Here's what you need to know...

  1. The better you get at an exercise, the less effective it becomes as a fat-burner.
  2. Combining ground-based exercise like push-ups or planks with kettlebell swings can make for a fast and effective fat-burning workout.
  3. For a complete program, mix planks or push-ups with sprints of various distances.

There's a funny thing you start to notice about exercise and fat loss: the better you get at the movement, the less effective the exercise becomes for burning fat. We can see this odd phenomenon in every discipline, from performance to group aerobics – people slowly getting chubbier and chubbier as they continue to train.

It comes down to efficiency, or lack of it. You see, fat loss exercise has to be inefficient.

There's a simple way to rediscover the joys and sorrows of inefficiency and it's literally at your feet – it's the ground. If you get on the ground and then get off the ground, you'll stimulate a lot of fat loss. It's really quite surprising. As such, I present the following fat-loss combos, each designed around kissing the good Earth.

When I evaluate training programs, typically two big omissions stare at me:

  1. The lack of appropriate squatting movements.
  2. The lack of loaded carries (just doing a farmer's walk is enough).

The third area involves the kind of groundwork people are doing. Case in point, if Phil Maffetone is correct and 28,000 Americans a year die from falls or fall related injuries, then we should stop being so paranoid about peanut butter and focus more on tumbling.

Better still, groundwork training has minimal equipment needs. Let's explore some basics.

Here's a great workout. Stand up. Now, get to the ground and lie on your back. Repeat this for five minutes. Back in the day these were called grass drills, or up-downs, or "fun time," depending on your school. My football coaches always told me that getting off the ground after being knocked down was the secret to success in football. Frankly, it works for life, too.

Currently, I'm doing a program from Pat Flynn where each session begins with five minutes of "naked Turkish get-ups," which is just a formalized version of the grass drill. You can do them naked if you like, but in this case, the term "naked" means doing them without any resistance. Oddly enough, every day I find I move and feel better after the groundwork.

To really turn groundwork into something special, though, we need to combine it with other fat-burning modalities. For instance, if you followed the 10,000 Swing Challenge, you know all about one of the great furnace movements, the swing. Combining them with the push-up (or the plank, if you have issues) works great.

Here are my favorite combos. Be sure to just pick one for each training day.

Goblet Swing

Combo Option #1

  • Swings x 20 seconds
  • Push-ups x 6
  • Rest x 30 seconds
  • Repeat for 15 minutes
  • Next workout, increase push-ups by 1.

Combo Option #2

At the top of the minute:

  • Swings x 20, push-ups x 10
  • rest the remainder of the minute
  • Swings x 20, push-ups x 9
  • rest the remainder of the minute
  • Continue until you hit: Swings x 20, push-up x 1
  • This will take 10 minutes. To increase the workout to 15 minutes, simply start with swings x 20, push-ups x 15 (instead of 10).
  • The next workout, do 21 swings each minute.

Combo Option #3

This option differs from Option #2 in that you don't take any rest.

  • Swings x 20
  • Push-ups x 10
  • Keep the swings x 20 and
  • Work down the Push-ups: 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Goblet Squat

Combo Option #4

  • Swings x 10, goblet squats x 10, push-ups x 10
  • Swings x 10, goblet squats x 9, push-ups x 9
  • Continue until you hit:
  • Swings x 10, goblet squats x 1, push-ups x 1
  • No rest!

Combo Option #5

On the minute:

  • Swings x 1 and push-up x 1
  • Then farmer's walk the weight to the top of the next minute
  • Swings x 2 and push-up x 2
  • Then farmer's walk the weight to the top of the next minute
  • Continue until you're finished.

What you'll quickly discover is that getting up and getting down, over and over, adds a metabolic hit that most don't expect. For a complete program, mix planks or push-ups with sprints of various distances. This has to be done in an area with a fair amount of space, but both the push-up numbers and the sprint quality will degrade quickly.

We recently began exploring a new combination with one of my NFL clients. Equipment issues are minimal and they're like the Litvinovs that I discussed years ago. It's a deadlift for 5 reps followed by a bear crawl.

Everyone seems to be doing monkey aerobics and caveman cardio and the bear crawl is getting a bit overdone, but try this very simple combo. I'd suggest underloading the deadlift the first workout – back off to about two-thirds of what you think your 5RM weight should be. Do it for a few sets before worrying about the load. For the bear crawls, make it 20 meters. Since the deadlift load is relatively light, we can do more sets, up to 8 total sets.

Not only do the heart and lungs take a hit, but this combination leads to an odd kind of soreness that really has to be tasted to be understood.

Fat loss demands inefficiency. For a fat burning program that's hyper-efficient and short on equipment needs, I suggest doing two days of the swing/push-up combos. Keep these at least two days apart from each other.

One day a week, get out and mix the push-up/plank with the sprints. Copy the old running tradition of Fartlek, which means "speed-play." Start off with just one or two push-ups followed by an easy jog or even walk.

Mix and match the length of runs and intensity (the speed) of the running with the number of push-ups. Make it chaotic and just "play" with the two exercises.

Finally, one other day of the week, try the deadlift and bear crawl. Work up to 8 sets of 5 in the deadlift.

None of these workouts last very long – rarely over 15 minutes – but you'll never fully master them. Let the ground be part of your fat loss program.

Dan John is an elite-level strength and weightlifting coach. He is also an All-American discus thrower, holds the American record in the Weight Pentathlon, and has competed at the highest levels of Olympic lifting and Highland Games. Follow Dan John on Facebook