4 Must-Do Exercises for Weight Loss

Fitness, Healthy Living, Lifestyle, Training Advice, Training Tips

By: // October 1, 2018

Whenever I talk to beginner exercises or people who are coming back after a long break and want to lose weight, they say to me, “I’m just going to start with cardio and once I lose weight I’ll begin strength training.”

I totally understand that the idea of doing it all at once can be overwhelming, but strength training is not only a huge part of losing weight and feeling healthy—it’s the KEY. Best of all, it’s easier than you might think, and often requires just your own bodyweight.

4 Strength Training Exercises for Weight Loss

Don’t get me wrong … I’m a huge fan of cardio! I love the way it makes me feel and I love the satisfaction of seeing how many calories I’ve burned, how many steps I’ve taken and what zone I’ve been training in.

But when it comes to long-term weight loss and definition: STRENGTH TRAINING RULES!

Muscle is more metabolically active than body fat.  In other words, muscle burns more calories per day at a resting heart rate than body fat. Thus, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns daily.

In addition, muscle is more compact (dense) than body fat, and helps to give your body that sculpted, toned look.

No matter what your goals are, strength training is an important component of your exercise program, and it’s never too late to start.

First things first: utilize your own bodyweight!

These four strength training exercises are some of the most effective bodyweight moves around and require ZERO equipment. They’ll help you build muscle, lose weight, and feel better than ever. Here they are:

1. Push-Ups

Why Push-Ups Are Important

Push-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises ever invented, they require zero equipment, build strength in all of the right places, have many variations to keep things fresh, and are easy to modify and track progress. You can burn calories working multiple muscle groups and shape your body at the same time.

How To Do A Push-Up

When it comes to push-ups, your form is crucial. Each push-up needs to be a full range of motion.

If you only go half way down or push your butt up in the air for several reps, you shouldn’t count them. Sounds harsh? Well, cheating never gets you ahead. Here’s how to do a proper push-up:

  • Set your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, hands facing forward.
  • Set your feet directly behind you at a comfortable position (together or slightly separated). The further apart your feet are, the more stable you will be until you are able to build your balance up enough to put your feet together.
  • Make your body into on straight line from the top of your head down through your heels. Your butt should stay in line with your legs and back, never up in the air. Your abs engaged and your shoulders over your wrists. (Basically a full body plank position.) Keep your neck neutral, don’t drop your head or crank it back.
  • With your arms straight, glutes and abs contracted, slowly lower your body until your chest touches the ground, or arms are at approx. a 90-degree angle, and push yourself back into your starting position. Try to keep your core body steady. Don’t sag through the low back or push your butt way up in the air.

2. Squats

A fitness trainer doing squats

Squat Form

Why Squats Are Important

Be proud of your buns! When women ask me the best way to firm their butts and tone their legs… I tell them to get their squat on! You need those glute muscles to do lots of everyday activities.

Squats also improve the mobility in your hips, legs and upper back. And as you get older, the strength and stability you develop from squats can help you out of a chair, reach for something on the floor, or simply prevent injury.

How To Do A Squat

  • Drop and squat. Take an athletic, wide stance, point your toes outward slightly and sit back. Your butt should protrude out like you are sitting down in an invisible chair. Stay steady and strong as you squat deeper and try to keep your heels on the ground. The wider you put your feet the more it works your glutes and hamstrings (the back of your legs) and the easier it will be for you to stay stable. If your feet are a little closer, you will work your quadriceps a little more intensely (the front part of your thighs).
  • Make sure your knees track over your toes. Don’t let your knees cave in to the center, engage your inner thighs and quads.
  • Keep your chest lifted, shoulders down, abs tight. Make sure your spine is in proper alignment. Make sure you aren’t arching your back or scrunching your shoulders up around your neck. Pull your belly to your spine and contract your abs.
  • Don’t round your neck. Look straight ahead or find a point of focus in line with your eyes. You don’t want to round your neck or look down at the ground.
  • Get deep. Depending on your hip flexibility, you may be able to squat pretty low – try for quads parallel with the floor.   If your flexibility isn’t yet to that level, that’s okay. Just remember that flexibility is something you can work on to improve. Aim for parallel which will deeply engage your thighs, hips and glutes.

