Is this title for real? Yes…I am pleased to report it is entirely possible to spend less time doing cardio, but get BETTER results and impact for the work you put in. Here’s how.
First of all, I just want to say that steady state cardio (example would be jogging for 3 miles 2-3 times per week) is great for general fitness, and certainly better than doing nothing at all. Jogging is an awesome way to reduce stress, improve cardio endurance, and help your heart. BUT…is it optimal for lowering body fat percentage and increasing lean muscle mass. Unfortunately, no.
So what is the most optimal type of cardio training that will help increase the amount of lean muscle you have, torch fat, and make you look great? Its called High intensity interval training, or HIIT.
HIIT is currently incredibly popular in the fitness industry, and for good reason. HIIT training is when you perform a difficult exercise for a short period of time, rest quickly, and then repeat for multiple sets.
HIIT is better for fat-burning than steady state cardio for the following reasons:
- It burns more calories per unit of time. In addition to this, more calories are burned during the post-exercise period following the workout, and that is because your body needs to work harder to repair torn muscle and get back to a resting state.
- Higher levels of growth hormones are released during HIIT exercises, which lead to greater fat loss. Growth hormones break down fat.
- The body can easily adapt to steady state cardio. In other words, your cells become efficient, and need less energy to perform the exercise, meaning you are not burning as many calories. Your body has a much more difficult type adapting to something like HIIT.
- HIIT is also great because more blood is pushed out with each heartbeat. HIIT increases your ability to use the body for oxygen, it thickens your heart muscle and increases contraction force of the heart (basically meaning stronger heart beats).
Have you ever wondered why sprinters look like this:
And long distance runners tend to look more like this?
It is because sprinters are doing explosive movements for short periods of time, and this ignites the fast twitch muscle fibers which lead to muscle gain. Fast twitch muscle fibers have about double the potential for growth than slow twitch muscle fibers, so people with more fast twitch fibers are going to have an easier time putting on muscle. For long distance runners, slow twitch muscles are better because they are optimal for an extended period of exercise. However, they do not have the same potential for muscle growth. Please note I am not saying there is anything wrong with the second body type, but for my personal training goals right now, I want to be more on the strong and muscly side rather than skinny.
But what if I love running and don’t want to give it up for anything else?
If you love running, that’s awesome! I’m not trying to tell you that you should not run anymore. But maybe you should consider implementing some HIIT cardio into your routine, and keep in mind, you can do that WHILE on your run. For example, sometimes when I’m on a longer run I will find a long space of distance that is flat. I’ll then start my timer for 30 seconds, and 1 minute rest. I’ll sprint as hard as I possibly can for thirty seconds across this distance. Take a minute break by walking or doing a very light jog, and then repeat that 5-6 times. This is a great example of how to incorporate HIIT training while still enjoying your traditional cardio routine.
I’m completely new to HIIT. Where do I start?
New to all of this? Dont’ fear! I actually have a ton of short, high-intensity, at-home HIIT workouts that I have posted on my Instagram. These workouts are designed to pack a punch by engaging all the muscles in your body, but they are short enough that you won’t feel like it’s impossible to complete. For example, you’ll do twenty seconds on of jump squats, rest for ten and repeat that four times. My workouts contain all sorts of different fun exercises, lots of jumping around, getting down to the ground, blood, sweat, and tears (kidding…kinda). This style is meant to be intense. You will be breathing hard, you will feel your heart pounding in your chest, and you will get that uncomfortable feeling when sweat drips into your eyes. But guess what? It’s over in less than fifteen minutes! In my opinion, this is a much more effective way to train that saves me time, and also gives me the results I’m looking for when I’m consistent. The ideal training method that works for me is combining HIIT with weights. Sometimes I like to tack on a quick HIIT session at the end of weight training to get my cardio in, and burn out my muscles for maximum results. Some days I just do HIIT on it’s own when I don’t have access to equipment, or I’m short on time. It really can be tailored for anyone’s preferences or situation.
As I mentioned, I have a lot of HIIT workouts I have shared on my Instagram platform, but if you’re looking for a place to start…get going with this quick, twelve minute routine that will work your full body, tone you up, help with weight loss and keep that heart nice and healthy:
Workout: 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Repeat each exercise four times through. Do not forget to warm up and stretch after.
- JUMP SQUATS
- COMMANDO PLANK HOP INS
- JUMPING LUNGES
- MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
- HIGH KNEES
Let me know how you like it!