There are no question quick and easy exercises. Crunches, leg lifts and pushups are good for toning muscle, but can they help you shed pounds?
To answer that question, let's first get a super simplified refresher on on how we lose weight.
To lose weight there needs to be a calorie deficit. To create a calorie deficit you need to burn more calories than you consume. You can do this through 1) consuming fewer calories, 2) burning more calories or 3) a combo of the two. If you go with option 1) you risk losing lean muscle mass instead of straight body fat. This will lower your metabolism, making weight loss harder, and give you the "skinny fat" body composition that no one wants. If you go with option 2) you may see results if you already eat a pretty lean and clean diet, but it will be slow going, which makes staying motivated tough. That means, ding! ding! ding! Option 3 is the way to go.
Option 3 is a two-pronged effort. To consume less calories, just eat less calories. Boom. Done. To burn more calories, you have to exercise. Exercise burns calories during the workout, which most people understand, but building muscle will also cause you to burn more calories around the clock.
To burn calories during your workout, you need to raise your heart rate. Oxygen is fuel for your exercising muscles and oxygen is found in our blood. When you workout, your heart will start beating over time to pump more blood, and therefore oxygen, to those exercising muscles. All this extra work from your muscles, especially the heart, will burn calories. The higher the intensity of exercise, the faster your heart will beat to deliver that blood and the more calories you will burn per minute.
To burn calories after your workout, you need to build lean muscle mass through progressive resistance training. Muscle is built when the muscle is asked to work against resistance. Usually, this means lifting weights, but your body can act as resistance, too. Muscle is built in a progressive manner, which means you start with the lowest resistance, and once your muscles become stronger and that resistance is no longer challenging, you increase the resistance.
Calisthenics, by definition, are body weight exercises making them very mild strength training. They don't raise your heart rate high enough to burn many calories during the exercise, but they do have the ability to increase your lean muscle mass. How much, however, depends on your fitness level.
If you are just starting out on a fitness program, you may notice results from these types of exercises, but soon you will need more resistance to continue progressing. You can do this by using your body weight and manipulating angles and positions or you can add weight into the mix with dumbbells, a weighted vest or ankle weights.
There is nothing wrong with quick and easy calisthenics. Any exercise is good exercise, especially if it allows you to lay in front of the TV while doing it, but if you're after real weight loss results, intensity is key. Your best bet is to put in a solid effort and make the most of your workout, because your time is valuable, and you have way more fun things to do.
Kelly Turner is a fitness writer and contributor, personal trainer and social media and marketing consultant. If she's not in the gym or behind her computer, she's lost, so please call the police. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit.