We're guessing there's a pretty good chance you hit the gym on the regular (go, you!). But if you've decided that it’s time to lose a few pounds, will you make as many changes to your sweat session as you will to your diet? Probably not as likely, right? While it's great that you're already sweating it out frequently, tweaking your routine so that you burn even more calories during your gym time can help you shed the weight faster. Plus, building more muscle by strength training can increase your metabolic rate, says Albert Matheny, co-founder and trainer at Soho Strength Lab. That means you're going to burn more calories whether you're chained to your desk or bingeing on Netflix. If that's not a reason to switch things up, we don't know what is.
We asked Matheny for simple swaps you can make to get the biggest calorie burn for your buck and give your metabolism a solid boost—a match made in weight-loss heaven. Read on to find out how to hit the refresh button on your workout and drop pounds faster.
Start With Strength Training
If you typically get into the gym and do some cardio for 30 minutes and follow it with stretching, you might be missing out on the benefits of strength training, says Matheny. "If you have more lean muscle, which is an active tissue, your metabolic rate will be higher because those tissues continue to burn calories even when you're not working out," he says. Instead of getting your cardio on and getting out, try heading to the weight room to develop metabolism-boosting muscle and then switch to cardio. When you do it this way, says Matheny, you can use your stored carbohydrates, or glycogen, during strength training and then burn more fat during cardio.
Use Heavier Weights
Another way to amp up your calorie burn is by moving up a dumbbell size or adding some weight to your bodyweight strength-training moves, says Matheny (granted, this only applies if you can go up in weight without compromising your form). By adding some extra pounds, you put more stress on your body (in a good way) and activate more muscle, which torches more calories, builds strength, and gets your heart rate up, he says.
Work Your Whole Body
While muscle-isolating moves like bicep curls and tricep extensions can be great for toning up, they're not so awesome at burning calories in a hurry, says Matheny. Instead of toning one muscle group at a time, switch to total-body moves that incorporate your upper and lower half simultaneously. Matheny says he loves compound movements like the dumbbell squat to overhead press because they make your sweat session much more efficient and give you a boost of cardio during strength training.
MORE: 5 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism in the Morning
Swap Your 20-Minute Jog for 20 Minutes of Interval Training
If your workout is getting a bit predictable, you can bet that your body has already caught on and doesn't use as much energy to get through it, says Matheny. So instead of sticking with your normal route on the road or on the treadmill, switch it up by adding sprint intervals to your run, he says. Doing so gets your heart pumping faster, burns more calories, and engages more muscle fibers. All great things for weight loss.
Add an incline
Running on a flat road is great and all, but you could be doing so much more with a bit of an incline. By getting a little vertical, you're going to add a strength-building benefit to your cardio workout because you're engaging more muscle, says Matheny. Just be careful not to increase the incline on the treadmill more than five percent if you're jogging because going higher could be hard on your Achilles tendons and lead to injury.
MORE: 7 Reasons Fall Is A Great Time to Jumpstart Your Weight-Loss Goals
Make Your Stretches Count
After a tough workout, you totally deserve a break. But if you're trying to lose weight, you might want to wait until you're done stretching to let yourself relax, says Matheny. That's because you can use your stretching time as another chance to crush more calories. For example, instead of just reaching down to touch your toes, you can touch your toes and walk your hands forward into a pushup, he says. You're still getting the stretching benefits, but you're burning more cals than just doing static stretches.
Keep Up the Hard Work
When you've finally hit your goal, it doesn't mean that you should go back to your good-enough workout routine, says Matheny. "You should always be trying to evolve your routine so that you're constantly improving your strength and endurance," he says. You might also be able to maintain your weight and enjoy some non-diet-friendly things by keeping up a challenging routine that includes these elements, says Matheny. Margaritas, here you come!
MORE: 10 Ways to Keep the Weight Off For Good
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