EPOC Exercises

These drills can help stoke your postworkout fat-fighting furnace.

Karla Dial, Joe Wuebben | September 20, 2016


The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer, your schedule is filling up fast, and before you know it, you’ll be hosting holiday parties and family get-togethers. But you don’t want to give in and start putting on a coat of flab — not after you’ve worked so hard all year at your fat-loss plan! The key is to make the most of your training time now and use tactics that lend themselves to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Also known as afterburn, EPOC can fuel your body’s fat-loss mechanism for up to 24 hours after your workout.

Spider Crawl and Walking Lunge

Cardio gives you a decent afterburn. If you work at about 85 percent of your max heart rate for 12 to 20 minutes, you’ll get a great EPOC effect afterward. However, if you want to improve your conditioning but hate running on a treadmill, try a crawl-lunge combo: Do the spider crawl for 20 yards, then lunges for 20 yards. Keep that going for six consecutive minutes and you’re done.

How-to: The spider crawl requires that you get down on your hands and toes (as if in the top of a push-up position). Bring one knee toward your elbow on that side and plant your foot. To propel yourself forward, extend your arm on the opposite side, then bring your knee toward your elbow on that side. Try to keep your body as long as possible, and don’t hunch your back. Continue alternating sides until you’ve covered the distance. 

In a walking lunge, begin by standing tall, with your hands on your hips. Take a step forward with either leg, drop your hips and bend your knees until the shin of your front leg is almost perpendicular to your ankle. The knee of your trailing leg should come to within one or two inches of the floor. Then push through your heel of the leading foot to rise back to a standing position and bring your trailing leg forward to repeat the lunge. Throughout the movement, keep your chest forward and your back straight — avoid bending at the waist, especially as your muscles begin to fatigue.

Loaded Lunge

Here’s a different way to perform a lunge: Carry dumbbells or place a barbell yoke style over your shoulders. Another method is to load a weighted vest with the equivalent of 10 to 20 percent of your bodyweight. Perform 15 to 20 minutes of continuous walking lunges. Weighted lunges create a great oxygen debt. 

How-to: To perform a walking lunge with dumbbells, hold one weight in each hand, palms facing in and arms hanging at your sides. Stand tall, with your feet positioned just below your hips. See the “how-to” for the walking lunge. 

Kettlebell Snatch

A study published in 2010 by the American Council on Exercise shows that kettlebells can provide more intensity than traditional weight workouts, thereby increasing the afterburn. According to that study, performing a 20-minute one-handed snatch workout with a kettlebell burned an average of 13.6 calories per minute. The subjects burned approximately 272 calories in 20 minutes, and that didn’t even count the additional afterburn, which the scientists calculated was another 6.6 calories per minute. Compare that to the 90 calories burned in a standard 30-minute weight-training workout for a woman weighing about 125 pounds, and you can see the benefit of adding kettlebells to your fat-loss program.

How-to: In the snatch, you hoist the kettlebell in one powerful motion to a point that your elbows are locked out overhead and you’re in a deep squat — you then stand up and complete the move with the weight extended above you.

Tough Stuff

“Any exercise that is inefficient for a given person will be great for EPOC,” says Todd Bumgardner, MS, CSCS, a strength-and-conditioning coach in Connecticut. “Essentially, do what you’re not good at.” By that he means that if you can easily handle training with weights but find it hard to do burpees, then do burpees. If you’re not efficient at performing a particular movement, you’ll use more energy and tax your body to a greater degree. “You’ll expend a ton of energy and, in the process, create a great EPOC environment,” he says.

How-to: Burpees begin in a standing position. Squat all the way down until your hands are flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart and in front of your feet, then drive your feet behind you to arrive at the top of a push-up position. Perform one push-up, bend your knees and “jump” your feet forward underneath you. Stand up and go immediately into a vertical jump with your hands overhead before landing softly back on the floor. That’s one rep. If you’re a beginner, omit the push-up and vertical jump. But remember, they add intensity to the overall movement — and that’s the object of performing any EPOC exercise.

About the Author

Karla Dial