I find it humorous, and more than a little annoying, that people often hear what they want to hear when you’re discussing various topics and subjects, especially the ones related to health, fitness, performance and more specifically, fat loss.
It’s like the time many years ago when I said to my ex-wife, “Can I have some extra bacon for breakfast?”, but what she heard was, “You lousy witch, you’ve ruined my life!”
But I digress…
A couple of years ago I had a client who struggled with her weight. She stated that she wanted to slim down, swore she was eating properly and trained pretty hard when she was with us during sessions at my gym.
(**Please hang with me for a few moments. This story, while taking a little bit to lay out, will have a reason for telling…I promise)
She and I had several conversations related to effective fat loss approaches, and in them I discussed the importance of resistance training, nutrition and not placing an emphasis on steady state cardio for fat loss.
She quit coming to the gym, despite my efforts to get her to stay. After about a month I got to talk with her on the phone. She didn’t really like lifting weights, said she preferred doing cardio and that, since she had quit coming, she had dropped 15 pounds. I was told that the training she did with us at Firestorm fitcamps! was obviously making her get fatter and gain weight.
As an aside, I told her that what she was describing was a physiologic impossibility and that if it were the case, she should contact UNICEF and offer to have herself cloned because she had some magic genes whereby she could eat fewer calories than she expended and still gain fat. Starving children around the world needed to have that kind of hope. I also told her that her friends had informed me she quit eating sugar and processed starchy carbs and that this was, more than likely, the reason she had shrunk by 15 pounds.
About three weeks ago I got a text from a fitness professional friend of mine asking me for some information for this woman. In it this former client requested information whereby I had supposedly stated that “30 minute cardio had no benefit.”
For the record: I’ve never said this.
Hence, my frustration about some people hearing what they want to hear.
“So Uncle Steve, are you going to clear this up once and for all?”
I’m sure going to try. But I’m also sure that somewhere down the road, I’ll be going over it all again…
I don’t hate cardio…well…much.
If your goal is a leaner physique, enhanced fat loss and general overall better health, there are some things that you’re just going to have to do to get them. And steady state cardio ain’t one of them.
I’ve covered why I state that most all aerobic, and more specifically steady state cardio, for fat loss is pretty ineffective in a number of articles here, here, here, here, and here. You can even see what others think about it here and in this video by a cardiologist here.
With the understanding that I have covered this topic at length, and you now have access to the knowledge you need to find out if cardio for fat loss is a good idea or not, I’m going to give you TWO more arguments in favor of a better way to achieve not only fat loss, but a stronger, leaner and athletically inclined (if you don’t like that term, think functional) physique.
Interval Based Cardio and Resistance Training For Fat Loss
It all boils down to one term: recruitment.
If you want to burn fat, you’ve simply got to recruit a maximal number of muscle fibers during your training in order to do so. There just isn’t any other way around it.
Let’s say you have two cars at the top of a hill on a very long stretch of roadway. Both cars have a full tank of gas.
Car A – We start Car A, so that the engine is idling, the driver puts it in neutral and lets it roll down to the bottom of the hill. The road is long enough that this takes 30 minutes to complete.
Car B – We start Car B, the driver places it in drive, guns the engine and races down the hill at top speed. This takes 10 minutes to complete.
Which car, upon examination at the bottom of the hill, is going to have burned more fuel?
We’ll come back to that…
Interval Based Cardio – If you’ve just got to do some cardio for fat loss, this is the kind to do for maximum results in minimum time.
Why minimum time?
Because time is precious, and non-renewable, and you have better things to do with your life than hang out in a gym or pound the pavement for hours on end.
These workouts can be done after your resistance training workouts, later the same day or on separate days. What I don’t want you to do is to perform these routines BEFORE resistance training. This will reduce the effectiveness of your program.
“So Uncle Steve, just how do I do this stuff?”
Tactic #1 – Walk Back Sprints
Go to a track or field that is at least 100 yards in length and is safe to run on. Place a cone or some other type of marker down as your starting point, and another 100 yards away.
Warm up well.
Sprint for 100 yards at 85 to 90% of your maximum. This will take about 15 seconds.
“How do I know what 85 to 90% of maximum means, Uncle Steve?”
If a Grizzly bear was chasing you, how fast would you run?
Run at 85-90% of that…
Walk back to your starting point. This will take about 45 seconds. Upon reaching your starting point, immediately sprint the 100 yards and walk back.
Do this 5 times.
Aim to perform this routine 2 to 3 times each week you do it. Add one extra 100 yard sprint each week until you are able to do 20 such sprints per session.
This can also be performed on a bike (I personally prefer the Schwinn Airdyne) or a step climber. I do not recommend using an eliptical piece as it is too easy…as in whimpy.
I also do not recommend using a treadmill for this particular tactic as it is too hard to change speeds effectively and safely.
Tactic #2 – Sucky Cardio Training
Why do I call it “sucky cardio”? Because while it works extremely well, it just sucks while you’re doing it. Which is why most people won’t do it…
Warm up for five minutes.
Round: On a scale of 1-100%, perform 1 minute at 80-90% of intensity.
Recover at a moderate pace for two minutes (50-70% of intensity).
That’s one “round” – and it lasts three minutes.
Cool down for five minutes.
How to do it:
Weeks One to Four: Perform three rounds, three times per week.
The total cardio time will be 19 mins per workout including warm up and cool down.
Weeks Five to Eight: Perform four rounds, four times per week.
The total cardio time will be 22 mins per workout including warm up and cool down.
Weeks Nine to Twelve: Perform five rounds, four times per week.
The total cardio time will be 25 mins per workout including warm up and cool down.
Weeks Thirteen to Sixteen: Perform six rounds, five times per week.
The total cardio time will be 28 mins per workout including warm up and cool down.
This is a routine you could do on a bike, treadmill, stair climber or track.
This type of cardio training, when performed as prescribed, typically results in a 1-2lb fat loss per week. So over a sixteen week period, depending on your dedication to nutrition, supplementation and your weight training routine, you can expect a possible loss of at least 16-30 plus lbs of fat.
If you want to burn fat, you’ve got to have more muscle on your body.
End of story…
Muscle is metabolism.
More muscle = higher metabolism.
Higher metabolism = greater energy demand.
Greater energy demand = more fat burned as fuel.
Muscle is active tissue. It’s like that idling engine I talked about earlier.
Sure, the car that was just idling as it rolled down the hill would have consumed SOME fuel, but not a lot. After all, the idling engine needs fuel to keep idling.
However, the engine that powered its way down the hill with the engine racing was recruiting more of the engines capability, therefore demanding more fuel for that power.
This is why it burned more fuel in a shorter amount of time?
Is this starting to make sense to you?
When you lift heavy weights, or perform tough resistance based exercises, you recruit more muscle fibers. And if you’re lifting a heavy enough amount of weight (which you should be to build more muscle) you will be recruiting more muscle.
That effort of recruitment has both an immediate AND long term energy demand which, bottom line, results in greater fat loss potential, a leaner physique, as well as more strength, bone density and performance capability.
So get to the gym and pick up some heavy stuff!
I hope I’ve adequately demonstrated why steady state, boring and long term cardio are fruitless endeavors with respect to fat loss and why interval based cardio and resistance training will benefit you in so many more ways.
If I haven’t, please feel free to write me and I’ll go over it…one more time…
Yer Uncle Steve