In this video Craig Ballantyne the creator of Turbulence Training explains high intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, and why it works so well for fat loss workouts.Â You can get more information on his complete programs and more about intervals for fat loss and conditioning at Turbulence Training.Â Watch the video below to see why HIIT is so effective and will have you burning fat faster than ever.
The Best Cardio Intervals for Fat Loss: Part 1
By: Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Is there really a best interval training system for fat loss?
Do intervals really work as well as regular cardio for fat loss?
I’m going to cover these, and many more questions in Part 1 of your lessons on interval training.
But this is not just interval training 101. Today, you’re going to leave this article with a graduate degree in interval training for fat loss.
I’ll answer both questions upfront before the lesson begins, and I’ll give more details on each as we go along:
1) Conservatively, intervals are at least as effective as regular aerobic training for fat loss. Personally, I believe intervals are far superior. And there is no denying that intervals allow you to get your workouts done a lot faster than slow, boring cardio workouts.
2) I have to admit, there is no best interval training program for fat loss. But that is a good thing, because there are so many ways that you can change your interval training to keep your fat loss results coming week in and week out.
By changing your training program every three to four weeks, you are using one of the key principles of Turbulence Training – variety. It is essential to change your workouts this frequently, otherwise you might suffer from a dreaded fat loss plateau.
And if that is the case for you now, I’ll show you dozens of alternative interval training workouts you can use to kick-start your metabolism and fat loss.
Now what many people don’t know, or perhaps just fail to recognize, is that interval training is not just for advanced fitness superstars. No way. In fact, intervals are an effective and perhaps even the most effective method for beginners to get fit and lose fat.
First you have to understand that interval training is based on relative performance. While my intervals would be much too hard for a beginner, my intervals would be a joke for Lance Armstrong.
So even for those men and women that are just dipping their toe into the fitness waters for the first time in months, years, or dare I say, decades, they too can do interval training.
If you are a beginner and you can walk at 3.3mph for 20 minutes, then your intervals will start at a walk at 3.6mph for 30 seconds to a minute. That is interval training.
It doesn’t have to be high-intensity, sprint-to-the-death activity.
Instead, just increase the intensity slightly more than you can normally handle, and do so for a short time, and intersperse that with periods of easier exercise for twice the duration.
So if you did 1 minute at 3.6mph, drop down to 3.0mph for 2 minutes. Do that up to 6 times, and you’ve had yourself an interval session.
Now for those of you that have been doing only slow, traditional cardio, switching over to interval training 2-3 times per week is going to be the fat loss equivalent of throwing a lit, gasoline soaked rag on a pile of dry kindling.
Here’s why…research has given us a lot of evidence that intervals are superior to traditional cardio. First, a study from Laval University in 1994 compared interval training to aerobic training – straight up – over a 12 week training period. Subjects that used interval training had better results. They lost more fat. You can’t argue with that.
And second, interval training causes metabolic turbulence – also known as boost in your metabolism. Due to the high-intensity nature of intervals, there is more “turbulence” applied to the muscle. That means more muscle breakdown and more adaptations in the muscle.
Now I know that sounds very technical, but all you need to understand is that when all this extra activity goes on at the muscle level, it requires a lot more energy to return your muscle back to normal (i.e. to get out of turbulence and back to a normal resting state).
And when your body uses more energy, it means, in laymen’s terms, that you are burning more calories.
So it’s important for men and women not too get hung up on the calorie counters in the gym. First, because the calorie count of the workout is not the only factor in determining fat loss (intervals burn far more calories after the workout – more on that later).
And second, a report on CBS showed that the calorie counters on some machines are often significantly inaccurate.
Doesn’t that boil your blood when you think back to all those times you did slow, boring cardio and patiently watched the calorie counter creep up to your goal of 250, 300, or even 400 calories? And who knows if that was even accurate?
With intervals, you can forget about the calories on the machine.Â Just work hard, do the intervals, then leave the gym and let your muscles continue burning calories on its own while it recovers from exercise.
OK, time is up, so I’m going to leave off here for Part 1.
I apologize, you don’t have your Master’s of Science Degree in Interval Training yet, but you will after Part 2.
So your homework between now and next week’s class is to start incorporating interval training into your fat loss program. For beginners, see the outline above. Make sure to include a 5-minute specific warm-up and cool-down.
And if you truly did just peel yourself off the couch last week and you have not exercised in years, I insist that you see a doctor before you take up any exercise program. Believe me, you’ll thank yourself for it.
For more advanced fitness levels, let’s start with 60 second intervals.
Do a 5-minute specific warm-up, then exercise for 60 seconds at a slightly harder than normal cardio pace.
Follow that with 90 seconds of exercise at a very easy pace. (Don’t exercise too hard in the recovery period – that is one of the biggest mistakes people make with interval training!). Repeat this sequence for 3 more intervals (let’s just do 4 intervals for your first session).
Through trial and error, find an intensity that allows you to work to near fatigue – but not complete fatigue, there should still be some “gas” left in the tank – by the end of the 60 second interval.
In the next newsletter, I’ll discuss at least 6 different interval durations and when you should use them, as well as the best interval training methods – and don’t miss when I expose the most ineffective machine in the gym.
