending at the knee, no rounding of the back.


 

10 best exercises for fat loss #2: Clean & jerk

Muscles worked: transverse abdominuns and latissimus dorsi also get a good workout from this exercise. But because the clean to press sees the dumbbell transition through a full cycle – bottom to top – the muscles of your quads and shoulders are also engaged.


Key techniques

  1. Position your centre of mass over a single dumbbell ensuring to adopt a stance slightly wider than shoulder-width.

  2. Bending at the knee (not rounding at the back), grasp the dumbbell and pull it back between your hips.

  3. Explosively fire forward through the hips. You are using glute and core strength to drive the DB up and into the front rack position.

  4. When the dumbbell is level with the shoulder, your arm folded against your torso, pause momentarily before executing the final phase of the exercise.

  5. To do so, take a shallow dip at the knee then explosively fire up through the quads.

  6. The dumbbell will want to move. All you have to do is assist and stabilise with your arm.

  7. As the dumbbell passes your face, remember to take a second dip at the knee. Fix your arm out as you do so.

  8. The dumbbells should now be above your head, your arms fixed out (not locked out!), and your knees still bent.

  9. Retrace your sets before completing the next rep.


 

10 best exercises for fat loss #3: Burpee

Muscles worked: primarily the quads, core and cardiac (muscle). Yes, the burpee is a superb cardiovascular antagonist and perhaps the best body-weight exercise ever conceived (in my opinion).


Not quite convinced with my over-enthusiastic assessment of this sadomasochistic soul destroyer? Master the technical mechanics outlined below and have a bash at performing 100 reps as quickly as your physicality will permit, then email which muscles were worked the most.


Burpee key techniques

  1. Start by standing nice and erect like the good soldier on parade.

  2. Squat all the way down until the palms of your hands are firmly planted on the floor.

  3. Shifting your body weight forward shoot both feet back simultaneously. If you’ve followed the aforementioned teaching points correctly, you should be in the start of the press-up position. This is half the burpee completed.

  4. To complete the movement push off the floor with your feet springing them back level with your hands.

  5. Stand up ensuring to jump at the top position.


 

10 best exercises for fat loss #4: Vertical lift

Muscles worked: forearms, biceps and shoulders (also quads if you modify the movement into either a clean to press or clean to squat press (aka thruster)).


The vertical lift is an excellent exercise for developing upper-body physicality. And because of this it compliments any and all lower-body exercises – handy to know when you’re designing a circuit.


The perceptive reader might well question why an exercise that doesn’t stimulate the major muscle groups features in this list of best all-over body exercises. But it’s the functionality and scope of possible modification options that makes the vertical lift an absolute must.


Though typically a muscular endurance movement (low weight/high reps) you can increase the poundage thus turning it into a whole-body strength exercise. I’ve explained how you can do this in the teaching points below.


Exercise key techniques

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart holding two dumbbells at your side.

  2. To initiate the first phase of the movement curl the dumbbells so that they are level with your shoulders.

  3. Once in this position you’re going to rotate the dumbbells slightly so that your palms face outwards.

  4. Now for the second phase of the movement. Press the dumbbells vertically above your head ensuring that they touch at the uppermost position.

  5. To complete the vertical lift retrace your steps so that you find yourself at teaching point 1.

 

10 best exercises for fat loss #5: Press up

Muscles worked: pectoralis major (chest), anterior deltoideus (shoulder – the front bit), triceps brachii (the curtain rail from which bingo wings flap) and transverse abdmoinus (the six pack – for those that have got one (six)).


The humble press-up is a classic callisthenic exercise that is a staple of the military training diet. And it still features as one of the mandatory fitness tests that all aspirant soldiers must pass if they wish to gain admittance into the British military.


Perhaps the reason why the press-up is so popular throughout military training is because it provides an almost instant indicator of the recruit’s upper-body strength. Also, the technical application can be explained and demonstrated in seconds and no equipment is required. Making this one of the most accessible exercises on the market.


Like so many (I hate to use the phrase) old fashioned exercises, press-ups offer more bang per invested buck. Really, the press-up is a quasi-plank which accounts for why it works the transverse abdominus and, to a lesser extent, the hip flexors and quadriceps.


And finally, we mustn’t forget that the press-up is bewilderingly versatile; there is literally hundreds of modification options. See a snippet of those modifications below:


  • Strict (Military) Press-up

  • Wide Hands Press-up

  • Triangle (Diamond) Press-up

  • Pike Press-up

  • Super (Hindu) Press-up

  • Staggered Hands Press-up

  • Sphinx Press-up (Triceps Extension)

  • Spiderman (Side Kick) Press-up

  • Single arm Press-up


Press up key techniques

  1. Firstly adopt the pre-press-up position: hands placed on the floor spaced slightly over shoulder width and in-line with the shoulders, knees down.

  2. When you are ready to start your set raise your knees so that you are in the ‘high plank’ position.

  3. Under control lower your body until there is a 90 degree angle at the elbow joint (you can, of course, go lower if you wish).

