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What is the Best Exercise to Lose Weight?

woman in sprint starting blocksHave you ever wondered what the best exercise was for fat loss? I thought about what characteristics a particular exercise needs to have in order to be effective at losing weight, and here is what I came up with.

The Best Exercise Works the Entire Body

Isolation exercises need not apply for this job. Only compound exercises that work several muscle groups at one time have a chance at winning the honors.

Many exercises fit the bill – squats and deadlifts are great compound movements, but they can’t quite hit every muscle group. Because of this, they won’t build a balanced physique if you were to use either of them exclusively.

It Boosts Favorable Hormones

So much of weight loss is about your body’s hormones and the fat-mobilizing chemicals it releases. Nutrition will always be the most important thing when it comes to weight loss. However, exercise is responsible for creating a favorable metabolic environment that is conducive to fat loss.

With that favorable environment, your diet has a much better chance at being effective. The best weight loss exercise would boost testosterone levels (important for women too, maybe even more so than men due to their lower levels) and increase growth hormone – 2 very important fat loss and muscle-building hormones.

It Improves Your Insulin Sensitivity

Your insulin sensitivity tells you how responsive your cells are to insulin. People that are insulin insensitive need more insulin to shuttle the glucose from carbohydrates (and protein via gluconeogenesis) into their cells.

Why is that a problem? Fat cannot be released in the presence of high insulin levels. Insulin is a storage hormone. We want to keep it low. One of the best ways to keep it low is by depleting muscle glycogen stores. For that to happen, the best exercise to lose weight needs to be anaerobic in nature.

Here are 10 more ways to increase your insulin sensitivity.

It Creates an EPOC Effect

EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, results from the oxygen deficit you created during exercise. The higher the intensity of your exercise, the greater the EPOC effect.

In order to bring your body back to homeostasis, extra oxygen and fuel (fat) are needed for cellular repair. The best exercise to lose weight is going to be high intensity and will create a large oxygen deficit.

Read more about how to harness the afterburn effect.

It Burns Lots of Calories

It’s no surprise that you need to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet, but you sure can leave yourself plenty of room for error if you’re burning insane amounts of calories. Some exercises obviously burn more calories than others, but the best exercise will burn more calories in any given time than any other exercise.

It Builds Muscle

Building and maintaining muscle is so important when it comes to achieving your weight loss goals. Muscle burns approximately 5.67 calories per pound per day [1]. The benefits of strength training for weight loss are numerous. However, weight lifting is not the only form of strength training. Any exercise that places maximal resistance upon the muscle has the potential to build muscle.

What is the Best Exercise?

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the best exercise to lose weight is – sprints. No other exercise can claim all of the characteristics listed above. Some can come close, but they are usually lacking in 1 or more traits.

Only sprints work your entire body at 100% intensity for prolonged periods of time. Only sprints can do that while boosting favorable hormones, creating an afterburn effect, improving insulin sensitivity, and building muscle at the same time.

Of course, you must be able to do them safely for them to be effective, but if you can, sprints are the king of all fat burning exercises. Incorporating sprints into a well-designed HIIT program, and combining that with a great diet will give you your best chance at weight loss success.

  • Jerra

    Thank you thank you thank you for this article!

  • Laura

    Thank you for that article. How would I start sprinting if I am not a runner? Where do I begin?

    Thanks for all the information coach. I have read most if not all your articles over the past few months and after incorporating some of your recommendations, I have actually punched through my year+ plateau and dropped five more pounds. It has really given me the mental and emotional stimulus I was lacking! Thanks again.

    • Coach Calorie

      Great job on the progress Laura!

      If you’re not physically up to sprinting yet, I would focus on strength training. Use compound movements and focus on your diet. When you feel ready to start running, start with some running intervals at around 80% intensity and slowly work your way up to 100% intensity.

      • Laura

        I lost 80 pounds over three years and then nothing for the past year. Have done strength training and cardio and was eating 1200-1500 calories per day and nothing (I weighed 202-212 for an entire year).

