You don't need a fancy gym with ultra high-tech exercise machines that look they belong in a science lab and row upon row of shiny chrome dumbbells to lose weight. You already own possibly the best piece of fat-burning equipment on the market -- your own body. Vigorous resistance training can burn between 180 and 266 calories in half an hour, making calisthenics a highly effective, intense and fun way to torch fat and lose weight.
Probably the most well-known of all calisthenic exercises, the pushup should be the basis of your upper-body training. Pushups work your whole body, making them a high calorie burner, writes trainer Nora Tobin in "Shape" magazine. For a more challenging but equally effective upper-body move, try chinups. Chinups are performed with a loose grip and palms facing toward you. They're seriously tough, but like pushups they hit lots of muscle groups, making them a great fat burner. To learn chinups, attach a resistance band to a pullup bar, put your knees in it and use it for assistance, advises Rachel Cosgrove, founder of Results Fitness in California. Over time, reduce the tension on the band until you can do unassisted chinups. Include variations of these two exercises in your routine too, such as pushups with a close grip, on your knees or with your feet on a box, plus varying grips on chinups.
You can't go wrong with the classic body-weight squat. It works your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and core. Variations of the squat include squats to a box and jump squats. For an added challenge, introduce single-leg calisthenics like lunges, step-ups and split squats. To hit those all-important glutes and hamstring muscles, perform variations of the glute bridge. Lie on your back with your knees bent and heels on the floor, then push your hips as high as you can. Once you've mastered the two-legged version, progress to using just one leg, or elevating your heels on a box or aerobic step.
Cardio ramps up your calorie burn, helping you to burn fat quicker. You could just go for a walk or run to get your cardio in, but this can get boring. Burpees are an anaerobic conditioning exercise that will give you superior fat loss and heart health, claims trainer Mark Dilworth on HerFitnessHut.com. Place your hands on the floor, kick your legs back so your torso is straight, jump back in and jump in the air -- that's one rep. Take out the jump and you have squat thrusts -- a slightly simpler but still extremely effective move. If you'd rather stick to more traditional forms of cardio, swap your standard runs for hill sprints or interval runs, combining periods of moderate pace running and all out sprints.
Perform three full-body calisthenic workouts each week. Full-body exercises hit more parts of your body than split routines, so you burn more calories and more fat per session. Perform five to six exercises per session and aim to add extra reps and sets each workout. To begin with perform your exercises in a straight sets fashion, such as three sets of eight or four sets of 15, resting between each set, but keeping rest periods short to maximize fat burn and metabolism boost. Once you're comfortable with this, progress to body-weight circuits, performing exercises back to back with no rest in between.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.