Are you more lost in the gym then you are when they rearrange your grocery store?

Then ok - this guide is for you! We're going over the most effective workouts for different fitness goals, why they're effective, and how to do each, below.

Best Workout for Burning Fat

If you're working out to lose weight, you may assume you're in for long stretches on the cardio machines. And thankfully for you, that's not true.

While you could use the elliptical for half an hour and burn calories, working at the same level for a long period of time isn't as effective as working harder, in short bursts, for a shorter period of time. We call the two steady-state (unchanging) and the second high-intensity interval training.

You've probably heard it as Hiit, before, even if you didn't know what it meant.

How Does HiiT Work and Why is it Better?

First of all, in weight loss or exercise, better is a subjective term. There are still trainers who encourage steady-state cardio over HiiT, but they're becoming fewer as more evidence comes out.

HiiT works to burn fat better than steady-state cardio as it sort of "shocks" your body. It puts your body back into the "I need to be ready for anything" mindset, that our metabolisms had when we were primal humans.

Since you're "shocking" your system, it stays activated even after you finish your workout, and continues burning fat. HiiT is thought to raise your BMR, or your basal metabolic rate, for hours after your workout.

If burning calories is your goal, and you're not afraid to work hard, HiiT is the workout for you!

Popular Types of HiiT Workouts

Remember, in high school, when you would do sprints around the track? Walking the long, straight portion and then running as hard as you could around the curves? That's a type of HiiT.

The basis of high intensity interval training is that there's an interval of work, followed by an interval of rest. There are thousands of different ways to combine your work/rest periods, but Tabata is one of the most popular.

Tabata Workouts

You can do any type of movement in a HiiT workout, as long as it gets your heart rate (way) up. So, when you see the word "work" below, keep in mind that it could be anything from high knees to squats, to running a sprint, to dancing like a crazy person.

Tabata consists of rounds that have eight work "sets" in them. You can do as many rounds of Tabata as you like. We suggest starting with four and working your way up to eight.

The pattern is

  1. Work (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 or 15 seconds)
  2. Work (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 or 15 seconds)
  3. Work (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 or 15 seconds)
  4. Work (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 or 15 seconds)
  5. Work (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 or 15 seconds)
  6. Work (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 or 15 seconds)
  7. Work (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (10 or 15 seconds)
  8. Work (20 seconds)
    1. Rest (ONE minute)

That's one round. Repeat until you've done at least 20 minutes of cardio.

Best Workout: Gaining Muscle

There are two ways people want to gain muscle. They either want to look "built" or "toned." You can think of bodybuilders as "built" and your yoga teacher, whose muscles you can see when she's working, but otherwise can't, as toned.

Lifting weights is great for your metabolism, and everyone should make it part of their routine - even if they're trying to lose weight! The difference between built and toned is in the way you structure your sets.

Lifting Weights to Gain Bulky Muscle

Most of the time, this is what you see men in the gym doing, but women can get "built" if they want, too. To gain the most muscle, you want to lift very heavy for a short period.

When you're lifting to bulk, you want to put the weight at about 70-80% of your max. Your max is the amount you can only lift for one rep, that takes everything you have in you.

If your max was 100 pounds, you'd set your reps to 70 or 80 pounds. You want to make it as heavy as you can without losing your form - for anywhere from 10-20 reps.

Heavy, hard, and short will help you bulk. To tone, you want to ...

Lifting Weights for Muscle Tone (Not Bulk)

Unfortunately, many women think that lifting weights is going to make them look manly or bulky. Nothing could be farther from the truth!

As long as you know how to structure your reps, lifting weights will tighten and tone in a way cardio can't. The difference is in the amount of weight you lift and the length of your sets.

Ideally, you'll do sets of 20-30, at about 50% of your max. You don't need to worry about lifting your max, ever, but it's good to figure out, to set a baseline for yourself.

Your sets should be moderately easy at first, start to get hard at about halfway, then be hard (but possible!) for the last 5. That's how you know you're at a good rep weight.

Do these sets at a light weight for 20-30 reps for two to three times. If you want extra credit, you can do 20 jumping jacks (or high knees) to get your heart rate up between each round.

The Most Effective Workouts to Do While on a Diet

There you have it - three types of workouts you can do, for three types of goals. There's no rule that says you can't combine the types of most effective workouts, if your body goals are to lose weight and gain muscle, for example.

If you are going to do HiiT while trying to bulk, make sure you're tracking your calorie burn, and eating enough to make up for the calorie deficit, even if you need to take supplements. Remember, in the end, weight loss/gain is simple math.

Need help finding the right kind of foods or supplements to eat on your diet? We've got a huge catalog of the highest-quality health foods around.