        Then l I followed your recommendations in your article about how to lose 10 pounds in a month (not a week – ha ha) and started eating carbs with my post/workout meal when I strength train (I had pretty much cut them out before). I also do strength training three days per week and cardio three days per week, eating my fruit on the days I do cardio. This (plus upping my calories to 1900- couldn’t believe that one) seems to have helped me shift back into losing mode again! Thanks again Coach!!!

        I currently can run a light jog on the treadmill and have started doing my HIIT training on the treadmill one day, elliptical HIIT and then bike HIIT the remaining days.

        I just wasn’t certain how to “start” sprinting. I didn’t know if there is a technique involved or you just run super hard. Ha ha. So I guess that is my question. Never having been a runner until recently (treadmill only right now due to weather) .

        Thanks again!

        • Coach Calorie

          Glad the extra calories helped ;)

          There definitely is a technique involved with sprinting, but would require an entire article. You best bet would be to head to youtube and google “sprint form”. There will be plenty of instructional videos.

          If you’ve never sprinted before, you’ll want to work up to max intensity over a period of weeks.

  • Sara

    When doing sprints how long is enough?

    • Coach Calorie

      Generally speaking, I like to keep my sprints under 400m. I’ll usually incorporate some form of intervals into them.

      • Sara

        I do a ton of heavy lifting and other good compound movements and want to incorporate some sprints. What is the best way? I hear you should leave your cardio for the end of your workout. So today I did a complete leg workout and then went to the track and sprinted a lap and then walked a lap. I did that seven times. Is that enough or should I be sprinting longer then that? I used to run for distance and wanted to see better results so I got into strength training and haven’t don’t much cardio. What would you recommend?

        • Coach Calorie

          I’d say that’s plenty. 7 400m sprints is enough for a great workout, especially after leg day!

          I usually run intervals for around 20-30 minutes of varying distances.

  • Junaid khawaja

    You are quiet right. All successful weight loss stories always boil down to one thing: Sprint regularly!

  • Joanna C.

    YES!! I have a desire to start running so this is the perfect artical at the perfect time!! Lets get proactive about those New Years resolutions people!! =)

  • Hannah

    Remember though, jogging does not equal sprinting. To maintain muscle mass and create any EPOC you gotta run with everything you’ve got! Also, thanks Coach C for clarifying: if you are really overweight or haven’t run before, prevent injury by beginning with strength training.

    • Coach Calorie

      Glad you emphasized that point Hannah. Don’t just go sprinting if you aren’t physically able to yet. Work on slowly increasing your fitness levels.

  • Kimberly

    Thank you so much for this! I LOVE your articles, emails, facebook posts…they help me stay focused and motivated.

    • Coach Calorie

      Glad you like them Kimberly. Thanks for reading!

  • sara

    Great article.
    I read your ebook and it gave me courage to lose weight. I’m quite heavy 246lbs.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Coach Calorie

      Glad you liked the book Sara, and congrats on making the decision to get healthy. Let me know if you need any help along the way.

  • Lacey

    I am a little confused with the conflicting advice. I have tried everything to lose weight. I am a regular gym go-er (albeit not recently because of the busy x-mas period at work). I run and weight lift but I read in one of your articles that the best way to lose weight (and not muscle) was with weight lifting, not cardio. Yet in this articles, the advice is to do HIIT cardio? I really don’t know what to focus on at the gym now?

    Thankyou. I love you articles by the way

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Lacey, you have it right. Strength training, not cardio is the real fat burner. The confusion you have is because you are thinking of HIIT solely as cardio. HIIT just means you are using high intensity intervals to train. You can do that with weight lifting too.

      I consider sprinting a form of strength training. It no doubt trains your cardiovascular system too. If you can, try to incorporate sprints into your weight lifting program, and you should have all your bases covered.

    • Jeremy Naranjo

      Yes, Some of the best results I ever had was circutes and sprinting. I would lift a full body circuit then jog out to the foot ball field and do 2, 100 yard dashes. Go in and do another full body circuit then more sprints. Repeat 3-5 times.

