The 5 Worst Exercises for Fat Loss (& What to Do Instead)

You may want to rethink your next workout.

July 26, 2017
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If you want to maximize your workout and lose weight faster, you might want to rethink your workout routine. We consulted with Dr. Luiza Petre, Board Certified Cardiologist and Weight Management specialist, to get you the worst exercises for fat loss (and what to do instead). Check out her tips below and get moving!

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It's important to remember that not all exercises lead to weight loss.

"While weight loss is an awesome side effect of working out, exercise can benefit your brain, your mood, and your overall health, too," says Dr. Petre. "However, not all movement is good movement when it comes to weight loss. While I encourage all types of fitness for more reasons than just weight loss, if your focus is dropping pounds, you should know that not all forms of exercise are as effective for weight loss as others. In fact, there may be more bad exercises than good ones when it comes to losing weight and building muscle."

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Instead, give strength training a chance. The not-so-simple workout can do wonders for your fat loss plans.

"If you do any kind of strengthening or toning exercises to stay healthy and to remove inches, I encourage all efforts, for more reasons than just weight loss," she adds. "But if your number one goal is weight loss, you may want to reprioritize your workout schedule. And most importantly, if you are doing an exercise that causes you real pain, your body is trying to tell you 'STOP!' But do not go to the other extreme and completely neglect strength training."

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That being said, if you want to slim down, don't put your body through stress just to reach your goals.

"The key to all weight loss goals, and health improvement at the same time, without bringing your body to the risk of injury is balance," Petre says. "Start with a good, healthy balance of strength training and a bit of cardio to build your endurance so you can continue shedding pounds and reach your goals."

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Worst: CrossFit

"CrossFit-style workouts are exploding in popularity around the world and are often promoted as the best way to get in shape and improve health," Petre says. "I don’t want to be controversial, but if your goal is to lose weight and improve health, CrossFit is the number one exercise you should avoid. It's too intense for many people, and often includes high-risk activities."

"The number one rule about losing weight through exercise is that you can’t exercise to lose weight if you’re injured," she adds. "If you're a fit, active, and athletic individual, CrossFit might be the best workout for you, but if your body is not already in top shape, don’t unnecessarily risk injury. You’re likely to lose more weight if you combine a healthy diet with a moderate exercise program that's more sustainable."

More: 6 Things No One Tells You Before Starting CrossFit

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Worst: Yoga

"Yoga represents the polar opposite to CrossFit, but this doesn't mean that it will shed those layers of fast food on the body," Petre adds. "In fact, a 150-pound person will burn only 150 calories in an hour of doing regular yoga, compared to 311 calories for an hour of walking at 3 mph."

"Increasing your physical activity is a good first step towards losing weight," she says. "It’s true that yoga can help you gain strength and tone up, but if you aim to shed pounds, you want to work as much of your body as possible to lose weight and stimulate your metabolism."

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Worst: Extended Cardio Sessions

"If you're only doing cardio and not balancing with strength training, it can lead to muscle loss, which is not ideal," Petre says. "Strength training builds lean muscle mass, which increases both your metabolism and decreases fat. The more muscle you build, the more calories you burn on a day-to-day basis."

"From a cost-benefit angle, extended low-effort exercise, such as steady state cardio can burn more fat in relative terms, but not in absolute amounts," she adds. "What counts the most is your overall calorie expenditure, not the fuel source. But before you switch to high-intensity training, remember that this type of exercise is not without a risk of injury. Preserve muscle mass by keeping your cardio workouts to approximately three 30-minute sessions per week."

More: The 3 Rules of Cardio Equipment

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Worst: Pilates

"Pilates, like yoga, has a lot of health benefits that will help you live better, ranging from improved flexibility and balance to deeper relaxation, but fast fat burn is not one of them," says Petre. "Because it helps you gradually build and strengthen your muscles, it can be a great way to prevent getting injured while training. However, you need to do heavy compound weightlifting on the big muscle groups along with cardio to maximize fat loss, and Pilates does not incorporate either type of exercise."

