The Lifts That Build Muscle and Burn Fat Fastest

Get more out of your weightlifting sessions by learning which lifts burn fat and build muscle fastest.


Nearly every athlete wants to build muscle and burn fat at some point in his or her career. However, many grow discouraged trying to wade through all the contradicting workouts and diets that make promises they can't keep. To take the mystery out of building muscle and burning fat, I recommend sticking to the basics.

The fundamental lifts such as presses, pulls, Squats and Deadlifts are the best exercises to build muscle and burn fat. Why? Because these compound exercises involve multiple joints and muscle groups. The more joints and muscles involved in an exercise, the more energy you use and the more fat you burn. Try performing a Leg Extension immediately after Squats. Your heart will race and you'll sweat through the Squat, but fly through the Leg Extension.

Compound lifts also target fast-twitch muscle fibers—which are responsible for power and maximum strength movements. Targeting the fast-twitch fibers will build size and burn fat since these muscles have a high metabolic demand.

Building Your Workout

To build muscle and burn fat fast, focus your workout on compound movements. For beginners, a standard program featuring three sets of 10 reps is effective:

Total-Body Workout

  • Warm-Up
  • Squat - 3x10
  • Pull-Ups - 3x10
  • Deadlift - 3x10
  • Dumbbell Bench - 3x10
  • RDL - 3x10
  • Dumbbell Row - 3x10
  • Supplemental Work (core, conditioning, etc.)

Perform this workout three times a week for two to four weeks to acclimate your body to these lifts. Although you may feel like you can go harder, it's important to use the total-body workout as a foundation that you can build upon. Focus on long-term goals. Too much too soon will result in overtraining or injury.

Big Weights for Big Gains

Once your body adapts to the beginner program, you can progress to an advanced program.

Lower-Body Workout

  • Warm-Up
  • Squat - 1x10, 2x8, 1x6
  • Deadlift - 2x8, 2x5
  • Front Squat - 3x8
  • RDL - 3x8
  • Sprint Intervals on bike/treadmill - 8 minutes of 15 second sprints with 45 seconds slow walk

Upper-Body Workout

  • Warm-Up
  • Chin-Ups - 1x10, 2x8, 1x6
  • Dumbbell Bench - 1x10, 2x8, 1x6
  • Ab Wheel Rollouts - 3x10
  • Inverted Rows (or TRX Rows) - 3x8
  • Dumbbell Military Press - 3x8
  • Supplemental Work

Perform the two workouts on consecutive days followed by a day off, then repeat (e.g., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday). Heavier weights force more muscle fibers to contract, which leads to better muscle growth and more energy expenditure.

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