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Functional Exercises that Build Muscle and Endurance

Updated on April 2, 2015

Crank up the Intensity and Burn Fat!

There is no one exercise that can burn fat and pack on muscle. Plus, what works for one person may not be as effective with someone else. On the other hand, there are some exercises (and foods,) that can make the body feel leaner, harder and stronger, even if they don't immediately affect the number on the scale. As it happens, including these exercises in a regular workout routine will burn more calories than if a person had just taken it steady on the treadmill.

Here are our top ten, in no particular order:


Use Your Bodyweight

Elbow Crawl

Ever been in the military? This is how you got under barbed wire obstacles, usually with your face in the mud. This exercise is done like the spider walk, but on the elbows. Again, keep the shoulder active and your butt down; you don't want it getting shot off!

Spider Walk

The spider walk is one of those 'best exercises you've never heard of.' There are variations of this which involve crawling like an alligator or stalking like a tiger. Start in a push-up position and simultaneously move one hand forward and bend the opposite leg, keeping on the ball of the foot. Repeat on the other side without letting the body rest on the ground.

The butt should stay down and the shoulder blades should not be allowed to cave towards each other. To act like a monkey, do this same exercise with all contact made on a single line.

This woman is walking like a spider...
This woman is walking like a spider... | Source


Ever wonder why Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was able to pack in 10,000 calories a day and never gain a pound? Simply because he spent long hours working hard in the pool.

You don't have to be an Olympic hopeful to get the same calorie burning benefits that this whole body exercise imparts. Just dedicate 2-3 days a week to performing laps. Increase the distance and as with running, throw in some all out efforts to crank up the intensity. But leave the extra few thousand calories on your plate.



Ok, so one more workout. Moving to Latin dance rhythms in fast paced intervals of 5-7 minutes for an hour to an hour and a half is supposed to burn off 750 to 1000 calories. Maybe you should be dancing.

Jumping Burpees

Much like mountain climbers, the burpees exercise demands action from multiple muscle groups at the same time. The trainee drops to a push-up position from standing, pushes up and hops both legs from push-up position to a squat, at which point they stand up and start all over. With jumping burpees, this turns into a squat jump, immediately followed by repeating the exercise.

Want a great workout? Try doing 100 of these in a row and following it with Tabata mountain climbers. Forget going to the gym the next day.


Sprinting is a great way to burn extra calories and increase anaerobic capacity. It can be done just about anywhere at any time, but one of the best ways to incorporate it into a calorie burning workout is while running.

Doing all out sprints during a run is basically interval training, except you will not stop and rest. Also, for this workout the distance will be gauged by the number of sprints being performed. For example, 10 sets of 100-400 yards, jogging in between for 30-60 seconds.

You don't have to be this guy to do olympic lifts
You don't have to be this guy to do olympic lifts

Olympic lifting

In case you didn't get the memo, Olympic lifts are not just for guys with huge bellies anymore. The clean and jerk and the snatch have been incorporated into Crossfit workouts since their inception, and kettlebell enthusiasts perform these two exercises along with the 'swing' religiously.

There is a good reason too. The barbell clean and jerk starts from the ground and is deadlifted off the floor. The lifter than explodes with the weight and drops under it into a full squat (hopefully.) They then squat the weight up, pause to adjust their grip and explode again, this time pushing the weight overhead.

Sound like a lot of work? Wait until you've done 20 in a row with a moderate weight. You will probably need help getting off the floor.

The snatch takes the weight from the ground straight over head. Again, the barbell is caught in a squat and the lifter 'stands' up holding the weight with locked out arms. Yeah, the olympic lifts are calorie burners. A word of caution, study the techniques carefully before heading out to heave the barbell overhead. It just might keep you from getting crushed.


Climbing Wall

So this isn't exactly an 'exercise' but more like an entire workout. Since climbing utilizes every muscle in the body, it burns an insane number of calories (estimates vary between 500-1000 and hour.)

Of course, speed climbing on easier routes repeatedly is more of an aerobic workout while bouldering hard problems requires more strength and muscular endurance. Either way,hit the wall first because there may be nothing left afterwards!

Tabata Mountain Climbers

Tabata Mountain Climbers

The Tabata protocol is 20 seconds of all-out effort work followed by absolute rest for 10 seconds, repeated 8 times. Any exercise could have been substituted here, but mountain climbers were chosen for a reason.

First, the chest, triceps and frontal deltoids get exhausted supporting the body. Second, the hip flexors are so active they should be sore the next day. In addition, the hip extensors, abdominal wall and obliques are also involved to an extent. Add this exercise to the tail end of a workout and don't plan on running the next day.

*Note: The original Tabata protocol requires more than all-out effort. Think 'the hardest and fastest you can push yourself' and then go 65% beyond that.

Odd Object Lifting

Getting an oddly shaped 40-100 pound rock/boulder, picking it up off the ground to chest level and heaving it as far as possible is a killer exercise.

But, if the gym won't let you throw rocks around inside, consider their selection of medicine balls. Doing ball slams for 30 seconds with 30 seconds of rest will have anyone gasping for breath. Use an 8-12 pound rubberized ball (meant to be slammed,) and keep it moving. Try finishing 5 sets of this 30/30 protocol for a heart-pumping workout!

There you have it! These are not the only ten best fat-burning exercises (or workouts) in existence, but adding one or more to your current routine is sure to help burn off the fat. Try it today!


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