Burn 450% More Fat in Half the Time With Interval Training

If you're spending hours a week on the treadmill and still not seeing the results you want - relax. Step off the treadmill and get ready to burn more fat in less time with our introduction to interval training. The hurt never worked so good.

Everyone, including the USDA, thinks that the key to fat-loss is lots and lots of aerobic exercise. I'm sure you've thought to yourself, “if I could just get myself to do an hour or more of cardio 6 or 7 days per week, then I'd be ripped! I could take off my shirt and the ladies would be paying me to wash their clothes on my abs!”

For the record – NOT TRUE! Not at all. Not even a little bit.

Lies, Lies, Lies!

The USDA came out with their recommendation to do 60-90 minutes of aerobics for fat-loss in 2005. The FIRST EVER research study on the efficacy of their advice didn't come out until LATE 2007. Do you know what the study said?

Men who did moderate to vigorous (think your target heart rate zone) exercise for over 60 minutes per day, 6 days per week, for an ENITRE YEAR lost ONLY 6.5lbs of body fat! That is a half pound per month, for more than 6 hours of exercise per week. (1)

So, if you had 20lbs to lose, all you'd need is 18 hours of aerobic exercise per week and you'd be set in 12 months! Do you have 18 hours-a-week to spare?

Is There A Better Way?

YES! There is a far better way that will get you much leaner in much less time. Researchers in Australia took two groups of people and put them on very different programs:

Group 1

  • 20 minutes of high intensity interval training (at week one they did only 5 minutes)

  • 3 days per week

  • In 15 weeks, they lost an average of 5.5lbs of fat

Group 2

  • 40 minutes of steady state aerobics (TWICE as much exercise)

  • 3 days per week

  • In 15 weeks, they GAINED an average of 1lbs of fat

In HALF as much time, the interval group lost body fat while the steady state group actually got fatter. (2)

This is not new information. Way back in 1994 Canadian researchers pitted steady-state aerobics vs. interval training:

Group 1

  • 15 week interval program

  • Burned only 13,614 calories during their workouts (less than HALF as many as group 2)

Group 2

  • 20 week steady-state aerobic program (5 weeks more)

  • Burned 28,661 calories during their workouts

Group 1 lost 450% MORE body fat than group 2, despite the fact that their training program was both shorter AND burned fewer calories. (3) The calories you burn during your workout are much less important than the calories you burn after your workout.

Why Interval Training Is So Much Better

Interval training is like putting your money in a high-yield, low risk mutual fund (which doesn't actually exist) while steady-state aerobics is like saving your money under your mattress. It beats spending everything you make, but you get no residual benefit and your money (efforts) are constantly being eroded by inflation.

A 30 minute jog will give you 30 minutes of a metabolic boost and that's it. So, it is definitely better than watching American Idol for fat-loss.

However, a 20 minute high-intensity interval workout will:

  • Burn more calories during the actual workout

  • Create a 12, 24, or even 36 hour metabolic boost after you workout (this way you actually can work on your fat-loss while watching American Idol)

  • Cause your body to burn more fat all day long (your body will burn a greater percentage of calories from fat all day long after an intense workout. Whereas, the low intensity stuff, like jogging, seems to decreases this percentage slightly.) (3)

In addition there really is aerobic “inflation.” Every time you do an aerobic workout your body gets better at it – better in the sense that it burns fewer calories and less fat every time you do the workout. (4)

With interval (and resistance training) you can train once and reap the benefits for 1-2 days afterwards. But, with aerobics the benefits cease as soon as you stop exercising.

More Fat-Loss In Less Time

Here's where the rubber meets the road. Shoot for three interval sessions per week. Alternate back and forth between the bike and the sprints. Perform these workouts on your non-lifting days, or after your resistance training sessions on lifting days. These workouts will:

  • Burn lots of calories during

  • Burn many, many more calories afterwards

  • Ramp-up your fat-burning all day long

  • Be much quicker and much more fun than plugging away mile after mile on the treadmill (is there anything more boring than that?)

