With so many workout choices, from Zumba to TRX to P90X to BodyPump to Spinning to Yogalate to Crossfit to Beach Body Insanity, how can you know which one will burn fat fastest?
The majority of workouts that advertise themselves as high fat-burning can be broken down into three different categories: cardio, resistance and cardio plus resistance. Here's a breakdown of all three:
Cardio: An example of a cardio class would be spinning, in which you ride a stationary bike with varying levels of resistance and pedaling speeds, typically to a choreographed series of songs and incorporating movements such as standing, hovering, and jumping. Dance workouts like Zumba or hip-hop would also fall into the cardio category.
Resistance: A resistance workout would include activities like power yoga, which consists of body weight resistance exercises combined with stretching; Pilates, which is primarily focused on abdominal and lower back resistance training; TRX, which involves pulling and pushing the body with a special type of band; and Bodypump, which uses dumbbells, barbells, and step benches for resistance.
Cardio Plus Resistance: As you may have guessed, cardio plus resistance combines the features above. P90X and Beach Body Insanity are two popular examples of activities that have you lifting weights one moment, then performing jumping jacks or step-ups the next. Another term for this type of exercising is "concurrent training."
So of these three types of workouts, which burns the most fat?
A 2008 study at the University of California which was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigated this question by having one group do cardio, another group do resistance, and a final group do cardio plus resistance (in which they ran for 30-60 seconds after completing each weight lifting set).
Even though each group did the same amount of work, the cardio plus resistance group experienced an enormously significant fat loss compared to the other two groups!
The cardio plus resistance group not only burned fat and built muscle at the same time, but the amount of fat they burned was a tenfold increase over the amount burned by the groups that did cardio or resistance training only.
So when it comes to which workout burns the most fat, research suggests that combining cardio and resistance training may be the ultimate solution. Want to try it out without stepping foot in a gym? Here's a sample workout:
1. 10 push-ups or knee push-ups
2. 15-20 jumping jacks
3. 10 squats or lunges
4. 15-20 more jumping jacks
5. 10 crunches followed immediately by 15-20 jumping jacks
6. 10 sets of deadlifts to press
7. 15-20 jumping jacks
If you get tired of jumping jacks for the cardio component, try squat-thrust-jumps, vertical jumps, lunge jumps or horizontal jumps.
Check out my demonstration of these techniques.
A word of caution: If your goal is not to burn fat, but rather to build strength, you'd be better off doing your resistance training as a separate workout. Similarly, if you're training for endurance, then you should focus on a high-quality cardio workout that isn't interrupted by strength training.
Ben Greenfield is a fitness and triathlon expert and host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast on the Quick and Dirty Tips network. His book, "Get-Fit Guy's Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body - A Workout Plan for Your Unique Shape," will be published by St. Martin's Press in May 2012.