7 fast fat burning exercises

Ever grabbed a chunk of your flesh and lamented, “How do I get rid of this?” As a fitness trainer, it’s one of the questions I get most from women. And invariably it’s about our soft tummy or hips, wobbly upper arms, thick thighs, widening bum – or all of the above.

First you should know it’s not possible to work just one body part and expect to magically transform it. “A thousand leg lifts aren’t going to get rid of the fat on your thighs, and a tonne of crunches won’t get rid of your tummy pouch,” says personal trainer Sherri McMillan.

Here’s why: “Let’s say you’re doing those leg lifts,” says McMillan. “Your muscles cry out for energy.” One source is your carbohydrate stores and the other is fat. Fat is mobilised from anywhere in the body and routed through the liver to its destination. “So doing leg lifts doesn’t mean you’re burning leg fat specifically – in fact, for most women the fat in our legs is very slow to mobilise, so will probably be the last to be utilised.”

But you can do something about your trouble spots, and the keys are a healthy diet and consistent cardio. For someone wanting to get lean and toned, the role of cardio is critical to mobilise fat that overlays muscle. And it’s important to do different activities: long, slow cardio sessions (walking, cycling) and hard, fast routines (spin class, interval training).

“This is the fastest way to get fit and become efficient at using fat as a fuel,” says McMillan. The fat will vanish, and the consistent cardio allows you to target areas to tone specific muscles. “Once you start to work a body part – say, the upper arm – with targeted exercises, you’ll be amazed at the results.”

So what are you waiting for?



– A kitchen chair

– A mat or towel

– A pair of dumbbells (1 to 4 kilos)

– A watch or timer that counts seconds (optional)


Do light cardio for five minutes: Walk or jog on the spot or walk up and down a set of stairs.

Since you’ll be doing our targeted muscle-toning programme two to three times a week, on the days in between you should do cardio exercises. (And, one day a week, rest.) “If you really want to lose weight, it’s necessary to do 40 to 60 minutes of cardio in your target heart range,” says physiotherapist Angela Pereira. Do cardio programs at different intensities. For example, if you work out at the gym, you might walk on the treadmill at 70% of your maximum heart rate; another time you might try a high-intensity dance class. If you’re not a gym person, your cardio might be a brisk walk or a run one day; then increase the intensity the next time by walking or running at that same brisk speed, but add some hills.


Each exercise targets at least three “trouble spots”. From warm-up to cool-down, this workout should take 30 to 45 minutes. For best results, do the workout two to three times a week. Each time, here’s what to do: Remember to challenge yourself – if the hand weights are too light, go heavier!

1. Complete one set of ten repetitions of these seven exercises.

2. Do one minute of cardio between exercises, such as jogging on the spot, jumping jacks or skipping. For a fun cardio blast, roll up a towel and place it on the fl oor – then hop over the towel with one or both feet for a minute.

3. Repeat the circuit depending on your fi tness level: beginners should do the circuit once, and add another circuit after three to four weeks; if you already exercise moderately, do the circuit twice (or more if you can).

Each exercise targets at least three “trouble spots”. From warm-up to cool-down, this workout should take 30 to 45 minutes. For best results, do the workout two to three times a week. Each time, here’s what to do:


Works: hips, glutes, thighs, triceps and core

A. Stand over a kitchen chair with feet more than shoulderwidth apart, toes angled out. With one dumbbell in each hand, straighten both arms overhead, hands facing each other, upper arms hugging head. (For proper form throughout this move, engage your core by keeping your back neutral and pulling in your belly button.)

B. (Pictured) Looking straight ahead, drop your tailbone towards the chair, hovering over it in a deep squat (be careful your knees do not go beyond your toes). As you lower yourself, bend your elbows fully behind you.

C. Straighten legs, squeezing your glutes and inner thighs as you stand up. Simultaneously straighten your arms overhead, engaging triceps. Do ten reps.


Works: glutes, hamstrings, triceps and shoulders

A. Lie on your back on the mat, feet on the fl oor with knees bent; cross your right foot over your left knee, pressing right knee wide out. Take a dumbbell in your right hand and extend your arm straight up to ceiling.

B. (Pictured) Pressing your left foot into the floor, lift your hips and tighten your glutes at the top of the movement – your right leg will act as resistance. As you lift your glutes, slowly lower the dumbbell toward your forehead, bending your arm at the elbow.

C. Lower glutes back to the fl oor, and straighten right arm back toward the ceiling, keeping elbow in line with shoulder. Do ten reps. Switch legs and arms.


Works: core, chest, triceps and hips

A. Get on hands and knees, and walk your hands out to a push-up position. Straighten your legs so you are now in a plank or push-up stance.

B. (Pictured) Keeping your glutes down, slowly draw your left knee up the outside of your body, taking it out toward your left elbow – in “spiderwoman” style. Your left foot should hover a few centimetres above the floor.

C. Lower your left leg back down, bringing feet together; switch sides. Complete ten repetitions with each leg.


Works: glutes, hips, triceps and core

A. Start with your feet together, one dumbbell in each hand, arms at your sides. Lunge your left leg back, dropping your knee so shin is parallel with the floor, and bend elbows to 90 degrees.

B. Balance on right leg (pictured), stand tall and lift left leg behind you in “aeroplane pose”– with your leg extended in the air straight from the hip; squeeze glute. As you extend left leg, bring bent elbows up, tucked by your side. Straighten your arms behind you into a “triceps kickback”. Pause for a second.

C. Bend arms back in, return to standing. Do ten reps. Switch sides.


Works: core, obliques, triceps and hips

A. Lie on your back, one weight in each hand. Raise your knees so that your feet and knees are in the air (reverse tabletop position). Straighten arms to the ceiling.

B. (Pictured) Extend left leg towards the fl oor, so it hovers a few centimetres above the floor, while drawing right knee to chest and bringing elbows down to fl oor, pressed tight to sides.

C. Return to starting position. Do ten reps. Switch sides.


Works: glutes, hamstrings, chest and triceps

A. On your hands and knees, walk hands out slightly in front, arms parallel, shoulder-width apart. Bend your left leg up and behind you at 90 degrees. Press heel up for three pulses.

B. (Pictured) Straighten leg in line with body, and lower your upper body into a push-up. Bend your heel back towards your glute in a “mule kick”.

C. Return to starting position. Do ten reps. Switch sides.


Works: thighs, hips and obliques

A. Lie on your right side, right knee bent at 90 degrees, left leg extended straight. Pulse left leg up about 30cm towards the ceiling for three counts. Repeat ten times.

B. (Pictured) As you bring your left leg back down, parallel to floor, lift your hips up towards ceiling (supported by your right elbow and knee) so you are in a side plank; hold for 30 seconds.

C. Return to starting position. Do ten reps. Switch sides.

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