There are many ways to optimize a workout. You can plan your exercise routine to fit into a certain time block, improvise based on the equipment you have around you, or fine-tune your lifts to make sure you’re getting the strength gains you want. 

But one of the best ways to optimize a workout is to burn more calories during your core exercises—and if you can master this, you can see better results than ever before. 

Why Calorie Burn Optimization Is Valuable

So why would you want to burn more calories during your exercises? 

  • Shorten your workout duration. Burning more calories in a smaller amount of time means you can shorten your workout duration without missing any benefits. This is ideal if you’re trying to squeeze a workout into a short timeframe. 
  • Lose more weight. Weight loss can be more complicated than measuring calories in vs. calories out, but calories are still a major factor in the equation. If you burn more calories at the gym, consistently, you’ll end up losing more weight over the long term. 
  • Make more impressive gains. If you’re trying to build muscle and are worried about burning too many calories, consider this: the most intensive calorie-burning exercises are the ones that stand to help you see the biggest gains in speed, strength, and stamina. The only difference for muscle-building is that you’ll have to eat more to make up for what you burn. 

How the Average Person Can Burn More Calories

So what can you do to burn more calories in a shorter period of time? 

  • Incorporate more full-body exercises. Exercises and routines that work your entire body at once are ideal; because they engage more muscles, they naturally demand more effort, and burn more calories than comparable isolation exercises. Swimming is a natural go-to choice for cardio, and if you want a full-body resistance training workout, a machine like the Bowflex MAX Trainer is the best option; it allows you to work out practically any part of your body using the same machine. 
  • Build up to lift heavy weights. Resistance training is important if you want to burn more calories, and to get the most out of it, you’ll want to build up to heavy weights. For calories burned, and for strength gains, it’s better to do fewer sets of heavier weights rather than more sets of lighter weights. The exact numbers don’t matter much here; as long as you’re challenging yourself and gradually increasing the weight you lift, you’re in a good position. 
  • Use HIIT. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a system for cardio that burns far more calories than its counterpart, low intensity steady state (LISS) training. In LISS, you’ll be focusing on maintaining a consistent pace for a given time, like running 6 mph for 30 minutes. In HIIT, you’ll alternate periods of aptly named “high intensity,” or sprinting, with periods of lower-intensity training. For example, you might sprint at 10 mph for 30 seconds, then jog for 5 mph for 30 seconds, and keep rotating for a period of 20 minutes. There are many advantages to this approach, including better strength and speed, and of course, more calories burned. 
  • Try circuit workouts. You could also try circuit workouts, which force you to alternate between multiple different exercises in a short period of time, sometimes running from one station to the next. It’s a good way to keep your heart rate up for a longer period of time, and because you’ll be incorporating multiple exercises into one routine, you’ll naturally optimize the workout to be full-bodied. 
  • Allow less rest between exercises. You’ll need to rest at various points in your workout, whether it’s between heavy sets of weight within one exercise, or between your resistance training and cardio. Decreasing this rest time can help you fit more exercises into the same amount of time, and make sure your body is firing on all cylinders during the entire experience. Just make sure you’re leaving enough time for your muscles to recover.  
  • Up the intensity. One of the simplest ways to increase your number of calories burned is to up the intensity of whatever you’re doing. If you’re lifting weights, add more weight, or more reps per set, or more sets per workout. If you’re running, consider upping the speed, adding an incline, or using a weight vest to make things harder. The harder you work, the more calories you’ll burn.

The first time you ratchet up your workout to burn more calories, you’re going to feel challenged, and by the end of it, you might be cursing your decision. However, this is the best way to maximize the efficiency of your workouts, and the fastest way to get the results you want.