High Intensity Interval Training Vs Moderate Traditional Cardiovascular Exercises
Take a really good look at the following figures. And out of that list, which length of time for cardio exercise do you think is proven to burn the most body fat? The answer may surprise you.
a. 90 minutes of walking?
b. 45 minutes on an exercise bike or other fitness equipment?
c. 15 minutes of HIIT – highly intensive dumbbell and body weight exercises?
The answer is c. But how could that possibly be? How could just 15 minutes of exercise be more of a weight loss benefit than forty minutes on a stationary bike or walking about a mile? I’ll prove it to you later.
For a long time, there has been a huge amount of ‘bad instruction’ around the internet about what exercises you need to do, in order to burn the maximum calories and achieve the best weight loss benefits. This is hugely important if you are someone who does not have two hours a day to spend exercising – which ironically, is probably most people!
Most people are spending up to an hour or two per day, a few times a week, either pounding the pavements – jogging or walking, or are stood on a treadmill, sat on an exercise bike or skiing their hearts out on an elliptical machine (the elliptical is about the best of these machines, because you are using multiple exercise groups).
But, if your goal is fat loss (not general cardiovascular exercise for your heart – lets be very clear about this), you are not making the best use of your time. And that is to put it ‘gently’.
Clearing Up Misconceptions of Fat Loss Exercises
So I want to clear up a few misconceptions for you, and enlighten you to the very best ways that you can exercise, and making the best use of your time, which is going to help you lose fat quicker and get on the right track to looking athletic and toned.
Traditionally, if you wanted to lose fat (or get shredded, for the more serious gym rats), you would need to add to your already busy schedule, about thirty minutes of moderate stationary bike exercises first thing in the morning, as soon as you get out of bed. Or you would need to execute a full days slog at the office, on the road or where ever else you may work – and then hit the treadmill in the gym for an hour!
But most people just don’t have that luxury of time to exercise this way. About 5% of people who want to lose weight actually succeed in their goal, because losing the fat either takes too long or, and this bit is freaky – it does not work at all..! And they just give up.
But, there is good news for you!
New scientific research has concluded that this ‘traditional’ way to lose fat, is not the most optimal method. In fact, picking up a set of dumbbells and exercising with weights, and eating a healthy diet is the best way to lose fat (proof later in the article), on a like for like basis.
Carry on reading to discover the absolute best ways you should be doing your cardio for fat loss!
This article is quite long, so here you can skip to any section by clicking one of the links below.
Table on Contents:
- Cardiovascular Exercise as You Know it is DEAD!
- Breaking Things Down Into Plain English
- Myths and Truths About Cardiovascular Exercise
- The Truth About Doing Cardio for Fat Loss – It Makes You Want to Scream!
- Here’s the Proof?
- What Does This Mean for You?
- So, What is the Best Cardio Workout for Fat Loss?
- High Intensity Interval Training for Losing Fat
- What if You Are Trying to Build Muscle at the Same Time?
- Holy Cow! Yes, You Can Really Burn Nine Times More Fat Doing This
- What About Fat Loss and Conditioning Programs You Can Do at Home?
- A High Intensity Interval Training Workout With Resistance Bands
Cardiovascular Exercise as You Know it is DEAD!
It also sucks! Unless you are a bodybuilder (more on this later..).
You always hear people talking about spending forty five minutes a day on a treadmill or spending hours in the gym every evening, pedalling on a bike or trying to ski across the Rockies on an elliptical trainer!
But, is this really the best use of their time? Probably not.
They are not reaching their maximum potential for fat loss, in the time they allow for their visit to the gym.
They are however, improving their endurance, keeping their heart healthy and opening up their lungs, which is great if you have a different goal set and want to ride in the tour de France.
But today .. we are talking STRICTLY about FAT LOSS.
Myths and Truths About Cardiovascular Exercise
You’ve probably heard many people say that in order to burn fat, you must do cardio at a medium pace (moderate intensity). Well, if you’re a bodybuilder who is preparing to enter a competition, who is at 10% body-fat or less, then yes .. cardio done at moderate intensity works best for them, because they want to keep their muscle mass.
If you are someone who is carrying around 20% body-fat, a different way of exercising will benefit you and help you to burn more fat .. and quicker too.
Early on in my ‘fitness life’, I would spend up to an hour a day on a treadmill or elliptical machine, never making much progress. I never lost as much fat as I thought I should lose, for the amount of time I spent in the gym.
To be honest, I was jaded..! I’d done all that work and had little results to show for it. It was depressing to say the least.
I didn’t have that amount of time to waste every day (without achieving my goals..), as I am sure that you do not. You need to see positive results, in as little time as possible, without expecting that your body is going to look great by the end of next week!
Losing fat takes time, so you have to be realistic.
But that is where a lot of people fail these days. Even using the methods of losing fat in this article, you need to understand that it takes consistency and dedication to achieve your weight loss goals.
People expect results way too quickly and just give up when they don’t see the results. Then they claim all this stuff doesn’t work, because they never lost weight in a couple of weeks!
