I see it every day in the gym. I used to do it myself. Spending 30-60 minutes on the treadmill, stair master or elliptical incredibly bored out of my mind. Also known as steady-state cardio, this method is not the best if you are trying to lose body fat yet keep muscle mass. Now don’t get me wrong, steady-state cardio is great for endurance athletes or if you are training for a road race, but if you are looking for a toned, chiseled, athletic body, this is not the method for you.The reason why this type of cardio is not ideal for long-term fat loss is because your body quickly adapts to it, so each week, you are burning less calories. It is important to keep in mind however that this type of exercise may be sufficient for the beginner gym go-er who has a lower level of fitness.
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is probably something you are starting to hear more about. It involves a bout of exercise at the upper-levels of your output, and can be close to maximal effort, followed by a rest period before repeating. Allowing your heart rate to increase rapidly, then returning to a manageable pace allows for a higher caloric burn in a shorter amount of time. Let’s compare your body to a car. When you start a car and go from 0-60 mph yet continuously slamming the breaks, you are using more fuel than going a steady 30mph down the road correct? The same applies to your body. What I love about HIIT is that you can be done within 15-25 minutes depending on your current level of fitness. Since you are using more “fuel” at a faster rate, you deplete at a faster rate as well, so those 60 minute treadmill sessions can officially be kissed goodbye!
Rachel Cosgrove, who is a gym owner and fitness guru in California is a huge fan of saying farewell to steady-state cardio and like myself has experienced both ends of the spectrum herself. When I was very into running, I did not have the energy or time for lifting weights after hitting 20-40 miles per week while training for my half-marathons. While I was in great endurance shape, my body was “skinny fat”. My muscle tone had completely disappeared and I felt wonderful, but my body was not where I wanted it to be, not to mention I was eating everything I’m sight after burning so many calories on my long runs. After now almost 9 months of heavy lifting and clean eating, my body has completely transformed. I love feeling strong and powerful, my muscle mass has increased and body fat has dropped drastically. HIIT has made me a happier and healthier fitness professional!
Since I like to run, sprinting is what I like to do for my HIIT sessions. Sprinting at maximal effort can:
〰Increase muscle mass
〰Reduce overall body fat percentage due to increased insulin sensitivity
〰Increase EPOC (Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) which allows the body to continue to burn calories hours after a workout is complete.
Rachel Cosgrove elaborates on this issue in the T-Nation article attached below however I like to perform HIIT at a Fixed Work: Variable Recovery ratio. Basically what this means is using my heart rate monitor, I perform fixed work for 20-30 seconds, then recovery time depends on my heart rate. Once it lowers back down to about 120-130bpm, I start the process all over again. Right now I workout between 5-6 days per week so I try to sprint every other day. Here is a 4 week sprinting progression if you are just beginning!
Week 1: 5 x 10-15 second dynamic treadmill sprint
Week 2: 5 x 20yd body weight sled sprint
Week 3: 10 x 10yd shuttle sprints
Week 4: 5 x 20yd sprints
Remember to completely recover in between sets to get the maximal caloric burn!