Which exercises are best for weight loss?
This is the most googled exercise question & it's one that I've been asked many, many times! The whole ethos of my coaching practice is to empower riders with knowledge & information so they know the facts & science behind why they're getting the results they are & therefore can continue to sustain these results & get even more progress if they do decide to continue on this journey alone at some stage.
So first of all let's talk about the science behind this! Too often way too much emphasis is placed on the exercise side of things when it comes to a weight loss goal. 90% of your result is going to come down to your nutrition approach. That's a fact & ultimately it doesn't really matter what exercise specifically you do as long as you're expending energy somehow! Walking is one of the most underrated exercises for weight loss & it's literally a game changer if you want to see progress with your physique. It's something I focus on with all of my clients who have weight loss goals.
It doesn't matter if you're doing 500 sit-ups a day or walking 10 miles if you're not focusing on your nutrition you're not going to get the results you're looking for.
A calorie deficit is the only way you lose weight. That means you must be expending more calories than you are consuming & therefore in a negative energy balance. For example, you burn 1800 calories a day as you're an active person who walks an average of 10-12,000 steps most days, rides & you exercise 3-4 times per week. Your calorie target for the day is 1500 calories which means you're in a daily deficit of 300 calories. So your body is being given less energy than it requires to maintain your current bodyweight & the result is weight loss!
And that's your best exercise to lose weight, A CALORIE DEFICIT! Over time as you lose weight you may find you have to adjust your deficit to continue to get the results you want but a consistent deficit over a sustainable period of time will lead to you losing weight.
Many riders who have goals of weight loss often want a strong & lean core appearance. Core & abdominal exercises are of course important to A, increase your core strength & also B, increase the strength & size of your ab muscles so the muscle becomes larger & more defined. If you have a strong set of abdominal muscles that you train regularly & hold a low body fat percentage then you'll be able to see amazing definition but there's no best exercise to drop weight off any part of your body let alone your stomach! Alot of this comes down to genetics & where you naturally tend to hold the majority of your body fat so that's important to remember!
When you're exercising with a goal of weight loss it is important to make sure that the exercise you're doing creates a high-calorie expenditure. Metabolic conditioning exercises which are typically a circuit of exercises done in short bursts across a session that vary in high intensity to moderate efforts are one of the best ways to increase your metabolic rate (amount of energy expended/calories burned) in a session.
These are typically sessions that leave you feeling pretty out of breath, sweaty & like you've had a good muscle pump! Putting together lots of these aggressive, short, hard exercises in a short space of time creates fatigue within the body. This creates a metabolic upset if you like in the body, your metabolism is responsible for maintaining your homeostasis (body's balance) so when it's put under this level of stress to put it in simple terms your metabolism goes a bit crazy & sky rockets! Which leads to you burning more calories.
So you're burning energy but if you're using your bodyweight or resistance too you're maintaining your lean muscle mass so win win! A super simple HIIT/metabolic session you could do could be;
Work for 30 seconds as hard as you can
Rest for 20-30 seconds
Repeat x 8-10 times
Even though that's a really short amount of time it's one of the most effective exercise methods to burn a high amount of energy! Losing weight means losing body fat so it's important to remember no particular exercise or type of training is going to lead you to magically drop fat, your nutrition is key!
One of the most underrated & easy to implement exercises to lose weight is walking! Walking is very low impact & low stress on the body but burns lots of calories, the faster you walk & the further you go the more calories you'll burn but don't underestimate the power of getting out on your feet & just walking if your goal is weight loss!
During a weight loss phase as your body is being given less energy than it needs you might find your energy levels are low & you're quicker to fatigue. This is why walking can be great too as you're not going to knacker yourself going for a nice easy walk!
Both cardiovascular exercise & weight training are great for weight loss. Weight & resistance based training helps to build & sculpt lean muscle & therefore is key if you want to look strong & lean. When you lift weights your muscle tissue breaks down & then in the process of recovery as the tissue heals the muscle comes back stronger! Having a higher muscle mass percentage also boosts your basal metabolic rate, as when you have a higher level of muscle mass you burn more calories. The more muscle you hold the more calories you burn throughout your day & rest-simples!
Weight & resistance training is also brilliant to help reduce your stress & boost your feel-good hormones which therefore is going to make you more likely to lose weight as it's going to be emotionally easier to stick to your calories & you'll be happier so more positive & more inclined to make better decisions which support your weight loss!
At the end of the day, it's personal preference what type of exercise you do if your goal is to lose weight. Resistance-based training in my opinion is better if you're wanting to lose body fat & gain lean muscle mass/look defined or toned but doing any form of cardiovascular exercise will improve your heart & lung health as well as burning calories.
It might just take a bit longer & you won't necessarily have the "muscle tone" you want underneath your body fat if you solely do cardio. If weight loss is your goal then I'd suggest doing a bit of both! All of my riders who have a weight loss & body fat reduction goal all strength train whether that's from home or the gym with weights, bodyweight or bands but they also focus on hitting their steps & walking lots & if it's something they enjoy & have the time for then we will add in 1 or 2 sessions that focus on aerobic fitness such as swimming, cycling or running.
The most important thing is that you do what you enjoy & fits for your lifestyle! This way you're going to be able to stick to it in the long run & see the results you're wanting. But DO NOT FORGET that without a calorie deficit & a big focus on nutrition, you won't get the results you're looking for.
I've written a blog before about the best nutrition approach for weight loss which you can find here if you need more information on the food side of things!
I hope that helps to clear up any BS & makes it more clear as to what you should be focusing on if your goal is weight loss! Good luck with your journey.