The Five Top Types of Exercise For Weight Loss

Weight loss is really complicated. Or at least that’s what people think. But it doesn’t need to be.

Firstly, a disclaimer. Weight loss is more about nutrition than exercise. But of course exercise is still important.

So what can we do in the gym to make sure we’re maximising the energy burning effect of exercise?

There are a few simple criteria we should follow – a few simple questions we should ask ourselves to determine if an exercise is effective to burn energy.

QUESTION 1: Are you making your muscles work hard?

By using your muscles, you’re building your muscles. Muscle is what’s called ‘metabolically active tissue’, which is just a fancy way of saying your muscles burn energy to stay alive. The real bonus here is that this energy burn happens even when you’re not exercising. That’s right, if you can build a bit of lean muscle your body has a more ‘fuel hungry’ engine. If the engine uses more fuel, you burn more fat – even when you’re asleep!

Make sure you’re doing resistance exercise – lifting weights. Mix it up so sometimes the weights are heavy, sometimes they’re moderate, and sometimes they’re light. Sometimes do lots, sometimes do only a few. Sometimes rest between sets of heavy lifting, and sometimes go straight in to another exercise. Keep the variety and combinations high. This is the best way to build lean muscle and get this passive energy burn.

QUESTION 2: Are you using multiple joints?

The more groups of muscles you use, the more energy you burn. This is because our body burns energy to make a muscle contract. The more joints you can get working, the more muscles you use, the more energy you burn. A bicep curl for example only involves the movement of one joint (your elbow), whereas a pull-up also involves the shoulder. The pull-up is a much more efficient way to both increase lean muscle and burn more energy.

QUESTION 3: Are you moving your body, or a weight, a long way?

The further you move something, the more work it takes to move it. This makes sense. If you’re moving your body (running, cycling, rowing, walking, swimming etc.) further, you have to burn more energy to do it. No surprises there. But the same applies if you’re lifting weights like barbells and dumbbells and kettlebells. The further you move these weights, the harder you have to work, and the more benefit you get. A bench press doesn’t move a weight very far at all, but a clean and jerk does. Choose the clean and jerk.

QUESTION 4: Are you training different things at the same time?

Too often in gyms, people lift weights… then they do their ‘cardio’. There’s no need to make this segregation. We didn’t evolve to train different elements of fitness separately, so there’s no need to train them that way. There’s nothing wrong with breathing hard while you lift weights. In fact, it’s a great way to burn lots of energy at the same time as you’re building some lean muscle (which will allow you to then burn even more energy).

QUESTION 5: Are you exercising at intensity?

The harder we work, the more energy we burn. The days of believing in a ‘fat loss zone‘ are long gone. Not only does more work burn more energy during exercise, but it increases how much energy we burn after exercise as well. High intensity exercise revs up the metabolism (which means more energy is being burned) for hours after you’ve actually stopped exercising.

How many of these five questions can you answer ‘yes’ to? Aim for 5/5, and maximise your energy burn.

At the end of the day, anything is better than nothing, so just start – it’s easier than you think. And make sure you’re following the steps to make exercise a positive experience.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology. He has worked with many thousands of individuals along the full spectrum of health, and has coached at The CrossFit Games. He regularly presents to corporate and fitness industry groups and mentors Fitness Professionals.