We're smack bang in the middle of an enthralling, yet controversial, 2016 Rio Olympics. There've been some magnificent performances already. A few that stand out for me are (of course) Michael Phelps in the pool, Simone Biles - our pint sized gymnastic champion, South African Wayde Van Niekerk smashing Michael Johnson’s long standing 400m track record, and who could forget Usain ‘The Immortal’ Bolt cruising to victory in the 100m dash - the event he has dominated since the 2008 Bejing games.
I thought it an opportune time to conduct my own medal ceremony of sorts. My awards might have a slightly different focus than those of the games, and they’re unlikely to provide the recipient a spot high on any podium, with hand on heart, beaming at the sound of the national anthem… But in the world of weight management this gold medal winner could be just as important.
Today I want to consider the best exercise to reduce stomach or body fat. The gold medalist of weight loss if you will. Granted, this is an extremely difficult and subjective medal to designate. If you’ve read our blog you’ll probably already understand healthy eating or nutrition is the most important component of any weight loss equation (try these foods that burn fat like crazy). You’ll likely also realise a combination of exercises will promote the most effective calorie burn.
But let’s put this to the back of your mind for a moment. Assume there is one, and only one, exercise you can select to shift excess body fat and tone your flagging body. What one would it be?
Now, I don’t expect you to simply adopt my suggested weight loss medal winner. An independent judging panel is key to any fair Olympic result. Especially when there isn't a defined finish line as in sports like Gymnastics, or Diving. This same is true in this selection race.
So first, let’s consider what a few experts had to say about the best exercise to reduce stomach fat or lose weight. Admittedly, capturing this information wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Most fitness professionals talk about the best workout or program for fat loss… preferring not to focus on individual exercises per-se. Much of the debate centers around whether weights or cardio is best for fat burning.
The first finalist for the BellyFatFormula.com weight loss gold medal is the ever popular squat. Stuart Phillips, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University with an extensive background in resistance training, has chosen this as his number one and suggests it’s a “very potent exercise”.
He is quoted as saying that the squat “activates the body’s biggest muscles, those in the buttocks, back and legs”, a prerequisite for advanced calorie burning. If you are seeking to burn fat, you would be wise to target exercises that activate as much of your body as possible.
Not only does the squat do a wonderful job of shaping your buttocks, but some claim that it burns the most calories for the amount of time spent training.
A Japanese study by the National Institute of Fitness and Sports proves the importance of squat training in fat loss. Scientists enlisted the services of 94 adolescent boys. One segment completed 100 bodyweight squats 4-5 days per week, the other continued a typical daily routine. The training intervention was conducted over 8 weeks.
The result? The treatment group reduced body found by 4.2% and increased lean body mass by 2.7%, alongside a bunch of other functional or fitness improvements. The control group demonstrated no change to existing levels. That’s a pretty strong case for inclusion of squats in any weight training routine.
Ok, to next medal contender then.
Ok, I’m sure this one will be slightly controversial. Is burst training considered a single exercise or should it be disqualified from the medal round due to it's broader nature?
At DrAxe.com the team claim burst training is the number one exercise to burn belly fat fast. What is burst training? It's similar to internal training. In fact many people use the terms interchangeably. It is basically short bursts of high intensity exercise, followed by slow recovery periods. Think of it as training more like sprinter than a distance runner. [Note: Although the chosen exercise does not need to be running or sprinting. Burst training can be applied to any exercise medium].
We’ve known for a while that short bursts of intensive exercise are better than exercising continuously when it comes to weight loss. In fact research completed in Australia at the University of New South Wales Medical Sciences suggests that 300% more body fat can be burned during interval style training when compared to moderate cardio.
Scientists undertook a 15 week investigation into the effect of high intensity intermittent exercise on subcutaneous fat loss. In the study 45 women were assigned to one of three training or control groups. The first group completed high intensity training - 8 seconds hard followed by 12 seconds light exercise for a period of 20 mins. The second performed continuous exercise for 40 minutes. Group three was the control.
