Strength training plays a small role but vital role when it comes to fat loss. But don’t tell that to all the people hitting the gym this new year thinking they will outtrain a bad diet. The king of fat loss is a caloric deficit. The quantity and the quality of what you eat is the most important thing.

When training with fat loss in mind, your main focuses are nutrition and then training to support your fat loss. Retaining muscle while trying to build muscle and burn calories should be your focus when training for fat loss. But none of this works if you’re not in a caloric deficit.

Most good strength-training exercises will support you in building muscle and burning fat. But there are factors that make exercise more effective for fat loss. And here are those factors.

What makes an exercise more fat-loss friendly?

When training for fat loss you need strength-training exercises that meet one or more of the following criteria for it to be more effective.

  • Compound movements: In other words, exercises that train more than one muscle group. Examples of this are squats (quads, glutes, hamstrings, core) and rows (forearms, biceps, and back). The more muscles you have in play while training, the better for your calorie burn and muscle build.
  • Up/down/down/up movements: One of the hardest physical things we do is getting up from the ground and getting down to the ground, Up/down/down up exercises are great for fat loss because they are compound, self-limiting movements (more on this later), and they will get your heart rate up. Some examples are Turkish getups, squats, and pushups.
  • Self-limiting movements: Exercises that have a starting and stopping point because one or more body parts will say enough is enough. Self-limiting movements are not like going for a walk, or a leisurely bike ride. These demand your total attention and are great for fat loss because they’re compound moves that will have you sucking in air. Examples include squats, kettlebell swings, and farmers’ carries.
  • Standing up: Sitting too much has been compared to smoking and this is a little harsh. But this much we do know, too much sitting is bad for your health and fat loss This study by Carrie Schmitz claims that if a person stood instead of sitting for an extra three hours a day, they could burn over 30,000 calories (around 8 pounds of fat) in the course of a year. Standing while lifting trains your balance, core stability, and the small stabilizing muscles that keep you upright. This means more fat burning for you.
Bodybuilder Core - Six Pack Abs

10 Fat-Loss Rules: Fact or Fiction?

The truth about 10 common bodybuilding nutritional assumptions.

Read article

4 Best Fat-loss Exercises

With many exercises to choose from here are four exercises that meet two or more of the above criteria so you will get more fat-burning bang for your fat-loss buck.

Now let’s get to work!

1. Kettlebell swing

Once used as counterweights in Russian markets in the 1700s, it was soon discovered that moving the kettlebells around is really hard work — it’s also a great way to get your heart rate up. The kettlebell swing works your posteriorchain muscles in a powerful joint-friendly fashion and tests your grip and cardio endurance. It is arguably the king of all fat-loss exercises.

  • Muscles trained: Forearms, wrists, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back
  • Fat-loss criteria: Compound, self-limiting exercise which is performed standing up.

How to do it: Place your feet wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed forward, and the kettlebell around 12 to 18 inches in front of you. Hinge at the waist and load your hips and hamstrings. Grab the kettlebell with both hands keeping your back flat. Engage the lats and hike the kettlebell between your legs. Aggressively swing the kettlebell forward by using the pre-loaded hips and hamstrings and straighten the knees until you’re in an upright posture. Use your hips to swing the kettlebell up and not your shoulders and arms.

Programming suggestions: There are several ways to program swings for fat loss. Performing it for time like 15 seconds work 30 seconds rest or 30 seconds work 60 seconds rest for six to 10 rounds works well. Pairing it with pushups is awesome as well. Here are a few examples:

  • 20 seconds of kettlebell swings
  • 6 pushups
  • Rest the rest of the minute.
  • Do this for 10 to 20 minutes or as many rounds as possible.
  • 20 swings, 10 pushups, then rest the remainder of the minute
  • 20 swings, 9 pushups, rest, continue to 1 pushup.

2. Farmer’s Carry

It seems too good to be true: Carry weights in your hand for time or distance to lose fat. But the basic two-handed carry and all its variations work almost every muscle from head to toe and will strengthen your grip, shoulders, improve posture, and your cardiovascular conditioning. Your body is subjected to huge time under tension for better calorie and fat-burning potential.

  • Muscles trained: Forearms, shoulders, upper back, lower back, and glutes, just to name a few.
  • Fat-loss criteria: It’s a compound, self-limiting exercise that is performed standing up.

How to do it: Start with a weight that’s between about 25 to 50 percent of your body weight in each hand. Pick up the weight, crush the handle and walk slowly in a straight line for time or distance, putting one foot in front of the other. Keep your shoulders down and chest up the entire time.

Programming suggestions: Pairing carries with an exercise that doesn’t demand grip strength like a pushup or bench press works well. For example:

  • 1A. Pushups
  • 1B. Carry variation: 40 yards
  • Start at 10 pushups and go down by one rep each round until you get to one.

Note: You can substitute dumbbell/kettlebell squat variation for pushups using the same rep range.

3. Turkish Getup

As previously mentioned, getting up and down to the ground is hard. Now add weight and reps and you have the Turkish getup. Turkish getups train strength, mobility, and burns fat. Getting up and down from the ground using multiple upper and lower body muscles drives up your heart rate and burns a ton of calories.

  • Muscles trained: Forearms, shoulders, abdominals, obliques, upper back, glutes, quads, and hamstrings
  • Fat-loss criteria: It covers all four of the criteria above.

How to do it: Laying with your back flat on the ground, put your right foot on the ground and slide your left leg out at 45 degrees and do the same for your left arm. Raise your right arm up directly above the shoulder holding a weight with your wrist in neutral. Push your right shoulder into the ground and roll to your left side, raising your right hip and pushing your left elbow down to get up. Straighten your left arm and sweep the left leg underneath you until you’re in the half-kneeling position. Sit up and push your right foot through the floor to stand up and reverse to get back to the starting position.

Programming suggestions: Performing it for reps and set as part of your usual strength training works great. But doing it for time, switching sides every rep will improve your conditioning and burn fat too. Do as many reps as possible with a weight that allows for good form for 10 to 15 minutes.


Pushups are often overlooked because they are either too easy or boring to the hardcore gym-goer. But with tons of variations and the ability to do a lot of reps for more volume, muscle growth, and fat-burning potential, push-ups should be never overlooked. Pushups by themselves are great but the real fat-loss magic happens when you pair them with other exercises like swings and carries.

  • Muscles trained: Triceps, shoulders, chest, core, and glutes
  • Fat-loss criteria: It’s a compound, self-limiting exercise that involves going up and down from the ground.

How to do it: Get into a solid plank position, with your hands underneath your shoulders, back flat, and feet together. Screw your palms into the ground and engage your glutes to keep your back neutral. Then slowly lower yourself to the ground until your chest is about an inch from the floor. And drive back up through the palms of your hands.

Programming Suggestions:

  • 20 seconds of kettlebell swings
  • 6 pushups
  • Rest the rest of the minute.
  • Do this for 10 to 20 minutes or until you collapse in a heap.
  • 20 swings, 10 pushups, rest the remainder of the minute
  • 20 swings, 9 pushups, rest
  • and down to 20 swings, 1 pushup


  • 1A. Pushups
  • 1B. Carry variation: 40 yards
  • Start at 10 pushups and go down by one rep each round until you get to one.

The 6-Week Meal Plan for Fat Loss

Take your fat-burning to the max with a meal plan that works with your training.

Read article