This blog post will be a follow up to my article last week titled “Do you need cardio for weight loss?” I had a few questions about that post and specifically what kinds of cardio are best if you still want to incorporate cardio into your weight loss program. This was an easy question for me to answer.
Most people have heard about HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), but don’t know exactly what that means. HIIT workouts have become very popular in the past 10-15 years, but are nothing new. In fact, if you ever ran track, joined a bootcamp class or worked out with me, you have done a version of a HIIT workout. HIIT is a short burst of high intensity exercise, followed by a rest. This can be as simple as doing a 20 second treadmill or elliptical sprint, then walking or standing for rest before your next sprint. Or, HIIT can get real interesting when you incorporate resistance training, such as doing dumbbell complexes, dumbbell chains, density circuits, medicine balls, kettlebells and battle ropes. Always remembering to have a short burst of high intensity exercise followed by a rest. Your rest will be determined by your current fitness level. I have some clients that do even very well with AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) circuits that have a time cap. Example: in 15 minutes complete AMRAP of 10 dumbbell RDLs/10 single arm dumbbell rows/10 kettlebell goblet squats/10 dumbbell pushpress. HIIT circuits like this are where I can be very creative with client’s workout programs to prevent boredom.
So, is this better than steady state, slow to moderate pace cardio for someone on a weight loss journey? I really do think it is. There is the obvious reason that it kickstarts your metabolism more than a moderate pace jog does. Remember your weight loss revolves around your metabolism, so I do not know if a 20 minute HIIT workout burns more calories than 60 minutes plugging along on the elliptical. There is some research that says HIIT does burn more calories, but in the long run the small amount of calories burned working out just doesn’t matter. Here are some other reasons I believe HIIT is more beneficial for someone on a weight loss journey:
-It isn’t boring! You can do something different every day instead of watching CNN on the gym treadmill. If you actually want to be at the gym doing the workout you will keep going back for more.
-It doesn’t take as much time. I am sure you have a hectic life schedule. 15-20 minutes of HIIT 3-4 times a week can be enough for some people to jumpstart their metabolisms…..if you are taking care of your nutrition as well. I will use it mostly in the last 10-15 minutes of a workout with clients after they have completed their resistance training for the day.
-You will gain lean muscle. Lean muscle = revved up metabolism = sustainable fat/weight loss.
-You will learn how to push yourself out of your comfort zone like never before.
HIIT will always be a staple of weight loss programs for my clientele base. I have seen clients come to me with absolutely crushed metabolisms from only doing 60 minutes on the elliptical 5 days a week. I have also seen clients come to me bored out of their minds and ready to quit exercise, until they found the variety HIIT can provide to working out.
In the end, you need to find what works best for you and keeps exercise FUN. The best way to keep a consistent exercise program a part of your life is to do things you actually like doing, while maybe throwing some things in there that kick your ass and get you out of your comfort zone. The balance of hard work and fun is the only way exercising won’t seem like a chore when you have a long journey ahead of you.
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