Bodyweight exercises are all the craze – and it’s about time. For far too long, manufacturers of so-called miracle machines have duped millions into buying their overpriced, overhyped junk to firm up the arms or rip through the belly fat. A short trip down memory lane:
- 8-minute Abs (Uh-huh…)
- The ‘Ab Rocket’ (“I can feel the burn…I think.”)
- Sauna suits (Gee, what could go wrong?)
- The ‘Leg Magic X’ (Sounds legit…)
- The ‘Face Trainer’ (Oh my G…)
- Vibrating belts (Any surprise that these don’t work?)
- Shake weights (We’ve saved the worst for last)
Anyways, thank you to all of the readers for indulging this writer. Not a big fan of companies ripping people off. Or terrible infomercials.
Where were we? Oh, yes. Bodyweight exercises are the new thing. And, unlike the ridiculous contraptions mentioned above, these natural exercises actually do burn belly fat.
In this article, we’re going to provide you with a list of five killer cardio exercises shown to burn belly fat. First, let’s rediscover the cardiovascular system and its components: the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. We’ll follow that up with the amazing benefits of cardio exercise.
The Vital Cardiovascular System
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.” ~ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (source)
Let’s start things off by enhancing our understanding of the cardiovascular system.
The word ‘cardio’ is short for cardiovascular, which relates to the body’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels. The primary function of the cardiovascular system is to both carry nutrients and oxygen and remove waste from the body’s tissues.
Poor cardiovascular health can result in a number of heart-related diseases, including:
– arteriosclerosis (i.e., coronary artery disease): the hardening, inelasticity, and narrowing of the heart and blood vessels.
– arrhythmia (i.e., dysrhythmia): irregular heart rates. The heart beats either too fast or too slow.
– aortic diseases: dysfunction of the aorta – the heart’s main artery – and its surrounding blood vessels.
– endocarditis: inflammation of the heart valves.
– heart failure: a potentially fatal condition when the heart muscle is unable to pump blood properly. Potential catalysts of heart failure include arteriosclerosis and hypertension.
– hypertension: a disease or disorder resulting in high blood pressure.
– hypotension: a disease or disorder resulting in low blood pressure.
– shock: insufficient blood flow throughout the body capable of progressing to life-threatening conditions such as cardiac arrest and hypoxia (dangerously-low levels of oxygen in the body’s tissues.)
– valvular (heart valve) disease: a disease affecting one or more of the four heart chambers or valves.
The Benefits of Cardio
In gym speak cardio points to any exercise or combination of exercises designed to benefit your heart and burn fat. Another term for cardiovascular exercise is aerobic exercise.
‘Cardio’ is the premier exercise type when it comes to strengthening your heart and facilitating proper blood flow throughout the body. There are various types of cardio exercise, including brisk walking, cycling, hiking jogging, running, tennis, walking, rowing, skipping rope, swimming, and others.
The scientific literature points to numerous benefits of cardio exercise, including:
- Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends aerobic exercise for everyone, including those at-risk for developing heart disease. Cardio helps in this regard by strengthening the heart and promoting healthy blood flow throughout the body.
- Lowers blood pressure: Cardio reduces high blood pressure. In a systematic review of 11 studies published in the journal Atherosclerosis, aerobic exercise “significantly improved” blood pressure readouts.
- Improves mood: In a small study of middle-aged adults with major depressive disorder (MDD), cardio exercise boosted mood. Even better, the improvements were quick. After just ten days of walking on a treadmill “following an interval training pattern,” MDD patients reported a 67-77 percent reduction in depression scores on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.
- Improves cognition: As mentioned, cardio exercises reign supreme when it comes to increasing circulation. Improved blood circulation benefits not only your body but also your brain. Exercise boosts brain function on several levels. First, it promotes a process called neurogenesis – the birth of brain cells. Second, the cardio exercise is a catalyst for neurotrophins, proteins that strengthen neurons and extends their lifespan. Lastly, physical exercise boosts neurotransmitter production. This combo effect results in a more robust, resilient, and a sharper brain.
