Clearly, we’re believers in burpees here at Men’s Health. They work every muscle in your body. You’ll burn a lot of calories and your heart rate will go sky high. It’s certainly an amazing exercise to burn fat.
But I personally believe there are 13 moves that are better for fat loss training, especially for men with some serious miles on their bodies.
What do I mean by better?
Well, the burpee is a really complex movement that combines a hip-hinge, plank, push-up, squat and jump.
If you’re not great at any one of those moves – whether it be due to a lack of strength, mobility or motor control – then trust me when I say that your burpee will be even worse. There is a lot going on, more than is necessary to achieve the fat loss results you’re looking for.
I have three main criteria when selecting exercises for metabolic conditioning workouts. The moves must:
• Work most of your body, especially your shoulders and hips
• Be as low-impact and low-skill as possible
• Be safe to perform for higher reps and with shorter rest periods
I like moves that are easier to perform, but still melt your face off. Here are 13 simpler and safer ways to burn fat than burpees—watch the video above to see how to do them.
1. Goblet Squat
This is arguably the best way to squat, period.
Front-loading the weight allows you to keep your trunk more upright. This takes stress off your spine and works your thighs more.
Goblet squats are also safer to perform and more accessible than barbell squats, especially for higher-rep fat-loss training.
All you need is a dumbbell (easier) or a kettlebell (harder). Just stand and sit tall and repeat. These are great for high reps and really tax your shoulders and core.
One of my favourite ways to redline with this move is to do 10 reps per minute for 10 minutes straight while holding a weight that is at least half of your total body weight.
2. Barbell Muscle Snatch or Dumbbell Muscle Snatch
Olympic lifts train total-body power and really hammer the highly metabolic muscles on the backside of your body. But they are very technical and hard to learn.
Except for the muscle snatch.
This exercise, a modified version of the barbell snatch, is performed from a hang position with the bar at your knee or shin instead of on the floor. That decreases the range of motion and bypasses potential mobility problems.
Plus, by combining a high pull to overhead press, there is no catch, which is where most of the form issues manifest themselves.
Finally, all you need to do is fully extend your ankles, knees and hips and come to a full stand at the top of the move.
Other Olympic variations require you to jump your feet out and squat down to catch the weight. This creates serious stability and mobility demands that you want to avoid when you’re in a state of high fatigue.
I like to do these with either a barbell or a pair of dumbbells. You may want to practice the move without load on the bar first to find your rhythm, then slowly load it up. Sets of 10 to 20 reps or work periods of two to three minutes are deadly to body fat.
3. Dumbbell Skier Swing or Alternating Kettlebell Swing
The swing has been shown to improve fitness and help you lose fat as much as running does, without all the joint stress that comes with pounding the pavement.
Plus, it actually builds muscle, stimulates metabolism and works the posterior chain. Most guys really need more meat on their back, hamstrings, and glutes—and the swing can deliver on that.
If you’re using dumbbells, I recommend the skier swing.
It requires your feet to be closer together so that the weights don’t hit your thighs. This, in turn, forces you to move more at the hips and less at the knees, which is what you want from a swing because it’s an explosive hip-hinge.
If you’re using kettlebells, I love the alternating hand swing.
Moving from hand to hand allows you to swing more continuously and for longer, which is great for fat loss.
Plus, loading one side of your body at a time works your core more and unloads your spine. Many people who have back issues prefer this style of swinging because it allows for a slight degree of rotation that unloads your spine.
My favourite swing workouts include:
• 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of rest intervals for 10 to 20 minutes
• Heavy EMOM (every minute on the minute): do 10 reps per minute with a heavy weight for 10 to 30 minutes
• Light EMOM: do 20 reps per minute with a lighter weight for 10 to 30 minutes
• Continuous five to 10 minute swings, resting only as needed
You can also plug this into a total-body circuit as a hip-dominant or cardio move.
4. Dumbbell Farmer’s Walk
Walking is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy body weight for the long haul and it’s something you hope to be able to do until the day you die.
It provides a continuous, low-impact kilojoule burn and it doesn’t require a lot of coaching. Now add some weight to that walk, and that bump in intensity will build muscle and burn fat everywhere.
I like to alternate between two- and one-arm variations of the farmer’s walk.
However, I prefer the one-arm option because you can work continuously by switching from hand to hand when you fatigue. Plus, it’s better for strengthening your spinal and hip stabilisers.
I also like to mix in level changes, going from overhead to chest level to hip level, which is in order of difficulty from a stability standpoint.
Sets of one to two minutes at a time are great for fat loss. I’ll even go for 10 minutes straight to finish off a workout, resting only when needed.
5. Box Squat Jump
Plyometric exercises are great for stimulating your larger fast-twitch muscles fibres and torching fat, but the impact can take its toll over time, especially if you’re overweight.
