Here they are: the biggest calorie-melting moves you can do! Expert-chosen and lab-tested, these champion burners and firmers will knock off the kilos, jolt your routine, and revamp your body in record time. How does that sound?

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Here they are: the biggest calorie-melting moves you can do! Expert-chosen and lab-tested, these champion burners and firmers will knock off the kilos, jolt your routine, and revamp your body in record time. How does that sound?

Burn, baby, burn!


This list was 25 years in the making. That’s how long physiologist Michele Olson, a Shape advisory board member and a professor at Auburn University at Montgomery in the US, has been studying exercises in the lab. Using a device called a metabolic cart – each tester is fitted with a respirator-like mask attached by a tube to the hightech cart – Michele is able to quantify in calories the effort it takes to perform any exercise.

“I use a computer program that lets me see exactly how much oxygen is being used,” she explains. “For every one litre of oxygen consumed by your muscles, five calories are burned.” The computer converts that info into METs (metabolic equivalents of tasks), the units that are used in the calorieburn formulas of apps, trackers and treadmills to calculate your calorie totals based on your specific body weight. Simply put, a MET is the measure of how much energy is required to complete a physical activity.

Think of it like this: If one MET is equal to sitting on the bus, then 10 are equal to sprinting for the bus. Michele also monitors muscle activity during each movement with electrodes she places on various body parts. “The voltage produced by the muscles is sent to a separate computer that tracks each contraction,” she says.

In fact, that’s how we know these exercises are serious sculptors as well. Hundreds of tests analysing dozens of exercises later, the seven moves on these pages are the standouts for their ability to burn calories without using a single piece of equipment. You can mix and match them for a fast-andfurious routine or throw one or two into whatever workout you’re doing for the day.

We’ll tell you how. Either way, in order to get the biggest burn, you have to give your all. “If you’re breathless and feel your working muscles have turned to jelly after 10 reps or by 30 seconds, that’s a good indication you’re there,” Michele says. And your slim-down goals? They’re finally within reach.

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Make your push-up airborne and you’ll boost its benefits. Launching your upper body requires more muscle power and effort from your heart. This is a toughie, so before you try it, make sure you can do three to five classic push-ups with textbook form. Bend your elbows slightly when you land to absorb some of the impact.

How to nail it: Warm up with a set or two of regular push-ups first. A good goal is to try to get through two to three sets of three to five reps, Michele says. Start on floor in plank on palms. Push into palms to explode body off floor (feet stay planted), clapping hands if possible. Land in start position with elbows soft. Repeat.

Burns 9 calories /minute.

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Run in place as fast as you can, pulling your knees up as high as you can. “It’s so fast-paced that it shoots your heart rate up in seconds,” Michele says. This is because you have to call on the big glute muscles to hoist your legs and keep you moving quickly, she explains. And don’t let those arms just swing. Pump them with all the power you can manage.

That will help you pull your knees higher and activate upper-body muscles, turning this into a total-body all-in-one workout. How to nail it: Run in place, pulling knees towards chest and vigorously pumping bent arms. Michele says to do this sprint in bursts so you can reset between sets to hit each one a little harder. Do 30-second rounds after each tone-up move in your workout, or start a session with four or five rounds of 30-second sets.

Burns 12 calories /minute.

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Of all the moves Michele has ever studied, this yielded the biggest burn; it even beat running at an 11km per hour pace. “Plus, you’ll activate all your posterior muscles,” Michele says. How to nail it: For a monster burn, try Tabata skaters: Standing, jump right foot right, bending left leg and crossing it behind the right to land in deep lunge with right leg bent 90 degrees, and on ball of left foot, with leg slightly bent (keep butt as low as possible).

Reach left arm across body to touch floor in front of right toes (to make it easier, touch right shin or just reach right). Switch sides; repeat. Continue quickly, alternating sides. Give it your all for 20 seconds, then rest for 10. Do eight cycles. Michele found that this style of programming can double your metabolic rate – and it’s over in a short four minutes.

Burns 13 calories / minute.

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This tones the hell out of your abs, butt and legs with each rep. If you swing your arms overhead, it fires up your shoulders, arms and lower back as well, Michele says. The reason it’s such a calorie gold mine: “You’re hoisting the large muscles of your core and lower body up from dead weight, then landing and absorbing it all into your legs,” she explains.

How to nail it: Standing, lunge forward with left foot, bending knees 90 degrees. Jump as high as you can, swinging arms overhead and switching legs mid-air. Land with arms by sides and right foot forward, immediately bending knees. Continue quickly, alternating sides. Do six 30-second sets or burn out one leg at a time with two sets of 10 reps per side.

Burns 12 calories / minute.

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As far as abs moves go, nothing surpasses the teaser for calorie burn. And Michele found it to be 39 per cent more effective at targeting the rectus abdominis than a crunch and 266 per cent more effective at targeting the external obliques than a sit-up. “You’re pulling your upper body off the floor,” she says. “If you weigh 59kg, you’re lifting 29kg with your abs.” That’s why this is a bigger burner than the faster-paced bicycle crunch.

How to nail it: Lie face up on floor with knees bent over hips and arms extended up with palms facing each other to start. Roll upper body upwards and extend legs until you’re sitting, and body forms a V with arms parallel to legs. Pause, then slowly roll upper body back down, one vertebra at a time, keeping legs in the air. When your shoulders reach the mat, return to start position. Repeat. Continue slowly. You can do this daily. Aim for three sets of five to 10 reps.

Burns 6 calories / minute.

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This supercharged version of a jumping jack sculpts the butt and thighs, as well as your shoulders, chest and abs. “I’m such a fan of this move because it’s a heartpumping plyometric, but with less impact than a lot of other explosive moves,” Michele says. “The deeper you squat, the more you load your core,” she says. “You’ll generate more jump power and sculpt your abs.”

How to nail it: Standing, drop into squat, bringing fists in front of chest with elbows bent at sides. Jump feet wide, straightening legs and swinging arms out to sides and up to meet overhead. Continue quickly. This is another great move to do Tabata-style . Or go for one minute, rest for 30 seconds, and repeat that three times.

Burns 11.5 calories / minute.

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No muscle is left idle during a burpee. “You’ll work your shoulders, back, chest, arms, abs, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves,” Michele says. Do 30 seconds of these and you’ll get the same metabolism-boosting effect as you would from a 30-second all-out sprint, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

How to nail it: From standing, crouch and plant palms on floor. Jump feet back to plank (keep abs tight, otherwise back will sag), then lower chest and thighs to floor. Press up to plank, then jump feet towards hands. Lastly, jump as high as you can (make sure feet are under shoulders before you launch), clapping hands overhead. Continue quickly. Start with three sets of 10, Michele suggests. Or cap off a workout with as many reps as you can manage to eke out.

Burns 7.5 calories / minute.

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