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12 Exercises That Torch Fat Best, According to a Certified Trainer

Torch fat, activate multiple major muscle groups  and increase post-exercise oxygen consumption.
FACT CHECKED BY Christopher Roback

As a nationally board-certified and licensed athletic trainer with ten years of experience in the fitness industry, I have trained middle school, high school, college and professional athletes in just about every sport along with moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas up to the age of 94. I have encountered just about every demographic and scenario you can imagine. What holds true is that every client wants to feel stronger, and look more lean. 

So here are my 5 favorite fat burning exercises—yes they are boring, but we have to remember that simplicity is a major key to consistency and one workout will never make or break your fat-burning goals.


Young sporty man squatting or exercising on the beach during sunset. Athletic man doing fitness workout or training outdoors. Sports and healthy lifestyle

Goblet, Back, Front, etc….

Squats are the most commonly done exercise in the world, we all squat subconsciously in day-to-day activities and squatting uses your entire lower body and hip complex, all of your abdominal muscles, erector spinae, and much more. There are tons and tons of variations and all of which have huge benefits when performed correctly and when structured properly into a workout.

RELATED: 14 Proven Ways to Get Back in Shape


Barbell deadlift hands, strong fitness and power of black woman, athlete and bodybuilder in gym, sports workout and exercise. Closeup floor start, healthy muscle training and heavy challenge lifting

Trap bar, Kettlebell, Barbell, Dumbbell, etc…

Deadlifts are often deemed a dangerous exercise and I don't agree entirely. The bottom line is the target, your entire posterior chain of lower body muscles, your low back, erector spinae, all abdominal muscles, traps, lats, and biceps. I think these should be done for sets of 6-12 reps with 2-3 minutes of rest in between.


Young muscular man in gym doing exercise. Showing his muscles.

Repeat sprints to be exact.

Doing repeat sprints emulates HIIT training and many forms of sport. When most people get asked what they would prefer their body to look like, 100m sprinter or marathon runner, they choose sprinter every time. Get and keep your heart rate elevated with max effort full body running intervals.

Step Ups/Stairs/Hills 

Stairs climbing running woman doing run up steps on staircase

Overcoming vertical distance.

When I was playing football my senior year in high school and I was trying to get in shape for basketball season, I would run extra hills at practice with my pads on and stairs after practice with no pads. The idea of this movement group is that you are changing levels and alternating legs to generate force and this activates all of your leg muscles, and elevates your heart rate significantly.

RELATED: 13 Secrets for Building Powerful Legs

Kettlebell Swings 


Single Arm, Double, Russian, American, etc…

These can be so effective when done correctly, I was worried about adding them because they can be complex and increase risk of injury but they are fantastic for using your entire body and elevating your heart rate. Another thing that people aren't aware of is that every time you change your body position relative to gravitational force your body regulates blood pressure. That is why a lot of the exercises mentioned below, as add-ons, incorporate the idea of moving between parallel and perpendicular to the ground.

7 More Effective Fat-Torching Exercises

Side view of man and woman doing exercises with rowing machine at gym.

Here are some other great exercises that I think deserve a mention, in no particular order and are great alternatives if any of the above, are not ideal for you.

  1. Man-Makers. A weighted burpee with rows, pushups and presses added in for total body torture.
  2. Thrusters or Wall Balls. If you can squat, add some weight or a medicine ball to the mix and get the additional overhead pressing involved.
  3. Push-ups. The upper body squat.
  4. Pull-ups. The upper body deadlift.
  5. VersaClimber. The versaclimber claims to have the best EPOC results of any cardio machine on the market.
  6. Rowing. Although this is the only sitting exercise, rowing uses approximately 80% of all the muscles in your body and when done for HIIT or EMOM style workouts, will torch you head to toe.
  7. Swimming. An under-talked-about but extremely safe and effective exercise, if you can swim efficiently and treat it the same as repeat sprints, stairs or the above-mentioned circuit training styles, swimming leaves no muscle group behind. Plus, it includes added resistance in all directions, breath holds, and no joint impact.

What I Mean by "Torching Fat"


The physiological recipe for that is typically the same for each person, prioritizing daily protein intake, water, sleep, and compound resistance training for exercise. Now when we talk about torching fat, certain exercises do it better than others because of their ability to activate multiple major muscle groups, stimulate growth hormone and testosterone production, elevate the heart rate and increase post-exercise oxygen consumption, otherwise known as EPOC, or the rate at which the body burns calories after exercise.

Besides the exercises themselves, the intention behind them matters—doing air squats when you are already a well-conditioned individual isn't going to stimulate your body enough to torch fat but if you're a novice exerciser that is in your 50's, maybe it will. 

Aside from specific exercise movement patterns, how you perform and group exercises can greatly improve the fat-burning results. For example, doing HIIT interval training versus traditional 1 rep max strength training. 

You should learn to use different work-to-rest ratios—TABATA is the most famous, it's a 2:1 ratio, 20 seconds of exercise, 10 seconds of rest, for 8 rounds or 4 minutes. Try others like 1:1, 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of rest, 2:1, 40 seconds of exercise, 20 seconds of rest, etc. The other method that keeps workouts very simple and structured is EMOM—every minute on the minute you perform an exercise or group of exercises, your remaining time left is your rest time, the harder/faster you work, the more rest time you earn. I remember doing a 25-minute EMOM in college for basketball practice, we had to run a full-court ladder or suicide every minute on the minute for 25 minutes straight, I remember feeling like one word, death.

I typically recommend managing your heart rate at about 70-85% of max heart rate. You can use devices like the Apple watch, WHOOP, Oura rings, Garmin watches, myZone straps and more to see how hard you really are working, elevate to about 80-85% and then rest until your back down at 65-70% and repeat.

Lastly, we have to remember that YOU CANNOT spot reduce fat, we lose fat systemically across the body. 

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Final Word From the Trainer

Dillan Foss, ATC
Dillan Foss, ATC

With over a decade in the fitness industry, catering to a diverse clientele ranging from athletes to seniors, the recipe for torching fat is the same, add lean muscle. The key ingredients for achieving that include prioritizing protein intake, hydration, adequate rest, and engaging in compound resistance training. Understanding that spot reduction is a myth, emphasis should be placed on systemic fat loss through compound exercise movements like squats, deadlifts, sprints, step-ups, and kettlebell swings. By incorporating these exercises with intention and consistency, you can torch fat and transform into a leaner and stronger version of yourself.

Dillan Foss is a Board Certified and Licensed Athletic Trainer, and the founder of Limitless Theory, a wellness concierge business rooted in the integrative benefits of sports medicine and dietary and lifestyle interventions.

Dillan Foss, ATC
Dillan Foss is a Board Certified and Licensed Athletic Trainer, and the founder of Limitless Theory. Read more