When someone wants to lose weight I often hear them say "I need to do more cardio". They think they need to spend hours per week on the treadmill or elliptical in order to lose fat and burn more calories. (No thanks to the "fat burning zone" on cardio machines.)
Cutting your ‘cardio’ time in half, and upping the intensity can actually bring you greater results, in an even faster amount of time, than spending hours running, or elliptical-ing your life away. I created a free guidebook, Swing into Spring, to help others change the way they think about 'cardio'. Because you CAN get results in just 10-15 intense minutes a few times a week. Grab your free copy here.
The science behind why these types of short, intense workouts produce results has to do with the energy systems in our bodies. Before exercise your body is in a state of homeostasis. After exercise, your body works to recover and return to that state in several different ways, using oxygen. This process is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC for short. The greater the amount of oxygen needed to recover, the greater the amount of calories your body’s metabolism will burn.
Your metabolism is responsible for converting nutrients into adenosine triphosphate or ATP for short. ATP is necessary for muscular activity and growth and activity requires a constant supply of it.
ATP is produced in one of two ways, with oxygen (the aerobic pathway), or without oxygen (anaerobic pathway).
Exercise that places a larger demand on the anaerobic pathway increases the need for oxygen after your workout. The more oxygen needed after your workout the greater the EPOC effect (remember the greater EPOC effect, the more calories burned). So not only are you burning calories during your workout, but you’re burning more after as well. Plus, the more intense the workout, the longer it will take for your body to return to a state of homeostasis. Low-intensity circuit training and long steady-state cardio do not have this powerful effect.
Metabolic conditioning, in the form of circuit training and high intensity interval training, using short rest periods, like the workouts I designed in Swing into Spring, will require more ATP from the anaerobic pathway. During these types of workouts, which require you to work out at a higher intensity, energy is needed immediately. The anaerobic pathway provides ATP much more quickly to your muscles than the aerobic pathway.
So what does this actually look like in the gym? It looks like short, intense bursts of activity that cannot be sustained for long, followed by short rest periods. Ideally during your work periods you want to be doing some type of resistance training, using the larger muscle groups – either alternating between upper and lower body exercises or using full body exercises. Some of my favorite exercises to include in circuit training are thrusters, rope slams, sled pushes and kettlebell swings. If you’re interested in learning how to properly do a kettlebell swing so you can incorporate them into your conditioning workouts, pick up my free guide, Swing into Spring. In the guide I describe how to properly do the swing (video tutorial included), explain why it is such a powerful exercise for conditioning, and include five workouts that will increase the EPOC effect so you burn more calories in less time. Grab your copy here.
If you have any questions about EPOC, Swing into Spring, or how to get the results you've been working for contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.