Enter box squat jumps.
Sitting down between reps cleans up your landing mechanics and is much easier on your knees. You can also adjust the height of the box based on your mobility and fitness level.
6. Step-up Jump
Much like the box squat jump, this exercise provides a lower-impact way to train your lower-body power and crush kilojoules at a lightning speed.
Step-ups are more hip-dominant than lunges, so they’re easier on your knees.
Plus, the glutes are the biggest muscles in the human body—at least they should be! But excessive sitting leads to “saggy arse syndrome,” so the more we can kick those glutes into gear, the better.
7. Battle Rope Wave
When I’m feeling stressed out and my energy levels are low, it can be really hard to get up for a workout.
But there’s one exercise mode I can always get up for, no matter what’s going on in my life. It doesn’t require a warm-up and you can just blast some good music, set a timer and rip it out fast.
Oh yeah—it’s super easy on your lower-body joints and you can recover from it instantly. Meet battle ropes.
Try going all-out for 10 to 20 seconds and then resting for 40 to 50 seconds. Alternate between different variations and just work as hard as you can while keeping your abs crunched and back flat.
You’ll get an amazing heart and muscle pump. What more can you ask for?
8. Bear Crawl
You learned to crawl before you learned to walk or run, or at least you should have.
Bear crawls have more benefits than just about any other move out there.
They improve your rib and pelvic positioning and your breathing mechanics. They boost your shoulder stability and strengthen your hands, wrists and core. And they tax both your thighs and upper body, making for a spirited fat-burning festival.
I like to mix between walking lunges (see below) and bear crawls for the best of both worlds. In fact, bear crawls actually improve your lunging mechanics.
Bear crawl for one minute, then lunge for two minutes. That’s one round. Perform up to 10 total rounds for a 30-minute fat burner you can do anywhere.
9. Walking Lunge
I consider walking lunges to be the strength and stability version of running.
You can do it continuously because you’re moving from side to side for a maximum fat-loss stimulus. And the increased range of motion better stimulates your hips and thighs, which ramps up your metabolism in a serious way.
If your goal is to burn fat, end each workout with 10 minutes of walking lunges.
It will improve your hip mobility, bulletproof your knees, melt fat, and improve your cardio conditioning. It will also make you a better runner, squatter and jumper. And the mental training is off the charts.
10. Box Thruster
You probably know about thrusters (a term popularised by CrossFit), a combination exercise involving a squat to overhead press.
This move is often used for MetCon workouts, and rightfully so, because it works your whole body and spikes your heart rate.
But many people lack the mobility and technique to do these correctly, and when you add high reps and short rest periods on top of that, they can get downright ugly and dangerous.
You can fix this by sitting on a box or bench. This helps clean up your squat pattern without sacrificing the fat burn. (You can also do this with goblet squats.)
Go for 20 seconds of work, then 10 seconds of rest for up to 10 rounds as a metabolic finisher. Or do 10 reps EMOM for 10 to 20 minutes for a full-body workout.
11. TRX Row Machine
Many people swear by the rowing machine for fat loss. How can you argue with them?
It uses both your upper and lower body for one powerful body-changing movement and is very low impact.
But not everyone has access to the machine, and many people do not have the hip or ankle mobility to row right.
That’s why I love the TRX row “machine.”
Holding the straps allows you to squat better and deeper for longer.
Plus, the rowing component is a lot easier to perform than it is on the traditional cardio machine, especially for taller and bigger people.
You can add a jump at the top to make your fat cells cry for mercy. Try going non-stop for 1 to 2 minutes at a time, then resting for the same amount of time that you worked. If five to 10 rounds of that doesn’t change you, nothing will.
12. Blast-Off Push-up
This is the ultimate total-body push-up.
It’s kind of like adding a leg press to your push-up, and it will put your metabolism on high alert.
It also challenges your upper-body and core muscles more because you have to decelerate your body after your legs and hips propel you forward. Plus, it mobilises your hips.
Plug this into a whole-body circuit as a core or upper-body push move.
Or pair it with any of the previously mentioned lower-body moves: do blast-off push-ups for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, then do a lower-body exercise for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Then repeat. It will kick your arse. I promise.
13. Skater Jump
Skater jumps move your body from side to side rather than front to back.
This strengthens the muscles on the sides of your hips, improves your athleticism, and is less stressful on your knees than the forward-back movements.
You can also quickly scale the movement down by touching the floor with your back foot to provide more support and stability.
If you’re looking for a great body-weight cardio burner, do this tri set with no rest between moves:
• Box squat jumps for 40 seconds
• Step-up jumps for 40 seconds
• Skater jumps for 40 seconds
Now rest for one minute. That’s one round. Do up to five total rounds for a 15-minute equipment-free sweat fest.