For the first half of my personal training career, I believed that traditional cardio training was the best form of exercise when it came to short term fat loss. Cardio burns more calories per time spent than any other form of exercise. For example, 30 minutes on an elliptical will burn more total calories than 30 minutes of resistance training. Although we should ultimately look at fat loss from a long-term perspective (in which case resistance training is supreme), it’s also important to understand short term progress. If you wanted to lose weight fast and your time reference is a couple months, cardio training was the key.
The traditional form of cardio is known as steady state (SS) cardio. This is the kind where you go on an elliptical or a treadmill and move at a continual consistent pace. This is also known as aerobic exercise because the main sources of energy used to fuel this type of cardio requires a lot of oxygen and fat.
There is another form of cardio that is quickly becoming popular. Its known as high intensity interval training (HIIT). This form of cardio looks more like explosive sprints of high intensity work interrupted by short periods of rest. Its less aerobic than SS cardio, and is more anaerobic. It uses less oxygen and stored carbohydrates as its main energy source.
A good example of an activity that could be done in a SS cardio way and in a HIIT cardio way is running. If you run for long distances you are doing SS cardio. If you sprint you are doing HIIT cardio. This is a good example because the image of a long-distance runner vs a sprinter actually highlights the different results that each form of cardio will provide. Long distance runners are skinny with little fat and little muscle while sprinters are muscular with a lot of muscle with little fat. HIIT cardio is more like resistance training than SS cardio is.
In fact, when studies compare SS cardio to HIIT cardio they find that HIIT may burn more body fat and either builds more muscle or, at the least, preserves more muscle that SS cardio. This gives HIIT cardio a HUGE advantage because one of the pitfalls of doing lots of SS cardio is a reduction in muscle mass which results in a SLOWER metabolic rate. This is NOT good if you are trying to get lean and stay lean.
One easy way to do HIIT cardio is to simply do short sprints on a cardio machine. For example, you could get on an elliptical and do short 20 second bursts of maximal exertion followed by 40-60 seconds of slow recovery-based cardio. HIIT cardio should not be done for as long as SS cardio either. A typical HIIT session should last no more than 15 minutes.
Although HIIT on a cardio machine is effective at burning body fat, there is a way to TURBO charge the effects to make it even more powerful. Just combine it with resistance training!! When you set up a HIIT session with resistance you burn just as many calories as when you do HIIT on cardio, but you gain added benefits of some muscle and strength gain. This translate into a faster metabolism which makes getting and staying lean much easier. You also get the body sculpting effects that only resistance training can provide.
One problem though, resistance training requires much more planning. Its far more complex to pick the right exercises and put them in the right order to make them effective than it is to sprint on a cardio machine. Put resistance training exercises together haphazardly without some experienced thought and you increase your risk of injury AND you lose most of the benefits. That’s the bad news. Here is the good news, I am going to provide you with one AWESOME well programmed resistance training HIIT cardio program. The programs I am about to share with you has an excellent success track record with my clients. This workout is also bodyweight only meaning you don’t even need access to a gym or any workout equipment at all. Do the following workout 3 days a week for maximum fat burning and metabolism boosting effects.
The tempo for the above exercises should be controlled and moderate. Not super-fast, but also not very slow. Just a continuous moderate pace. Make sure to take the prescribed rest periods EVEN IF you feel you don’t need them. If you just go from exercise to exercise with no rest you will essentially be doing steady state cardio and will miss out on the benefits of HIIT. After performing a round rest as long as it takes for your heart rate to come down. As you get more fit you will need less rest at the end of each round. Never rest for less than 45 seconds. Do as many rounds as you can for 15 minutes and take longer breaks and rest periods if necessary.
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