To set the record straight: It’s true that we tend to expend more calories in the moment while, say, running versus lifting weights, says Laura Miranda, C.S.C.S., a doctor of physical therapy, fitness nutrition specialist, and certified personal trainer. “But weight, or anaerobic, workouts keep our excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or post-workout calorie burn, going from hours to days.”
The reason weight training has such a prolonged calorie-burn effect is because the greater the intensity, the more oxygen your body will need post-workout to recover and repair muscles, explains Miranda. By choosing exercises that ramp up that afterburn effect, “you get more bang for your buck in the long term,” she says. “Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue, so the more of it we have, the more effective we are at burning calories all day long.”
But yeah, which exercises burn the most calories exactly?
These 10 moves are some of the best burners out there—ranked in order of effectiveness,. (FYI: Calorie burn is estimated for a 125-pound person and a 185-pound person, according to guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine. The more you weigh, the more calories you tend to burn on any particular task—but a lot of other factors come into play, too, so this isn’t an exact science.)
Opt for the “bonus burn”—tips from Miranda and New York City-based trainer Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., owner of TS Fitness—to ramp up that afterburn effect even further.
Best Calorie-Burning Exercises
- Jumping Rope
The burn: 667-990 calories/hour (if you’re jumping at 120 skips per minute)
The bonus burn: As it turns out, this little rope is actually a big-time fat burner.
Try using a weighted jump rope to engage your arms and shoulders even more.
(And for a full-body workout challenge, give this calorie-torching jump rope workout, from Carrie Underwood’s trainer. Hint: It helped her score those iconic legs.)
2. Running Up Hill/Stair Sprint
The burn: 639-946 calories/hour
The bonus burn: “You want to sprint at max effort on stairs or a hill at a pace that you can only maintain for about 20 seconds, and follow that with a recovery run at half of the intensity of the sprint and double the time,” says Miranda. The harder you push yourself during those sprints, the greater the EPOC.
The burn: 582-864 calories/hour
The bonus burn: Whether you’re kicking it on your own or in class, make sure you keep the rest periods between rounds of jabs and kicks super short. Aim for 30 seconds of rest for every 90 seconds of sparring.
(Try this boxing workout for the ultimate burn.)
4. Cycling intervals
The burn: 568-841 calories/hour
The bonus burn: Riding at a sustained high intensity will give you a greater EPOC as compared to a steady state ride at a low intensity, says Miranda—but adding high intensity intervals throughout that training time will increase the afterburn even more.
The burn: 566-839 calories/hour (10 min/mile)
The bonus burn: After running at a steady pace, you’ll continue to burn extra calories over the rest of the day. (If that’s not motivation to tackle the treadmill, nothing is).
To torch more during and after your workout, add short bursts of sprints or faster running into your jog, says Tamir. He recommends keeping a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio to get the most afterburn. For example, if you run for 60 seconds, walk 30 seconds.
6. Kettlebell circuit
The burn: 554-822 calories/hour
The bonus burn: Tamir says that a HIIT circuit using kettlebells can keep the afterburn going for 36 hours after you leave the gym. To get the best results, make sure you’re doing a fluid circuit and not stopping to rest between each move. Tamir recommends switching between upper- and lower-body movements so you can keep exercising for a longer period of time. Try doing a set of kettlebell swings, kettlebell squats, and kettlebell push presses. Then, rest for 15 to 20 seconds after completing the three moves.
(Or pick and choose some other moves from the best kettlebell exercises.)
7. Stationary bike
The burn: 498-738 calories/hour (at a vigorous pace)
The bonus burn: To get the most afterburn, Tamir says to start with 10 seconds of intense pedaling (100 RPMs or more) and 50 seconds of rest. Then, move to 15 seconds of sprints and 45 seconds of rest, and do 20 seconds of sprints 40 seconds of rest after that. Don’t forget to turn up the resistance as you progress!
(Or try this metabolism-blasting cycling workout.)
8. Rowing machine
The burn: 481-713 calories/hour (at 150 watts, which you can check on the machine)
(This high-intensity rowing workout will get your heart racing.)
The burn: 452-670 calories/hour (when going 77 steps/minute)
The bonus burn: Whether you’re working the Stair Master or running steps around town, à la Rocky, stair climbing provides a good mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. To up the ante, hold a one- to five-pound dumbbell in each hand to get your upper body fired up, too.The burn: 341-504 calories/hour
10. Strength training
The burn: 341-504 calories/hour
The bonus burn: You’ll increase your afterburn by working your muscles to exhaustion each set instead of stopping at an arbitrary rep range like 10 or 12, says Miranda. And focus on compound movements that employ more muscle groups over more joints. “You’ll skyrocket your EPOC by swapping out exercises like bicep curls for squats, and crunches for cleans,” she says.
This workout for stronger abs is a great way to get started: