I tried this intense 15-minute fat burning workout — here’s what happened

Woman swiping sweat off her forehead after fat burning workout
(Image credit: Getty images)

This intense 15-minute fat burning workout will burn through calories and build strength. And if you think you need bags of equipment and a spare hour to work up a sweat, think again.

I was restless and decided to head to YouTube in search of a quick 15-minute cardio workout to burn off some extra energy (and calories). I found this gem from YouTube fitness guru Oliver Sjostrom, and not only is it suitable as a beginner's workout, it also requires no equipment (except perhaps one of the best yoga mats, of course). 

If you’re looking for a high-intensity, quick and effective fat burning workout, you won’t regret jumping on this one. The workout is no-repeat and ramps your heart rate for a calorie-torching sweat fest. Read on to find out how I got on. 

As for other workouts, discover what happened when our fitness editor tried this 20-minute kettlebell workout or my experience with a 15-minute abs workout.

Watch this intense 15-minute fat burning workout  

Sjostrom anticipates this fat-burning workout will burn around 300 calories, but don’t take the number verbatim; calorie burn varies from person to person and depends on various factors like age and daily activity levels. 

If weight loss is your goal, sleep, diet, and overall daily activity play an integral role in your ability to burn fat. I recommend learning how to calculate your body fat percentage and why it matters to learn more. 

The workout takes just 15 minutes, but it's still very intense, although it’s also scalable for beginners. You can expect a combination of strength and cardio movements, perfect for burning fat and improving your functional strength. 

Sjostrom adds, “The workout is sweaty and intense, but most importantly, it will get your heart rate pumping.” Sounds good to me. Fifteen minutes sometimes doesn’t hit the spot for me, but I was genuinely cooked after this. And apparently, the science backs it up, too. 

A study published in the European Heart Journal (opens in new tab) found that short bouts of exercise between 15 to 20 minutes can reduce health risks and improve heart health in exercisers. I may have to slot 15-minute workouts into my routine more often.  

What are the fat burning heart rate zones?  

Your heart rate is the biggest indicator of exercise intensity. According to REI (opens in new tab), your aerobic zone is between 65-75% of your maximum heart rate, and tempo training (or HIIT) sits somewhere between 80-85%. 

According to the CDC (opens in new tab), moderate to vigorous exercise sits between these heart rate zones, increases metabolism, and supercharges calorie burn. HIIT also initiates a process called the EPOC effect (opens in new tab) (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption), known as the ‘afterburn.’ This is when your body consumes more oxygen and revs metabolism as the body recovers post-workout. It also kickstarts calorie burn as a result. 

In short, if you plan to work within your fat burning heart rate zone (when your body taps into fat stores for energy) to achieve fat loss, you’ll want to work within around 70% of your max heart rate. The most common way to measure this is by using one of the best fitness trackers or chest straps when performing a workout.  

I tried this intense 15-minute fat burning workout — here’s what happened 

As mentioned, research shows that 15 minutes is enough time to burn calories and pack health benefits, but does it feel like enough? My answer is a resounding yes. This fat-burning workout follows a 45-second on/15-second off format for one round using 15 exercises — plenty of time to have me crumbling on my mat afterward. 

Exercises include cross jacks, side-to-side skiers, burpees, push-ups, and more, but some core crunching work crops up near the end, so when you think you’re nearly there, you’re not. Bodyweight training is some of the most intense you can undertake, so check out our go-to calisthenics workout for inspiration. 

On this occasion, I decided to add some of the best adjustable dumbbells. I used them for the single-leg bicycle exercise (I held one dumbbell in my hand and tapped on my foot), the V-sit punches (punching with a dumbbell in each hand), and squat jacks.  

Person using a fitness tracker during fat burning workout

(Image credit: Getty images)

Dumbbells can increase intensity and calorie burn, so it’s certainly one way to add extra challenge. I used two 5kg dumbbells as I didn’t want to put too much pressure on my shoulders for the overhead cardio exercises. If you choose to add free weights, I strongly recommend airing on the side of caution and picking light weights so that you don’t get weighed down (so to speak) and lose out on high-intensity cardio, which is responsible for increasing your heart rate. 

I puffed and panted my way to the finish line, tracking my workout using my Withings ScanWatch fitness tracker. The dumbbells helped me reach the sought-after fat-burning heart rate zone I was aiming for, which I stayed in for most of the workout, but I only burned around 200 calories. I try not to focus too much on this, as most of the time fitness trackers inaccurately capture calorie burn. 

My verdict? This intense 15-minute fat burning workout floored me, regardless of calorie burn. It gets a big thumbs up from me. 

For more workout inspiration, check out this full-body dumbbell workout and this 70-rep bodyweight workout

Sam Hopes
Staff Fitness Writer

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and resident fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and workouts.