The average person will put on 3 pounds of extra fat this coming winter. That doesn’t mean you have to. In this article, personal trainers show us how to fight this trend with effective bodyweight exercises that help us burn fat during the cold, dark days of winter when we can’t get to the gym.
If you ask any of the personal trainers (PTs) or fitness professionals around London, they can give you several reasons why people have such a hard time losing weight. Chief among them is the “all-or-nothing” mindset that people tend to adopt whenever they begin a new fitness routine. People vow to do 30-minutes of rigorous cardio every day, or they swear off lattes forever, or they commit to some drastic change to their lifestyle that they believe will finally help them lose weight.
The truth is that these dramatic lifestyle changes just aren’t sustainable for most people, and PTs can’t stress enough that a successful weight loss program relies heavily on sustainability.
The science behind bodyweight exercises is that they use the weight of our own body as a means of resistance to build fat-torching muscle mass. While some have argued that they’re more effective than cardio for burning fat, bodyweight exercises are not a fast-track solution. However, the fact that they can be done anywhere and without any equipment is making exercises like pushups, planks, and squats a sustainable choice for busy people who want to stay in shape but don’t always have time for the gym.
Let’s take a closer look at the advantages:
Bodyweight exercises don’t require equipment, so you can transition from one exercise to the next almost immediately. PTs refer to this as High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, and it simply means that you can switch from one exercise to the next within 15 seconds or less. For example, doing 30 push-ups immediately followed up by 20 squats. This HIIT activity pushes your muscles to the maximum limit, and that creates lean muscle mass.
Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, including while we’re at rest. As we build more muscle mass with bodyweight exercises, we’re also boosting our metabolism. Not only can we burn more calories during our workout, but we’re also burning more calories after our exercises have been completed.
Bodyweight exercises can be tailored to any level of fitness. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a competitive athlete or if you’re new to the fitness scene, bodyweight exercises can be made to be as challenging as you want by increasing reps or decreasing the amount of rest time in between sets.
The Best Bodyweight Exercises for Burning Fat
Bodyweight exercises can not only provide us with an outstanding workout, but they can also help us overcome excuses for avoiding exercise because we believe we don’t have time. All you need is a commitment to achieve your fitness goals, and a little bit of space.
Here are the top PT-recommended bodyweight exercises for those days when you can’t get to the gym.
A great option for working your core, as well as your shoulders and triceps. Begin in a traditional “pushup” position and pull one knee up towards your chest and immediately extend out again. Simply alternate legs. The faster you go, the maximum number of calories you’ll burn! PTs love this exercise because it gets the legs and shoulders burning and it gets the heart rate up for a great cardio session.
Begin with 3 or 4 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
PTs recommend this plyometric exercise because of how intensively it targets the lower body muscles like our quads and calves. By including lateral jumps into your bodyweight exercise routine, you can be effective at strengthening these muscles, which will become terrific calorie-incinerators over time.
One PT we spoke with in Canary Wharf (London) was a huge fan of “side to side” lateral jumps. He has clients begin with their feet no more than shoulder-width apart, bend their knees in a squat position, then, thrusting from the balls of their feet, jump up and to one side. Try to land on both feet GENTLY, but slightly to the side of where you began. Repeat in the other direction.
Perform the exercise for 30 seconds. Rest for 60 seconds. Do 3 to 4 sets.
The ongoing popularity of burpees is no accident. This stems from their effectiveness in building muscle mass and the rapid rate at which they burn calories. The burpee is an easy, two-move exercise. Begin from a standing position, drop into a squat, then thrust your legs back into a plank position. Then reverse the action to return to the standing position.
Perform 10-15 burpees. Do 3 to 4 sets. Increase repetitions as fitness improves.
Planks are another effective bodyweight exercise for fat loss. By engaging all the muscles within our core, plank exercises not only tone the muscles that make up our midsection so we can get that hourglass appearance, but they also induce the burning of additional calories.
Perform 1 plank per day at first. Attempt to hold the planking position anywhere from 20 to 60 seconds when first starting. Once you can hold for 60 seconds. Stop, rest, and add a second (then third) plank session.
While it’s not realistic to think pushups alone can help you achieve your weight loss goal, they can help. Pushups are a staple of a bodyweight exercise routines because they strengthen the muscle mass in our upper bodies, and that contributes to a higher caloric burn-rate over time.
Perform two to three sets of 10 push-ups while taking a brief rest between each set of repetitions.
Protein-Rich Diets Accelerate Weight Loss Success
Plenty of studies show that a protein-rich diet can be remarkably effective in helping you lose weight. In fact, many PTs believe that a diet that’s rich in animal- and plant-based protein sources is the key to sustainably losing weight over time. Protein suppresses our appetite-stimulating hormones while simultaneously increasing the hormones that make us feel full and satisfied. In other words, by focusing on protein sources, you’ll undoubtedly reduce your food intake which is a huge contributor to our weight loss efforts.
The Best Sources of Protein
People are prone to reaching for beef jerky or protein powder when they want to increase their protein intake. And while those sources offer many benefits, don’t discount the power of plant-based sources like beans and lentils - staples of every vegan and vegetarian diet! Beans are a wonderful source of protein and an excellent way to boost fiber intake. In fact, one huge advantage of focusing on plant-based proteins is that these sources often come bundled with other beneficial nutrients our bodies crave like minerals and antioxidants.
Bodyweight exercises certainly offer advantages if weight loss is your goal, and they’re clearly a better option than skipping a workout. However, there’s no alternative to the professional expertise offered by fitness industry professionals. Today, personal training has become more accessible and more affordable than ever. It’s no longer just for hard-core athletes. Even if your fitness goal is as simple as losing weight, it’s the perfect reason to seek out the advice of a PT who can not only help you refine your fitness goals, they often have the experience and expertise to help you achieve your weight loss goals in less time than it would take on your own.
A simple online search of “personal trainers near me” may sound too easy, but you might be amazed at the results you get once you finally reach out.