Best Exercises for Weight Loss

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // December 8, 2021

It’s a common topic: what are the best exercises for weight loss? Because if you’re going to put in the work, you might as well get the most bang for your buck!

Whenever I talk to beginner exercisers or people who want to lose weight, they say, I’m just going to start with cardio, and once I lose weight, I’ll begin strength training.”

I 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 body weight.

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 ROCKS!

Below, I’m diving into four strength training exercises for weight loss. All four exercises are bodyweight moves and require ZERO equipment.


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    Best Strength Exercises for Weight Loss

    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.

    It’s never too late to start strength training and the below exercises for weight loss are a great place to start!

    First things first: utilize your body weight! These exercises willl help you build muscle, lose weight, and feel better than ever. Here they are:

    [adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”lNlGx0hF” upload-date=”2021-12-07T20:50:06.000Z” name=”Best Exercises for Weight Loss” description=”These four bodyweight exercises can help you lose weight and tone up all over! Incorporate them into your daily routine to stay fit.” player-type=”collapse” override-embed=”false”]

    1. Push-Ups

    Push-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises ever invented; they require zero equipment, build strength in all right places, have many variations to keep things fresh, and are easy to modify and track progress.

    You can burn calories while working multiple muscle groups and shape your body at the same time.

    [adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”Qb4S19WC” upload-date=”2021-08-25T17:38:24.000Z” name=”How To Do A Perfect Push-Up” description=”In this short clip, Chris Freytag demonstrates how to do a proper squat with modifications to prevent injury! Squats are a KILLER workout move. They target your glutes and legs in a MAJOR way, but they’re really difficult for anyone who either struggles with lower body strength OR has joint issues. As we age, squats become hard on our knees, ankles, and hips. BUT, if you use proper form and these modifications, you can get a killer workout without killing those joints!” player-type=”default” override-embed=”default”]

    How many pushups a day to lose weight?

    The honest answer to how many pushups a day is really – it depends. Building muscle is all about challenging yourself enough to provoke your body to build strength.

    As we know, the process of building strength is all about taxing your muscles. When that happens, your body responds by making more muscle. So there is no magic number to how many pushups a day to lose weight. Rather, it’s the total amount of time that you challenge yourself to do push-ups over a week, for example, or so that will build strength to help build muscle.

    Focus on tracking your progress, like how many push-ups you can complete back to back or how many push-up reps you can do in 3 sets.

    For most of us, doing push-ups several times a week will lead to muscle gains, but doing push-ups alone is unlikely to be enough for someone looking to shed a lot of weight.

    Yes, if you were to do them continuously, you would burn a ton of calories, but your body would fatigue very quickly before the calorie burn benefit would take place.

    The push-up is an amazingly effective move, and it should be part of your weekly strength training routine, however, push-ups alone fail to provide the many benefits that come with challenging fitness routines, such as raising your metabolism and making you leaner.

    Make sure to pair your push-ups with a consistent cardio schedule, and you’ll lose weight in no time.

    How To Do A Push-Up

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

    If you only go halfway 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

    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.

    Do squats help you lose weight? How many squats a day to lose weight?

    Because your glutes are such a large muscle, squats can help you lose weight as you build muscle and pair them with cardiovascular exercise. Losing weight is not as simple as saying, “do 50 squats,” however doing 20-30 squats should make your heart rate rise!

    The weight loss benefit derived from doing squats becomes apparent after consistent training when lean muscle tissue is built, and body fat is diminished.

    If you did only squats as an exercise, you could theoretically lose weight because the move elevates your heart rate, burning calories. However, doing just squats for weight loss would be too intense, repetitive, and potentially cause injury. So including them in your overall weight loss strategy is better than relying on squats alone for weight loss.

    Squats are a very effective exercise to include in your weekly strength training program because your glutes, quads, and leg muscles will grow, and your metabolism will thank you for it.

    The squat engages your muscles and squats with added resistance help you build additional muscle, which leads to other caloric benefits down the road.

    How To Do A Squat

    Chris Freytag performing a basic 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

    [adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”YdkkQufA” upload-date=”2021-08-25T17:32:05.000Z” name=”How to do a Perfect Lunge (& Protect Your Joints!)” description=”In this short clip, Chris Freytag demonstrates how to do a proper lunge! Lunges are a GREAT and SUPER effective leg & booty workout. But, if you struggle with sore and painful joint, lunges can be nearly impossible. That’s where modifications come in! These modified lunges will give you great results without wreaking havoc on your joints. Give these a try!” player-type=”collapse” override-embed=”false”]

    Lunges are great exercises for weight loss since 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

    Chris Freytag demonstrating Alternating Forward Lunge in an orange tank top
    • 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

    [adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”aICNfHkv” upload-date=”2019-02-22T15:32:13.000Z” name=”How To Do A Perfect Full Body Roll Up” description=”1) Start lying on mat with arms extended overhead, legs long, and feet flexed. 2) Inhale as you lift arms up and begin curling chin and chest forward. Exhale as you roll the entire torso up and over legs keeping abs engaged and reaching for toes. 3) Inhale as you being rolling your spine back down one vertebrae at a time and exhale as the upper portion of the back lower and arms reach pack overhead. Repeat moving slowly and using the abdominals to lift and lower, not momentum.” player-type=”collapse” override-embed=”false”]

    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

    Chris Freytag demonstrating how to do a full body roll up.
    • Lie flat on your back with your arms extended overhead.
    • 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.)
    • Inhale and start to slowly go back in a C curve.
    • Exhale as you uncurl your body one vertebra at a time back into the mat.
    • 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 3-5 and see if you can add a couple more each day.

    Should you do sit-ups for weight loss?

    While we favor the full-body roll-up over the sit-up, the traditional core move is still helpful in specific scenarios.

    Sit-ups are unlikely to provide much weight loss benefit on their own. While a sit-up does help to build muscle and burn some calories, it is meant as a strength training move, not a weight loss exercise.

    A sit-up is focused on a small part of the body compared to other exercises, which means it will not raise your heart rate enough to burn significant calories.

    Calorie burn is a necessity for consistent weight loss. Sit-ups only would be a very inefficient weight loss plan but they can be included in an overall fitness plan.

    Now that you’ve learned four of the best exercises for weight loss, it’s time to add in cardio workouts. Make sure to check out our guide to the best cardio moves for weight loss.

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    on Reply

    Before i start,just wanna ask,how long till i start to lose weight?days?weeks?months?because i really need to lose weight quickly,and ive tried everything else?please help

      on Reply

      Hi Melissa - unfortunately I can't give you an exact time frame because it's all about what you do and the work that you put into losing the weight that you would like to loose. There are many factors that play a roll into losing weight such as activity level, nutrition and how you're fueling your body, sleep, water intake, stress, age... hormones... to name a few. You can take a peak at my other article on How to Lose 10 lbs in 1 Month -

    on Reply

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

      on Reply

      Hi Terra - you can find some weighted exercises in this article:

    on 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 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 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!

    on 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 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: - it's addressing exactly what you're asking about!

    on Reply

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

      on Reply

      Thanks, Eric! It's now been fixed.

    on Reply

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

    on Reply

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

    on 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 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 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 Reply

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

    (This will help us personalize your experience so that you can get the best advice possible from us!)
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