      • Coach Calorie

        Sounds like a great plan. I do something similar sometimes, and we did exactly that when I played football in school.

  • Erika

    OMG >>> I hate running … I dont breath right and my stomach hurts !!! but I will try this

    • Joni DB

      You can do sprints on a bike, elliptical, stair mill, jacobs ladder, etc.. it doesnt have to be be sprints only in running!!

  • Linda stark

    Do you have a short video on sprinting?

    • Coach Calorie

      I don’t have one personally Linda, but has plenty if you do a search over there…

  • candice

    ugh!! LOVE this! I love running, and definitely notice that when I sprint in intervals I have an easier time keeping my heart rate up. Also, since their short bursts (I sprint for 1 min and then quickly walk for 2 at this point) I have a much easier time staying interested than when I slow it down for distance. – I’m very easily bored -

    • Coach Calorie

      Intervals definitely make it harder to get bored. Hard to get bored when you’re sprinting at max intensity ;)

  • Di

    I love your stuff, you make so much sense! I have been running and going to the gym for years and was stuck at 134lbs, I’m 5ft 1in. I’ve upped my calories (sensibly) , increased my strength training and I am now 128lbs, result! Thank you

    • Coach Calorie

      Great job Di! Your body needs those extra calories. More people eat too few calories to lose weight than too many. It’s an oxymoron, but it’s true.

  • Jo Owens

    Great article, thank you! Can’t wait to go for a sprint tomorrow morning after reading this.

  • Laura

    Thanks Coach! I appreciate all your useful and helpful information. It really has made a difference in my mental approach to things. Thanks again!


  • Liz from FitSmarty

    Well, sprinting may be the best exercise to lose weight, but the fact itself will be irrelevant for beginners and overweight persons. I would not recommend starting sprinting if your body is not used to working out, would you?.
    But after some time: go for it!

  • persian phoenix

    Hello coach!
    It was GREAT and USEFUL
    BUT there are 2 questions for me?!
    how we can know we are in the epoc level and we are burning fat ?
    how increased insulin levels bulid muscle and decreased insulin levels burn fat!?
    tnx for all
    a guy from iran

  • Jess

    Insightful and easy to understand, thank you Calorie Coach!
    I’m trying to shred about 5kg myself, but feeling good and looking healthy and lean is most important to me. I found that Billy Blanks Tae Bo is a fantastic aerobic exercise DVD which works every muscle and it claims to burn 400 -600 calories per session.

  • Coach Calorie

    Sounds like it would be a good intense full body workout.

  • Alicia Bradley

    Do you have his PT 24/7 dvd set with the bands? I have that and more of his dvds

  • Donna

    I am constantly reading about the importance of varying your workouts. I have restarted working out again and I wonder if what I am diong captures everything. I tend to do a Spin on a Monday, Metafit on Tuesday am with an hour or so at the gym after work concentrating on strengthening with weights, Spin and Boxercise on a Wednesday after work, Metafit on a Thursday am and either a swim or gym session after work, Metafit on a Friday am with Spin afterwork and try and do a Metafit or Spin on a Saturday and leave the Sunday for a rest day. I also see that you should change your routine after so many weeks. I enjoy the mixture of classes I am doing and not sure what else I could change or do instead. I have at least 4 stone to loose and want to make sure I this is the best way. I am also eating a clean healthy diet so hope to start seeing results over the next few months…I better!!

  • jose

    i´m not agree with the best way to loose wieght and i´ll try to explain properly in english. First if you are making a sprint i think no so much people can´t do it for a long time also if you do sprints the methabolic mecanism of making energy in our body use creatin in case you do just seconds or in case the sprint will be longer you burn glucose. But and this is the question, if you do a exercise longer enough around 50-60 % of intensity your body will start to burn fat using beta-oxidation like mechanism of energy production. It´s better 30 minutes every day and est properly as well.

    one time more sorry for my english, i know is terrible but if anyone wants more information please contact with me by:


  • Joann Bohannon-Sacci

    I have a torn ACL right now and can’t run at all. Any chance there is a second runner up to sprints?

