4 Best Exercises For Slimming Down & Building Muscle

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Alexandra Lozovschi

Not many people know this, but the most efficient way to work toward weight loss is to start building muscle mass. The explanation for this is quite simple: since muscles are the ones burning all the calories -- both when you're working out and when you're resting, it makes sense that the more muscle you have, the more fat you're able to melt away.

“Muscle is more metabolically active — it burns more calories than fat,” Dr. William Yancy Jr., director of the Duke Lifestyle and Weight Management Center in Durham, North Carolina, tells AARP. “So having a higher ratio of muscle to fat will mean you burn more energy — just while sitting. To build that muscle, you have to exercise, and that burns calories, too."

Below you'll find the best exercises for building muscle mass and slimming down that you absolutely need to prioritize when devising your workouts.

Start With Lifting Weights

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If you're looking to shed a few pounds, weight training will get you results, no matter your age. In fact, according to a 2017 study on people over 60, strength training was proven to be more effective than cardio when trying to lose weight through calorie deficit (reducing the number of calories you eat).

"When trying to get fit and stay lean, lifting weights is your best bet!" Pam Sherman, a 54-year-old trainer and health coach, told Eat This, Not That!.

The trick with lifting weights is that you should do it at the beginning of your workout and then immediately switch to cardio.


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Do Cardio Right After Strength Training

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Pairing strength training with cardio is the best way to get lean fast, says certified personal trainer Josh Schlottman. When you follow up your weight lifting with some vigorous cardio, your body first uses up its glycogen reserves for energy, then starts burning stored fat during the cardio portion of the workout.

"Add on at least 10 minutes but preferably up to 30 to 40 minutes of cardio after you lift weights to maximize your fat burning," recommends Schlottman.

Not sure what to pick? Try brisk walking, going for a run, cycling, dancing -- Fyzical has a full list of cardio exercises for you to choose from.

Make Squats A Priority

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Also in the category of strength training, squats help strengthen your core and the muscles of your lower body, while also burning some serious calories.

"The humble move might seem simple, but it's a powerhouse for building muscle and reducing fat," explains Eat This, Not That!.

Among the numerous health and fitness benefits of this compound exercise are boosting your athletic ability and reducing the risk of injury, per Healthline.

According to a study published last year in the International Journal of Disabilities Sports and Health Sciences, just eight weeks of doing squats can help reduce body weight by as much as 7 percent in men while simultaneously building up muscle mass.

Go For Full-Body Moves

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Perhaps the most useful tip when getting your sweat on is to design your workouts around full-body moves that will target a number of different muscles simultaneously instead of working on just one muscle group at a time.

"That way, you're working multiple muscle groups in every move, making your workouts more efficient and calorie-burning," says personal trainer Tim Liu.

Some of the most effective full-body workouts you can opt for are planks, push-ups, and jumping jacks. Click here for videos on how to do each of them correctly.