If your goal is fat loss, you need to know that slow and steady will lose the race, not win it. At least that’s what American researchers have found. Men and women doing 300 hours of cardio only lose about 5 pounds – that’s 60 hours of cardio per pound.
Instead, opt for more intense training done in short bursts − it will burn calories much quicker. Unlike a long, slow cardio workout, with intense training, you will still be melting fat after your workout is done.
Work hard – recover – repeat
Interval training consists of high-intensity exercises alternated with short periods of rest. This type of workout burns more calories than any traditional cardio workout ever will and increases your body’s capacity to burn fat through the hormone production. Interval workouts are much shorter than traditional cardio training, and they also make you fitter in a much shorter period of time.
You improve your cardio fitness in two ways. Steady-state increases the oxygen delivered to your lungs and heart. Intervals work on your muscles, assisting them in efficiently using oxygen, so your heart does not have to pump so hard to make the muscles perform.
Jump on that stationary bike and begin your new training regimen. With interval training, there must be two parts – hard and easy. Start with your regular warm-up. After that, you need to pedal at 20% higher intensity than your normal cardio workout. After 30-60 seconds, bring the intensity down to a rate that’s half the usual.
You are going to alternate 30-60 seconds of extremely hard work with 30-60 seconds of very easy pedaling for 6-10 intervals to complete the session. If you find it getting easier, you can increase the intensity of each interval, shorten your rest periods, extend your hard portions, or add additional intervals. You should repeat your interval training 3-4 times a week.
Sprints – a natural form of interval training
Sprints are just like intervals, only shorter. And they can have huge pay-offs for more than just your legs − sprinting is actually a general body exercise. One quick warning – if you are not used to sprinting, it could be easy to pull a hamstring, which will effectively halt your training. Here are some tips to help you start off safer.
Sprint on a hill where impact on joints is lower. The ground connects with your leg sooner, forcing you to open up your hips more. You also cannot go very fast, so you reduce the chance of pulling a muscle while still getting that high-intensity workout.
Your sprints should never be more than 50 yards. This helps maintain a continuous high intensity and prevent a form breakdown, which could result in injury.
To amplify your overall sprint results, increase the number of sprints, not the distance.
When you first start performing a sprint workout, do it only once a week − you’ll be surprised at just how sore you are. Once you are used to this level of stimulus, bump it to two sessions per week and include other gym workouts. You need at least 2 days of recovery time between sprinting workouts.
Burn fat & build muscle simultaneously
To get the high-intensity fat-burning workout, you do not need to bike, run, or do any traditional cardio exercises. Just pair strength exercises that work opposing muscles − this will build muscle and keep your heartrate high, maximizing the fat loss.
For example, you could do a dumbbell reverse lunge, followed by a pull-up. During the lunges, your back and arms are at rest, and during the pull-ups − your legs. The basic concept is that you do more work in less time. Alternatively, consider doing a dumbbell bench press and an inverted row. For every exercise, choose a weight that you can do 10 reps with. Alternate between the exercises, doing 5 reps of each. Rest as long as you need between the sets so that you are sure you will be able to complete each set of five.
Just like with cardio, strength intervals will not work if your reps are too high of an intensity. Continue to alternate between the exercises for a specific time – 10-15 minutes. You can also try keeping track of the total number of sets you do. In the next session, attempt to beat your own score by completing more sets in that time or with more weight.
Density training sessions are excellent to add at the end of your traditional strength training workout. To do full density training, perform several time blocks in the same session, using different exercise pairings. Other pairs that work well include dead-lifts with split squats against a rowing exercise, a goblet squat combined with a single-arm dumbbell row, or a reverse lunge with pull-downs.
Your countdown to having a better body
Countdown workouts will use exercise pairs and motivate you to complete your training. Every round involves one fewer rep of each move — moving from sets of six to five to four, and so forth, until the count reaches zero. That finish line mentality can keep you going.
Just like with density training, pairing opposing exercises for countdowns works, but so does picking moves that have rhythm, for example, squat thrusts and pushups. It’s a good idea to avoid lunging or other dominant knee exercises, as they can lead to injury should your form waver. For the same reason, try to avoid overhead pressing moves.
Start your countdown training with 6 reps of exercise #1, followed by 6 reps of exercise #2. Go back to exercise #1 and do 5reps, followed by 5 reps of exercise #2. Keep alternating until you reach zero. After that, add one rep to each exercise. You can also try out the following pairs:
- Medicine ball side toss and medicine ball slam
- Kettlebell swing and squat thrusts
- Jumping jacks and pushups
- Squat thrusts and pushups
‘The Hurricane’ workout
Cardiovascular training is archaic and boring. To combat that boredom and to train harder and faster, one expert created ‘the hurricane’ workout protocol. It involves lifting weights with interval training. Each hurricane has 3 groups called rounds. Each round has an exercise that raises your heart rate with another exercise occurring in-between. This lets you build muscle while keeping your heart rate up through the whole workout.
The hurricane workouts are classified into 5 levels, each offering an increase in challenge. If you are new to intense training, begin with Category #1. Those that are more fit can start with Category #3.
Here is a sample workout for the third category. Start by warming up. For every round in this workout, perform one set of each of the exercises, then move on to the next one. Complete the round three times before you move on to the next.
- Run on the treadmill at 10 mph with a 10% incline for 25 seconds.
- Do the Turkish getup kettlebell 4 times on each side with 10 chin-ups.
- Repeat 3 times.
- Run on a treadmill at 11 mph and a 10% incline for 25 seconds.
- Do 10 dips with 15 reps of the barbell rollout.
- Repeat 3 times.
- Run on the treadmill at 12 mph with a 10% incline for 25 seconds.
- Do 10 reps of the G.I. row with 20 reps of the knee grab.
- Repeat 3 times.
You can’t outsmart a bad diet
If you are a young, you may be able to lose fat with no changes to your diet, but for the majority of people, even the best workout will not be able to outsmart a bad diet. There is no question that interval training is by far one of the most efficient ways to burn both calories and fat, but it’s hard to lose weight with just exercises.
To understand why this happens, let’s look at a calorie expenditure equation for men:
Calories = [(0.2017 x Age) + (0.6309 x Heart Rate) – (0.09036 x Weight) – 55.0969] x Time / 4.184.
If you were to use this formula, it would mean that a 29-year-old man with a weight of 180 lb. will burn just 139 calories by performing 20 minutes of interval training with an average heart rate of 150.
Women have to change the formula slightly:
Calories = [(0.074 x Age) + (0.4472 x Heart Rate) – (0.05741 x Weight) – 20.4022] x Time / 4.184.
The Director of Teamworks Fitness in Massachusetts David Jack says: “You cannot out-train a bad diet. If you are training and then eating an extra 400 calories of garbage, that’s what your workout burns. It’s pointless.” It would seem that it is time to walk away from the treadmill and the potato chips and instead implement these five high-intensity training strategies to burn fat at a much faster rate.
[Featured image credit: Michael Carty]