Before we give you the skinny on some of the best gym workouts for weight loss, we need to tell you something important. Ready?
The key to successfully shedding pounds is to make multiple changes: to your workout, diet, and lifestyle.
Without making changes to your diet or your relationship to food, workouts will only help you maintain weight as you build muscle.
“A combination of diet and exercise is best at any stage of weight loss,” dietitian and certified strength and conditioning specialist Albert Matheny explained to Women’s Health.
“Exercise should be a mix of strength training and cardiovascular training, not just cardio,” he added. “Both modes of exercise burn calories and, in turn, lead to stored fat being used as a source of energy.”
Phew. Now that we’ve got that caveat out of the way, let’s get moving! Here are the best gym workouts for helping you on your weight loss journey:
1. Interval training
Interval training is any type of exercise that combines longer periods of hard work with shorter periods of rest. Think mixing sprints with short periods of jogging or a designated HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout like Tabata.
It’s one of the best gym workouts for weight loss because it gets your heart pumping, but gives your body time to recover, too. And during those lower-energy recovery periods, your body will keep on burning calories.
We also love intervals because they can be modified to meet you exactly where you are in your fitness journey. For more interval training ideas, check out Greatist.
When it comes to weight loss workouts, running gets a bad rap. But it really depends on how you run.
Long-distance running helps you build up endurance, but it doesn’t necessarily burn fat or build muscle as efficiently as other workouts.
Incorporating both sprinting and jogging intervals into your running routine, on the other hand, can be an efficient way to maximise the benefits of running and HIIT.
Intervals and other challenges will also prevent your body from hitting a weight loss plateau, says health reporter Jenny Sugar.
“[Include] speed intervals, hills, long runs, and short runs,” suggests Sugar, “and run on different surfaces and in new places to keep your muscles guessing and continuously strengthening.”
Hop in the pool to burn some major calories. Not only will swimming laps help you burn fat, but you’ll also build plenty of lean muscle and rev up your metabolism, all in one short workout.
If you’re new to the pool, however, it’s easy to get discouraged. Remember to take it easy and work strategically, says Joel Shinofield, the head swim coach at Washington and Lee University in the US
“The key to an effective swim routine is splitting it into shorter segments, mixing in a variety of work and rest intervals, and using different strokes, drills, and intensities,” Shinofield told Women’s Health. “It’s not only more interesting but also a better workout.”
Swimming laps is also a perfect exercise option for anyone who has difficulty with high-impact exercise, like running. While it might be a challenge for your lungs and upper body, swimming is still easy on your joints.
For more suggestions, check out this guide to swimming for weight loss at Health.
4. Weight training
When people think of the best gym workouts for weight loss, they often think first of burning calories — not toning muscle. But you actually need to build muscle as you lose weight, says certified strength conditioning specialist Noam Tamir.
“Aerobic exercise is actually the most effective in losing weight, however, it’s not the best at burning fat and increasing lean mass,” explains Tamir at Self.
If you’re spending most of your workouts trying to burn calories on the treadmill, you may be losing muscle mass along with shedding pounds — which is bad for your overall health and fitness. Counteract muscle loss by adding in a few days lifting weights at the gym.
New to weight training? Consider making at least two of your gym days weight days, or incorporate circuit training (strength training that gives you cardio benefits) one to two days per week to see results.
Not only is boxing an incredible cardio workout, but it also helps you take out the frustrations of your work week (or your diet!) in a healthy way.
What makes boxing work so effectively, and why is it one of the best gym workouts for weight loss? According to certified personal trainer Adam Rosante, “At its essence, boxing is really another form of interval training.”
In addition to torching major calories from hitting a bag or sparring with a partner, you’re also developing arm and core muscles to keep you fit and lean.
Want to give it a try? Women’s Health & Fitness has a few beginner boxing routines you can take with you to the ring.
6. Circuit training
Combine weight training and cardio into one of the best gym workouts for weight loss with circuit training — which is essentially moving quickly between short sets of strength exercises.
An added bonus? You’ll never get bored.
Whether you combine your strength circuit with short cardio intervals or just stick to a workout plan, circuit training gives you tons of benefits that help with weight loss, says fitness expert Liz Neporent.
“An all-strength circuit burns 30 percent more calories (about nine per minute!) than a typical weight workout and offers more cardio benefits,” writes Neporent at Fitness.
Try out this circuit training programme for beginners from Shape.