3 essential exercises every effective weight-loss program needs

3 essential exercises feature image

We all want that one magic pill or that all-conquering exercise that will deliver immediate weight loss.

Sadly, there aren’t any magic moves or exercise aids that have the power to destroy calories in just three minutes a day, especially if your diet isn’t right… so don’t believe the hype.

More benefit for every rep

There are, however, a handful of exercises that deliver better results than others. This means that if they’re not part of your fat-loss and weight-loss repertoire then you’re missing out on the potential to boost the effectiveness of your training.

To help you get the most from your time in the gym, here are fitness magazine’s top three essential exercises for optimal weight loss.


Weight-loss workout essential #1: The squat

When it comes to weight-based exercise there is one movement that stands head and shoulders above all the others for its ability to burn calories, build shapely muscle, improve strength, and enhance mobility, and that’s the squat.

Why is works

Often referred to as ‘the king of exercises’, the movement is fundamental and essential to everything we do in life. If you sit down in a chair and get up again, you’ve performed a squat. In a nutshell, the squat includes the basic ability to raise and lower your centre of mass. Couple that with its ability to boost strength and flexibility and you have an incredibly functional and intense movement.

The benefits of squatting are:

  • It helps increase bone density,
  • It strengthens core muscles,
  • It allows you to move large loads quickly which has a massive metabolic effect,
  • It prompts a strong neuroendocrine response that releases powerful hormones essential to muscle growth, enhanced strength and accelerated fat loss. This is where squatting delivers its greatest fat-burning effect.

KB swings

Weight-loss workout essential #2: The kettlebell swing

Traditional gym-based weight training often aims to isolate specific muscles to help shape them and add definition. Kettlebells, on the other hand, work all muscles together, and no exercise does so as effectively as the kettlebell swing.

Why it works

The kettlebell swing is a highly effective exercise for anyone who wants to achieve functional strength and fitness as the movement teaches you to generate power from the core, generating force from the hips, legs, back and core stabilisers. It also works to improve mobility, and delivers a full-body workout.

More importantly though, it has the potential to significantly boost calorie expenditure. Research conducted by scientists at the University of Wisconsin, and funded by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), found that the kettlebell’s ability to burn calories is “off the charts”.

After only a 20-minute kettlebell workout research subjects burned an average of 272 calories. Researchers stated this was “equivalent to running a 6-minute mile (1.6km) pace”.

And, in another ACE study, researchers determined that participants were burning at least 20.2 calories per minute, which works out to a staggering 1,200 calories per hour. This makes it one of the most effective exercises, minute for minute, when it comes to burning calories. This response was attributed to the fact that kettlebell training incorporates multiple muscle groups in every exercise.


Weight-loss workout essential #3: Running

The last exercise that we’re confident in suggesting will deliver the fat-loss results you’re after is running, in all its various forms. That’s because it is the one movement the human body was specifically designed to do.

Why it works

Today, running is the biggest mass participation sport in the world, largely due to the low barriers to entry and the fact that almost everybody can do it.

It is also the most effective way to improve general fitness, including your heart and lung function. It reduces stress, improves your mood, and can make you more efficient at almost everything you do.

It is also one of the most efficient and effective forms of cardiovascular exercise there is in terms of calories burnt per hour.

Running at an average pace of just under 5min/km can burn up to 900 calories in one hour, depending on your weight, the type of route you are running and other environmental factors.

When it is performed at the right intensity, for the right duration, and in ideal conditions, it also has the power to incinerate body fat.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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