What Forms of Exercise Burn the Most Calories ?

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Last updated on September 5, 2022

When it comes to burning the maximum number of calories, it’s not just about the exercise you are doing; it is also, and perhaps more importantly, about the type of workout you do. There are all sorts of ways of performing exercises but not all of them will give you the same sort of benefits. In this article, I will provide an overview of the 5 best types of workout to optimize calorie burn for max fat loss.

High Intensity Interval Training

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, has become increasingly popular over the last few years. This type of working out was created by a trainer for the Japanese Olympic Speed Skating team in the mid-1990s. He had his athletes performing all out 20 second sprints on a  cycle followed by 10 second rest periods for eight rounds.


This type of training was shown to have significant benefits over the traditional steady state form of training. The athletes were able to achieve a high VO2 Max, enhance their aerobic and muscular endurance and they were able to burn more calories. HIIT workouts were also shown to bring on what is known as the after burn effect, where the increased demand for oxygen elevates the metabolism for 24-36 hours after the workout.


The basis of HIIT training is to perform hard, fast sprints for 20 seconds, interspersed with 10 seconds rest periods for multiple rounds. There are some variations on those times but the general idea remains constant – fast, short and repetitive. You can use all sorts of exercises for HIIT training.


Here is a sample HIIT session using the rowing machine …


Start with a 2 minute low intensity warm-up, gradually building intensity. When you hit 2 minutes, you need to be rowing at max speed. Keep going for exactly 20 seconds. Stop rowing for 10 seconds. Sprint for another 20 seconds, Continue with this pattern for 8 rounds.

Circuit Training

Circuit training is another excellent form of working out to burn calories. This type of training involves moving through a series of exercises with no rest between them. You then have a short rest and repeat the sequence again.


Circuit training has a similar effect to HIIT in that it produces an after burn effect. This effect is technically known as the Enhanced Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption effect (EPOC). When you train this way you are placing a heavy demand on your heart and lungs. In order to provide the energy that you need to fuel the exercise session, you need to use lots of oxygen. That produces a huge oxygen demand that needs to be met. It will take many hours after the workout for that need to be met.


Your body takes up a lot of energy in the process of transporting oxygen around your body. That increases your caloric burn. This effect may take place for up to 36 hours after your workout. That means that the circuit training workout that you do at 6 am is still burning calories when you are watching TV on the couch that night.


When doing a circuit workout, you should plug in an aerobic exercise after every anaerobic exercise that you. Here is an example of a circuit workout for fat loss and strength gain that you can do at home …


  • Push Ups
  • Burpees
  • Body Weight Squats
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Pull Ups
  • Side-to-Side Jumps
  • Handstand Push Ups
  • Butt Kicks


Do each exercise for 30 seconds then go directly to the next one with no rest. Once you have completed the circuit, rest for 2 minutes, Then repeat the circuit. Work up to doing 4 rounds of this circuit workout.

Strength Training: Compound Circuit

Most people think that strength training is what you do to build muscle and cardio is what you do to lose weight. While that is generally true, there are a couple of ways that you can and should use strength training to ramp up your calorie burn to get rid of stored body fat. One of them is the compound circuit.


From the previous section, you know that circuit training involves moving between a series of exercises with no rest between them. In this variation, you make use of compound weight training exercises that burn a lot of calories, along with plyometric exercises, moving from one to the next with very little rest.


Compound weight training exercises are those that involve moving more than one joint at a time. The classic example of a compound exercise is the squat. As well as working your lower body muscles, the squat also burns a ton of calories. If you have ever done the exercise, then you know how true that statement is.


When you perform compound exercises as part of a circuit, the goal is not to lift as much weight as possible. Instead it is to burn as many calories as possible. As a result, you reduce your resistance by about 50 percent and increase your rep count. You should do sets of 20 reps.


Other good compound exercises to include in a compound circuit are the deadlift, lunges, pull ups and the barbell bent over row. Here is a sample compound circuit …


  • Squats – 20 reps
  • Step ups – 30 seconds
  • Deadlifts – 20 reps
  • Box Jumps – 30 seconds
  • Lunges – 12 reps (each leg)
  • Jump Rope – 30 seconds
  • Barbell Bent Over Row – 20 reps
  • High Knees – 30 seconds
  • Pull Ups – to failure

Strength Training: Conventional

In addition to your compound circuit training workouts, conventional workouts to build muscle are another form of exercise that burns plenty of calories. However, it does so indirectly. You will burn calories during your workout but not as many as in the previous workout methods described. However, when you add muscle to your body, which is the goal of your workouts, you will be forcing your body to burn a lot more calories.


An ounce of muscle is five times more dense than an ounce of fat. So, as you work out with weights and transform your physique so that it has more muscle, you will be seriously ramping up your metabolism. As a result of that, you will be burning a lot more calories all day long. That makes conventional strength training to build muscle a key to burning calories. If you are serious about losing stored body fat, you should, therefore, be adding weight training workouts to your exercise program.

you may also be interested in 3 Most Effective Strength Workout Splits.


Also known as jump training, plyometrics involves explosive movements that see your feet leaving the ground. These include such things as step up, box jumps, high and long jumps and agility and speed exercises that involve balance and coordination, often with one foot in the air.


Plyometric training is popular with athletes and sports players. That’s because of its ability to improve speed, agility and explosive power. But it’s also an awesome form of training for anyone working to transform their body, making it leaner, more shapely and more powerful.

Plyo is also an excellent calorie burner.


Ready to give plyo training a try?


Great – here’s a quick four move plyo workout you can do right at home.


Warm Up:


Jogging on the spot: 30 seconds low intensity; 30 seconds high knees; 30 seconds butt kicks; 30 seconds low intensity


  • Jumping Rope – 2 minutes
  • Box Jumps – 60 seconds
  • Broad Jumps – 30 seconds
  • Skater Jumps – 30 seconds


Jumping Rope

Don’t worry if you can’t skip – it is a learned practice. Just take it slow and try to build up the number of skips you can do without getting caught up in the rope.


Box Jumps

Start with a very low box (less than 12 inches high) Begin with your feet shoulder width apart. Load your body by hinging at the hips, squatting down slightly and swinging your arms back. Now jumping up with both feet lifting at the same time. Land on both feet shoulder width apart into a slight squat and follow through with your arms.


Broad Jumps


Begin with your feet shoulder width apart. Load your body by hinging at the hips, squatting  down slightly and swinging your arms back. Now jumping forward with both feet lifting at the same time. Land on both feet shoulder width apart into a slight squat and follow through with your arms.


Skater Jumps


Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Now transfer your weight onto your right leg and lift your left foot off the floor and drop your hips slightly. Now jump laterally to the left by pushing off your right foot. Immediately reverse the movement to jump back to the right. Continue this back and forth movement until your time is up.


You now have access to the 5 best types of workout to burn calories and get super lean. I recommend doing conventional strength training to add muscle to your body. The other four workout types – HIIT, Circuit, Compound Circuit, Plyometrics – should be done for six weeks at a time. Rotate through them to optimize your calorie burn. Combine these workouts with a calorie reduced diet and you will get to your fat loss goal.

About the author  Steve

Steve Theunissen is from New Zealand and is a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist with over 30 years experience. Read more about Steve in the 'about us' page.

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