HIIT Workout A – Bike Sprints:

  • Warm-up: 5min

  • 10sec all out sprint (level 9-10 on a scale of 1-10)

  • 50sec moderate (level 5-6 on a scale of 1-10)

  • Repeat for a total of 10 rounds

  • Add one sprint per week for 4wks

  • Cool down for 3-5min

  • Total time = 20 to 23min for way more fat-loss

HIIT Workout B – Running Sprints:

  • Warm-up : 5min (walk, jog and run)

  • Dynamic warm-up (high-knees, butt kicks @ 20/leg)

  • 10sec all out sprint (9 on a scale of 1-10) – Note: you can do this in an alley, on a field, or on a quiet block. A treadmill will NOT work. It will take more than 10sec to get up to top speed. Also, sprinting is done on the balls of your feet – no heel to toe action.

  • 50sec brisk walk to start line

  • Repeat for a total of 10 rounds

  • Add one sprint per week for 4wks

  • Cool down for 3min

  • Total time = 20 to 23min for way more fat-loss

Hopefully, it goes without saying that you need to eat better if you want to maximize your fat-loss. With decent nutrition, a smart 3 day per week fat-loss lifting program, and 3days per week of HIIT you can expect to look much better in 4 weeks.

References:
1. McTiernan, Anne, et. al. Exercise Effect on Weight and Body Fat in Men and Women. Obesity (2007) 15, 1496-1512
2. Trapp EG and Boutcher SH. Fat loss following 15 weeks of high intensity, intermittent cycle training. Fat Loss Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine,
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
3. Tremblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard C. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism.
Metabolism. (1994); 43(7):814-8
4. Williams PT, Wood PhD. The effects of changing exercise levels on weight and age-related weight gain. Int. J Obesity (2006) 30(3):543-51

Josef Brandenburg is a Washington D.C.-area fitness expert with 16 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book "Results Fitness." In 2004, he started True 180 Fitness (formerly The Body You Want) personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the time you have available. Josef holds certifications from Precision Nutrition, American Council on Exercise, National Academy of Sports Medicine, Functional Movement Systems, Corrective High Performance Kinesiology, and the National College of Exercise Professionals. Learn more about Josef on his blog, follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

73 Comments

  • Reply June 2, 2008

    Jarred

    cool article, i’m gonna try it out

  • Reply June 2, 2008

    Law329

    i LOVE the references to the studies. so many things in magazines or websites you have no idea if they’re just making it up.

  • Reply June 2, 2008

    Phil

    I’ve been getting real tired of my routine, I think I might try this out next. I’ll post back and let you know how it goes!

  • Reply June 2, 2008

    Sprinter102

    I can’t stress how true this is. I’ve been doing IT for 2 years now and i’ll never go back

  • Reply June 2, 2008

    Josef Brandenburg

    Even though I have references I’m still just making this stuff up! Just kidding.

    Thank you for the positive feedback.

    One more thing for people with knee pain – many people with knee pain are afraid to run. Knee pain usually doesn’t set in until 5min into your run. Running very short distances will put less over all stress on your knees and allow you to keep great form… it is usually safer and can be done pain-free.

  • Reply June 2, 2008

    Scott C

    It works! I have taken Josef Brandenburg’s advice and put it to work and in 2 weeks lost close to 3″ off my waist-line. WOW!; that sounded like a cheesy infomercial but it’s true.

    Obviously nutrition is key too

  • Reply June 3, 2008

    P.Si

    I have worked out with Josef for years and there are times when I let myself “slide”, but as soon as I start doing his program again I see results in just a couple of weeks. The work outs are fun and he also has great recipes!

  • Reply June 3, 2008

    Aaron

    Wonderful article. It’s terrible how many people out there are given improper information when beginning a work out regime. It’s no wonder people eventually falter if they never see results.

  • Reply June 3, 2008

    Khamari Smith

    I have enagaged in this type of training for the last 8 months now and I’ve had abs for about 5 months now. I ain’t quitin belive dat.
    Joseph your are the man. I’m in the best shape of my life right now . I’m pumped. I eat 6 times a day too.

  • Reply June 3, 2008

    Gopher Hughes

    Good article. It certainly seems as if most of the advice on nutrition and exercise from the standard fitness/nutrition/medical community has been based on less than no evidence for quite some time now. The epidemic of mass obesity in the US seems to follow on the heels of the FDA’s advice to eat less meat and more grains. Hmm.