More: 23 Pilates Moves That Slim Your Thighs

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Worst: Spot Reduction Exercises

"Many people want to lose fat from one specific part of their bodies," Petre says. "But, due to human genetics, we cannot pick and choose areas to burn fat from. This means that if you wish to trim down your midsection, performing only abdominal exercises is not going to give you the results you want. The same is true for every other body part and muscle group. Why? Because the only thing exercises target is your muscles, not the fat that is covering the muscles."

"You can lose that fat only by creating caloric deficit through a combination of diet and exercise," she adds. "In other words, you should consume less calories than you burn, forcing your body to burn your own stored body fat for energy instead."

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Best: Tabata

"Tabata is a dream come true for anyone whose biggest excuse for skipping a workout is lack of time," she says. "It's designed to be just a few minutes of high intensity interval training that consists of 20 seconds of hard effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times."

"The best thing about Tabata is that you can perform these short trainings with your own body weight in the comfort of your own home," Petre adds. "Simply pick four exercises, such as jump rope, squats, squat jumps, and mountain climbers, then do each for 20 seconds as hard and fast as you can. It will raise your heart rate, pump up your muscles, and increase your fitness level."

More: Torch Up to 360 Calories With This Research-Proven Tabata Workout

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Best: Boot Camp

"You'll definitely lose extra weight and boost your cardio fitness with this type of training," Petre. "Boot camp training takes the military workout out of basic training and into gyms and homes everywhere. Typical boot camp workouts combine intense aerobic exercise with muscle building, resistance exercises, and challenges that boost flexibility and coordination."

"These workout programs are so popular because they work every muscle group, don't require any equipment, and can be done anywhere," she adds. "Daily boot camp training burns fat and builds muscle, therefore increasing weight loss and supporting maintenance of a healthy weight."

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Best: Strength Training

"If weight loss is a goal, incorporating strength training into your routine is essential," says Petre. "The key to shedding pounds is a strong foundation, and the best way to build muscle is with weights. Lifting weights has been shown to increase resting metabolic rate, which means you continue to burn calories after working out. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day. By increasing your base metabolic rate (BMR) and burning more calories at rest, you also increase your calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss."

"While it’s true that cardio-only routines get your heart working harder and help your body burn calories, strength training is what will give your weight-loss goals that extra boost," she adds. "This doesn't mean that cardio training should be completely ignored. Weight lifting, cardio, and your diet combine to make your body burn fat for fuel instead of muscle. Practice these types of training three times a week to burn around 1 to 1.5 pounds of fat per week."

More: 5 Little-Known Benefits of Strength Training

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Best: High Intensity Interval Training [HIIT]

"High intensity interval training is a form of exercise characterized by periods of hard work followed by brief periods of recovery or rest," Petre says. "You can perform it using various cardio formats, gym equipment, and weighted or bodyweight exercises. When you do high-intensity interval training, your body and metabolism function at a higher rate of burned calories for hours afterwards. It means you’re burning calories while watching your favorite TV show in the comfort of your home."

"According to the American College of Sports Medicine, this type of workout routine tends to burn anywhere from 6-15 percent more calories compared to other training methods, thanks to the calories you burn after you exercise," she adds. "High intensity interval training can be performed up to 4 times per week. The only downside is that it takes your body quite a bit of time to recover, and you can physically only do it for 20-30 minutes at a time before you become too exhausted to continue. If you listen to your body, and pay attention to results, this type of workout will take your training to the next level."

More: 7 Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training

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Best: Strength Based Circuit Training

"Compared to traditional strength training, strength based circuit training will help you lose more fat while still building muscle," she says. "Since you’re performing high-intensity movements with short rest periods, you will also get the added benefits of metabolic conditioning. It's slightly less intense than HIIT or Tabata as it's less about short bursts of maximum effort and more about completing quality exercises with good form over a longer duration set."

"Strength based circuit training is very effective at helping burn fat," adds Petre. "It provides both strength and cardio benefits, it takes less time than a normal strength workout, and focusing on the entire body in a single workout maximizes calorie burn and movement function."

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