When most people think of the word “cardio”, the first image that comes to mind is grinding away for hours on a treadmill, at a snail-like pace. I wonder if they realize they are getting more of a workout re-positioning their cell phone, water bottle, magazine, blue-tooth, iPod, and iPad then they are cruising along on the “ellipti-mill”. Does this sound familiar? I’m here to tell you that this type of cardio is not optimal for fat loss and won’t get the job done

However, if your goal is to have the skinny, soft look of most marathon runners then by all means stick to this program. On the other hand, if you’d like to look like a lean athletic sprinter then high intensity training is where it’s at!

Let’s first back-track a little and go over why steady state cardio training is not the way to go. To start with, it takes a long time and honestly its just boring. The amount of time it takes is actually detrimental to your physique because long duration endurance training increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that tears down muscle tissue and stores body-fat. The human body was not designed for this type of training, instead we were built for short bursts of action! Other negative effects of steady state cardio include:

– Decreases explosiveness and power due to increase production of lactic acid
– Can lower immune system function and increase production of dangerous free radicals
– Hips, knees and ankles take a beating
– Can increase inflammation throughout the body
– Hinders weight lifting abilities

Now that we have a good idea of why steady state training is not the best route for fat loss, we can cover the reasons high intensity works. One of the most interesting aspects of high intensity training is a term called EPOC or Excess Post – exercise Oxygen Consumption. During strenuous training, your body is using above and beyond the amount of oxygen it normally does and in turn is burning more calories. What EPOC represents is the additional amount of calories the body is burning post exercise, in order to return itself to the state it was in prior to training. The harder you workout, the more you will disrupt the bodies internal processes, forcing it to expend more energy to return to a baseline level. Depending on the training, EPOC can last up to 24-48 hours and if that wasn’t encouraging enough, there is evidence to show that EPOC can add up from session to session! Turning your body into a fat burning furnace! EPOC for steady state cardio usually only lasts for a couple hours post training. Other positives to high intensity training are:

– Short in duration (5-10 minutes)
– Will increase endurance capacity without compromising weight training
– Won’t send cortisol levels through the roof
– Will preserve and possibly build muscle, while also burning fat

Here are some quick-start high intensity training examples to get you going:

– Hill Sprints
– 20 – 40 yards
– 10 sprints
– Work up to 95% effort on the last few reps
– Keep rest periods short

– Mailbox Sprint – Jog
– Jog to mailbox, then sprint to next
– Alternate back and forth for 10 – 20 reps depending on fitness levels

– Training Ropes & Burpees (If your gym has ropes)
– 25 rope slams
– 5 Burpees
– Continue for 3-5 rounds

– Stationary Bike Intervals
– Bike at a moderate pace for 1 minute and then go for a full sprint for 20 – 30 seconds
– Alternate till you reach 10-15 minutes

* Perform these high intensity sessions right after your weight training or as a separate session completely, 2-4 hours apart.

– Brig Van Etten CSCS-


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