If you are still using light weights to work out or slowly cruising on a stationary bike, you may not be able to burn as many calories as you would like. Try interval training for a different type of workout, where you perform a bout of high-intensity exercise followed by a period of low-intensity exercise. This training method burns more fat and calories in less time than steady-pace cardio, says Dr. Jason Karp, PhD, contributing writer for "IDEA Fitness Journal." The best exercises for interval training are those that train your whole body together rather than individual parts.
Short-distance running can help you burn more calories and fat than jogging at a steady pace. Bounding is moving forward by continuously leaping from one foot to the other foot. It resembles sprinting with long, running strides. This high-intensity exercise improves your stride length, balance, movement awareness and coordination as well as increases muscle definition in your lower body. Place an orange cone or a marker about 40 to 50 yards apart, and place a third cone halfway between the two cones. From one cone, start running and gradually pick up the speed. Once you run past the middle cone, jump off on one foot and leap through the air as far as possible. After you land on the opposite foot, leap through the air in the same fashion. Continue striding as far and as fast as you can until you move past the last cone. Turn around and repeat the bounding pattern three to five more times. Rest for two to three minutes before bounding again three to four more rounds.
Kettlebell swings can also be used for interval training where you use momentum to help you swing the weight. This exercise combines strength and power training with high-intensity cardio to get stronger hips and legs, says fitness writer Shannon Fable, contributing writer for "IDEA Fitness Journal." The exertion from kettlebell swinging can be just as intense as any high-intensity running. Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent, and hold a 30-pound kettlebell in your right hand. Let the weight hang down in front of you. Rock your hips back and forth to initiate the swing. As you increase momentum, exhale and swing the kettlebell between your legs with your right thumb pointing between your legs. Inhale and thrust your hips forward to bring your torso upright. Swing the kettlebell up at the same time until it is about as high as your eyes. Do not round your back as you swing. Perform three to four sets of 10 to 20 swings per arm.
Box jumps work on power development in your lower body while improving your cardiovascular endurance and fat-burning ability. Use a plyobox -- a box designed for high-impact jumping -- that is between 2 and 3 feet high. Stand in front of the plyobox and jump on top of it. Land on the box on the balls of your feet with your feet about hip-width apart, and immediately jump forward off the box. Land lightly on the balls of your feet without hunching forward. Turn around and repeat the jumps for three to four sets of eight to 10 jumps.
Mix and Match
There are many exercises you can mix to create your own interval training workout. Perform a set of high-intensity exercise, like bounding and jumping, followed by a set of low-intensity exercise, like jogging or skipping rope. For example, do a set of bounding followed by a set of light rope-skipping for 30 to 60 seconds. Rest for one to two minutes and repeat the pair of exercises again. You can also use traditional weightlifting exercises like dumbbell chest presses, cable rows and shoulder presses with interval training. The possibilities are endless. This approach can also help you avoid plateaus and boredom in your workout.
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
- IDEA Fitness: Interval Training: The New and Better Way to Train Your Clients?
- IDEA Fitness: Kettlebell Comeback
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.