How to Lose Belly Fat With Interval Training

For over 11 years Men’s Health magazine has asked my advice on how to lose belly fat with interval training. My first article was published in the magazine in 2000, and just recently we sat down to take an uncensored look at the science behind interval training and the best ways to do these fat burning workouts. Here’s a complete look at our discussion.

From the writer: The story I’m working on is simple: It’s about exercises and strategies in the gym for maximum fat loss. You’re the foremost expert on intervals (CB Note: You better believe it!), so I wanted to ask you about that, and about a few other things:

1. Why does interval training work? How do the benefits carry over?


Interval training

a) causes different adaptations in the muscle compared to steady-state cardio because you are using the glycolytic and phosphate energy systems (anaerobic energy systems) at a much higher level…therefore you use up muscle glycogen (stored carbs) faster than you do with steady-state cardio

b) causes different hormone responses to exercise, mostly in that you have a greater increase in growth hormone (a fat burning hormone) and adrenaline (another fat burning hormone which also helps suppress appetite)

2. What are the benefits of interval training?


Interval training works for boosting fitness and fast and will also help men and women lose belly fat.

Research has found that interval training can increase aerobic fitness just as much as steady state cardio, AND intervals can work even better than steady state cardio when it comes to increasing time-trial performance.

There are two ways to increase cardiovascular fitness

a) by increasing the delivery of oxygen (heart and lungs)

b) by increasing the utilization of oxygen at the muscular level

Steady state is best for increasing the delivery of oxygen while interval training is best for increasing the utilization of oxygen at the muscle level — and that’s why you get fit fast with intervals. The muscular response tends to be faster than the heart and lungs response (i.e. you need fewer training sessions).

If you want to know how to lose belly fat with interval training, here’s what you need to know. Science hasn’t uncovered the exact reasons why it works so well, but it is likely a combo of:

– increased GH during exercise

– better blood sugar regulation after exercise

– possibly increased calorie burning after exercise

– increased adrenaline (increased fat burning and decreased appetite)

By the way, a new research study from McMaster University was just published and found that just two weeks of interval training done by patients with type 2 diabetes can improve their fitness and health. Subjects trained five days per week for two weeks, doing ten 60-second intervals per session with 60-second rests between intervals. These intervals were done on a stationary bike.

We’re going to see more and more interval training research done with all types of health problems. One study I found showed that interval training even helps patients recovering from heart surgery.

NOTE: That doesn’t mean you should just give intervals to everyone. Make sure to check with their doctor first and get their approval before giving interval training to any client with health issues.

3. What’s a good way to try intervals if you’re just starting out to lose belly fat with interval training? How should you progress from there?


The best way is a stationary bike, and that’s what is used in almost all interval training research studies. If you use a treadmill or run hill sprints, you’re going to get sore shins if you don’t currently run or if you run on concrete or pavement outdoors. Be conservative with your interval training method, and always remember that the stationary bike is a proven way to get the benefits of intervals. Almost every interval study showing health or fat loss benefits was done using a bike.

For a beginner’s conservative interval workout, when setting up your interval program for fat loss, do a regular warmup, then work at 20% harder than normal cardio intensity. Do that interval for 30-60 seconds and then bring the intensity down to half of normal cardio…this is important. You want the two extremes…hard and easy.

If you don’t take it down to easy during the recovery, you’re not doing anything different from a regular cardio workout, and you won’t be able to work hard during the intervals.

To progress, you will add intensity (resistance) to your intervals. There is no best interval training workout to lose belly fat, so don’t get focused on just doing intervals one way. I recommend changing your interval training workouts every 4 weeks, including the method you use, if possible.

I like using 30 second intervals with 30 seconds of recovery, as well as the Adrenaline shuttle sprints of 8 seconds on and 12 seconds off. But even the classic 45 second intervals with 45 seconds of rest, which I used back in the 90’s when training athletes, are great for losing belly fat.

4. How often should I work intervals into my training for maximum fat loss?


Four times per week is enough, especially if you are doing 3 strength sessions. Folks in the Turbulence Training fat loss world often just do 3.

Remember, even most professional athletes don’t train with high-intensity programs more than four times per week, so there’s no reason you need to either. While interval training combined with resistance training in a Metabolic Resistance Training workout might be the closest you can get to ‘out-training a bad diet’, your nutrition is probably still more important than even the best interval workout.

5. What other exercises, besides traditional cardio methods, are good for fat loss? What makes an exercise good for this?


Anything that burns calories and maintains or builds muscle mass will help you with fat loss (although not necessarily weight loss), including bodyweight exercises and metabolic resistance training. Both are total body hybrid workouts of strength and intervals.

The most popular workouts in the world today are metabolic resistance training (MRT) programs using supersets, kettlebell exercises, bodyweight circuits, traditional lifts, etc.

However, stopping two exercises, though, is still the most important thing for fat loss…with those being two of our all-time favorites.

a) The fork to mouth

b) The 12oz curl

6. How can I use other exercises, like bodyweight strength moves, to perform intervals?


We can use everything from bodyweight circuits (choose 4 upper and 4 lower body exercises and alternate between upper and lower without rest until done a circuit, then rest 1 minute and repeat for a total of 20-30 minutes). In the classic program, Bodyweight Cardio 3 we use 5 rounds of 5 exercises in a similar structure. We’ll do 5 exercises for a minute each, then rest a minute and move to 5 more exercises for a minute each, etc., until 5 groups of 5 exercises are done. You can make a real tough workout from that set-up.

7. If a user is trying to achieve fat loss, can they do it simply by changing their training? How important is nutrition in this case?


A young guy might be able to pull it off, but in most cases, even the best workout still can’t overcome a lousy diet. It really depends on how bad the diet is in the first place.

If a guy hasn’t been gaining weight – or losing it – and he simply adds this type of training, then YES he can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. But if he’s eating too much and gaining fat, then this will slow down the fat rate, but he won’t get lean.

Intervals are great, diet is important, and these days, I’d say Metabolic Resistance Training is the absolute best way to build muscle, burn fat, and get lean – and possibly out-train a bad diet. Let me know if it works for you.

interval training workoutsIf you want to know how to lose belly fat, the answer is interval training combined with resistance training, and of course, diet.

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