You have already got the idea that intervals training is the sure-success key for cardio. If you want to burn fat, that is, as opposed to end up with chunky fat aerobics instructor syndrome. And perhaps you’ve seen my latest article in the Fitness First magazine and want to know more about ideal cardio for fat loss. Either way, I’m guessing that if you’ve been around the traps for even a little while then you can smugly pat yourself on the back, safe in the knowledge that you use intervals to take your workouts to the next level at every chance you get. One minute hard, one minute recovery right? Well, yes, but also – no. As with anything training and fat loss related, true success comes from keeping your body on it’s toes. Mixing things up. And while ‘minute-on, minute-off’ style cardio is certainly far better than endurance if you want to get lean it really is just a starting point. And if you are trying it again and again, certainly your body will start saying NO. So, it is not going to work as it did before.
Then, what are we waiting for? Let’s have a look what exactly an ideal interval training is. Well, for starters, true interval training is officially known as HIIT training – High Intensity Interval Training. And this sure isn’t just any old back and forth on the treadmill while you change tunes on your iPod and check out the latest night-time talent. I can guarantee you that this will supercharge your cardio, burn your fat and you will must say “OMG! It’s a magic”.
So This is How It Works
There are a few key elements that make HIIT training stand out from regular intervals, and the reason for that is the end goal (to maintain an anaerobic state for as much total cumulative time as possible). A proper HIIT workout consists of the following elements:
- Time – HIIT training must last absolutely no longer than 20 minutes (extra time for warming up and cooling down is okay)
- A beginner HIIT workout might have as little as 4-6 minutes total ‘work’ time, and an advanced might have up to a 50/50 ratio or beyond
- Muscle groups – HIIT training uses as many muscle groups as possible, which is why sprinting is preferable to a ‘legs only’ cross trainer (for example)
- When you really give these workouts with your all efforts, you should absolutely not be doing successive days. You need at least one day in between.
- Only repeat a certain HIIT program (see below) for a maximum of 6 weeks. Any longer and you’ll start to adapt, so take a week or so off from this style of cardio, and then come back with a fresh HIIT program.
Combining Them Together
A total anaerobic exercise as much as possible, if that is your dream then it stands to reason that your rest times will be increasingly reduced as you advance through your HIIT training programs. As a novice, you might start out with 6-8 repetitions of 30-second sprints, with up to 90 seconds rest in between. After a week or so you’ll notice you don’t really need that much rest and you can gradually reduce down to a 50/50 ratio. If you’ve never really worked hard at your intervals before, did you?, then this is the ideal place to start for your first 6 week block and will also extremely enhance your fitness.
Taking things to the next level will surely further increase your fitness, but it’s also the point at which you’ll really start to chow through the body fat. In this way of training, you are going to burn your complete energy, so be sure to give yourself adequate rest between workouts. Try starting out with 60-second work periods and at least 2 minutes rest time. As before, gradually reduce your rest time until it’s a 50/50 ratio. Just keep in mind not to go beyond 20 minutes total work time, but also be sure to warm up and stretch it out afterwards. The sky is really the limit here, as you can obviously increase your work intensity even once you’ve dropped the rest time as far as possible.
The third (last but not the least) step (now things are going to be really interesting)- we actually start to drop your rest time lower than your work time. Yep, it’s intense, it’s a little bit scary, it’s bound to get your lungs screaming, but it really does blast away the fitness cobwebs like nothing on earth. And – as you can imagine – you’ll be burning fat like sausages on Australia Day. When you come to this stage it’s wise to reduce your total work time to as low as 10 minutes until you slowly become habituated to the higher intensity – or you just might find yourself wiping the floor with, well, yourself. Try to start with 60 seconds work time and 40 seconds rest, and gradually increase the intensity as you drop first the work time, and then the rest. Don’t forget your gym towel – you will need it!
Have gone through any HIIT training before? What’s your preferred approach or is there any way that you could make some changes to maximize your results?