  • Reply June 4, 2008

    Peter Flierl

    It sounds great except for those of us on a restricted exercise rgimen. In my case, that is the result of valve replacement surgery and limits on intensity of exercise.

  • Reply June 5, 2008

    Sara R

    Great info! Thanks for passing the word.
    Cheers,
    Brooklander

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  • Reply October 6, 2008

    A Felder

    I’m not doubting the effectiveness of the program or how overstimulations affects muscle adaptation, but how well does this work for endurance?

  • Reply October 8, 2008

    Juls

    i am wondering.. i you do this but change absolutely nothing in your diet, will you still loose fat? i mean will you weigh less in a month?

  • Reply October 20, 2008

    Josef Brandenburg

    A Felder,

    For competitive endurance athletes this will almost certainly improve your race time. (Don’t eliminate all your long distance work, but replace some with trying to get faster. Its the person who crosses the finish line first who wins, NOT the guy who runs the longest – that guy is actually the loser.)

    For general fitness interval training is far superior to steady state for improving endurance (aerobic and anaerobic and VO2 max). In fact a Japanese researcher named Tabata found that over 12 weeks you could a BETTER improvement in fitness levels with just FOUR minutes of an intense interval program versus a FIFTY minute steady state aerobics plan.

  • Reply October 20, 2008

    Josef Brandenburg

    JULS,

    If you add interval training and metabolic resistance training to your life and keep your diet exactly the same you WILL drop body-fat.

    However just because you drop body fat does NOT mean you will weight less. You will probably lose fat and gain muscle at the same time which is actually better than just doing one.

    On most weight loss plans 25-50% of what you lose is actually muscle.

    As I said in the article you will certainly get better results with better nutrition.

  • Reply November 23, 2008

    Virilitas

    Thanks for the information, Josef. I naturally alternate between sprinting and brisk walking in my “aerobics”; I didn’t know this method had a name or additional fitness benefits. What does research show about the effects of interval training on cardiovascular health?

  • Reply December 28, 2008

    Josef Brandenburg

    Virilitas,

    Interval training is far and away superior to steady-state for cardiovascular health. In fact a Japanese researcher named Tabata made a bunch of people mad when he showed that he could improve people’s cardiovascular fitness in just 4 min of interval training compared to 50min of steady state – better aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance and VO2 Max.

  • […] Aerobic exercise is THE biggest waste of time when it comes to fat-loss training. If you don’t understand why I am saying that click here to read my article on why aerobics suck. […]

  • Reply March 18, 2009

    WSR

    Hi Josef,

    I’ve found your articles extremely useful, thanks! I am curious how you would compare the 10s/50s workout to a 8s/12s HIIT workout.

    Thanks!

  • Reply August 6, 2009

    Charles Lloyd

    This is probably the most asked thing on my website and I always lead them to HIIT’s for dropping fat quickly. Good stuff
    .-= Charles Lloyd´s last blog ..Jul 15, 10 rules exercise =-.

  • Reply August 26, 2009

    SPC VELA

    you “nay-sayers” better believe this works. im in the army infantry and we did this twice per week while i was in boot-camp. although this workout is awesome for boosting up your motabolism, its good to add long-slow jogs to build leg endurance

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  • Reply September 10, 2009

    Jamie

    Good stuff josef,
    I completely agree with you. Bruce Lee used a similar system years ago (read the Tao of Jeet Kun Do) and look at the condition he was in!! as he stated our bodies are programmed to react at different speeds constantly throughout a natural life time, so why train at constant speeds?
    I tend to believe the HIIT system would be superb for building lean muscle mass also as varying intensity/speed uses slow AND fast twitch muscle fibres to their maximum. For endurance (and cardio) I used to take a usual run but do high speed short sprints in between and then slow down to jog to recoup the energy blast.. and so on. Does that make sense josef?

    • Reply September 10, 2009

      Andrew

      Jamie, Bruce Lee is a great example; he was a lean muscle tank! There was a study, (you can read more here) that concluded shorter, sprinting runs had a greater impact than long distance runs.

