When it comes to shedding belly fat, finding the most effective program comes down to a simple formula – how to burn the maximum number of calories in the shortest period of time. For decades the debate has raged between long slow cardio and intense short aerobic exercise.
Over recent years, however, several scientific studies have finally put that debate to rest. High intensity interval training (HIIT) simply blows away every other exercise variant in it’s ability to burn calories while you are exercising – and to elevate your metabolism so that you are burning more calories for a full 24 hours after your work-out. Not bad for a total investment time of 12 minutes!
HIIT involves repeat intervals of short intense periods of all out performance of an aerobic exercise, followed by even shorter rest periods. Commonly trainers perform the sprint portion for 30 seconds, followed by a 30 – 90 second recovery. The best type of exercise to choose are ones that will allow for all out effort on the sprint portion of the program. Running, cycling on an exercycle and skipping are great options. After a two minute warm-up, the trainer performs 8 cycles of the 30-30 routine, for a total work-out time of 4 minutes. This is followed by a warm-down of 2 minutes. Raise the bar with more cycles for every week, if possible.
A recent study out of California State University, Sam Marcos had test subjects performing HITT workouts for 3 weeks. At the end of that 21-day period college aged men and women improved their maximal oxygen uptake by 6% as well as improving their stationary bike power output and blood pressure. In another study, this one based at Colorado State University, a single HIIT workout was shown to increase daily energy expenditure by 200 calories. A third study, out of Brisbane, Australia showed that HIIT training also has amazing benefits for people suffering from coronary artery disease and obesity related conditions.
HIIT sessions should be performed 3 days per week, on alternate days.
Here’s how the program would look with running as the exercise of choice:
(1) Find a training area with a 330 foot open space. When you reach the end simply spin around and keep going.
(1) Perform a 2 minute slow jog, concentrating on running a lap with high knees followed by a lap with high back kicks.
(2) Sprint all out for 30 seconds. Imagine that you are being chased by a large, hungry doberman. Pump your arms and go to your absolute limit.
(3) Jog, or walk, for exactly 30 seconds.
(4) Perform your second sprint. Work hard not to drop the pace. Keep going for the whole 30 seconds.
(5) Repeat for another 6 cycles. Keep pushing hard on every sprint.
(6) Perform a 2 minute warm down.
(7) If you don’t fix the short rest periods, try to prolong them, but maximum 60-90 seconds of rest. Cut the rest period down for every week until you can manage 30 second rests. Then add more cycles.
Not only will HIIT training burn calories like crazy during that 12 minutes training period, it will elevate your metabolism, ensuring that your body becomes a fat burning furnace while you go about the rest of your day. In addition, HIIT training is the most effective way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. It will also help you to improve your recovery time from intense exercise, making you a more efficient player of any sport.
By performing HIIT first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, you’ll be able to burn even more calories. You’ll also be setting yourself up for a great day. You’ll probably hate it while you’re doing it but after you’ve completed your HIIT session you’ll feel on top of the world.
Journal Strength Conditioning Research, 26:138-145, 2012
Physiological Reports, 1 (5): E00131, 2013
British Journal of Sports Medicine, published online October 21, 2013