In the strength and conditioning world it has been no secret that slow steady state cardio is not the most beneficial way to train athletes (sorry runners). It is not game-like, it has diminishing returns on strength gain, and (this is my opinion) it’s not that exciting… Don’t get me wrong, its obviously great for your cardiovascular system, its been shown to benefit your mental clarity, and its a simple way to get out enjoy some nice whether and break a sweat. However there are more practical ways to train for sport endurance and at the same time burn fat!
Think of the way most sports are set up… Hockey, Basketball, Lacrosse, Rugby, Football…They require bursts of maximum intensity followed by a brief period of rest or low intensity… Which leads me to wonder, “if one of our most vital attributes as an athlete is our fast twitch explosiveness, why would you do anything to inhibit that?”
Don’t get me wrong, I know endurance is a crucial part of sports… However there is a more practical, skill specific way to approach it without sacrificing our athleticism.
From a genetic standpoint some athletes are more slow twitch than others, some are far more fast twitch. The slow twitch athletes are more “born to run” as Bruce Springsteen would say, having a high capacity for aerobic work at a steady state. Some athletes on the other hand, are more fast twitch, generally having larger, more powerful and explosive muscles. The problem with too much slow oxidative aerobic training is that it converts muscle fibers to slow twitch, and unless you are a cross country runner this is not beneficial. SO…. How can we improve our aerobic capacity and maintain our power, explosiveness, and overall strength?? …And oh yea.. burn massive amounts of calories at the same time?
High Intensity Interval Training and the After Burn Effect!
There are many ways to set up these workouts.. The main premise behind them is to establish predetermined intervals of exercise and rest. Some examples of these would be 2:1 (30 sec of exercise/ 30 sec of rest) 1:1 (30 sec of exercise/30 sec of rest) 1:2 (30 sec on/ 1 min off). It all depends on the intensity of the exercise. Not only is this style of training more relevant to athletes .. it also has many benefits to the general population with regards to fat loss.
Wouldn’t it be nice to burn more calories and fat while sitting on the couch?? Well if you do these HIIT Workouts you can.. this concept is known as the “After burn Effect”, or in scientific terms Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. During low intensity exercise oxygen uptake increases for a few minutes but then reaches a steady state where the oxygen demand = the oxygen consumption… On the other hand, during high intensity exercise the body develops an oxygen debt. If exercise is intense enough the body continues to expend energy in attempts to return the oxygen debt and the bodies homeostasis back to normal ( aka your body is burning calories while you chill) After high intensity workouts the body has a laundry list of things it needs to return to normal.. It needs to re-synthesize ATP and Creatine Phosphate, return the body to normal temperature, return oxygen to the tissues, blood, skeletal muscles, repair damaged tissues… the list goes on and on. All of this work requires energy (AKA Burned calories)
The “After Burn Effect” of HIIT training is associated with elevations in metabolism due to all of these “chores” the body needs to do after exercise to return to homeostasis. The body has to work twice as hard to restore itself after high intensity bouts as opposed to low intensity (steady state) cardio. The higher the intensity of exercise, the less proportional the oxygen uptake to heat expenditure.. leaving the body with a lot to take care of after the workout.
So when trying to burn fat remember: Intense bouts of work followed by short rest periods (preferably 30 sec or less)
Here’s a sample of a HIIT Circuit:
20 sec on/ 10 sec off (5 rounds)
- tire flips
- tricep dips
- ropes (ripples)
- box jumps
- Pull Ups
Here’s another example: 3-5 rounds
- Air Dyne Bike 1 min
- 30 sec rest
- Push Ups (max reps in 30 sec)
- 30 sec rest
- Trap Bar Deadlifts @ 50-60% (max reps in 30 sec)
- 30 sec rest
- TRX Rows (max reps in 30 sec)
- 30 sec rest