Here’s the simple truth: there aren’t certain exercises that explicitly build muscle or shed fat. Laying on a mat and doing leg lifts does not burn fat around your core, doing squats does not burn fat around your glutes, and curling doesn’t burn fat around your biceps.
This also means that certain exercise styles and practices, like yoga or pilates, don't have a specific effect on fat. They don’t necessarily ‘tone’ as many claim, but instead are just a different form of calorie burning. This is the key: physical activity burns calories. If you’re eating less calories than you’re burning in conjunction with exercise, you will burn fat and gain muscle.
Let’s say one of your goals is to tone your core. Sure, exercising your core muscles specifically will help build those muscles, but it won’t help shed the overall calories necessary to make your abdominals visible. For that, you should focus on intense exercises that take effort– more effort means more calories burned. Squats, deadlifts, High Intensity Interval Training, and endurance training are all good calorie burners.
Heavy compound movements like squats and deadlifts are especially good for calorie burning because these movements are most effective at building overall muscle mass quickly. Having more muscle mass burns more calories than having more fat, so at all times you’ll be burning calories at a higher rate, even when you’re sleeping.
Alternating compound movements with cardio can help build muscle mass while also improving overall heart health and athletic ability. The combination of the two will also burn more energy and translate into more calorie loss.
While exercise is incredibly important, remember two things: one, weight loss isn’t always good and two, a body is built in the kitchen. Some people look to build muscle or even just maintain. This means you’ll have to tweak your workouts to make sure you're not overworking your body. Further, your eating must match your goals. If calories aren't within your goal to either be in a surplus or deficit, your body simply will not respond.
Check out our recipe page for some delicious recipes to fuel your workouts!