4 Workout Programs to Build Muscle and Burn Fat

Plenty of people want to get started with exercise, but a lot of people aren’t sure where to get started, and run into a couple of classic dilemmas: gym or living room? Running or weights? Burning fat or building muscle? While there’s no way to answer all those questions in just one post, check out some of the options above and see which one works best for you!

1. Classic Buildup

Equipment needed: free weights, optional benchpress rack and squat rack

Potential exercises: chest press, squat, biceps curl, lat pulldown, shoulder press, deadlift

Let’s start with the easiest one first. Anyone whose looking to build up some serious muscle and get that v-shape we’re all looking for is going to have to start off with some classic weight-building exercise (yes: this means you’ll have to use weights). The first thing to decide is how you want to break up your workouts. Do you want a full-body workout three times a week? Three upper body days and one lower body day? Two of each? Any of those programs will allow you to bulk up, but in slightly different ways. Full-body workouts tend to fire your metabolism up a bit more, so you’ll be able to burn more fat. However, since you’re spending only half of your workout on your upper body and half on your lower body, you’re only totaling 1.5 workouts for each per week. For some people who have trouble putting on muscle, this might not be enough to put on more than a couple of pounds of muscle over a few months. A program with three upper body days and one lower body day is on the opposite side of the spectrum: while you maximize the number of upper body days (any more than three and you’ll probably hurt yourself), you won’t get much of a burn. Such a program is ideal for bulking, but not great for losing those extra pounds around your belly. A two-two split between upper body and lower body might be a good compromise: you’ll have enough workouts with each in order to build serious muscle, and since you’re not overworking either your upper body or lower body, you can probably incorporate some good cardio in between lifting days to get yourself beach-bod ready.


2. The At-Home Hero

Equipment needed: none, optional pullup bar

Potential exercises: pushup, pullup, bodyweight squats, mountain climber


Whether you don’t have time to go to the gym or don’t feel like paying for a membership, there’s a solution: you can build muscle and lose fat from the comfort of your living room. Using simple but effective bodyweight exercises like chinups, pushups, dips, and squats, as well as various variations, you can get a serious burn from home. As with classic weightlifting, there are a couple of options to choose from. If you’re looking to build some muscle without weights, you’re going to have to find some hard exercises and go until you max out. Instead of chinups, try elevated pushups, or even clapping pushups, and instead of pullups, see if you can manage to bang out some wide pullups. While it’s generally safer to train with bodyweight exercises than weights, also be sure not to strain your joints too much, and that you can do the easier versions of the exercises with perfect form before you advance to their more difficult versions. Another option from home is cardio: using speed exercises like jumping jacks, mountain climbers, high knees, and burpees, you can create a challenging cardio workout without once having to hit the track!


3. Incredible Intervals

Equipment: free weights or no equipment

Potential exercises: squat jump, T-pushup


Interval training can be done with or without weights. The premise is that your metabolism burns more calories if you alternate high intensity activity with short rest periods or low intensity exercise rather than a long, sustained cardio workout like a run. There’s no set way to decide the length of your intervals. A classic is the tabata method, in which you exercise for 20 seconds, take a ten second rest, and then repeat 8 times for a total of four minutes before taking a one minute rest. You can do a single tabata cycle for an early-morning burn, or string four or five together for a real zinger of a workout. If the twenty-ten split is too difficult for you, you can experiment with longer rest periods or shorter activity periods. You can also try doing twenty seconds of a hard exercise, like pushups, followed by twenty seconds of a low-impact, low-intensity exercise like jogging in place. If you’re using weights in your interval training, make sure to use lighter weights than you would use if you were lifting purely to bulk up, since you’ll be doing way more reps with an interval workout.


4. Low-Impact ‘Lympian

Equipment: bike, yoga mat, swimming pool


The alliteration here might be a stretch, but this workout is sure to help you burn fat in a safe way. For those of you not interested in building up a lot of muscle and worried about the effect of plyometric interval training or running on your joints, this program is for you. Some of the best low-impact training you can do is yoga, swimming, and cycling and, with the exception of cycling, all are great full-body body workouts that don’t place a lot of stress on your joints. The most important thing for each one, though, is to build up endurance slowly: don’t try to do a full back-bend on your first day of yoga or you won’t be doing much for a couple of weeks. Build up to longer and faster swims and bike rides and more challenging yoga poses, and your joints, metabolism, and muscles will thank you whether you’re 16 or 60.