If “lose weight” is on your to-do list this year, then don’t waste time with moves that won’t make a difference. Top trainers shared their favorite workout moves to burn fat and build muscle quickly.
Madeline Mosier, trainer for Brick West Hollywood: Burpees
“Burpees are the ultimate full-body movement that can be done anywhere,” says Mosier. “This body weight movement requires only you—no weights—and will leave you gasping for breath in no time. They are guaranteed to give you a cardio burn that will ignite fat loss.”
Instructions: Start standing. Reach your hands down, place your palms on the ground, and kick both feet back, landing with your chest on the ground (don’t lower yourself down; just let your body drop). Pushing into your palms, pop back up into a squat, and then jump off the floor and clap your hands over your head. Repeat to exhaustion.
Astrid Swan McGuire, instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp: Push-Up Warrior
“Most women will say they hate push-ups, but really we should love them. The move uses your body weight so you won’t ‘bulk up’—which is something lots of women fear—and tones up your body head to toe,” McGuire says. Here’s a variation called the Push-Up Warrior.
Instructions: Start in a plank with your hands under your shoulders, core engaged, and legs a bit wider than hip-width. Do one push-up, then step your right leg through your hands into a low lunge. Engage your core and lift your upper body upright; pulse your legs down five times. Bring hands back to floor, step back, and repeat with left leg. Aim for 10 to 12 reps for beginners, 16 to 20 for intermediate, and 20-plus for advanced.
Michelle Bridges, trainer on Australia’s The Biggest Loser: Thruster Squat
“My favorite move is a thruster. This is such a great overall exercise—a squat that incorporates an overhead pressing movement, which takes it to a whole new level. Not only is this an awesome strength move, but it’s a killer cardio calorie-shredder as well.”
Instructions: Hold medium weight dumbbells at your chest (or use a resistance band) and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes slightly angled out. Squat down until your backside gets as low as your knees (keep knees pointing the same direction as toes, abs are pulled in, and chest lifted). As you stand, power up through your legs and press the dumbbells or band directly overhead. Repeat as many times as you can (try eight to 10 reps to start).
Joel Harper, celebrity trainer: Knee Bounces
“I like knee bounces. It’s an effective exercise, because it uses multiple muscles at once, gets your heart rate up quickly, and burns calories. There’s no pounding—it works just your muscles, and not your joints,” Harper says.
Instructions: Start on all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. With slightly bent elbows and a straight line from the top of your head to your tailbone, lift your knees one inch off the ground. Keep as still as possible as you lift your knees one inch up and one inch down 25 times. Then sway knees one inch side to side 25 times. Think floating. Keep your stomach pulled in and work up to 100 up and down, followed by 100 side to side.
Noah Douglas Neiman, instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp: Interval Training
“High-intensity interval training is the best cardio to get you really lean. And studies show that training this way can even burn calories for 36 to 48 hours after you stop working out.”
Instructions: Do 20 seconds of an activity at the highest intensity you can bring (such as fast cycling, sprinting, or squat jumps), followed by a minute of low intensity (such as slower, high-resistance cycling, jogging, or regular squats) and repeat the cycle for 10 minutes, and work your way up to even longer.
Julie Erickson, creator of Endurance Pilates and Yoga Studio: Leg Pull-Down
“I love the Pilates Leg Pull-Down. This exercise combines the core strength of a plank, the back, chest, and upper-body challenge of push-ups, and the bottom burning and leg toning of a barre workout.”
Instructions: In a plank position, hold your body straight and still with hips level. Lift your right leg off the floor, keeping it straight, and pulse it toward the ceiling three times. Repeat on the left. Complete 20 total reps. For the next round, lift your right leg again, but shift your weight back, flexing your left ankle, then shift forward and replace your right foot. Repeat on the other side for a total of 20 reps.
Simone De La Rue, creator of Body by Simone: Jumping
“Pardon the pun, but a great way to jump-start your weight loss this year is to jump! Try this explosive movement—you are working the largest muscle group in your body, so it very quickly kicks the heart rate up.”
Instructions: With feet shoulder-width apart, reach your hands down to touch the ground. Engage your core, squeeze your glutes, and jump up as you reach your arms to the sky. Land with your knees bent and directly over your ankles in a squat. Try three sets of 10 reps.