Interval Training Workouts

Interval Training Burns Fat

The biggest secret in the fitness industry is that interval training burns fat faster than long, slow, boring cardio. It’s unfortunate that interval training remains a mysterious, often unknown training method, but too many personal trainers and fitness magazines ignore the facts and have been sucked into the marathon mentality.

Let me explain. First, we need to take a look at the scientific research. Way back in 1994, Canadian researchers published a study demonstrating the effectiveness of interval training. Some trainers believe interval training works 9x’s better than long, slow aerobic workouts.

In addition, new interval training science has found that interval training works better for losing belly fat even though the workouts are 50% shorter. Interval workouts take only 20 minutes compared to 40-minute of 60-minute cardio sessions, and will help you lose more fat in just a few short weeks.

Interval Training Fat Burning Research

For example, in one study from Australia, two groups of women were given either a cardio program or interval training to burn belly fat. Each group exercised three times per week, but the interval training group only did 20 minutes while the cardio group did 40 minutes. At the end of the 12-week training study, only the interval training group had lost belly fat – over 6 pounds on average. The long, slow, boring cardio group didn’t lose any fat at all. Cardio was a failure.

And that’s not the only time that cardio has been a waste of time, so don’t be surprised that you don’t have six pack abs even if you do an hour of cardio per day.

In another study, subjects did one hour of cardio per day, six days per week for an entire year, and the average weight loss was less than six pounds. If you do the math, that’s 50 hours of cardio per pound of weight loss. That’s ridiculous. There must be a better way.

And there’s even more good news. First, who gets the best results with interval training workouts? The best results are achieved by people who are currently frustrated by their slow results from doing cardio. When anyone who increases their training intensity, they will have dramatic improvements in fat loss.

Here’s one of my favorite stories. Christine was your typical runner. She was 35 years old, ran four times per week (jogged is a better description), and struggled to change her body and lose belly fat.

We switched her training to a combination of metabolic resistance training and interval training, and within a few weeks her body started to change. Eventually her body fat got low enough that she almost had six pack abs, which for a woman doing workouts only three times per week is incredible.

And my second favorite story is about one male client, about 35 years old, who did his first interval training session and then emailed me two days later to say that he could already see a difference – after just one interval workout done 48 hours earlier. That’s how effective interval training can be for fat loss.

Interval training works best for men and women who are currently doing long, slow, boring cardio. Whenever a client increases exercise intensity through interval training or metabolic resistance training, that is when you will see the greatest results. So this is great news if you are struggling to lose fat with your current low-intensity cardio or weight training workout.

But what is interval training? And how does it work to burn fat?

Interval training is also known as high-intensity interval training and people most often think about sprinting or running hills as being the most common form of interval training.

Now it’s somewhat true, because those are both relatively simple ways to do interval training. Neither requires fancy equipment (unless you count a hill as fancy equipment) and most fitness enthusiasts have experience with sprints one way or another.

But it’s important to note that the fat burning research on interval training was done with a stationary bicycle, so intervals on the bike work really well for interval workouts. You can also use kettlebell swings, running in place, rowing, swimming or even the elliptical machine. However, running sprints (and hill sprints) and using the stationary bike have the most research and real world support.

However, what really matters with interval training workouts is that you have the combination of a metabolic and cardiovascular response that occurs from doing exercise at a much greater intensity than regular boring cardio.

I first discovered the power of interval training as a young trainer while still in college. At the time I was training athletes for sports, and I knew from my research that interval training was the best way to get fit fast.

Twice per week we would meet on the grassy fields behind the school gym and do speed training followed by interval workouts. This went on for six weeks in the spring as the athletes prepared for their summer season. Each week that went by brought dramatic improvements in fitness, but just as dramatic – and much more surprising – was the rapid loss in body fat among all of the athletes, both men and women.

I was amazed and immediately began using modified interval training workouts with my regular fat loss personal training clients. Fortunately, they too got amazing results and began to lose belly fat – no matter what their age.

When working with clients, I recommend doing interval training at an 8 or 9 out of 10 intensity level. But I don’t mean level 8 or 9 on a piece of equipment. Instead, I mean 8 or 9 out of 10 on a subjective level of intensity. In comparison, cardio would be performed at a 6/10 intensity level, and a slow-paced walk would be done at 3/10 intensity level.

During an interval training workout you would alternate between high-intensity (8/10) and low-intensity (3/10). For example, you would do at least 30 seconds (and more likely closer to 60 seconds of work at an 8/10 intensity level followed by 60 or 90 seconds of low-intensity exercise at a 3/10 intensity level.

For example, if you were on a bike you would do a warm-up and then increase the resistance so that you could just keep an 80 RPM pace for 60 seconds. When the interval ended, you would decrease the intensity to 3/10 (very easy exercise) and go for 60 or 90 seconds before increasing the intensity again. You would repeat this formula up to 10 times (beginners would do only 2-3). All of this is followed by a cool-down session.

This will give you a fat burning interval training workout that should take just under 20 minutes. When done three times per week along with metabolic resistance training you should have six-pack abs in just a few short weeks.

So that’s how you do an interval training workout. But just how does this interval training workout burn fat? Well, for that, we have to turn to the science. First, it obviously burns calories, but certainly not more calories than what you would burn from long, slow, cardio.

For example, in the interval training study where the women lost more fat with 20-minutes of interval training compared to 40 minutes of cardio, I’d guess that the cardio group burned an extra 100 calories per session compared the cardio group. So why wouldn’t the cardio group lose fat?

To get the answer, we need to look at a cardio weight loss study performed in Britain back in 2006. In this study, researchers found that some cardio subjects ended up eating more food each day after cardio. So it’s possible that cardio makes you hungry.

In contrast, interval training has been shown to increase a hormone called adrenaline. This hormone is associated with a reduction in appetite, and therefore interval training may lead to you eating less each day and therefore losing belly fat to get your six-pack abs.

So interval workouts burn calories, reduce your appetite, and likely also increase your post-workout calorie burning due to the turbulence put on the muscles during the workout.

The combination of these three fat burning stimuli results in up to 9x’s more fat burning power from interval training compared to long, slow, boring cardio.

interval training workouts

And remember, interval training works best in men and women who are switching over from cardio or low-intensity weight training.

If you want to lose belly fat fast, your best bet is to combine metabolic resistance training with interval workouts three to four times per week.


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