What Are Body Composition Exercises?

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Do you want to lose weight, or do you want to keep muscle and lose fat? A diet can help you lose weight, but you can use body composition exercises to keep the muscle along the way.

It's not as complicated as it sounds. You will need to combine body composition activities with a diet full of lean protein to encourage weight loss and shape a stronger body.

What Is Body Composition?

Body composition is your body's ratio of fat to lean mass, including muscle, bones, and organs. Body composition is evaluated using body fat percentage. A fit woman's body fat generally falls between 21% and 24%. A fit man's body fat generally falls between 14% and 17%.

There are many ways to measure body fat percentage. Many health clubs and doctor's offices can perform simple tests to get the number. There are also body fat scales that measure percentage.

If you want to change your body's shape, you'll want to decrease your body fat percentage. Surprisingly, this could mean an increase in your weight. This is because muscle is more dense than fat, so it occupies less space in your body.

Since gaining muscle can result in a higher number on the scale, a traditional scale may not be the best way to measure success. That's where knowing your body fat percentage comes in.

Before you start an exercise program, it's a good idea to know your number so that you can measure your progress along the way.​

Body Composition Exercises

  • Aerobic exercise
  • HIIT training
  • Strength training
  • Circuit training

Cardio Exercise for Body Composition

All forms of exercise burn calories. But body composition exercises combine activities to burn fat and activities to build muscle. That way, you replace fat with lean, tight, strong muscles.

So what is the best way to burn fat? Aerobic exercise will do the trick. Aerobic activity, sometimes called cardio, is an exercise that gets your heart pumping. During an aerobic workout, you breathe heavier and begin to sweat.

It is not necessary, however, to exercise to the point of breathlessness every day. In fact, you'll burn the highest percentage of calories from fat at a moderate intensity

As your fitness level improves, however, you may want to include harder workouts in your exercise schedule. Higher intensity workouts burn more calories, but a smaller ratio of fat. To maximize fat loss, combine high intensity, moderate intensity, and low intensity workouts in a complete and balanced fitness program.

Strength Workouts for Body Composition

You'll notice real changes to your body composition when you begin strength training. The purpose of strength training is to build and shape the muscles.

A common misconception among women is that strength training will cause them to bulk up. This is rarely the case. Women don't make enough of the hormone testosterone to build the muscles that a man might build doing the same workout.

You also don't need to worry about having special equipment, spending a lot of money, or joining a gym. You can do simple strength training workouts at home to strengthen your legs, arms, and abs, with some exercises using nothing more than your own body's weight.

Sample Body Composition Exercises

Which exercises are best when you're trying to change your body composition? Simple bodyweight exercises are effective because they increase your heart rate and build strength to shape strong muscles at the same time.

You can do these exercises at home with little or no equipment:

Building Body Composition Workouts 

If you are consistent in your training, you should start to notice changes to your body composition in just a few weeks. To build a consistent program, combine aerobic workouts and strength training workouts into a circuit workout. Or you can alternate workouts on different days. 

Circuit Training

Combine your favorite cardio activity with strength training and alternate each activity within a single workout. For example, if you like to walk, you might get on a treadmill and climb a hill for 7 minutes, then follow up with 3 minutes of push-ups, lunges, and abdominal curls. Repeat that pattern three to six times for a complete circuit workout.

Alternate Days

You can also burn fat and build muscle by alternating workouts on different days. For example, you might choose to take an aerobics class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and complete your strength-training workout on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This gives your muscles time to recover.

Don't forget that your diet plays an important role as well. Make sure you monitor your energy balance to get the deficit you need for fat loss to occur.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Muth ND. What are the guidelines for percentage of body fat loss?. American Council on Exercise.

  3. Drenowatz C, Hand GA, Sagner M, Shook RP, Burgess S, Blair SN. The prospective association between different types of exercise and body compositionMed Sci Sports Exerc. 2015;47(12):2535–2541. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000701

By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.