Shayna Schmidt | Aug. 21, 2018

We all know the “cardio queens”-- peeps who chill on the elliptical for hours at a time, barely breaking a sweat, thinking they’re making serious gains. We also all know show-offs who do crazy Navy SEAL-like stunts with battle ropes for 10 minutes and then call it a day. So who has the code cracked? Which technique leads to fat loss quicker? 

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption

At Livekick, we love high-intensity interval training. Our sessions are 30 minutes long, and we want to maximize them! HIIT burns a buttload of calories not only during, but after your workout is over-- this is fact. This is because of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. It's one of the reasons that so many fitness gurus hail interval training as superior to low-intensity steady-state cardio. Here’s a great track interval workout to try.

There's just one problem with assuming that interval training has changed your life and it’s all you’ll ever need to do: the calories burned during EPOC actually don't amount to as much as they feel like they should. That 10 minutes of incline intervals you did on the treadmill as your “finisher,” for example, probably burned around 120 calories. The EPOC value of that might be around 14%, giving you another 16-ish calories burned after your session. Yes, I said 16. Woof.

Another problem with HIIT is that it typically will require much more recovery time than steady-state cardio will. HIIT, or any kind of high-intensity work, should almost be put in a different category than cardio. In my mind, I kind of organize workouts into 3 categories: slow lifting (this doesn’t mean light weights, though!), intense lifting + cardio (a circuit-style workout, for example), and steady-state cardio.

One more problem with doing lots of cardio? The energy expenditure from it will often increase your appetite, making it harder to use your most powerful weapon in the fat-loss arsenal: sticking to good nutrition.

Neither (alone) is the answer

Extremes are almost always bad, right? And this is no exception. ONLY doing steady-state cardio is not super effective, but neither is ONLY doing crazy work with a sled and battle ropes. If you’re serious about dropping a few pounds and starting to see a leaner and more muscular physique, here are 3 steps we suggest:

  1. Look at your NUTRITION. Start there.

  2. Focus on lifting hard for muscle retention.

  3. Use conditioning work appropriately.

See that word there? Conditioning. Not cardio. It's a slightly different tool that you use to improve recovery and improve the quality of the time you spend in the gym. It doesn't just burn calories, it makes you better at doing the stuff that really matters, like strength training, recovering adequately, and fitting more overall activity into your life.

Where do I start?

We're going to hit you up with a four-week progression by Paul Carter, a strength hypertrophy coach and the founder of Lift-Run-Bang. He provided this pure gold to Bodybuilding.com, and we wanted to share it with all of our peeps.

Phase 1: Low-Intensity Work (4 Weeks)

If the goal is becoming a stronger, better lifter in addition to fat loss, it’s important to do low-intensity conditioning. We all want to build muscle while we burn fat, right?! Conditioning alone certainly won’t do that. But on the flipside of that, the most important phase of lifting is actually the REST part. Shocking, right?! As we’ve stated before, lifting actually breaks down your muscles. It’s the rest (and proper nutrition) that rebuilds them.

So, try adding in some low-intensity work like walking at a leisurely pace for 30 mins , 3-4 times per week. This has restorative effects and does a great job at chipping away at body fat without touching your muscle. Look, we know it’s boring. But we bet you’ll notice that your recovery from your lifting sessions improves both in and out of the gym from this.

Phase 2: High-Intensity AND Low-Intensity Work (Next 4 Weeks)

Most people dig high-intensity work because it can be done FAST, and it’s not boring. But Carter notes that HIIT work has “a greater impact on both systemic and localized recovery.” He adds that, “A hard day of sprints can leave you with some heavy legs and a bit lethargic the day after. This is why interval training should not be the cornerstone of your conditioning work.”

Carter suggests thinking of interval training as “A supplement to the conditioning supplement,” lol. For every HIIT session, he says, there should be at least 2-3 low-intensity sessions in that same week.

A week in Phase 2 could look like this:

  • Day 1: Upper-body lifting
  • Day 2: Low-intensity conditioning: 30 min. steady state
  • Day 3: Lower-body lifting
  • Day 4: High-intensity conditioning
  • Day 5: Upper-body lifting
  • Day 6: Low-intensity conditioning: 30 min. steady state
  • Day 7: Rest

Got questions? That’s why we're here. Sign up on our promo plan today (2 workouts for $10) so your very own personal trainer can answer any questions you may have. Or so that your trainer can think about all of this for you, so you never have to again. Lol.