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Top 5 Fat Burning Exercise Programs

In the past, people mainly used two ways to exercise: spot or strength training (whether floor exercises, free weights or machines) and aerobic or cardio workouts. I remember all the special VHS tapes coming out with the new aerobic crazes, then toning options for each and every part of your body. Along came DVD, and the same old craze continued. Sure, they spiced it up with dancing, belly dancing and self-defense style workouts, but still the same thing. Did that work? If so, why is the obesity rate in the United States even higher than before? Take a brief look at the methods.

Spot Training/Strength Training. Many people believe that if you work on the area that is troubling you, you will get results. If they needed to lose belly fat, they would do tons of crunches. For one thing, spot training does not use enough calories to burn fat. Second, fat loss cannot be obtained in just a specific area, your body reduces fat all over1. Strength training may tone or build muscle, but like spot training, it does not use enough calories to burn fat. So you may have some nicely toned muscles, but they will still be hidden under a layer of fat.

Aerobic/Cardio Workouts. Aerobic workouts are considered those that increase your heart rate, are of a longer duration and work the major muscle groups. These include power walking, jogging, dancing, cycling, treadmill, elliptical machine, belly dancing, etc. The problem with aerobic workouts is that repetition of long duration can cause muscle strains and injuries. The body actually burns carbohydrates first before it can begin to reach into the fat stored in your cells2. It would take a long workout to start being able to burn fat. Also, our bodies adjust to the same workout over time, adjusting metabolism which slows fat burning benefits.

5. Cardio with Strength Training. It has become common for fat burning and weight-loss programs to use both aerobic with strength training exercises for maximum benefit by alternating aerobics one day and strength training the next. Contrary to what adherents to this method believe, even though you now have both workouts, by separating the two types of exercise, you are still not getting full fat-burning benefits. Remember, your body will burn sugars and carbohydrates first before it will begin to burn fat2. Strength training seems to be better at burning carbohydrates. While aerobics is really the only way to burn fat, you have to burn your carbohydrates first before you get any fat burning benefits.

4. Intense Strength Training Followed by Cardio. The idea behind this is you burn your carbohydrates off with the strength training first, then you can get immediate fat-burning benefits when you do your aerobics. Using cardio first could drain your stamina and give you a less than ideal strength training workout. A problem for this method is that women tend to use lighter weights for fear of “bulking up” or gaining too much muscle. This is very unlikely as women do not have enough testosterone in their bodies to gain too much muscle from balanced workouts. Women actually need to increase the intensity of the strength training to get the most fat burning benefits.

3. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This idea uses aerobics or cardio, but switches up the burn level which is supposed to help you burn more fat. It is supposed to keep your body guessing and not let it adjust to a certain caloric burn7. Interval training usually uses a 2:1 ratio. You start with a moderate intensity level of the cardio activity of your choice for a selected amount of time, then you pump it up to an intense level for half that time, then back to the moderate level and so on. For example, you start with power walking for 2 minutes, jog for 1 minute, then go back to power walking for 2 minutes. This cycle goes on for at least 20 minutes. More advanced interval training switches up the types of aerobic activity as well, so you may have 3 or 4 different activities at varying levels going back and forth amongst them.

2. Circuit Training. Strength exercises are performed back to back to give an element of cardio. Exercises jump back and and forth between different muscle groups to keep the burn of calories going without your body having time to adjust.

1. HIIT/Circuit Training Combination Programs. These programs are the best because they appear to give you the best of these workouts. They combine strength circuits interspersed with varying levels of cardio (interval) to give maximum fat burning results.

This is the category that would best describe the previously mentioned for-sale workouts. However, there are some drawbacks. First off, the $39.95 price tag. Unless you are going to replace a gym membership or payment to a personal trainer, if you are like me, you do not have an extra $40 to buy an ebook exercise program, no matter how good it may turn out to be. Second, these ebooks are mentioned to be several hundred pages long. I already have to fit time in for my fat burning workout, how am I going to read so much too? Third, at least two of these (“Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle” and “Melt the Fat”) put a massive amount of emphasis on what you eat according to their ad sites. I have already lost all the weight I can by changing my eating habits to a balanced healthy diet, now I want to work out.