3. Lunges

Why Lunges Are Important

You can lunge anytime, anywhere! They firm up your backside, give you a shapelier bottom (who doesn’t want that?) and they also strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves. The lunge is also a great conditioning exercise for many sports and activities. Get ready to see the results in your bottom half.

How To Do A Basic Forward Lunge

  • With your chest lifted, chin up and abs contracted take a big step forward with your left foot.  Sink straight down so your front left knee tracks over the top of your shoe and your back right  knee points down toward the floor.  You are on your back right toe.  Push back to the starting position. Repeat on the right leg. Keep alternating. A good place to start is with 10-12 lunges on each leg and work your way up to 3 sets.
  • Keep your knees aligned, front knee over your shoe and back knee pointing down.
  • Watch yourself lunge with a side view mirror.  Make sure you aren’t leaning too far forward or back or rounding your spine.
  • Keep your knees, hips and shoulders all facing in same direction, forward.
  • Think about how you are distributing your body weight.  Don’t force your weight into your kneecaps but rather use them as a hinge. Engage your quads, hamstrings and glutes.

4. Full Body Roll Ups

Why Full Body Roll-Ups Are Important

I call the Full Body Roll Up the mother of mat Pilates exercises. It has been said that one Pilates Full Body Roll Up is equal to six sit-ups and way more effective than a bunch of mindless crunches.

How To Do Full Body Roll-Ups

  • Lie flat on your back with your arms extended overhead.

Full Body Roll Up

  • Inhale arms to the sky, exhale and slowly roll up into a “C” curve reaching for your toes. (Think about threading your belly button to your spine, and activate your transverse abdominus.)
Full Body Roll Up

Full Body Roll Up

  • Inhale and start to slowly go back in a C curve.
Full Body Roll Up

Full Body Roll Up

  • Exhale as you uncurl your body one vertebra at a time back into the mat.
Full Body Roll Up

Full Body Roll Up

  • The key is to keep your feet on the ground. Use your abs and back to gracefully articulate down to the mat and avoid using your hip flexors and glutes. If you have trouble keeping your feet on the ground, have someone hold your feet or use a resistance band around your feet and hold the handles in your hand. Or bend your knees as you come up. It’s always okay to modify!

Start with three to five and see if you can add a couple more each day.

Watch me demonstrate these four must-do exercises for weight loss in the quick video below!

READ THIS NEXT: 5 Amazing Changes After Weight Loss

Printed from GetHealthyU.com


on April 3, 2018 at 2:34 AM Reply

What other type of exercise so you recommend that involves using a weight bar with a few weights ?

    on April 3, 2018 at 1:15 PM Reply

    Hi Terra - you can find some weighted exercises in this article: https://gethealthyu.com/10-minute-bicep-workout-for-women/

on August 16, 2016 at 11:16 PM Reply

I do all these exercises with the exception of the roll up. I have Osteoporosis and the roll up is contraindicated. Maybe you can address that in your workouts by giving some advice for those of us (and there are many) with Osteoporosis and making people aware of the risks of spinal flexion.

on August 16, 2016 at 8:16 PM Reply

Need help "leaning out arms". I've been doing strength training with cardio and eating clean. It seems no matter what I do, I can not get my arms lean or toned. Help!!

    on August 17, 2016 at 5:27 PM Reply

    Hi Deb, sorry to hear about your struggle but know you're not alone! I was just talking on my Lunch n Learn the other day on Facebook how it really isn't possible to "spot reduce" body fat, i.e. pick a spot on the body you want to lose weight and target only that area, however it is possible to spot train, i.e. focus to build your strength and muscle in one particular area. To address your question, I have several arm workouts here on the site and it sounds like you're doing well to eat clean and exercise. I'd encourage you to try some of the below workout as well as check out Get Healthy U TV if you haven't already - you can enter the code "CHRIS10" for a year long membership for only $10 - but otherwise just keep doing good things for your body. It can take time and patience for sure! https://gethealthyu.com/your-anti-aging-arm-routine-no-push-ups-or-planks/ https://gethealthyu.com/workout-to-tone-everything-that-jiggles/ https://gethealthyu.com/yoga-workout-strong-sculpted-arms/ https://gethealthyu.com/ultimate-upper-body-hiit-workout/ https://gethealthyu.com/20-minute-upper-body-workout/ https://gethealthyu.com/28-day-push-up-challenge/