  4. Pressing evenly through both arms return to the high plank.


Modification and advancements

As I endeavoured to identify above, there are many press-up variations. In addition to the nine listed above, you can also perform plyometric – or clap-hand press-ups – which advances the dynamism of this exercise. Also, you can place a power bag under your chest and, prior to performing a press-up, drag it to your side then complete the rep.


I’ll stop there because the enormity of potential variations could comfortably consume a book.


 

10 best exercises for fat loss #6: Squat jump

Muscles worked: primarily those of the quadriceps, gluteus maximum (buttocks) and gastrocnemius (calf). But by including the jump many more muscles are recruited both to execute the exercise and stabilise the body on impact. And, because the jump requires greater muscular engagement, the heart (cardiac muscle) must work harder to both supply energy and recirculate metabolic waste.


Much like the press-up the squat jump is a deceptively simple exercise yet it packs a serious fitness punch. It’s perhaps for this reason why it has remained in favour amongst the fitness community for so long. For the squat jump is not only comparatively easy to master but it requires no equipment and very little room to perform.


Also, the range of possible adaptations and modifications makes it a phenomenally versatile exercise. You want examples? See below:

Squat variations

  • Squat Kickback

  • Frog Squat

  • 3-Way Jump Squat

  • Burpee Squat Hold

  • Squat with Side Leg Lift

  • Side Step Squat

  • Squat to press-up (aka bastod!)

  • Squat to jump toe touches

  • Squat into bunny hop

  • Hindu squats

  • Pistol (single leg squat)


Squat key techniques

  1. Get yourself into position: stand with your feet a little over shoulder width apart, knees soft, arms folded across your chest.

  2. Bend at the knee.

  3. When there is a 90 degree angle between the hamstring and calf fire through the quads propelling your mass a foot or so above the floor.

  4. On landing ensure to: a) roll from the front to the back of the foot and b) bend the knee on impact. Applying these techniques will absorb/dissipate the shock.

  5. While still remaining control of the exercise exploit the potential energy that you have just generated by sinking immediately into the next repetition.

  6. Remember, as this video demonstration shows, when bodyweight squat jumps get too easy, you always add resistance.


 

10 best exercises for fat loss #7: Hanging leg raises

Muscles worked: primarily those of the rectus abdominus (six pack), forearms (from all that gripping) and rectus femoris (muscles of the quadriceps).


If you didn’t know sit-ups are currently being outlawed. Studies are showing that, over time, they can weaken – destabilise – the spine which can lead to injury. This negative effect has been attributed to the repetitive flexion and extension when performing sit-ups. Thus they should be avoided like the bubonic plague. The last thing you want to do is bugger your back up.


However, hanging leg raises do not cause the back to flex. If performed properly the back should remain perfectly straight. Also, in comparison to the sit-ups, hanging leg raises are far more dynamic, modifiable and they work a much wider range of muscles. And! And they engage the entire length of the rectus abdominus; whereas traditional sit-ups or crunches only engage either the top or bottom.


So if you want to shape and sculpt that much coveted washboard ab aesthetic, make hanging leg raises your hammer and chisel of choice.

Exercise key techniques

  1. Grasp a fixed bar – preferably one that is high enough so that you can dead hang without your feet touching the floor.

  2. Your hands should be spaced shoulder width apart – but they can be wider or narrower depending on personal preference.

  3. Without generating momentum by kicking back raise your legs until you form an ‘L’ shape with your legs and torso.

  4. Lower the legs to a dead hang to complete the movement.


 

10 best exercises for fat loss #8: Squat slam

Muscles worked: all of them! (But especially the latissimus dorsi and quadriceps.)


This is one of my all-time favourite exercise. Why? Well, for the simple reason that medicine ball squat slams engage all the major muscle groups. In addition, the physical functionality of the exercises helps to develop a range of fitness components.


Also, and perhaps more importantly, this exercise stimulates the whole body including your cardiovascular system. Seriously, few exercise can do as much for your physicality as the medicine ball squat slam.


Key techniques

  1. Stand over a medicine ball: your feet should be shoulder width apart and the medicine ball inline with your toes – or thereabouts.

  2. Bending at the knee grasp the medicine ball and in one smooth, clean movement hoist it above your head.

  3. Now before executing the final phase of this exercise – the slam bit – you must leap up and, as you land, transfer that energy into the slamming of the medicine ball. Of course points 2 and 3 should be one seamless movement.

  4. As the medicine ball bounces back up catch it and immediately complete the next rep.


 

10 best exercises for fat loss #9: Skipping

Muscles worked: all of them but primarily the heart.


Skipping, or ‘jumping rope’, is a staple of the boxer’s daily training diet. Primarily used as a warm-up and cool-down exercise, skipping confers many physical benefits. Bruce Lee purportedly said that ‘10 minutes of skipping rope is like 30 minutes of jogging.’ Though I’ve yet to encounter any research that supports his statement, anyone who’s vigorously skipped for ten minutes will probably agree with him. So why is such a seemingly simple and, excuse the term, old fashioned exercise so stimulating?


Related: Need a Skipping Rope?

