High-intensity cardio (HIC) is a topic that won’t go away in the fitness world, and there’s a reason for it: It is more effective for fat loss than low-intensity exercise (LIE). That’s why you should choose high-intensity cardio to compliment your weight training regimen.
A 1994 study by Angelo Tremblay and his team from the physical activity sciences laboratory at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, compared a sprint ergometer group versus an aerobic group. The study found the sprint group burned 50 percent less calories, but lost three times more fat than the aerobic group.
In other words, HIC had a bigger impact on overall body composition, i.e., a decrease in body fat percentage.
So let’s say you’ve finally made the right decision to bid farewell to your one-hour treadmill trots. What next?
The problem with high-intensity cardio is that it needs to be performed at the lactate threshold–the exercise intensity at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood stream. And exercising at lactate threshold for 30 minutes can be excruciating for recreation fitness buffs and non-athletes. That’s when high intensity interval training (HIIT) comes in.
HIIT means you alternate bouts of high-intensity exercise with that of low to moderate-intensity exercise. And the good news is HIIT sessions generally don’t last more than 20-30 minutes.
After warming up for up for 3 to 5 minutes, Dr. Clay Hyght, a veteran competitive bodybuilder, recommends a 30 second high-intensity bout, followed by a low to moderate pace for 60 seconds. Repeat 12 of these intervals, followed by a 3 to 5 minute cool down.
Level 4 PICP coach Keith Alpert also has a good sample Interval Protocol for Fat Loss mapped out in Getting Maximum Results, Part II – Alternatives to Aerobics.
Why does this matter to you? Because obsessing over how many calories you burn is counterproductive! A 20-minute HIIT workout may burn fewer calories than an hour-long stint on the step mill, but it packs a bigger punch when it comes to fat loss.