So here’s a concept for you. I’m willing to bet that in your lifetime you’ve seen plenty of overweight joggers, and probably never an overweight sprinter (I’m talking sprinters who are actually half decent!). Ever wondered why this is? I’d bet it probably never crossed your mind but now you’re thinking about it you’re realising I’m right. So what am I getting at here, essentially what makes a sprinter so lean? They certainly don’t go and spend 2 hours on a treadmill counting the calories as they burn. So why do all the thousands (maybe millions) of overweight people around the world continue to steadily pound the Cross Trainer, Stairmaster, Exercise Bike or whatever your chosen method of cardio exercise is in an attempt to drop body fat and chase down that elusive slim line figure we all might aspire to? The answer quite simply is that people have been misinformed. For an awful long time personal trainers and the general public alike considered longer distance training (LISS training-Low Intensity Steady State) to be the primary weapon is dropping body fat, to a certain extent this is true, you are increasing the energy expenditure of the body and this in turn will eventually help to drop body fat. However the problems with this sort of training are numerous (who can afford two hour training sessions? Plus it’s boring as hell!). Thankfully however, there is a much more effective and quicker way to lose body fat, and it’s actually easier!
The contender? Well consider the sprinter, someone who is incredibly lean and who utilises a training programme consisting of short, maximal exercise bursts and numerous sessions spent lifting weights. How this translates to the general public is that fat loss requires weight sessions and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Effective fat loss programmes these days incorporates both of these elements. The reasons for their effectiveness are very simple.
Lifting Weights – Whilst you’re sat reading this your body will be burning calories, there are a whole host of things that will dictate how many calories you burn but one of the primary contributing factors is the amount of muscle tissue you have. The more muscle your body is carrying the higher your basal metabolic rate (amount of calories you burn when doing nothing!). Now I’m not talking bodybuilder levels of muscle, I’m saying that simply increasing your muscle mass a tiny amount can have a huge impact on your fat burning capabilities. Building muscle can only be done using resistance training, and running on a treadmill just won’t cut it. Don’t be put off by the idea of needing to lift heavy weights however; you can actually build muscle in the human body by just doing bodyweight exercises, so it’s certainly achievable for anyone! But essentially an increase in muscle means an increase in calories burnt each day.
HIIT – The second component is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This type of training can come in many guises but essentially refers to a short period of almost maximal exertion followed by a short rest period, this is then repeated multiple times. This type of training only needs to last around 15-20 minutes to have a profound effect on fat loss. The reason behind this is that you burn calories whilst exercising, however the critical difference to the LISS training is that with HIIT you also continue to burn a huge number of calories over the next few hours (Reportedly up to even 24 hours) after the exercise has finished. Put simply this is due to the HIIT session having a profound effect on the physiological demands and consequent hormone balance within the body. This makes a 20 minute HIIT burn up to 4 or 5 times the amount of calories that an hour or two on the treadmill might burn, plus this sort of training is over in a fraction of the time and is far more interesting to undertake as you can mix and match a whole host of exercises within an HIIT circuit. It really is a win win type of session!
The real take home message here is that yes your long cardio sessions do have a time and a place and can form part of a fat loss plan. However the real fat loss gains exist in lifting weights and HIIT training, and the real beauty to this revelation is that there are a whole host of different exercise sessions out there to tick those HIIT and weight session boxes, so get out there, give it a bash, and really start reaping the rewards of your hard work!
As a side note HIIT and weight sessions (using bodyweight circuits and weight sessions) are elements that all my SwiftPT plans utilise to get very rapid weight loss results in a very short space of time where the sessions are personally tailored to achieve the best results for each client. So if you’re interested in trying HIIT sessions and in lifting weights for fat loss then you know where to look, I’m always happy to help!