As a personal trainer I come across people all the time who say they keep very fit, they exercise 3-4 times a week but they still can’t lose any weight! Now, there could be many reasons for this, but the majority of the time they are simply doing the wrong types of exercises and workouts. This often leads to boredom, lack of motivation and ultimately discontinuation of exercise which has far worse long-term benefits.
There are two types of exercise, aerobic and anaerobic. While both have their place in a weight loss program I am here to talk to you about anaerobic training. Research is proving anaerobic training to be the most efficient and effective way to burn body fat and its short intense style makes it a viable technique for people who are super busy with very little time on their hands.
Anaerobic training consists of short bursts of intense exercise that force the body to work beyond its comfort level and at a pace that pushes it beyond its ability to supply oxygen to the muscles. Training could be anything from sprints to weights or even burpees performed at maximum intensity for short bursts and followed with short recovery periods. For example, a sprints session with 100 yard sprints work great. Sprint for a 100 yards and then walk back to the starting line. Do this 10-15 times for a killer fat burning workout!
Exercise at this intensity cannot be maintained for very long and 20-30 minutes is probably a sufficient duration as this forces the body to adapt to the metabolically boosting hormone production for fat loss, stabilizing the endocrine system and increasing fat burning enzymes. To maintain maximum intensity, the body will have to switch to burning fat as a fuel instead of carbohydrates allowing muscles soreness and inflammation to remain minimal.
After the workout, as the body gradually settles back into its homeostatic state, EPOC levels (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) will continue to burn calories at the same intensity for up to 24 hours. So a short workout actually equates to increased calorie burn. To get the same effects for an aerobic workout you would have to spend much longer in the gym.
Forcing the body to work beyond its comfort zone in this way will increase the lactate levels in the blood stream (as the body can only push through these lactate levels so far the workouts will have to be short) which has a positive impact on the release of fat burning hormones. Working above the lactate threshold will increase growth hormone production to rebuild and repair the muscles helping to preserve lean muscle mass. This in turn stimulates the release of Adiponectin and PGC1 from fatty tissue, both of which kick-start metabolic reactions and break down body fat.
These hormones also help to counter the effects of cortisol on the body. Cortisol is a stress hormone which is released as a response to high levels of physical and mental stress which helps stabilize and maintain blood sugar levels. Constant high levels of cortisol in the blood stream can have an inflammatory effect, inhibiting body fat and breaking down lean muscle mass. Cortisol is found to be highest in endurance athletes, like long distance runners, who are renowned for having very low levels of muscle mass.
Long periods of aerobic exercise will produce high levels of cortisol and over a long period this will equate to a lower metabolism and softer muscle tissue. This makes burning fat harder and is often the reason very active and slim people will end up with soft rolls of body fat on the abdomen. This is not the case with anaerobic training.
Research has shown that forceful muscle contractions such as burpees, sprints or multi-joint weight exercises, such as the clean and press movement, produce high levels of these hormones which work well for anaerobic training.
For example, sprints require quick bursts of energy with short recoveries so the body doesn’t have time to fully restore the muscles for the next set and resorts to burning fat to maintain intensity. The body cannot maintain a sprinting session for hours so keep these HIIT routines quick and simple with 20 minutes of very high intensity. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.
Resistance exercises that work big muscle groups and multiple joints stimulate huge amounts of growth hormone production. Work with heavy weights and lower reps and keep the workouts short. Here is an example:
- Clean and Press (8 reps)
- Barbell Squats (8 reps)
- Pull-Ups (8 reps)
- Kettlebell Snatch (8 reps)
- Do 5 Total Sets
Alternatively, try cardio circuits such as burpees, tuck jumps, mountain climbers and press ups. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds and then once you finish the last exercise, rest for 1-2 minutes. Repeat for 3-5 total sets for an amazing fat burning workout! You can also try Tabata training for great results.
Tabata training advocates 4 minutes of intense exercise by doing 20 seconds of high intensity followed with 10 seconds of rest. You will do a total of 8 sets for the workout. Professor Tabata patented this training in Japan when it was found that athletes training at these levels increased their VO2 max beyond those doing longer steadier training sessions. Nicknamed the 4 minute fat loss routine, Tabata training again pushes the body beyond its lactate threshold in a very short amount of time.
The variety and versatility of anaerobic training makes it an interesting addition to your workout program and the short routines make it an easily viable form of training for those with very busy schedules. In terms of fat loss, the evidence is clear that high intensity interval training really works. This means you can burn more fat while spending less time in the gym!