  • Thanks for your sharing.. Hope that it work…

  • Reply December 21, 2009

    Dave

    Great tips for beginners or advanced lifters!

  • Reply January 5, 2010

    Adam

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  • Reply January 26, 2010

    [email protected]

    wow what a nice advice, thanks

  • Reply February 3, 2010

    FatBurning

    Good Josef!!!

    The article is good to explain the best ways to loss the weight in minimum period of time.
    .-= FatBurning´s last blog ..Fat Burning Furnace – The Ultimate Fat Buste =-.

  • Reply February 9, 2010

    ericasun2009

    You cannot believe how long ive been searching for something like this. This is very a good read blog. I Through 7 pages of Google results couldnt find diddly squat. Very first page on Bing. There was this…. Really have to start using it more often!
    SUPPER Blog ARTICLE!!!

  • Reply February 18, 2010

    Life As I Know It

    Awesome article.
    .-= Life As I Know It´s last blog ..Sick Of Being Skinny? Gain Muscle Mass =-.

  • Reply February 19, 2010

    daniel

    I assume that treadmill HIIT burns more than bike…Any data on how HIIT bike sprints compare to standard treadmill 40 min run?

  • Reply March 7, 2010

    Lucy Jones

    Thank you for this invaluable information. Keeping fit and healthy, by exercising frequently and eating smaller, nourishing meals several times a day – is a great way to have good health for many, many years.

  • Reply March 15, 2010

    hd recovery

    I love the post, hope you keep the interesting tidbits coming in the future. Interval training has always been beneficial for me. This concrete workout plan was helpful, thanks!

  • Reply March 24, 2010

    Fat Burning Food

    I love interval training, well not sure about love, but I love how fit I get after the first couple of weeks of training.

  • Reply April 1, 2010

    Rachel Turner

    do you think its okay to substitute pushups or other body weight exercises for the 5 min warm up?
    .-= Rachel Turner´s last blog ..Weight Loss Doesn’t Happen Overnight =-.

  • Reply April 1, 2010

    printablelegalforms

    Thanks for the very informative post. Im looking forward visiting this site again

  • Reply April 19, 2010

    Emperical

    Thank you for the citations, like LAW329 said. I cannot trust anything on blogs/internet without proper links to peer reviewed articles, or common sense 😀

  • Reply April 28, 2010

    J Kane

    I have personally found that interval training gets me much quicker results in terms of my overall fitness level than regular aerobic workouts.

  • […] This week we’re going to focus on stuff anyone can do, with no equipment and no gym membership. If you a gym membership, great – there’s a ton of stuff you can do in the gym.  You’ll want to focus on basic compound lifts like squats, bench press, deadlifts, and machines where you can go pretty heavy, like leg presses.  The more muscles involved, the more your body works, the more results you get.  Sure, doing curls for 40 minutes is exercising, but it’s less effective than doing squats, which hammer the largest muscles in your body and simultaneously activate your core.  For gym cardio, you want to focus on Interval Training, as we recommended way back here. […]

  • Reply May 10, 2010

    Shea

    The article says to combine a 3 days a week HIIT with a 3 days a week weight loss lifting program. What would you suggest for the weight loss lifting program?

  • When you blast the bigger muscles groups (quads, etc) with high intensity exercise, particularly to the burn, you release more growth hormone which not only increases lean muscle mass but also has a great fat burning effect.

  • Reply May 29, 2010

    Shij

    Been thinking about getting a treadmill for some time now but I guess running outside would be better since I’m always on a budget.
    .-= Shij´s last blog ..Google TV: Why Google Will Own The Planet =-.

  • Great article on the importance of resistance/interval training. couldn’t agree more!
    .-= Carrie @ Fat Burning Furnace Book´s last blog ..Fat Burning Furnace Review =-.

  • I’ll give it a try

  • Reply August 4, 2010

    Kieran

    Is this type of training for bodybuilders only? What if – like me – you just want a simple slimmed-down body with ‘natural’ looking muscle? Will Smith for his role in the movie I Am Legend ran (steady state) 6 days a week and he had the kind of body in that movie that I want. So would this type of training (intervals) help me achieve this? Thanks for any replies.