What to Do?

When I first went back to college, I was training to be a Physical Education Instructor. I figured I know enough about aerobics and strength training, plus being decent in theory across all curriculum, to be able to do something. (Not to mention all the various workout programs I’ve tried in the past).

By incorporating the guidelines listed above, you can create your own Combination Fat Burning Exercise Program. Choose the methodology you would like to try. I’m choosing the combination interval/circuit. The following sites offer free or low-cost membership to access the special features of their sites:

-freeworkoutsguide.com8: This site offers free exercise routines in a variety of styles including circuit and boot camp. They give you written and picture descriptions of the exercises you need to do in what order and repetitions. Many of these routines require no equipment.

From the home page on the left choose “Workout Programs. From the main article, choose “At Home Weight Loss Workout Plans”. Choose “Weight Loss Boot Camp Workout. This requires a stationary bike, an elliptical and a stability ball. However, you can do whatever cardio you have on hand, such as stairs, or alternating marching and joggin in place. For this set, you can actually use a chair instead of the stability ball, decent enough.

This is decent for a preplanned routine, especially for someone who doesn’t yet want to develop their own workout.

-Exercise4WeightLoss9: Similar to freeworkoutsguide.com, but just gives you the name of the exercise with written descriptions. Plus you get a BMI calculator and a target heart rate calculator (which is important during any cardio styled exercise), among others.

From the home page, select “Workout Routines” from the tab at the left. In the article, choose “Circuit I” (this will also give you “Circuit II”). These require resistance bands, but you can do these without resistance. I would repeat Circuit I before cooling down if you only choose to do the one circuit. If choosing both, repeat Circuit I before continuing, then repeating, CIrcuit II.

Pretty good at incorporating both cardio and strength. Another good option for someone wanting a preplanned routine with minimal adjustment.

-SparkPeople10: This site is free to join. There are lots of articles on all aspects of health and fitness, plus lots of exercises with descriptions and picture demonstrations. If you have them set up your weekly workout, they will alternate strength training days with cardio days, but you can change this. You can let them keep track of your weight loss and just about any other goal you want. There is a variety of exercises to choose from, and many do not require the use of equipment.

From the home page, select the “Healthy Lifestyle” tab. Then select the “Fitness” tab. Go down and click on the “Workout Generator”. Answer a short questionnaire, then click “Next”. There are many workouts to choose from. Many of these are just strength exercises only. For example, choose the “15 Minute Basic Workout”. There are 4 exercises. What I would do is add short bursts of cardio before, during and after this set, then repeat it to make it a circuit. Then I would select another option, such as the “20 Minute Mat Workout”, with addes cardio and a repeat as my second circuit.

From the fitness page, you can select “Exercise Demos” to view other exercises to use instead of ones that require equipment you may not have. Very similar to the sites listed above, but you can also make your own fitness routine.

-FitClick11. Another free to join site. You have to sign up though to use the site. You can choose some routines, and swap exercises they suggest for you. Includes written and picture demonstrations, plus an anatomical diagram showing primary and secondary muscles worked.

You can choose to use your own workout with FitClick or let them make one for you. If you are going for the 3 days of workout with a day of rest in between, make your own. Also, they will give you days with just cardio in their routines. It is a lot of work to either make your own workout or change what they give you, but if you know what you want out of a workout, this is the place to be. There are such a variety of exercises for each muscle group, and a variety of cardio. If you are looking for just interval & strength combo, you have too many changes to make here. They put the cardio before the strength training, then a big block of strength. You have to create your own circuits.

For those who want preplanned routines, or a routine with minimal changes, it would probably be best to choose one of the above three sites.

