These days, our time is in shorter supply than ever.
We’ve assembled 14 of the best calorie-burning exercises to help you boost metabolism, increase energy expenditure, and get results all while saving time in your workouts.
Let’s get started!
Average Calorie Burn: 226-335 calories/hour
Yoga is a thousands year old practice rooted in unifying the body, mind, and breath. There are dozens of different yoga styles, so there’s sure to be a style that fits your flow.
While most people associate yoga with lots of slow movement, isometrics, and “ohms”, the truth is that yoga can burn a pretty impressive number of calories for being a low-intensity for of exercise.
Power Yoga is a more dynamic yoga practice, one that focuses on building strength through a combination of isometrics and vinyasas (“flows”)
Average Calorie Burn: 285-421 calories/hour
With the explosion of functional fitness and group circuit training classes in recent years, the battle rope has become a staple in most gyms.
Typically, the battle ropes are incorporated as part of metabolic resistance training circuit or as a “finisher” at the end of a heavy strength training workout.
Either way, the battle ropes will ignite your metabolic furnace and help burn off the goo.
One of our favorite ways to perform the exercise is to perform 3-5 rounds of all out activity lasting 30 seconds. After the work period is over, rest for 30-60 seconds and get after it again.
Average Calorie Burn: 322-478 calories/hour (at a resistance level of 8)
The elliptical really needs no introduction or explanation. It’s found in every gym these days (including rinky dink hotel gyms). You’ve used it at least once in your gym life (likely as a means to warm up or for cardio).
To get more from this cardio staple, try performing intervals on the machine, alternating between 30-40 seconds of all out effort and 20-30 seconds of low-level effort.
To further up the calorie-burning potential of this exercise, you can also increase the incline and/or resistance of the elliptical.
Average Calorie Burn: 341-504 calories/hour
Strength training is essential to building muscle and retaining lean mass during dieting. Don’t let the lower calorie burn of this form of exercise fool you.
Heavy strength training works a lot of muscle mass on the body (especially when you focus on compound movements like push ups, pull ups, squats, and deadlifts). And, strength training can also boosts your metabolism for up to 38 hours post workout, thanks to the “afterburn” effect which has your body burning more calories to make up for the energy that was depleted from lifting heavy weights.
Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) Circuit
Average Calorie Burn: 340-505 calories/hour
Metabolic resistance training has been popular for several years now, largely due to being one of the most effective fat loss workouts around.
In an MRT circuit, you “stack” several resistance-training exercises together in a circuit, which creates a dynamic blend of strength training and interval training.
By combining physically demanding exercises with short rest periods, you boost the EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) effect, which elevates metabolism for hours and hours after your workout is over.
This means that your body is burning calories at a higher rate even after you finish your workout.
Average Calorie Burn: 452-670 calories/hour (when taking 77 steps/minute)
The stair-stepper may be one of the most grueling and diabolical cardio machines ever created. Not only does the machine tax your cardiovascular capacity, it also lights up your entire lower body, especially the glutes and calves.
As with all other exercises on this list, the calorie burn listed is an “average”. By this we mean, in order to burn the amount of calories listed you need to be performing the exercise with proper form (no leaning on the handles or railings, which off loads bodyweight) and going at a fast enough pace.
Average Calorie Burn: 481-713 calories/hour (at 150 watts)
Rowing is a great cardio alternative to those that are tired of walking, jogging, or elliptical.
In addition to taxing your cardiovascular system, the rowing machine also offers a fair amounts of resistance to your legs and back -- two muscle groups which could stand to be worked more in most people.
Similar to other cardio machines on this list, you can perform them at a steady pace, or alternate between periods of higher-intensity intervals and lower intensity intervals.
Average Calorie Burn: 498-738 calories/hour (vigorous pace)
The stationary bike is another staple cardio machine in the gym. It’s great for performing steady-state cardio, but where it really shines is as a low-impact option for performing intervals.
Average Calorie Burn: 554-822 calories/hour
Kettlebells are another old training tool that has been resurrected in recent years thanks to the explosion of functional fitness.
They’re similar to dumbbells, but provide a unique training stimulus for your muscles due to the offset nature of the weight.
Again, similar to dumbbells, kettlebells can be used as a tool to build strength, and they can also be used to perform intervals or metabolic resistance training circuits.
One of our favorite kettlebell circuits is:
- 10 Kettlebell swings (left arm)
- 10 Kettlebell goblet squats
- 10 Kettlebell swings (right arm)
- 10 Kettlebell goblet squats
- 10 Kettlebell swings (both arms)
Rest 1-2 minutes after completing that circuit and repeat 3-5x.
Average Calorie Burn: 566-839 calories/hour (10 min/mile)
Running is quite possibly the oldest “calorie-burning” exercise in existence as we had to run to catch our food and/or evade predators in our more primitive days.
As you’ve probably realized for yourself, it’s not possible to run with all-out intensity for very long before your lungs and legs start burning. This means you either need to run slower for a longer period of time, or perform intervals.
For running, we like to perform a 1:2 or 1:1 work-to-rest ratio to ratchet up the afterburn. An example of a 1:2 work-to-rest ratio is running for 30 seconds with max effort and then walking for 60 seconds.
It might seem strange to rest twice as long as you’re running, but if you’re truly busting hump and running as fast as you can, you’ll need every one of those seconds to recover your energy and breath before the next round.
Average Calorie Burn: 568-841 calories/hour
We’ve already covered the stationary bike above as one of the best calorie-burning exercises to perform.
Cycling intervals are the big brother of the stationary bike.
Instead of pedaling along at a fairly vigorous pace, you’ll alternate between periods of max effort and periods of low-to-moderate effort.
As we’ve said previously, performing intervals such as this help increase EPOC and the afterburn effect.
Average Calorie Burn: 582-864 calories/hour
For those that are tired of all the “traditional” cardio workouts, kickboxing is the way to go.
You’ll perform rounds of kicks, punches, and sprawls lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes. When the round ends, you’ll get a brief rest (30-90 seconds), and then the bell rings to start the next round.
If you do not have a martial arts background, don’t worry. You’ll get the hang of things in no time. Just don’t be surprised if you’re extremely sore after your first few kickboxing workouts as your body is not used to moving in this manner.
Running Up Hills/Stair Sprints
Average Calorie Burn: 639-946 calories/hour
Hill sprints are often viewed as a safer alternative to wind sprints, especially for those individuals who do not have a lot of experience sprinting. The reason for this is that hill sprints have you running at an incline, which places your body in a safer position than flat ground sprints.
This places far less impact on your joints (like your knees) and significantly reduces the risk of popping an Achilles or pulling a hamstring
Average Calorie Burn: 667-990 calories/hour (if you’re jumping at 120 skips per minute)
The cardio tool of boxers around the world, the jump rope is a calorie-incinerator.
It’s low impact, takes up next to no space, and can be performed just about anywhere. It also requires a good degree of skill and concentration. The same of which can’t be said for other forms of cardio, like jogging, ellipticalling, etc.