  • Reply August 4, 2010

    Andrew

    Hey Kieran,

    Thanks for the comment. Interval training is for anyone who wants to finally see the body they want. I can tell you from experience, someone only gets the body of a bodybuilder if they truly want it, it is above and beyond just what types of workout you do, it’s a lifestyle. So if you don’t want to look like a bodybuilder, I promise you you won’t. 🙂

    Definitely give HIIT a try, you won’t be disappointed.

    Also check out kettlebell training, it’s a full body workout that works well with HIIT.
    http://www.primermagazine.com/2010/train/100-days-of-fitness-week-9-meet-the-kettlebell

  • Reply April 24, 2011

    Amanda

    Just tried this today and it kicked my tush!! I could barely make it through just 20 minutes and I was sweating immediately! Thanks for this awesome article!

  • Reply May 10, 2011

    Buy Capsiplex

    Very nice and interesting post. There are many helpful points you have mentioned.

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  • Reply June 5, 2012

    Buy Phen 375

    I totally agree on this as people are keen to build muscle despite the fact that they need some dedication. I like the way you express everything here.

  • Reply September 15, 2012

    Fash1on

    Listen up. You wanna burn fat and get cut? There is one exercise that is the holy grail. It takes 4 minutes. Do them every day.

    What is the exercise? The burpee. And yes WITH the pushup and the jump.

    Here is your 4 minute workout.

    20 secs: Do as many burpees as you can.
    10 secs: Repeat.
    Repeat x 3 for a total of 8 sets.

    Ideally you would do at least 6 burpees for each set but do whatever you can.

    For real and faster results, do the workout twice in a row, or if you vomit, in a day.

    Do it.

  • Reply September 15, 2012

    Fash1on

    Correction.

    20 secs: Do as many burpees as you can.
    10 secs: Rest.

  • Reply September 15, 2012

    Fash1on

    Correction.

    20 secs: Do as many burpees as you can.
    10 secs: Rest.
    All else as above.

  • […] fat loss (by coaxing the body to burn fat long after your training session) is to integrate some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in your […]

  • […] HIIT cardio (high intensity interval training) start with a 2-3 minute warm-up then do 30 seconds of high intensity work then 2 minutes of low […]

  • Reply March 5, 2013

    Scobie

    Different studies produce different results. Consider this article, for instance:

    ” In my earlier article I showed how the vast majority of calories burned due to exercise come off during the actual workout and that the caloric “after-burn” due to HIIT is quite minimal. So if fat loss is your goal, then you want to maximize your aerobic “work.”Read more: http://au.askmen.com/sports/bodybuilding_100/135_fitness_tip.html#ixzz2MiUnN8Cy

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  • Reply May 8, 2013

    Dbakeca Italia

    great tips

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  • Reply November 19, 2013

    isaac

    Nice, looks like a good workout. If you enjoy these type of workouts, youll like the workouts at http://BodyFitNest.com/

  • […] High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). The best workout there is. Do 20 minutes, where you alternate a minute of rest with a […]

  • Reply June 18, 2014

    Firekingb

    Josef,
    Should I do all lifting on the rotating day, for example legs and arms on same day? I would also like to train for distance running. How could i integrate that?

  • […] Burn 450% More Fat in Half the Time With Interval Training […]

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    Mike Wargo

    any good lifting programs you’d recommend with hiit?

  • Reply May 20, 2016

    Bullet Tooth Tony

    There are some caveats to this:

    1. the reason a person will initially lose so much more is due to the fact that your body is experiencing a new physical activity it is not accustomed to; people will eventually acclimate and plateau as their body becomes accustomed to the activity, and expend less energy to perform said activity. The regimen would need to be changed often

    2. studies show that HIIT can have a negative impact on those who are also weight training.

    3 (most important): studies show that only people in peak physical condition can actually achieve the claimed potential caloric expenditures of HIIT; the ‘average joe’ cannot maintain the required intensities for the required time periods, and will likely end up burning less calories than steady state

  • Reply May 28, 2016

    Indus Sound Team

    My elbows bother me when doing certain tricep exercises. Skullcrushers, the one where you have the dumbbell behind your head and extend up :p, etc.

  • Reply December 3, 2018

    martin8282

    Can GYM bicycle work?

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