So don’t expect to see visual changes in your body for those first couple of weeks. But, after 30 days and if you’ve been consistent with your training and your diet, I guarantee that you will see your body looking better right in front of your eyes.
This will motivate you to carry on.
The Truth About Doing Cardio for Fat Loss – It Makes You Want to Scream!
Low intensity cardio exercise, when performed on a treadmill or stationary bike does have its place and for good reason to. It absolutely great for keeping your heart strong and for preventing cardiac diseases later in life. It is also has a great and very important place for rehabilitation after car accidents and such disasters.
But this article is not about heart health – it is about fat loss.
It’s about the calories you burn while exercising, versus the calories you will continue to burn after you have finished working out.
Here’s the Proof?
There is an article published in Metabolism (1994) Volume 43, pp.814-818 by Angelo Tremblay, Ph.D. and colleagues at the Physical Activities Sciences Laboratory, Laval University, Quebec, Canada who performed experiments to assess fat and weight loss attained by long, moderate level exercise versus short, high intensity exercise.
One group of test subjects performed 30 to 45 minutes of moderate stationary cycling at 60% to 85% maximum heart rate 4 to 5 days per week for 21 weeks.
Another set of test subjects performed 10 to 15 bouts of 15 to 30 seconds intervals or 4 to 5 bouts of 60 to 90 second intervals at very high intensity over a 15-week period. Each high intensity interval was followed by a resting interval.
This type of exercise program is known as interval training, as you probably already know. The group that performed long, moderate level exercise burned more than twice the number of calories as the short, high intensity group.
However, the short, high intensity group lost 9 times as much subcutaneous fat over the 15-week period as the long, moderate level exercise group lost over a 21-week period.
The reason for the increase in fat loss was determined by Dr. Tremblay, to be due to changes in metabolism after exercise that led to higher calorie and fat burning. So they proved that high intensity interval training actually ‘revs up’ your metabolism for anywhere from 24 to 48 hours AFTER you have finished cardio activity.
Something key to remember here is that the more muscle mass you have on your frame, the more fat you will burn when you work out.
What Does This Mean for You?
What this means to YOU, is that you will burn more calories after you have finished your workout than you would during your workout – for up to forty eight hours later! Let that sink in for a moment…
Or, to put it another way.
You spend an hour jogging on the treadmill, or an spend hour with your butt perched on a stationary bike reading this months copy of Vogue or GQ, and you around 300 calories.
Now compare that to spending forty five minutes doing high intensity cardio. Although the rate which you burn calories is less (because your heart rate is higher), you will continue to benefit from the effects of that ‘balls out’ crazy workout for the following 24 hours.
It is called the ‘after-burn effect’.
That is why doing just fifteen minutes of HIIT fitness exercise is better for fat loss than spending forty five minutes on a treadmill. You will not just burn calories for that 45 minutes, but your body will carry on burning that tummy hugging fat for a further 24 hours or longer.
So, What is the Best Cardio Workout for Fat Loss?
What do you do with this information? What cardio work do you need to do right now, to stop wasting your time?
Important: Although I’ve said HIIT is best, do not discount the value that some moderately intense cardio work is for your health. Burning fat should be secondary. I spend five to six days a week in the gym or in my home gym (my partly converted garage) using weights, resistance bands and doing HIIT, but I also enjoy taking several long walks each week, for an hour or more at a time.
So all that long distance running on a treadmill WILL help your body to function more normally and also improve your stamina.
Hey, EVERYBODY should be doing some form of exercise, but that is one of the huge problems in society today isn’t it? And people wonder why we have a world wide epidemic of obesity!
Our bodies were never designed to sit down working and then to keep sitting down watching the television!
The human body has not evolved that much further than our ancestors who were hunter-gatherer’s. We need some level of moderate activity to keep our body functioning and to prevent us becoming obese (which dramatically reduces your longevity).
Wow, sorry. Reading that back sounds a bit of a rant, but it’s all true.
So, this is what you should be doing to make maximum the use of your time, so you burn your fat QUICKER.
To burn more calories from fat, and to improve your cardio simultaneously, the best choice is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
By definition, a HIIT workout routine is very intense. It is going to stress your body like never before. You are going to be completely out of breath (when you first start out on this kind of program) and your body will ache the following day.
If you are not out of breath while you are working out, you aren’t doing it right!
And if you don’t feel even a slight soreness in your muscles the next day … you definitely didn’t do it right.
NOTE: If you wonder whether you are healthy enough to perform HIIT, make sure that you check with your doctor first. It’s better to be cautious.
High Intensity Interval Training for Losing Fat
There are several ways you can do HIIT.
- Using weights and body weight exercises
- Using machines like the stationary bike or elliptical cross trainer
- Using resistance bands
- A combination of resistance bands and body weight exercises
(The second one is so boring, that I’m not going to use it in my example – but if that’s all you got, then that’s what you should use).
