If you’re looking to transform your body, there's a good chance that you’re looking to lose some fat.
Even though it’s an incredibly common goal, how to train to lose fat can often be shrouded in a cloud of marketing and trendy workouts.
In this guide, we’ll try to fix that and explain exactly what you need to do in any workout plan in order to maximize fat loss. We’ll cover what kinds of training leads to burning the most fat, the role of nutrition, and even cover some frequently asked questions.
Welcome to the Ultimate Fat Loss Training Guide!
Table of Contents
The Basics of Fat Loss
First, we’ll go over what happens in your body for fat loss to occur.
To lose body fat, you first have to take in less calories than you burn. This puts your body in a caloric deficit, meaning it has to find energy from a source other than the food you take in. We explain this in more detail in our Basics of Nutrition article, but we’ll briefly summarize what you need to know here.
Since you are not providing energy from an outside source (food), your body is forced to convert something of its own for energy in order to function. That will typically be either fat or muscle.
You’ll want to train in a way that tells your body to burn fat, and preserve muscle. This will maximize fat loss. If you’ve been working hard in the gym to build that muscle, you don’t want your hard work to go to waste as soon as you try to start dieting!
We’ll explain how to do just that in this next section, and how to turn your body into a fat loss machine with the right training plan.
Training for Fat Loss
As we mentioned, you want to train in a way that helps you lose weight, and makes sure that the weight you lose is fat.
One great way to accomplish this is to incorporate resistance training and aerobic training (cardio) into your fitness program.
We’ll break down both of those styles of training here, and how they can maximize fat loss.
Resistance training is another way of saying training with weights, resistance bands, or some form of extra resistance.
Multiple studies show that resistance training is a great way to tell your body to not burn muscles while you’re losing weight.
So to retain muscle, you want to stick to a resistance training plan that hits as many muscle groups as possible. With the right training plan, studies show that untrained individuals can even grow muscle while losing fat!
If you’re wondering how to create that sort of of resistance training plan, you can check out our Ultimate Muscle Growth Training Guide, but we’ll quickly summarize the basics here:
- Try to keep your intensity, or how heavy you lift, in the range of 60-80% of your one rep maximum.
- The ideal weekly volume, or how many reps of any given exercise you perform per week, is in the 60-80 repetitions range when it comes to muscle growth and retention.
- You want your frequency, or how often you perform an exercise per week, to be 2-3 times per week for optimal muscle growth and retention.
- You also want to perform a variety of exercise types in your workouts, such as
- Compound and isolation exercises
- Unilateral and bilateral exercises
- Free weight and machine exercises
For more detail go ahead and check out our Ultimate Muscle Growth Training Guide!
As you are losing weight, you want to make sure all of your lifts are either maintaining strength or going up to ensure you aren’t losing any strength or muscle while losing fat.
So if you were benching 100 pounds for 6 reps before you started dieting and losing weight, you would want to make sure that you keep benching 100 pounds for 6 reps as you lost weight.
The only downside to resistance training when it comes to fat loss is that it does not burn as many calories as other types of exercise (such as running).
While how many calories you burn will vary based on what exercises you choose, in a typical 1 hour resistance training session, you’ll burn around 300 calories, or the equivalent of one donut.
Knowing that, you’ll want to combine resistance training with the type of exercise that does burn lots of calories: cardiovascular exercise.
Aerobic exercise is a type of exercise that relies on oxygen in your bloodstream. This type of exercise typically gets your heart rate up, and on average, burns more calories than resistance training.
Knowing this, aerobic exercise is perfect to add before or after your resistance training in order to burn extra calories and make it easier to stay in a caloric deficit!
It’s important to note that research has shown aerobic training before resistance training can compromise your lifts. So, keep any rigorous cardio for the end of your workout if you don’t want your lifts to suffer.
Here are some of our favorite aerobic exercises that will help you to burn lots of calories in a short amount of time!
Walking is one of the easiest aerobic exercises you can use to burn calories. How many calories you burn while walking will depend on how heavy you are and how fast you walk, but a 150 pound person burns around 75 calories walking for just half an hour.
To see how many calories you could burn walking, you can check out this calculator!