The findings are astonishing. The high intensity sprinting group lost 3 times as much fat than the moderate cardio and control groups. Wow.
As I continue to explore the view of fat loss experts I came across a number that suggested the best exercise for weight loss is one your are likely to stick to. This sounds like a bit of a cop out really. You might be more likely to go for a walk than a run… but it doesn't take a professional to realise that running is more likely to assist with fat burning. Needless to say this approach didn't make the medal race.
Many of you probably consider this a surprising contender. For those don't know what the plank (or bridge) is have a nosy at the images below.
AARP.org suggests the plank is extremely effective - working out your arms, legs, hips, core, and back. It seems to provide an all round toning and strengthening benefit. They claim it is the number one all round exercise… although the caveat is that their target market is the over 50 year old body. It certainly seems a good exercise for that age grade, however, it may not make the grade in the open mens or womens event.
A good extension of the plank is the Renegade row. It takes the fundamentals of the plank, and integrates a dumbbell row on each arm. It requires a great deal of commitment to maintain solid form throughout the exercise and provides a worthwhile muscle burn. However, this is a reasonably advanced exercise so take your time working up to this one.
Burpees or Squat Thrusts
Burpees or the fairly similar squat thrusts are next on today's list. Kevin Deeth of Builtlean.com suggests Burpees are one of most efficient and complete weight loss moves. The provide strong engagement of large muscle groups such as the quadriceps and chest… muscles which tend to burn more calories. Also important is the activiation of smaller stabiliser muscles to maintain form throughout.
Adam Campbell from Mens health also seems to be an advocate of the squat thrust type exercise. His dual exercise weight loss regime here integrates both a kettle bell swing and squat thrust. The workout challenges the entire body with just two exercises. While his workout isn't a gold medal contender (as it is two exercises) it will help get a solid calorie burn on.
DB Clean & Press With Squat
The dumbbell clean and press plus squat involves the combination of a dumbbell squat, curl and overhead shoulder press. Marc Perry, Founder and CEO of Builtlean, advocates this exercise as the number one choice for weight loss due to it's ability to stimulate a large volume of muscle mass, elevate heart rate and body temperature, and create a solid excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) or afterburn.
The great thing about this type of exercises is the two in one nature. Another similarly effective exercise is the barbell thruster. It incorporates a full front squat, followed by shoulder press. It is another great exercise for building strength, power and burning calories. Completing this exercise with a barbell might be considered slightly more complex than the aforementioned DB clean and press. It is a very popular exercise in the burgeoning CrossFit craze that has swept the planet.
And the winner is…
Ok, we’ve touched on a few of the very best exercises for fat loss. If you have any you would like to add to the list please send us your comments below and we'll look to incorporate them into our article updates where appropriate.
The key to most of these contenders, and why they are so efficient in aiding fat loss, is three fold.
- They activate or recruit a large volume of muscle mass, essential in losing body fat and helping to build or maintain lean muscle. In particular, most of them comprise a strong leg component, the largest volume of muscles in the body.
- They make you work hard - performed effectively each of them can create a significant muscle burn, elevating your heart rate, body temperature and leveraging significant calories as fuel.
- They promote an effective afterburn. Weight training and high intensity interval training is tough on your body. The post exercise repair and rejuvenation of muscles and other metabolic systems boosts your metabolic rate and increases ongoing calorie burn by 10% for up to 36 hours post workout.
I haven't chosen a winner yet have I? Ok, for the sake of completeness I am going to go with the DB Squat, Clean and Press. I really could have chosen one of a number exercises as the gold medalist. The key elements in my decision were that it satisfies the three key criteria listed above, and it is also an exercise that is relatively easy to complete, suitable for the beginner to the most advanced athlete.
What is your favourite exercise to reduce stomach or body fat? Let us know below.