Do Bodyweight Exercises Burn Fat?

Fitness loves a bit of fashionable chop ’n’ change. One season it’s all about aerobics, remember that 80’s craze? Then we were all doing Zumba and right now HIIT is HAWT.   (That’s high intensity interval training - short sharp bursts of intense effort, that mean you don’t have to workout as long.)

But the question is, while bodyweight HIIT workouts are convenient and fast, are they too good to be true? Will you really burn fat like a #gboss if you’re squatting in your bedroom without weights instead of sweating in the squat rack?

Can you burn fat fast with bodyweight exercises?

Short answer: YES

Long answer: BUT…

The reason HIIT works for most people is because it’s hardcore!  You’re really pushing yourself to the max and burning out your muscles, getting your heartrate up and going for it. This burns a ton of calories and turns your body into a fat furnace pronto. Nice.  The most important part of HIIT is Intensity.

If you’re guilty of pacing yourself through your workouts then they aren’t going to burn fat as effectively. (HIIT requires a bit of mental grit, if you’re not swearing under your breath, it’s probably not quite intense enough. )

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How hard do you need to work to burn fat?

Imagine you’re doing a squat without weights - how long do you think you could squat for before your legs started to burn, your breathing got faster and you felt you were really working hard. Like...really hard? When you hit that state, then you’re burning through calories like there’s no tomorrow. Your heart rate should be somewhere around 75-85% of its maximum. (Take your age away from 220 and that’s a good guess at your maximum heart rate.)

Now imagine you’re trying to squat but this time you’ve got to lift up something really heavy at the same time. (Shopping - 4 year old - dumbbell - you choose!) How long until that starts to get you into the sweaty-mess vibe?  Quicker, right?

The addition of weights or added resistance gets you into fat-burn mode faster.

But bodyweight still gets you there, it’s just that you take the scenic route, you have to go for longer to get the same results.

What does this mean for your workouts?

If you’re doing bodyweight exercises, clever program design can make sure that you’re working hard throughout your HIIT routine, even if it’s just you in your bedroom, pumping out a sweat-sesh.

You’ll want to include compound movements (this means movements that require the whole body to help you along) because they use more muscle groups and so burn more calories. Bonus!

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Think squats, lunges, push ups, inverted row, even pull ups!

Here’s a couple more examples:

Swap bicep curls for steps ups with bicep curls (more muscles, more burn).

Swap tricep dips for narrow push ups (still working the backs of the arms, but also your core, back, glutes and entire body!).

You may also need to train longer if you’re skipping the weights. Instead of your workouts taking 30 minutes, you might need 45 - 50 minutes with an extra round or two to really fatigue your muscles.

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One more little-known way to hit fat-burn mode faster:

You can burn out the muscle faster by increasing the time a muscle is under tension without a lot of weight. Who’s tried to do a barre class and nearly died from tiny pulses (,“just give me 8 more!”) in second position plie? You know what we’re talking about.

Try pulsing your reps or adding cheeky half reps (where you come halfway out of the movement, for example, squat, come halfway up, then go back down again before returning to the start position. Burns. So. Good.)

Here at Rebelle we love a bit of resistance training, whether it’s with dumbbells, resistance bands, a workout partner or bodyweight. In fact, the Rebelle program gives you over 50 HIIT workouts that start with bodyweight then add dumbbells or bands so that you can increase the calorie burn.

We’ve also got tons of tips and tricks in each of our workout videos that help you get more calorie blasting burn from even the simplest bodyweight exercises.

It doesn’t matter if it’s barre, yoga, dance, Pilates, HIIT or bodyweight at home workouts, all our trainers and programs use intelligent movements to create maximum results in as little time as possible.


The Corio Method is a unique, fearlessly fun and effective fitness method and training system that creates a stronger, fitter, leaner and more agile, beautifully balanced physique.  Apply now for a complimentary Corio Kickstart Session with our coaches, available globally (value $250) and take the first step towards a new you.