-Train With Me Online12: This site is requires a subscription fee of $4.99 per month, but is a step up from the others. There are many more exercises, more preplanned routines and even some exercise programs already set up. The sessions vary for each day you do them to keep it interesting and prevent your body from anticipating and adjusting. There is also a diet and nutrition calculator. And, you can download hundreds of video exercises to your iPod or computer and even print out the routines. You can also contact the onine personal trainer who claims to respond within 24 hours. Pretty cool.

After signing up, choose “Workout Routines” from the left. Above the descriptions, select the circle by the green box to display only beginner exercises. The first 2 pages use the least equipment. There is one routine that uses no equipment.

If you find a routine you like that uses equipment you don’t have, remember the name of the exercise, for example “Ball Squats”. Choose “Exercise Library” from the left, then choose “Stability Ball Exercises”. In the descriptions, view “Ball Squats”. Scroll to the bottom to see a list of alternatives, some of which do not use equipment. Don’t forget to add some cardio between or during circuits for maximum fat burning.

You can use their routines as a guide to create your own workout that you can print. This takes time, and you need to know what you want.

Although there are quite a few exercises available that require no equipment, most of these require at least basic equipment.

Some tips to starting your own fat burning exercise program:

-Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

-Pick a time of day that you can stick with to make it a habit. Although morning workouts are better, as you have less carbohydrates to burn before getting to the fat burning, you will still get fat burning benefits no matter what time of day you choose. The important thing is to stick with it and keep it regular.

-It is best to make your workout at least ½ hour to maximize the fat burning benefits.

-Always warm up your muscles before beginning your workout with about 5 minutes of light cardio.

-Stretching should be done after your workout rather than before. Muscles need to be warmed up to stretch properly to prevent strain and injury. This is also a good way to cool down after your routine.

-When doing intervals, the moderate interval should be within 60% – 65% of your target heart rate, with the intense interval being between 80% – 90% of your target heart rate. You can calculate your target heart rate zone easily at Exercise4WeightLoss9.

-To prevent plateaus, change up your routine. Our bodies will usually adjust to a certain workout in 2 – 6 weeks (longest for beginners).

-Don’t forget to include both aerobic and strength training in your workouts for maximum fat burning potential.

To get even more out of your fat burning workout, you should at least purchase the most basic equipment. This includes either a heart rate monitor or a watch with a second hand (for checking your heart rate), a stopwatch or timer for intervals or circuits, and one or more of the following: a set of dumbbells, a set of bands and a stability ball. If you have checked out the above sites and find exercises you think you would like, purchase the needed equipment as necessary. However, you will be able to find enough exercises that utilize the basic equipment listed.


1 Workouts for Women, Inc.; Spot Reduction Is for the Laundry ; www.workoutsforwomen.com

2 Tony Leong; Three Easy Steps to Get Into Weight Loss Mode and Burn More Fat; www.buzzle.com

3 Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS, Oxygen Mag Training Advisor; Turbulence Training; www.turbulencetraining.com

4 Tom Venuto; Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle; www.burnthefat.com

5 Lynn VanDyke; Melt the Fat ; www.strength-training-woman.com/melt-the-fat.html

6 Shin Ohtake; MaxWorkouts: The Secrets to Getting an Ultra Lean, Defined Physique; www.maxworkouts.com

7 Kasha Deveine; Ban the Treadmill! The Role of Cardio Exercise in Losing Weight and Burning Fat; ezinearticles.com

8 freeworkoutsguide.com; Free Workoutsand Online Fitness Programs to Burn Fat & Look Great; www.freeworkoutsguide.com

9 Exercise4WeightLoss; Exercise for Weight Loss; www.exercise4weightloss.com

10SparkPeople; Lose Weight. Get Fit. Look and Feel Great!; www.sparkpeople.com

11 FitClick; FitClick; www.fitclick.com

12 Train With Me Online; Train With Me Online; www.trainwithmeonline.com