- Building muscle and losing fat takes time, but good training leads to speedier results, experts say.
- For efficient workouts, focus on working large muscle groups at once to maximize benefits.
- Skip exercises that target single muscle groups or save them for the end of your workout.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
If you want to lose weight or gain muscle in the few short months before summer, you’re not alone. Personal trainers say it’s now peak season for trying to max out on aesthetic improvements, particularly this year as a return to public life awaits post pandemic.
But gains don’t always happen on a deadline, and spending long hours in the gym can backfire if you’re not prioritizing the right kinds of exercise for your goals.
To make the most of your workouts between now and beach season, these are the most efficient exercises for fat loss and muscle gain, according to experts – as well as some you can skip.
Cut back on cardio and target big muscle groups by lifting weights
Many people looking to get fit fast will turn to long cardio sessions, while steering clear of the weight room – that’s a mistake, according to personal trainer Bryan Goldberg.
“I’ve always been a proponent of doing anaerobic work [resistance training],” he said. “I think people need to get weights in their hands, and that can be three pounds or 36kg.”
Weighted movements like squats, deadlifts, and presses are some of the most efficient calorie-burning exercises because they work multiple muscle groups at once. They can also help you build strength and lean mass as your muscles adapt to the challenge, which can boost your metabolism over time, Noam Tamir, founder and CEO of TS Fitness, told Insider.
That makes them the best bang for your buck in terms of rapid results, he said.
Don’t forget body weight exercises like push-ups, step-ups, and hangs
Whether or not you have access to equipment, you can recruit gravity to assist in your gains by using your own body weight.
Again, focus on working multiple areas of the body at once, Goldberg recommends, with exercises like push-ups that engage the lower body, core, back, and arms.
If you can find a box or sturdy bench or chair, step-ups are a great move for any skill level, he added, incorporating the large muscles of the legs.
Then, for an upper body and core burner, find a stable horizontal bar and practice a dead hang, suspending your body off the ground with the strength of your core and upper body, keeping those muscles tight. This is a great exercise for folks who aren’t quite ready to make the leap into pull-ups, Goldberg said.
Embrace movements you hate, like burpees and split squats
For a burnout at the end of your workout, Goldberg recommends most people’s least favorite exercise: the burpee. Try 50 to 100 of them for a spicy finish to any routine.
The fact that people loathe them is a sign that they’re an effective tool for adding extra intensity to your gym sesh, he said.
“Generally the exercises you don’t like to do because they make you feel uncomfortable, that’s something you should do,” he said.
He also recommends split squats, for the same reason. They have the bonus benefit of helping work and build bigger glutes, a coveted asset for summer fitness.
Bicep curls, tricep pulldowns, and calf raises should be low on your priorities
To make time for all the deadlifts and burpees, you might want to reconsider exercises that only work small muscles, or one body part at a time, according to Tamir.
Popular movements like curls or pull-downs are great if you have time, but you’re not missing much if you omit them, he said, because they don’t elevate the heart rate or burn calories efficiently.
Forget crunches: you can’t spot train areas of the body
Similarly, movements that claim to burn fat from certain body parts are overrated and not evidence based. For example, getting abs requires more than a lot of core work – you also have to eat right and maintain a low body fat, Tamir said.
It’s also possible that too much focus on one muscle group can create an imbalance, increasing your risk of injury, according to Goldberg.
He said this is common with movements like the bench press, beloved by people looking for an impressive set of pecs. These are fine in moderation, but not if you’re neglecting the rest of your body as a result.
“I see it all the time, every day is international bench day. Balance is key,” he said.
Goldberg said people also tend to overwork their glutes and thighs, seeking a larger, more shapely derriere. It’s true that exercising those muscles can help them grow, but endless leg extensions or hip raises aren’t very efficient.
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