- Improves sleep: According to a study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, cardio exercise improves sleep quality. In the 16-week study, researchers split 17 sedentary adults into two groups. The first group participated in 16 weeks of aerobic exercise and were instructed on proper sleep hygiene. The second group of adults was provided with sleep hygiene education – but no cardio regimen. The first group demonstrated marked improvement over the second. Among the improvements: sleep quality, sleep duration, and sleep efficiency. Moreover, the physical activity group also tested for reductions in daytime sleepiness and depressive symptoms.
5 Cardio Exercises That Burn Belly Fat Without Equipment
“…analyses showed significant reductions in total body fat percentage … (and) in total absolute fat mass reduction. [There] was a significant (difference) between interval training and MOD [moderate-intensity continuous training] for total body fat percentage reduction.”
~ Viana, R., et al. “Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT)” (Source)
Can you burn a good amount of fat in just a few minutes? Sure, you can! Even better: you don’t need any ridiculously expensive exercise equipment. But be ready to work! Be forewarned, however: what follows is one intense workout. To that point: it is important to push yourself, but pay attention to your body’s limits.
Without further ado, here’s a kick-butt cardio routine that will have you shedding fat quick!
(Perform each of the following exercises for 20 seconds with a ten-second rest in between. Repeat once.)
Exercise #1: Jump lunges (alternate exercise: regular lunges)
Step 1: Stand with your feet together, staggered slightly. Elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle.
Step 2: Lunge forward with your right foot until your opposite leg forms a 90-degree angle with the floor.
Step 3: Jump (or stand if doing regular lunges) straight up, thrusting your arms forward and keeping your elbows bent. Switch legs airborne.
– Jump lunges are an advanced form of the popular lunge.
– While it’s reasonable to expect to do a proper jump lunge after a certain period, don’t expect this right away.
– It’s fine to start out (a basic lunge – a perfectly good fat-burning exercise in itself.
– Remember to lower your body until your legs are at 90-degree angles to the floor. If this is not possible, that’s perfectly okay. Just lower yourself as much as you can.
Exercise #2: Mountain climbers
Step 1: Assume a plant position by getting down on the floor on hands and knees. Position one leg forward towards the midsection (picture a sprinter at the starting blocks.)
Step 2: Using a swift motion, pull the opposite leg towards the midsection. Alternate until time.
– The leg that “kicks back” should be straight.
– Throughout this exercise, your elbows should remain locked.
– Do not drop your head down. (This is easy to do, especially as you get fatigued.)
– Keep the back straight.
– To help facilitate posture, pick a spot on the floor or mat, and keep your eyes locked onto it.
Exercise #3: Crunches
Step 1: Lie flat on a mat, knees flexed, feet lifted at the heel.
Step 2: Lift your head off the floor. Hold the back of your head with the fingers, thumbs at the back of each ear.
Step 3: Curl your torso upwards, contracting the abdomen. Constrict your abdominal muscles until you feel a bit of tightness, but not to the point of developing cramps.
Step 4: Hold at the top of the movement for a second or two.
Step 5: Return to the starting position.
– Always perform the movement until a bit of tightness is felt in the abdominal muscles.
– Remember to keep your feet lifted at the heels throughout the movement.
Exercise #4: Leg raises
- Lie down on a mat, back flat, palms down, arms at the side.
- Keeping the legs straight as possible, lift your legs until they form a 90-degree angle with the floor.
- Slowly return the legs back to the starting position.
– Keep your head in contact with the floor or mat.
– Keep your back flat and in contact with the floor or mat.
– The knees should remain slightly bent.
Exercise #5 (finish strong!): Plank
- Kneel down, bend forward, and place your elbows onto the mat.
- Fully extend your left leg back, then your right.
- Keep your back, hips, and neck parallel, and your core slightly constricted.
- Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
– A more advanced form of this plank engages your upper body. You can try this by performing the plank with arms extended.
– Using the plank to end the workout gives you a bit of a breather.
Final Thoughts on Melting Belly Fat
Bodyweight exercises enable you to work out virtually anywhere. You don’t need expensive equipment to get started. That’s the beauty of this thing. So, whether you’re at the gym, or from the comfort of your home, you’ll be able to burn off the belly fat.