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Female Fat Loss: Best Exercises And Workouts For Women


Page last updated: 12th December 2022

Ladies, are you looking for the perfect fat-burning workout to torch calories and help with body recomposition? Then look no further. In this article, we’ll be answering some of your popular questions around how the gym can help with fat loss and toning up. You can also jump straight to our top eight best fat-burning exercises for women for some example workouts you can try yourself. 

How Does Exercise Help With Fat Loss?

Exercise can help you lose fat in two ways: by building muscle and increasing your metabolism, and by burning calories to help with a calorie deficit.

All workouts burn calories, although some are more efficient at this. If you are consistently burning more calories than you eat, you will lose weight.

HIIT and cardio workouts are great for burning a lot of calories in a short space of time, while low intensity workouts like walking burn less calories per minute.  However, when carried out at around 70% of your maximum heart rate, low intensity exercise can also burn fat directly as the body uses stored fat as a source of energy. Learn more about heart rate zones here.

Strength training exercises help to build muscle, which naturally burns more calories – both at rest, and while working out. So, the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism, which makes it easier to lose or maintain your weight.

While exercise can help with weight loss, we recommend creating a calorie deficit by changing your diet if you have a weight loss goal. Exercise can then be used to supplement this deficit, improve your fitness, and build muscle to create a toned appearance.

What Are The Benefits Of Fat Burning Workouts For Women?

While some women turn to fat-burning exercises when they’re trying to make aesthetic changes such as shifting stubborn belly fat or generally toning and shaping, there are so many benefits to exercise outside of fat loss.

In addition to burning fat and helping with weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight, exercise also helps to:

  • Increase muscle strength
  • Build endurance
  • Improve bone density
  • Boost metabolism
  • Improve mood
  • Reduce stress
  • Increase confidence
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce risk of chronic diseases

Overall, exercising is one of the best things we can do to improve our mental and physical health!

Is It Harder For Women To Burn Fat Than Men?

The process of losing fat is the same for both men and women, and involves creating a calorie deficit either by burning more calories through physical activity, reducing the number of calories consumed, or ideally, both.

However, it can feel harder for women for a few reasons. Hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle can impact appetite and energy, making it harder to eat in a deficit or get the energy to workout. Women also tend to have less muscle than men and burn fewer calories like for like, which means eating fewer calories to create a deficit. Women naturally store more fat due to higher levels of oestrogen too, and losing too much body fat can wreak havoc on the female body – women need a minimum of 12% body fat to function, while men only need 4%.   

What Are The Best Type Of Fat Loss Exercises For Women?

Often, when trying to burn fat, women will automatically turn to cardio exercises like running, HIIT or cycling. While these are great for torching calories, focusing on a strength training routine can have more benefits (we explain why later in this article), so we’ve looked at some of the best weight training exercises for fat loss: compound exercises. Compound exercises are exercises which work multiple joints and muscles at once. This builds muscle and burns fat more efficiently, as the body has to use more energy to power each muscle, and more muscles can be challenged at once.

If you prefer intense cardio, or want a mixture of both, we have plenty of workouts you can try over on our HIIT hub.

8 Of The Best Gym Exercises For Women’s Fat Loss

Whether you're a beginner or an advanced gym goer, if your goal is to lose fat, here are our top eight exercises to help you get stronger and fitter. Depending on how you like to train, you may wish to split these exercises into different training sessions over the week. We look at the best workout splits for women here which can help!

  1. Back squat

    The back squat is a key move to learn as it recruits multiple muscle groups at the same time, so it's great for building overall muscle and strength. Make sure to keep your back straight and avoid rounding your shoulders or letting your elbows flare out.

    • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell across the back of your shoulders, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
    • Engage your core and tuck your hips under, keeping your chest up and shoulders back.
    • Bend your knees and lower your hips, as if you were sitting back into a chair. Keep your weight in your heels and your back straight.
    • Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause for a moment and then push through your heels to straighten your legs and return to the starting position.
    • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  2. Barbell row

    The barbell row, also known as a bent over row, is a fantastic exercise to work your back. Building a stronger back can help to improve your posture and can also help to make the appearance of your waist smaller.

    • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell with an overhand grip, palms facing down.
    • Hinge at the hips and bend your knees slightly, keeping your back straight and abs engaged.
    • Let the barbell hang straight down from your shoulders, with your arms extended and palms facing your thighs.
    • Keeping your elbows close to your body, row the barbell up towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
    • Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, and then slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.
    • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  3. RDL

    The Romanian Deadlift (also known as RDL) is a great exercise to include, as it works the entire body. This move can help you get stronger, build muscle and, in turn, help to change your body composition. Make sure to keep your core engaged and avoid rounding your back or letting your knees cave in.

    • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell in front of your thighs, with an overhand grip and your palms facing your legs.
    • Engage your core and tuck your hips under, keeping your chest up and shoulders back.
    • Without rounding your back, hinge at the hips and lower the barbell towards the floor, keeping your arms straight and your weight in your heels.
    • Once your hips are fully extended and the barbell is just below your knees, pause for a moment and then squeeze your glutes to return to the starting position.
    • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  4. Lunges

    Lunges are great to help build lower body strength, improve single leg balance and address muscle imbalances. Make sure to keep your core engaged and avoid letting your front knee extend past your toes or your back knee touch the ground.

    • Stand with your feet together and your hands on your hips.
    • Step forward with one leg, landing on the ball of your foot and lowering your hips until your back knee is just above the ground.
    • Push through your front heel to straighten your leg and return to the starting position.
    • Repeat on the other side, alternating legs for the desired number of repetitions.
  5. Overhead press

    The overhead press is a great move to work the arms, shoulders, and core.

    • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding a barbell or dumbbells at shoulder level with an overhand grip.
    • Engage your core and squeeze your glutes to maintain a stable, upright posture.
    • Take a deep breath and press the weight straight up above your head, keeping your elbows close to your body.
    • Once your arms are fully extended, pause for a moment and then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
    • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  6. Hip thrust

    Your glutes are the biggest muscle group in your body, so building muscle here can help with body composition and metabolism. Hip thrusts are an excellent exercise for building strength and muscle in the glutes, as well as the hamstrings and quads. Make sure to use a barbell pad when performing this exercise, particularly if performing weighted hip thrusts, to safeguard your hips.

    • Sit on the ground with your back against a bench and your feet flat on the ground. Hold a barbell across your hips, with your hands placed on the bar for support.
    • Engage your core and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the ground, keepinyour back against the bench.
    • Once your hips are fully extended, pause for a moment and then slowly lower your hips back to the starting position.
    • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  7. Lat pulldown

    Lat pulldowns target most of the muscles in the back, as well as the biceps, and can help you to get your first pull up.

    • Sit on the seat facing the machine and adjust the cushion above your thighs if needed.
    • Stand up and grab the straight bar so it's shoulder-width apart, using an overhand grip.
    • Slowly lower yourself into the seat with arms extended above your head.
    • Squeeze your lats and drive your elbows down to pull the bar towards the top of your chest. You may have to lean slightly back as you do this.
    • Once the bar has reached the top of your chest, hold in this position for a pause, and slowly release the bar back to starting position.
  8. Kettlebell swing

    The kettlebell swing strengthens multiple muscle groups throughout your body and helps to build explosive power. It can even boost cardio endurance!

    • Stand with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart. Lower into a half-squat and pick up the kettlebell with both hands so your palms are facing your body.
    • Keep your core tight and a slight bend in your knees as you straighten your legs pushing from the heels and explode through the hips and swing the kettlebell to chest height.  
    • As you swing the kettlebell down between your legs, return to the half-squat position. That's one rep.
    • Complete the required amount of reps.

Why Should I Lift Weights If My Goal Is To Lose Fat?

Often during weight loss, muscle loss can occur. Losing muscle can lead to a lower metabolism, which makes it harder to lose weight. It can also lead to a ‘skinny fat’ appearance – if your goal is to look toned, you need muscle. Plus, low muscle mass can lead to health problems and a poorer quality of life.

Lifting weights can help to offset the rate of muscle loss that occurs with a calorie deficit and can even help to build muscle while dieting, which will help to create a lean, toned appearance. Building muscle can also help to recomp your body shape to a certain degree, for example creating the appearance of a smaller waist by building your back, or growing your glutes and legs for a more hourglass shape. To build muscle, you want to work each muscle group twice a week, so aim to strength train 2-4 times a week. You can add cardio sessions through the rest of the week, or after your workouts.

To learn more about the benefits, check out our weight training for women guide.

If you're unsure how to perform any of the exercises, don't be afraid to ask for help from a personal trainer - they're here to help! Learning how to perform these exercises with proper technique and safely will be beneficial in the long run, so take the time in learning these moves before adding more weights.

For more inspiration you can find a selection of free workouts here, including this article on the best HIIT workouts for women, or if you’re feeling motivated to start to gym or join in a fitness class, find your nearest PureGym here

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