If you want to burn the most calories in the least amount of time, you should go for a run—right? For the average person, after all, running at a 10-minute-mile pace burns about 740 to 872 calories per hour.
That’s a lot of calories, but believe it or not, there are plenty of other workouts that can be equally—if not more—effective.
“The amount of calories burned in a given type of exercise depends on the amount of muscle mass engaged,” explains Nick Clayton, C.S.C.S., a spokesperson for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). “The more muscles working, the more calories burned.”
Do them correctly and these seven workouts will get you to sizzle city.
1. Outdoor Bicycling
755 to 890 calories burned per hour
You’d think you’d expend less energy using equipment than you would using just your body, but biking actually requires more energy than running. “In running, your muscles—which are elastic—have a lot of recoil,” explains Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise (ACE). “When you hit the ground, the tissue lengthens and then recoils, which helps propel you.” (Think of a stretched rubber band snapping back into place.)
Without the ground to ‘snap’ your muscles back every time your foot hits the ground, though, cycling requires a lot more constant effort. Plus, “cycling engages the entire lower body, as well as the core and upper body, which provide stability and assist with harder efforts, such as out-of-the-saddle sprints and climbs,” says Clayton. This also increases your calorie burn.
Pro tip: To burn maximum calories, you need to maintain a speedy clip—between 14 and 15.9 miles per hour (a fast, vigorous effort), according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Don’t worry if you’re not able to quite maintain that pace, though. “It’s all about how hard you’re working based on your current health and fitness level,” says Clayton.
755 to 890 calories per hour
If you’ve ever swam laps, you know that just four can feel harder than running four miles. “When you’re running, there’s not much resistance working against you,” says McCall. “When you’re swimming, though, you have to break the surface tension of the water with every stroke and propel your body forward through the water.”
Not only does this make swimming more taxing, but moving through the water is way better for your joints that pounding the ground or repetitively spinning on a bike, adds Clayton. Not to mention, swimming fires up just about every muscle in your body.
Pro tip: You need to be consistent and efficient to earn your burn in the water (no pausing each time you hit the wall!). “It’s okay to use flippers to help you move if you need to,” says McCall.
777 to 916 calories per hour
Certain types of martial arts—including kickboxing, judo, jujitsu, karate, tae kwon do, tai-bo, and Muay Thai—can burn tons of calories, especially when you’re sparring.
“When you’re sparring, there’s a reactive element that you don’t get in other sports like running, swimming, and cycling,” explains McCall. “You’re at a higher state of awareness and a higher state of readiness because you don’t know what your opponent’s going to do. Your entire body is engaged.”
Pro tip: The key here is to spar at a solid pace. “Performing drills versus hitting gloves versus actual ‘combat’ all have different effects on intensity and adrenaline,” explains Clayton. Imagine the difference between practicing your kick form and fighting someone—it’s a big one.
4. Stationary Bicycling
830 to 979 calories per hour
Unlike outdoor biking, you’re never coasting down a hill—or being pushed by the wind at your back—when riding a stationary bike or taking a spin class. Because of that, a vigorous effort (around 161 to 200 watts, or 15 to 20 miles per hour) works you harder than biking outdoors, says McCall.
Pro tip: In a spin class, resistance matters most. “If you’re not really hiking up that resistance, you’re not really doing that much extra work,” McCall says. Instructors typically coach you to spin at a fast pace—like 130 beats per minute—to keep up with the music, but that can be very difficult to sustain. As long as you’ve got the resistance cranked up, you don’t have to be going much faster than 70 to 90 revolutions per minute, he explains.
5. Jumping Rope
890 to 1050 calories per hour
Jumping rope is basically running in place that uses your entire body. “Just adding in your arms adds a lot of extra work,” explains McCall. “It’s also easier to maintain a faster pace than running while jumping rope.”
According to the ACSM, maintaining a moderate pace of 100 to 120 skips per minute (with a plain, two-foot bounce) burns about 14 to 17 calories per minute. If you can up your pace to 120 to 160 skips per minute, you’ll burn an additional calorie or two per minute.
Pro-tip: McCall recommends jumping rope in intervals—like 90 seconds of high-intensity jumping followed by 30 seconds of rest. This will spike your heart rate and help your body burn even more calories.
906 to 1068 calories per hour
Rowing is such a huge calorie-burner because it engages your entire body. “If you’re doing it right, your legs, core, and upper body have to work hard,” says McCall. The more muscles you use, the more oxygen you consume—and any time you can increase oxygen consumption by using more muscles, you increase your overall energy expenditure, he says.
Pro-tip: To maximize your calorie burn on the rowing machine, you need to row at a power of about 200 watts, according to the ACSM. “But, again, it depends on fitness level and efficiency,” says Clayton. As long as you’re working at a level that feels intense to you, your effort will pay off.
966 to 1139 calories per hour
Like martial arts, sparring in a boxing ring has that reactive element that puts your body on high alert. Plus, you’re doing a ton of lateral, forward, and backward movement.
Pro-tip: “You generate more muscle force when you hit something than if you’re shadowboxing,” says McCall. Spar with a coach or trainer to bring more of your upper body into the workout.