Hint – It is also the most common machine these days, yet I’ve yet to see a single person change their body by using this machine for their cardio and intervals.
The Best Cardio Intervals for Fat Loss: Part 2
By: Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
If you donâ€™t have variety in your program, you are more than likely to end up at a fat loss plateau soon rather than later. Variety is one of the keys to keeping that fat loss coming.
So not only should you have variety within your training week (i.e. alternate between two different interval training workouts, rather than just doing the same interval workout each time), but you should also change these workouts every 4 weeks.
So you need to change your training program every 4 weeks. To modify your interval training workouts, you canâ€¦
- switch exercise methods (and even use bodyweight exercises for intervals)
- increase or decrease the length of the interval (while decreasing or increasing the intensity, respectively)
- increase or decrease the number of intervals per workout
- increase or decrease the rest time between intervals
First, letâ€™s take a look at the interval methods. Here is my list of preferred ways to do your intervals, ranked in order from best to worst, based on my experiencesâ€¦
- Sprinting outdoors (and hills might be the absolute best)
- Strongman movements (Farmerâ€™s walks, tire flips, car pushing)
- Bodyweight interval circuits
- Treadmill running
- Stationary cycle (upright preferred)
- Swimming (only works for competent swimmers)
- Elliptical & Crosstrainer machines
Okay, so how long should you do intervals and how the heck do you do bodyweight exercises as interval training?
First, I stand by what I said in Part 1. There does not seem to be a â€œbestâ€ interval training program. But that is good because it allows us to use variety in our approach. (So perhaps the best interval training method is simply the one that changes every 4 weeks.)
Interval recommendations have ranged from 15 seconds (from Muscle Media waaaay back in the late 90â€™s), to 5 minutes (these are known as aerobic intervals). So letâ€™s take a look at each interval recommendation and all those in between.
The great thing about 15 second intervals is that youâ€™ll be able to work at a very high rate (almost near your maximum power output), as long as you get adequate recovery between work intervals. The downside is that it is very difficult to do 15 second intervals on machines, because it takes a long time to â€œbuild upâ€ and â€œbring downâ€ the machine settings to the correct speed.
If you decide to use these short, high-intensity intervals, you should do so only if you already have an above average level of fitness. Your rest interval should be at least 15 seconds long, and can be as long as 60 seconds. The longer you rest, the harder you will be able to exercise in each interval.
20 seconds on, 10 seconds off
This method is known as the Tabata protocol, after the Japanese scientist that published a study on this routine. It is very demanding (obviously), and while some trainers have suggested this is the best method for interval training, I donâ€™t think there is any proof that you will get better results.
Clearly, the proâ€™s with this method (as well as the 15 second intervals) is that youâ€™ll get your workout done faster (provided you do the same number of intervals as any other workout). Again, it would be very difficult to perform this type of interval training on a machine, due to the time lag as you increase or decrease the settings. And finally, these too should only be performed by above average fitness levels.
The Turbulence Training workouts tend to use a lot of 30 second intervals. Beginners will rest up to 90 seconds between intervals, while advanced fitness levels will rest 30-60 seconds. The longer (relative) rest allows you to work harder in each successive interval (i.e. youâ€™ll almost be able to match your performance in the first interval with each following interval). Short rest intervals (as in the Tabata protocol) will lead to a dramatic drop-off in performance with each interval. You can easily do the 3-second intervals on any machine.
These intervals are proven for fat loss, in addition to being effective for many team sports (such as hockey, soccer, basketball, and rugby). I have used 45 second intervals extensively in both areas of training. Not only will these tax your muscles, they will also tax your will to complete each interval (if done at the right intensity). Use 45-90 seconds of recovery between intervals. Do 3-6 intervals per workout. Your fitness and fat loss will skyrocket.
60 second intervals
Similar to the 45 second intervals in benefits and toughness. Use 60-120 seconds of recovery between each.
120 second intervals
These are now officially aerobic intervals, and can be used for both fat loss and improving aerobic capacity for sports and running. A great way to achieve two fitness goals at once. Exercise for 2 minutes and then recover for 2 minutes. Repeat 6 times. These workouts take longer (obviously), but can have a role in changing your body and improving your performance.
5 minute intervals
Same strategy as with the two minute intervals. This really increases your workout time, so these are only used with serious endurance athletes.
Beginner vs. Advanced
If you are thinking that these intervals all sound â€œtoo intenseâ€ for you, please donâ€™t worry. Interval training is all relative. You donâ€™t have to sprint for your life in each type of interval. Instead, just work at a slightly harder than normal pace. By the end of the interval, you should be getting tired, but you shouldnâ€™t be gasping for air. Start conservatively and you will get the hang of it.
For example, if you regularly use level 5 on the stationary bike for 30 minutes continuously, you might try doing a 1 minute interval at level 7. Try that for an interval workout and let me know how it goes.
My favorite intervals for fat loss are between 30-60 seconds. These have been the staple intervals in my Turbulence Training workouts since the first workout was designed back in 2001. But again, I think you will get your best fat loss results if you vary your interval training workouts – just like you must vary your strength training workouts.
Intervals are the secret to success,