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

Equipment-free fat burning exercise for weight loss
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The best exercises for weight loss are compound movements, recruiting muscle from your whole body to execute the move. 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.


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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. If you're looking for a more long-term fitness strategy, you can try our HIIT workout four-week challenge.

How to do a burpee


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  • 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. 

Burpees are equipment-free, but to really get the most out of them, you'll want to get the best cross training shoes. These shoes usually come with flat soles for lifting stability, but also maintain springiness and cushioned soles to make them ideal for cardiovascular work such as burpees. If you're practicing the HIIT training burpees work best in, they're an essential purchase.

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. 

Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.