The Best Form of Cardio for Fat Loss:
In order for an individual to see progression and real results, one must understand the benefits that different styles training provide and how to exploit those benefits for personal gain. This article will provide insight over different types of cardio training and how to optimize them in order to reap real results. In order to lose weight and shed fat, the individual must remain in a negative energy balance (caloric deficit). When in a negative energy balance, the body is expending more energy than it is receiving through food intake. Utilizing cardio training plays a huge part in overall progression due to the quantity of calories (energy) burned during each session.
Understanding the differences between various cardio styles allows individuals to take their training to the next level and helps to increase overall progression towards a desired fitness goal. Different styles of cardio affect each individual differently, in order to determine which style works best will require some trial and error. A common misconception that occurs in the fitness industry is that individuals qualify a specific type of training as “the best for this or that” simply because someone else was able to get results from it. “What is the best way to lose weight/lose fat?” is an ongoing question in the fitness industry and there is no definitive answer to the question because everyone’s body is different and will react certain ways to different stimuli. The two main cardio training styles that will be broken down in this article are HIIT (high intensity interval training) and low intensity steady state training.
HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio sessions consist of small bursts of maximal effort followed by minimal rest periods over a short total duration. This style of cardio training provides various performance benefits such as increased anaerobic capacity, increased metabolism, and minimal muscle degradation. During HIIT cardio sessions the main energy sources utilized by the body are glucose and glycogen (carbs) due to the utilization of the anaerobic energy system. These short duration training sessions also provide convenience to individuals with a busy schedule and caters to those that do not have access to gym equipment. HIIT training forces the individual’s heart rate to skyrocket and maintain a near maximal cardiac output. Maintaining a near maximal heart rate forces the body to use more energy in order to meet the oxygen requirement to continue working at such a high rate. Training at near maximal heart rate forces the body into a catabolic state meaning the body will breakdown stored energy (ex: excess fat) in order to meet the energy demand, which can equate into increased fat loss. To maximize this type of training is to limit total rest time between working intervals in order to maintain the near maximal heart rate. The duration of work needs to be longer than the duration of rest in order to optimize this type of cardio. This type of cardio can be performed in various work:rest ratios, the goal when using this approach should be to aim for a 1:2 or 2:1 work rest ratio. Another option is to perform a HIIT session as a circuit, meaning one should aim to perform each exercise once (1 round) before taking a rest period. Regardless of how the training bout is performed, the variable that needs to remain constant is maximal effort in each working interval.
Example HIIT cardio sessions:
HIIT Circuit Example:
Jump Rope: 5 rounds x 30s
Kettlebell Swings: 5 rounds x 12 repetitions
Med Ball Slams: 5 rounds x 12 repetitions
Bodyweight Jump Squats: 5 rounds x 10 repetitions
Dumbbell Step-Ups: 5 rounds x 8 repetitions (each leg)
Push-Ups: 5 rounds x 8 repetitions
HIIT Work:Rest Ratio example: Complete one exercise before moving to the next
Jump Rope: 5 x 20s work time/10s rest time
Kettlebell Swings: 5 x 20s work time/10s rest time
Med Ball Slams: 5 x 20s work time/10s rest time
Bodyweight Jump Squats: 5 x 20s work time/10s rest time
Dumbbell Step-Ups: 5 x 20s work time/10s rest time (alternate legs)
Push-Ups: 5 x 20s work time/10s rest time
Jump Rope: 6 x 10s work time/20s rest time
Kettlebell Swings: 6 x 10s work time/20s rest time
Med Ball Slams: 6 x 10s work time/20s rest time
Bodyweight Jump Squats: 6 x 10s work time/20s rest time
Dumbbell Step-Ups: 6 x 10s work time/20s rest time (alternate legs)
Push-Ups: 6 x 10s work time/20s rest time
Steady state low intensity cardio sessions consist of longer durations performed at a continuous work level. This form of cardio is less demanding on an individual’s cardiorespiratory system and less taxing on the body. Performing this type of cardio helps to increase one’s overall endurance and provides various heart health benefits. Another benefit to performing this style of cardio is increasing one’s aerobic capacity, which provides more muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance. Low intensity cardio bouts allow the body to recover at a quicker rate which can be beneficial during a strenuous training program. The main energy source utilized by the body at lower intensity cardio bouts is fat, although this doesn’t necessarily translate into “burning more fat”. Performing this style of cardio can also help to preserve muscle mass due to the low intensity factor involved. Steady state cardio requires more time per session but can be extremely beneficial when looking to lose weight. Steady State cardio bouts are performed on treadmills, stairmaster, bikes or ellipticals. This style of cardio, however, can prove to be less convenient for those that do not have access to such machines. In order to maximize this style of cardio training, the machine variables (speed and incline) need to challenge the individual. Increasing the work load and machine variables week to week can lead to greater overall progression and help to avoid hitting a plateau.
Example Steady State Cardio Sessions:
Week 1: 3 x 20 minutes, level 7-9
Week 2: 3 x 20-25 minutes, level 8-9
Week 3: 4 x 25 minutes, level 9-11
Week 4: 4 x 25-30 minutes, level 10-11
Week 1: 3 x 25 minutes, 4mph, 4-5 incline
Week 2: 3 x 25-30 minutes, 5mph, 5-6 incline
Week 3: 4 x 30 minutes, 5-6mph, 6-7 incline
Week 4: 4 x 30-35 minutes, 6-7mph, 7-8 incline
Both of these cardio styles have various benefits when wanting to lose weight and fat. Performing a mix between steady state and HIIT cardio sessions each week has been proven to provide more results and progression rather than just performing one by themselves. Choosing which style of cardio to perform lies within personal preference, but performing a mix of both styles can help an individual determine which type works better for them specifically. I hope this article provided some insight and clarity in determining which type of cardio is best for fat loss and overall weight loss. Understanding the benefits of steady state cardio and HIIT allows the individual to take their fitness to the next level. Give these example workouts a shot and let me know what you think!
*Also, if there is a specific topic you want me to cover, contact me and I’ll dedicate a blog post to it specifically.