For years women have waged a war on fat by slogging away on treadmills and spending endless hours on the ellipticals and bikes, but not any more. Short bursts of high-intensity exercise seem to provide a greater metabolic boost than long, slow sessions, and could be the kick-start you need to reignite your fat loss.
The Fat-Burning Zone Myth
It used to be touted that low-intensity exercise was superior for weight loss, as working at a lower heart rate put you into the fat-burning zone. It's true that low intensity exercise does burn a higher percentage of calories from fat, yet it burns far fewer calories overall, leading to less total fat burned, according to trainer Rachel Cosgrove of Results Fitness in California. Higher-intensity work burns a greater number of calories and more fat, and stimulates your metabolism, she adds.
EPOC stands for excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, and refers to the number of calories you burn after you've finished your session. Short periods of high-intensity exercise produce a far greater EPOC effect and can elevate your metabolism for longer after you've finished training, claims Dr. Len Kravitz, exercise physiology lecturer at the University of New Mexico. Short bursts of exercise also produce more metabolic byproducts, mainly hydrogen ions, which can further increase fat loss, writes Tina Schwager in the IDEA Fitness Journal.
Weight Training and Metabolism
Weight training is possibly the ultimate in short burst training, as in a traditional weights workout, each set may only last 20 to 40 seconds. However, short burst weight training, particularly performed in a circuit style, can also be a highly effective metabolism booster, claims strength coach Jen Comas Keck in her article "Get Metabolic." Metabolic circuits are very intense, and cause a high amount of muscle damage, meaning your metabolic rate has to increase to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscle cells.
Programming Short Burst Training
To get this metabolism boost, switch all of your current cardio sessions to high-intensity interval ones. Instead of steady jogs, perform sprints, where you alternate short 20- to 30-second all-out bursts with 90 seconds to two minutes of fast walking or slow jogging. Use this protocol on any cardio machines you use too. When it comes to weight training, keep the intensity high, and reduce your rest periods, or group exercises together and perform them back to back.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.