I’ve spent a lot of time working out – not just while losing 130ish lbs, but long before that. I’ve had dozens of personal trainers, I’ve followed every fitness fad from P90x to Zumba and everything in between. I’ve lifted heavy, I’ve focused on cardio, I’ve run a marathon (Philadelphia 2006) and I’ve spent years doing nothing at all.

I’ve also paid a lot of attention to what my body responds to and what my client’s respond to. I’ve studied what makes me more hungry, less hungry, more energetic and less energetic. This is so key…

There are so many options & opinions out there about different types of workouts and which is best for fat loss. Here’s the bottom line:

  • What do you love?
  • What increases your energy?
  • What does your body respond best to?
  • What will you continue to look forward to doing?
  • What makes you more hungry & less hungry?
  • What represents a challenge to your body?

I’ve put together a couple things for you: first, an overview of some of my favorite at-home workouts and some suggestions for basic, inexpensive equipment you can have at home for incredible fat loss workouts. You can get those for free by clicking the button below.

Second, I’ve put together my thoughts on the pillars of efficient exercise for fat loss. Does this mean you need to do it? No. Does this mean it’s the only thing that makes fat loss possible? Nope.

Take these recommendations as my thoughts based on my own personal experience and my experience coaching others. Ultimately, let your body be your guide!

The Best Workouts for Weight Loss

These are what I consider to be the 3 critical pillars for the most effective workouts when your goal is to burn body fat. I want to explain them here in detail and encourage you to incorporate two of these 3 pillars in your workouts.

  1. Maximum muscle recruitment
  2. Tension
  3. Intensity

Maximum muscle recruitment is about engaging as many muscle groups as possible in a movement, workout or exercise. Think about it this way: if you want a message to spread, are you better off emailing one person or emailing every single person you know?

Of course, you’ll be far more effective & efficient in spreading your message when you tell as many people as possible.

When we look at picking specific movements or exercises for the highest fat loss impact, we want to engage as many muscle groups as possible. When you perform a given movement, you can have very few muscle groups involved (bicep curl), a handful of muscle groups involved (standing shoulder press) or as many muscle groups as possible involved (front squat).

We get more bang for our buck when we have as much of our body as possible in on the action.

For this reason, we want to give priority to movements that engage as many muscle groups as possible. This is maximum muscle recruitment in action.

Examples of movements or exercise that require maximum muscle recruitment include things like front squats, thrusters, burpees and kettlebell swings.

Tension is a measure of the load under which your muscles are placed. In layman’s speak: how heavy you lift.

Changing your body is a matter of stimulus & response. The greater the stimulus, the greater the response.

If I tap you on the shoulder, you might not budge. If I give you a good, solid shove, you’ll likely stumble. If I throw myself into you, you’ll fall the ground. Stimulus, response.

When you workout with a weight that you can easily move for 20+ reps, you aren’t creating much of a stimulus and your body won’t have much of a response.

You want to create a situation where your body more or less says, “Whoa!” and gets to work responding to the tension you have applied.

It goes without saying that “heavy” is relative, right? For my 95 year old grandmother, an overhead press with a 5 lb dumbbell would represent serious tension. For me, that would be a joke!

There is no “right and wrong” here. A great way to determine what is heavy for you personally is to figure out, for a given movement, a weight at which you can do 8-10 quality reps without sacrificing form.

If you can easily do 15-20, you should increase the weight. If you struggle to do 6 reps, you’ll probably want to go lighter.

Do you always need to lift heavy weights? No! Remember, we’re looking to combine 2 of these 3 pillars in most of our workouts.

When you’re working at a higher intensity level or longer duration (reps or time), of course you would lower the weight of the movement.

Intensity is pretty self-explanatory, right? Intensity is about how hard you work – how much effort you put into a workout. If your total possible exertion is measured on a scale of 1-10, intensity is about moving further down the spectrum towards your maximum effort.

I want to reiterate that intensity does not need to be a component of every single workout. There’s absolutely a place for lower intensity workouts. Remember that we’re talking about incorporating 2 of these 3 pillars for best results.

Incorporating these elements doesn’t require a gym membership or a ton of equipment. In fact, one of my favorite & most effective workouts is one I do at home with just a jump rope & my body weight!

I’ve put together some examples of these workouts and you can download them for free by clicking the image below!

Let’s look at some examples of workouts combining these pillars:

Maximum muscle recruitment + intensity: 100 burpees for time

Tension + maximum muscle recruitment: low rep heavy weight front squats

Tension + intensity = heavy kettlebell swings

If you take a peek at those at-home workouts, let me know what you think & which one is your favorite! The jump rope & burpee one is my fave!