The best way to burn more calories when you work out

The best way to burn more calories when you work out

Here’s how to maximize your workout, torch more calories and build muscle.

by Tiffany Ayuda /

Celeb trainer Gunnar Peterson suggests adding sprint intervals to your cardio workout to bump up the calorie burn. Yuri_Arcurs / Getty Images

If you’re like a lot of gym-goers, you hop onto the treadmill, set the incline to one level and hit the ground running for the next 30 minutes at the same pace. But what if you could supercharge your cardio routine without adding extra minutes to your workout? Celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson has a tweak you can make to burn more calories and fat and it’s called HIIT. “There’s nothing wrong with [steady-state cardio], but I would suggest adding sprint intervals to your cardio workout to bump up the burn,” he says.

HIIT is designed to help you burn more calories in less time, while revving up your heart rate and metabolism, so you keep squashing calories hours after you stop moving. Moe Widdi, an ACE-certified personal trainer at the New York Health & Racquet Club, says, “HIIT is by far the most effective for burning fat because of the maximal effort during shorter durations.” Widdi says to think of exercise like an entire pie of pizza. “Would you get more out of 60 percent of one slice of pizza (traditional cardio) or 30 percent of an entire large pizza (HIIT)? Obviously, we all want 30 percent!” Follow these expert tips to help you HIIT it big, torch more calories and get major muscle gains.


Sometimes doing less really is more. A recent study from the University of Stirling in Scotland shows that people who do fewer repetitions during a HIIT workout reap better cardiovascular benefits than those who do more. Depending on how experienced you are at the gym, Widdi recommends 20 seconds of intense work and 10 seconds of rest for eight rounds. “This totals three minutes and 50 seconds of full effort training, which is a lot harder than you think,” he says. Peterson also suggests trying 10-15 second bursts every minute. And if you want to kick it up a notch, then increase your interval time to a minute of work and 20-30 seconds of rest.

Think of exercise like an entire pie of pizza. “Would you get more out of 60 percent of one slice of pizza (traditional cardio) or 30 percent of an entire large pizza (HIIT)?

Think of exercise like an entire pie of pizza. “Would you get more out of 60 percent of one slice of pizza (traditional cardio) or 30 percent of an entire large pizza (HIIT)?


Adding some resistance in the form of weights to your HIIT workout can help increase your calorie burn, even hours after exercise, thanks to EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). Research has shown that nine months of resistance training can help improve your resting metabolic rate (aka the rate at which you burn calories). When it comes to strength training, supersets are the equivalent of superfoods in nutrition.

A superset is when you target different muscle groups in a row without rest in between. “During supersets, you should do a push and pull exercise to target the front and back of your body. An example would be a chest press superset with seated rows,” Widdi says. By training with anaerobic glycolysis, which is what happens when you lift weights, you’re building lean muscle mass while burning fat. “For every pound of lean muscle we gain, we need an extra seven to 15 calories. The more muscle we have the more food we need,” Widdi explains.


Speaking of combining strength and cardio into one workout, EMOMs are another great way to sweat if you’re strapped for time. EMOM is a form of HIIT that stands for “every minute on the minute,” meaning you do a designated number of reps and rest of the remainder of that minute. “Think of using a rower and EMOM bump your intensity by rowing as though you’re being chased for the first 15 seconds of every minute as an example,” Peterson says. Widdi recommends adding a mix of upper, lower-body and core exercises to your EMOM to get in a full-body workout. “It’s like a three-for-one sale. EMOMs keep feeling new because of the eclectic exercise selection you complete,” Widdi says.


Ever wonder how basketball players can jump up to make those game-winning three pointers? The power is in plyometrics. “When the metabolic demand on your body is increased, especially in a plyometric move, body fat is burned at a higher rate and your conditioning is improved, Peterson says, who trains the Los Angeles Lakers. Plyometric exercises like star jumps, burpees, and plyo lunges fire up your type II muscle fibers. Because type II muscle fibers require a lot of energy to do very short but intense bursts of exercise, you end up burning more calories, which lead to an increase in burning fat. “The explosive nature of plyometrics utilizes the anaerobic system, which builds more of the type 2A muscle fibers, creating the need for an increase in calorie intake,” Widdi explains.


If you’re someone who relies on numbers to measure progress, set a certain number of calories you want to burn for every minute. For example, aim to burn 10 calories after 60 seconds on a rower or air bike. “Giving yourself a measured achievement will help you track your improvements and push you to always do better than your previous target,” Widdi says.


Exercising in different functional movement patterns, whether it’s full range with a bicep curl or isometric with a plank, helps you maximize your workout and ensures you target the entire muscle group. “This helps to balance the quality of movements and the overall look of your body. It’s important to train it in different ways,” Widdi says. To help you maximize your workout, Peterson likes to add partial range of motion at the end of a set. “I’m a fan of full range of motion during my workouts, but there are benefits to partials at the end of a fatiguing set. Think about squeezing the last drops of water out of a sponge!,” he adds.


Whether you’re working out on an exercise machine or with your own body weight, challenging your center of gravity with inclines and declines can challenge your stability and balance muscles, while improving your calorie burn. “Adding incline to anything bumps up your heart rate, which burns calories at a higher rate.” Peterson says. Peterson also says that declines increase the eccentric demand (think: the downward phase of a push-up) on your body, which will encourage your body to repair damage post-workout.


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