That means a leisurely walk around the neighborhood could make a sizeable dent in your calories burnt during the day!
Running is also a terrific way to burn extra calories. Of course, you’ll burn even more calories running than you do walking. How many calories you burn while running will depend on how heavy you are and how fast you walk, but a 150 pound person burns around 450 calories running for just half an hour.
To see how many calories you could burn running, you can check out this calculator!
That means a quick jog on the treadmill before or after your workout could afford you much more wiggle room in your fat loss diet!
High Intensity Interval Training
High intensity interval training is another fantastic way to burn calories.
HIIT workouts generally combine short bursts of intense exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. This can sometimes include resistance training, so you can use HIIT training to burn calories and retain muscle at the same time.
How many calories you burn while HIIT training will depend on how heavy you are and what exercises you choose, but a 150 pound person burns around 250 calories while exercising with HIIT for just half an hour.
While it may not be as much as a more “pure” form of cardio like running, HIIT training is a great way to burn calories and maintain muscle simultaneously if you’re crunched for time.
Biking is another great way to burn extra calories, and can be much easier on the joints than something like running. How many calories you burn while biking will depend on how heavy you are and how fast you bike, but a 150 pound person burns around 250 calories biking for just half an hour.
To see how many calories you would burn biking, you can use this calculator!
For more information on biking, feel free to check out our more in depth article on biking for fitness and exercise.
Jumping rope is yet another great way to burn calories.
Since you can do it just about anywhere, it is relatively low impact, it can also make for a great warmup for a workout. Jumping rope is also great for building coordination and timing throughout your body.
How many calories you burn while biking will depend on how heavy you are and how quickly you skip rope, but a 150 pound person burns around 400 calories jumping rope for just half an hour.
You can use this calculator to see how many calories you would burn jumping rope.
For more information on jumping rope, check our guide on the Floyd Mayweather style of jumping rope..
Swimming also makes for a great way to burn calories and keep you in a caloric deficit. Swimming also comes with numerous benefits, such as increased lung capacity, while being easy on the joints.
Like the other exercises, how many calories you burn will depend on your weight and technique, but to give you an idea, a 150 pound person would burn around 400 calories working on their backstroke for an hour.
You can use this calculator to find how many calories you would burn swimming!
For more information on swimming, check out our in more depth post on swimming for fitness and fat loss.
Nutrition and Fat Loss
While training can help your body to retain muscle and burn extra calories, the truth is your diet is going to be the more important factor when it comes to how much fat you lose.
If you eat the right way, you can help your body to retain your muscle and lose as much fat as possible. We cover all of this in our Ultimate Fat Loss Nutrition Guide, but we’ll summarize the basics here:
- Take in 200-500 fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis. This will lead to one pound of weight loss per week.
- Eat 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of your own weight every day. This will ensure you retain as much muscle as possible (along with the right training plan) while you lose fat.
Be sure to give our Ultimate Fat Loss Nutrition Guide a read for more details.
That concludes our Ultimate Fat Loss Training Guide! In this guide, we covered:
- Resistance training is the best way to preserve muscle while losing weight, which helps you burn just fat.
- Aerobic training burns more calories than resistance training, so it is perfect to add to a resistance training plan in order to burn extra calories and stay in a caloric deficit.
- Nutrition will always make a bigger impact on fat loss, so be sure to check out our Ultimate Fat Loss Nutrition Guide.
With the information in this guide, you should now know exactly how to design your training plan to maximize fat loss and achieve your ideal physique!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you burn fat just with resistance training/lifting?
Absolutely! While working aerobic exercise into your routine will help you burn a few extra hundred calories (leaving room for that donut that's calling your name), it is not necessary to maximize your fat loss.
Resistance training will burn calories and help you retain muscle, you just won’t burn the extra calories if you skip your cardio.
Can you burn fat just with aerobic training/cardio?
Absolutely! If you were to just incorporate aerobic training/cardio into your routine and stick to a high protein diet that puts you in a caloric deficit, you would still lose more fat than muscle.
With that said, studies have clearly shown that you retain more muscle if you incorporate some sort of resistance training, so resistance training is highly encouraged if you want to burn as much fat as possible.
References and Useful Research