  • Coach Calorie

    Yes, but it would be another full body exercise that you wouldn’t be able to do. I would suggest working on your upper body, and then focusing on resting and eating a great diet. You can still make good progress.

  • Coach Calorie

    Hi Jose, it’s not about the fuel utilization during exercise. It’s about creating a favorable metabolic environment and burning calories so that your diet can do it’s job, and sprints does a great job at it. Try them as part of a HIIT routine.

  • Coach Calorie

    There is no real best way. Find activities you can push the intensity with and that you will stick with for the long term. If you can do that while eating a whole foods diet, you will make great progress.

  • Marielle Vena

    My friends and I played a casual game of kickball the other day. It ended up lasting for 4 hours, and though we’re all active and young, EVERYONE was sore and exhausted. Sprinting from base to base and to field balls was a great unintentional workout. I plan on adding sprints into my workouts every week now!

  • Heidi

    I think sprints are great, but I feel like you miss out on several major muscles like the chest. But what about rowing? I feel as though that uses every single muscle in the body, is just as intense, and places less impact on the body, especially for those not a level for sprinting.

  • Humaira Zeeshan

    hi i am 24 and mother of 2 kid 2 is 2012 march born and my weight 78 and 5’3 height i found “1000 calories burn workout” but now my leg muscle hurting and i am on protein diet pls help me i continue this or change my exercise

  • Coach Calorie

    I don’t know the details of your fitness program. What’s a 1000 calories burn workout? Are you burning 1000 cals in a single workout? If so, that’s overkill. Your legs will be sore if you haven’t worked out in a while. It will subside and won’t be as bad the next time.

    I also don’t know what you protein diet consists of, but if it’s all protein, that’s a no go. Eat whole foods and get active. Forget about all the gimmicky diets and exercise programs.

  • Coach Calorie

    Sprints will hit the chest on the upswing of the arms, although it definitely isn’t comparable to the bench press.

    I like rowing too, and it can be a good substitute for sprints. However, it too is not a big chest builder. Nor does it work many of the pressing muscles like the triceps and front delts to any great degree.

    In the end, I think the differences between the 2 are negligible.

  • Mary

    I’ve been reading you for awhile now and have to say, I’m impressed. This all lines up with the trainer I work out with as well. We do HIIT a lot and she changes it up daily. We do a variety of crazy intervals and although I haven’t lost a lot of weight, I have gained muscle which is so pleasing to me. I’m 47 and it goes downhill if not treated properly. She is working each muscle group with recovery in between. Thank you for bring this information freely to us to examine and find out for ourselves if it bears out in our own exercising….

  • Courtney Mackey

    So true! I have a friend who has been running and eating almost all clean for months and has barely lost 10 lbs, I started with sprints and intervals and went from 220 at the beginning of march to 174. I also workout about half of the length of time that she does.

  • Ann

    Thanks coach for a great article! Can the sprints be done on a treadmill?

  • Coach Calorie

    Absolutely, as long as they can be done safely and intensely.

  • Scott Chadwick

    Great article Tony; sprints and HIIT training are my favorites. remember also the benefits of olympic lifts for the best compound movements if you do not enjoy running.

    • Coach Calorie

      Yes, Olympic lifts are great too if you know proper form.

  • Pick things up

    I’m a little late to this party… but I must disagree. Deadlifts are the best to lose [fat] weight.

  • Coach Calorie

    I like deadlifts, but they can’t sustain the same calorie burn over a long period of time. But along with squats, they are great for fat loss.

  • James

    Just came from doing sprints and read this! I’ll be doing them more often from now on. My sprints were to run at full pace for half a football pitch, jog the other half and repeat 10 times, this was done after a 5k run and stretch, nice end to a good run!

  • Tony Schober

    Try swim sprints or sprints on the bike. Just boost your intensity any way you can while also being safe.

  • Tony Schober

    With an injury that reduces your mobility, you really need to pay close attention to your diet. You can still lose weight without exercise, but no exercise will help you outrun a bad diet.