ARTICLE AT A GLANCE
If you want to maximize the number of calories you burn during your workout, consider these exercises:
High EPOC Training
Your exercise selection plays a big role in the number of calories you burn during a workout and for 24 to 48 hours afterward. To burn more calories, challenge your anaerobic lactic system by incorporating multiple large muscle groups — such as the back, glutes, and hamstrings — into the same exercise.
Sets should last between 30 and 90 seconds. Select a weight that brings you close to exercise failure within that time limit, and limit rest between sets to two minutes or less. This strategy greatly increases lactic acid, signaling your body to create more growth hormones.
It also creates a metabolic disturbance known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. More volume and intensity means muscles must restore cellular function, ventilation, and circulation at a higher rate. This translates to a lot of energy use for a day or two after each workout.
High EPOC training has been shown to burn three to five times more calories than traditional cardiovascular exercise over an extended time period. More isolated exercises, such as tricep kickbacks, side shoulder raises, and crunches, are necessary for certain types of training, but recovery is fairly easy. For optimal calorie-burning results, they should be performed after large compound movements.
If you want to maximize the number of calories you burn, consider these 10 exercises:
1. Sled Pushing and Dragging
Sled work includes no eccentric, or muscle-lengthening, part to the lift. This makes it a powerful recovery tool that causes less muscular damage while driving plenty of blood into the working muscles. Sleds are highly versatile and can be moved over short distances with heavy weight or for longer durations — two to five minutes — with moderate weight. Both forms will get your heart rate up while burning lots of calories.
Deadlifts involve total body movement, and engaging so many muscles expends plenty of energy. To perform a conventional deadlift, set your feet about hip width apart with the bar no farther than an inch from your shins. Bend your knees until your shins are perpendicular to the floor. Keep your arms straight and your lats tight with no slack. Drive the bar off the floor with your legs, pulling the bar up and in and keeping the bar on a straight path.
You can incorporate and rotate a large variety of squats into your routine; here, we show a front squat. Start with the bar on your deltoid and elbows high. The movement starts with letting the knees bend first and as you lower keep the torso as straight as possible. Go low enough where you feel your hamstrings cover the calf to recruit as many lower body muscles as possible. Drive with the legs out of the bottom position.
4. Weighted Carries
Crunches build some strength and endurance in the upper abs, which is a good thing; however, they also cause the abs to shorten, which is not good. Performing a variety of weighted carries teaches all the abdominal muscles to work effectively with other core muscles, building real usable strength. Weighted carries also require more energy than crunches, which increases EPOC after each workout.
5. Combo Calisthenics
Combining two exercises into one, such as a plank/row combo below, can be challenging because of muscular and nervous system inefficiency. This forces you to work harder than normal during each set, boosting your heart rate and creating plenty of EPOC. You might be able to hold a plank for a few minutes, but take away a limb and things become difficult. In the video, Jessica makes things even tougher by keeping a flat, tight torso and adding a slight pelvic tilt.
6. Unilateral Lower Body Exercises
Much like squats, unilateral exercises have many variations, including our favorite: step-ups. The step-up has been a go-to exercise for many of the best trainers for years, and for good reason. Besides having a low learning curve, the exercise can be very easy or extremely difficult, depending on the variation and height of the box. You can also add weight if you get a little too good at it — but prepare to be humbled.
Many people avoid pull-ups like the plague because they’re difficult, but that’s the very reason you should embrace them. By incorporating the lats, rhomboids, biceps, abdominals, and many smaller muscle groups, pull-ups generate significant EPOC. With enough practice and some good coaching, you can become substantially better at them within six to eight weeks.
8. Battle Ropes
Battle ropes offer dozens of exercise possibilities and a low learning curve. The more force you apply, the more force is applied back to you, making them a great way to progressively build up your strength without plateauing. For the greatest increase in metabolic rate, perform multiple sets of one-minute-on, one-minute-off intervals.
9. Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell swings can be a highly effective strength training exercise as proven by a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse study. In 2013, researchers evaluated healthy, experienced male and female volunteers after eight weeks of strength training with kettlebells. Compared with their conventional routines, the volunteers experienced significant improvements in strength, aerobic capacity, and balance. Core strength, in particular, jumped nearly 70 percent.
10. Bear Crawls/Alligator Walk
Similar to the combo calisthenics mentioned above, bear crawls are difficult because they involve movement your body is no longer accustomed to. Your abdominals, hips, quads, triceps, shoulders, and back are tested to the max when you perform this exercise long enough. To bear crawl, you use the same cross-crawl motion you use for running, or the pattern associated with your natural gait.
The cross-crawl involves the limbs on one side of your body moving together while the opposite side separates. This pattern is also known as a safe and effective technique to strengthen the muscles that support your spine.
The most important thing to remember about burning calories is that you burn more the harder your body has worked, which translates into higher EPOC. With these 10 complex routines, you can prolong the benefits of every workout session for days afterward.