Weight loss: Science has found the best equipment-free fat-burning exercise

It's the best no-kit exercise for weight loss, building muscle and developing co-ordination

Woman sweating after burpee workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lots of people would like a specific part of their body to look trimmer, whether it's your waistline, thighs, arms or chin. But it's almost impossible to "spot reduce", or trim fat from specific parts of your body. 

Instead, science tells us the best way to tone up is to do a demanding all-over body exercise, like the burpee, which will melt your fat, build up muscle and raise your metabolism all in one go.

The burpee is a very difficult bodyweight exercise because it incorporates our upper and lower body at the same time. It's an explosive movement, so it's designed to be performed very quickly, rather than a slower aerobic exercise like jogging. 

This is what gives the burpee its edge. A study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found burpees worked your heart, respiratory system and elevated your metabolism much higher than cycling did, even when pedalling at high intensity. It's an "anaerobic" exercise, which means it uses your body's oxygen faster than you can replace it. This encourages your body to burn more fat.

Burpee

(Image credit: iStock)

In a study of 13 different gym exercises published in the ACMS Health and Fitness Journal, the burpee was found to be second only to battling ropes when it comes to the amount of energy it uses up. Of course, the more energy required to perform the move, the harder your body works, making it a perfect move to use for fat loss even if you don't have any equipment to hand. 

The intensity of burpees also make it an ideal candidate for HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. This popular workout involves working at maximum intensity for very short periods of time, and then stopping to recover. For example, you might do as many burpees as you can in thirty seconds, stop for a minute, and then go again. 

HIIT has been proven to raise your metabolism for an extended period of time: just 20 minutes of HIIT training can keep your metabolism elevated for up to 24 hours, making it a very effective weight loss strategy. 

How to do a burpee

Burpee

(Image credit: Future)
  • Stand up tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands by your sides. 
  • Get down into a squat thrust starting position, with your hands placed on the ground, shoulder-width apart in front of you. 
  • Kick your legs out to get into the plank position. Quickly lower yourself down until your chest is just above the ground.
  • Push back up to return to the plank position. Bring your legs forward so that you’re back in the squat thrust starting position. 
  • Regain your feet and stand up. As you’re standing up, jump up. When you’ve landed, move straight onto your next repetition.

There's no getting around it: the burpee is a difficult move to perform, especially for first-time exercisers or those coming back to a fitness regime after a long period of inactivity. However, there are ways to make it easier: as seen in the video below, you can make burpees easier to start off with using a bench, stool or other flat surface.