This probably has something to do with the way skipping works the body. When performing this exercise multiple major muscle groups are simultaneously recruited; such as the quadriceps, back and shoulders and of course the heart and lungs (diaphragm).


Related: Check out the top Jump Ropes

In addition, a plethora of ‘synergist’, or stabilising, muscles are engaged to, well, stabilise the body during the movement. In short, skipping activates every muscle in your body. And speed skipping also engages your cardio-respiratory system. It’s no wonder then that ten minutes of jumping rope gets the blood pumping and the sweat pouring.


How to skip in 7 steps

Step 1: Warm-up well first.

Step 2: Whilst holding the rope in your hands, practice double footed jumping – you are not jumping rope yet. Spend 1 to 2 minutes doing this.

Step 3: Holding the handles loosely, the rope at rest behind you, turn it over and jump the rope.

Step 4: Congratulate yourself.

Step 5: Repeat Step 3.

Step 6: Again, a bit of self-praise.

Step 7: Now that you’ve had a little go at getting over that wily rope it’s time to start racking up personal bests: try to count as many un-broken double footed skips as possible. Every time you clip the rope or whip your arse, stop, take a 3 second count, then back into it trying each time to better your previous PB.


Steps 1 to 7 should span the duration of about ten minutes. I would advise against exceeding this. Put the rope away and merrily go about with the rest of your session. Over the course of the week try to get two or three more practice sessions in. For a more detailed tutorial, see our dedicated Skipping Guide.


 

10 best exercises for fat loss #10: Squat thrust

Muscles worked: primarily those of the quadriceps, core and chest/anterior shoulders.

Such a simple exercise: feet go out, feet come back . . . repeat! But, simple as it indubitably is, the squat thrust is an exceptional callisthenic exercise and one which works the whole body.


Additionally, it’s super easy to learn, requires no kit, little space and is super-modifiable. For example, you can:


  • Kick both legs out or one at a time – which is colloquially called a ‘hill climber’.

  • You can perform a press-ups when your legs are fully extended – turning the squat thrust into a quasi-bastod.

  • There is the option of bear crawling between reps.


Exercise key techniques

  1. Adopt the press-up position.

  2. Spring the feet forward so that they come level with your hands.

  3. Immediately spring the feet back so that your legs are once again fully straight.

  4. Keep control throughout the movement.

  5. Fix your eyes on a point about 1 to 2 feet from your fingertips.

  6. Fully extend your legs prior to initiating the next rep – a common cheat to complete partial reps: feet should come all the way in and go all the way out.

  7. Repeat.


 

To Conclude

By regularly including the above 10 best exercises for weight loss into your exercise regime, you will be able to reduce total body fat while improving your body composition.


Also, the 10 exercises outlined above will help you forge physical functionality that consists of a healthy mix of strength, muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness.


Below I have included a couple of ideas of how you could incorporate the 10 best exercises for losing weight exercises into a training session.


 

Workout #1: Circular circuit

Warm-up with 10 minutes of skipping ensuring to vary the intensity throughout. Once sufficiently warmed set a countdown timer for 30 minutes (of course you can set it for more or less). Performing 10 repetitions on each of the first 8 exercises and 10 a second count on the final exercise, work through them as many times as physically possible in the time allotted. Tally the laps as you cycle through the circuit so that you can try and beat your total at a later date.


Training tips

  • Try to maintain a methodical pace throughout.

  • Avoid resting if possible. If you do feel as though you need a rest take 30 seconds/1 minute on completion of the plank.

  • Resist the temptation to procrastinate when transitioning between exercises. The moment you have finished your kettlebell swings progress straight to the single-arm clean to press.


1. Kettlebell swing

2. Kettlebell single arm clean to press

3. Burpee

4. Vertical lift

5. Press-up

6. Squat jump

7. Medicine ball ‘power’ squat jump slam

8. Squat thrust

9. Plank

10. Skipping


 

Workout #2: AMRAP (as many reps as possible)

Again warm-up with a 10 minute progressive intensity skipping session. When warm, prepare yourself psychologically for the physical fist fight ahead. Here’s are the rules of engagement.


Starting at the first exercise, set a three minute countdown timer and try to complete as many repetitions as you can. Once the 3 minutes elapses make a note of the number of repetitions achieved. Take a 1 minute rest prior to progressing on to the next exercise. (Total circuit time: 40 minutes.)


Training tips

  • If possible maximum effort for the entire three minutes.

  • When performing the plank, the number of seconds held are converted to reps. You will begin with 180 seconds (reps). Every time you have to rest ensure to make a mental note of how long you took. On conclusion of the three minutes, tally up all those rest seconds and deduct from 180 total.

  • For skipping each rotation constitutes as a repetition.


1. Kettlebell swing

2. Kettlebell single arm clean to press

3. Burpee

4. Vertical lift

5. Press-up

6. Squat jump

7. Medicine ball ‘power’ squat jump slam

8. Squat thrust

9. Plank

10. Skipping


 

Never be without a training session with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits and Workouts.

10 best exercises for fat loss fitness book.

 

About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam via LinkedIn or info@hungry4fitness.co.uk.

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