on February 8, 2016 at 5:00 PM Reply

Chris how can I strengthen my arms in order to do push ups? I can barley get down and I can't push myself back up any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    on February 8, 2016 at 5:11 PM Reply

    Hi Monica - why don't you start with some modified push ups where your knees are on the ground. If that still proves difficult, you can try doing push ups against the wall. See where your comfortable and then build up from there! Check out this blog post: https://gethealthyu.com/how-to-do-more-push-ups/ - it's addressing exactly what you're asking about!

on February 8, 2016 at 10:00 AM Reply

Great articled! Small (typo) correction: Lunging left foot forward puts you on back Right toe...

    on February 8, 2016 at 4:58 PM Reply

    Thanks, Eric! It's now been fixed.

on August 12, 2014 at 6:00 PM Reply

How many repetitions and sets do you recommend to start? Great way to start with a weight training routine!

on August 12, 2014 at 1:57 PM Reply

Can you recommend alternatives of lunges. Bad knees make them difficult. Thank you.

on August 12, 2014 at 11:17 AM Reply

"Great exercises, Chris! Perhaps you can help me out with something I've struggled with my entire life...sit-ups. To be honest, I haven't been faithful in my attempts to do sit-ups, but lately have been back at the gym doing a variety of classes, lots of ab work there. HOWEVER, I still look like a penguin having a seizure when I attempt roll-ups in the pilates classes! Just can't do it. My question is, what would be the best exercise routine for me (go ahead, throw in weights & machines) to develop the muscles that will eventually allow me to perform this exercise? I am long torso-ed and short-legged. When I attempt, my legs lift up and I barely get me head and shoulders off the mat. So far, nothing trainers have suggested seems to make any difference. Thanks, Mona Blaker."

    on August 14, 2014 at 8:02 PM Reply

    Your description of a penguin cracked me up! You are too funny! Try planks. Planks strengthen your core and eventually you will be able to do full body roll ups ... no problem! Every day, try and hold your planks a little longer and you will strengthen your core. I have a planking blog under the FITNESS category on my website! Check it out.

on August 12, 2014 at 9:48 AM Reply

This is a timely post for me. I am starting out on a healthier lifestyle after years of relative inactivity. Realizing that trying to go back to the workouts and activities I did when I was young would be a mistake (I don't want to get discouraged and quit again.), I am starting simply, making modifications where I need to, and working up slowly. I am also trying to encourage my whole family to be active and to eat more healthily and striving to be a good example for them. Checking out your website, Chris, following your blog, and using some of your exercise dvds are part of my plan for success. Thank you for providing the information and encouragement to help get me and keep me going, Chris! :)

    on August 14, 2014 at 8:00 PM Reply

    You are welcome! Yeah YOU! You are doing all the right things!

on August 12, 2014 at 7:56 AM Reply

I love this advice. I am always aware of the form of my moves. But, every time I have ever read about how important push ups are and the correct form, I have never seen anything that told you how to build up to doing a FULL push up. I have never been able to accomplish this and don't know how to go about building up and which muscles to build. If a half down up push up is not effective, then what can I do to be able to get to where I CAN do a full push up?

    on August 16, 2014 at 9:08 AM Reply

    You can work into a full pushup by doing them on an incline. Start by leaning against a wall and doing a set of 10 pushups, slowly and with good form. Gradually increase the incline... perhaps with your feet on the floor and your hands on the back of an easy chair or couch. Work until you can do knee pushups on the ground, and then work to doing regular pushups. Work at it every day, and pretty soon you'll be there.

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