An example of a HIIT cardio workout using weights go like this:
- First of all do a 10 -15 minute easy pace warm-up, stretching every muscle group in your body.
- Then do 30 minutes of HIIT exercises, comprising of alternating between 30 seconds at a high resistance (as hard and as fast as possible), and then 5 to 10 seconds rest.
- Repeat that (30 seconds exercise, 5 seconds resting) for a total of 30 minutes.
- Finish off with 5 to 10 minutes of easy pace stretching to ‘warm down’.
If you like the idea of resistance band exercise, which are a truly amazing (and safer) option than using weights, then there is a whole workout at the bottom of this page for you.
It’s fast. It’s hard. It will get your heart pumping and your lungs will be sucking in air from the other side of the planet!
Push yourself as hard as you can during the resistance part of the interval, to really get your body in the fat burning zone. It will feel very uncomfortable at first, so if you need a rest – take one.
And please be careful not to injure yourself. And if this type of cardio workout is new to you, gradually increase the intensity over several weeks. Trust me on this – it will not take you long to go from just fifteen minutes of HIIT work when you first do it, before you are able to increase it to thirty or more minutes of flat out, calorie smashing, fat burning cardio workouts!
What if You Are Trying to Build Muscle at the Same Time?
If you goals include building muscle mass and you are performing weight training, don’t do HIIT cardio too often. Stick to two to three HIIT sessions per week. Otherwise you will be hindering your muscle building progress with your weight workouts.
Holy Cow! Yes, You Can Really Burn Nine Times More Fat Doing This
High intensity workouts are a great idea if you are short on time. With 10 to 15 minute sessions, executed 2 to 3 times per week, you could burn nine times more fat and achieve a really lean physique, than you would by spending several hours per week performing moderate level cardio.
You will also improve your heart and aerobic capacity like never before. I’ve been using resistance bands and doing a lot of bodyweight exercises for a long time now. I do this at home, and do almost all of my muscle building at the gym using weights. I don’t have a lot of room in my home made gym/garage, so I workout with a set of bands about three or four times a week for about forty minutes each time.
What About Fat Loss and Conditioning Programs You Can Do at Home?
Ok, it is all well and good giving you this information but I feel that you will probably need a little extra push. You need some kind of coaching. If perhaps it is not available in your local gym, or just too expensive – I recommend the following programs.
- P90X – this is a huge amount of fun, it’s hard work but it is not fast work. Is it effective? Well, it is the most popular fitness program you can buy, ANYWHERE, so that speaks for itself.
- Insanity 60 Day Conditioning Program – Even better for your cardiovascular system than P90X in my opinion. Why? Because you never stop exercising. And the best part is, that you do not need any equipment. Check it out for yourself, people are REALLY getting the results they dreamed of.
Which is best? That will depend on you. If you like the idea of using weights, combined with bodyweight movements and plyometrics, then choose P90X. But if you like the idea of keeping your heart rate as high as possible, for the duration of your workout – choose Insanity.
Note: Those programs are tough. I’ve completed both of them.
But. They will keep you focused, excited and consistent with your fat loss plan.
A High Intensity Interval Training Workout With Resistance Bands
Here is the resistance band workout I promised you. The bands in the photo are the ones I use and recommend. Sorry about my toes at the bottom – do I need my nails trimmed?
Firstly, make sure you got a strong set of resistance bands. We don’t want any accidents here. I use the Bodylastic Resistance Bands because they are stackable and extremely strong. So you can exercise without fear of them snapping, like I’ve heard so many other brands do.
That set comes with everything you need – a range of bands, door anchors and ankle straps.
For this workout you will need the anchor and a door, or some kind of secure pole to attach the bands (on the bottom, as low to the floor as you can get).
By the way, you’re going to need some sort of interval timer. I use an app on my iphone, but there are some really good ones on Amazon – check them out here, if you haven’t got one.
- First do your warm up. This should take you about ten minutes. Get your muscles stretched and do some running on the spot or some jumping-jacks. I love doing jacks!
- Set your interval timer to run 30 seconds for resistance and 10 seconds rest. You will be able to cut down to 5 seconds when your cardio improves. This will only give you enough time to go from one exercise to another.
- For the first set, do burpees. Rest for 10.
- Next do standing rows for your back, with your bands. Rest for 10.
- Burpees for 30. Rest for 10.
- Then do chest for 30. Rest for 10.
- Burpees for 30. Rest for 10.
- Bicep curls for 30. Rest for 10.
- Last set of burpees for 30. Rest for 10 seconds.
- Tricep over head extensions with your band, and rest for around 40 seconds.
Repeat that for 3 or 4 times, which should take you around thirty minutes including your warm up. Oh, and don’t forget your warm down to – that is important.
If your really stuck for knowing how to use resistance bands. There is some really great videos that come with the bands, but here is a video I found for you to watch first. I think you will be impressed.
The more heavy resistance work you do, and the higher your heart rate stays for longer – the more calories you will burn and fat you will lose! Good luck.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below. I would love to hear about your experiences and achievements.