The ultimate goal : Leaner me. Definitions on shoulders. More prominent choc-bar abs. Sexy, round, butt. Sexy curves. Lean thigh.

Background image in courtesy of - Zuzana.

Zuzana is my inspiration. I want to achieve the exact same body like her.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ditch the typical cardio exercises

And go for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to change your body into fat burning machine!

Ever wonder why a regular treadmill-gym-goer's body shape still looks the same after half a year running at the gym? These type of people usually hit the cardio machines ie stair climber, treadmill, EFX (Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer) more often than using the dumbells or the plates. They may have the superb stamina for running more than 40mins non-stop in a steady pace but they burn THE LEAST calories compare to those who does HIIT.

Have you ever tried running before for more than half an hour only to notice that you are burning merely 150 calories? I still remember, a friend told me once before, "I wanna run on treadmill for at least 45mins to burn the nasi lemak that I've eaten this morning."

And I was like, man that was hard work! I kinda dread to think that I gotta run that long if I wanna have nasi lemak or run double the time if I wanna have fried rice.

So, I did not eat them, mainly because I hate running, that time.

So what is HIIT actually?
High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT is a form of cardio which involves intervals with varying intensities. It is the best way to burn more fats by doing less cardio. Think "Less is More". It increases your metabolism and allows your body to burn fat up to 24hours after your training. Which means, your body is still burning fat while you are sitting on your couch watching telly.
When you do the typical cardio, say for example, running on treadmill at a slow, steady pace for 30-60mins, your body will only burn fats during and slightly after the running. Besides, running more than 40mins can caused muscle loss, increase cortisol, overuse muscle injuries etc. According to Jason Ferruggia, the human body was simply not designed for long duration, repetitive, steady state activity.

How do you do HIIT?
Start by 5-10 mins of slow walk or any warm-up, and time yourself for an intervals of 30secs of fast and explosive workout follow by a recovery period of 60-90secs of moderate workouts. The recommended ratio should be 1:3 for work to recovery. For example, you can sprint for 30secs with 90secs of moderate pace. Do this for 6-10 sets and finish it within 15-20mins.

When your stamina has improved, you can increased your ratio from 1:3 to 1:2. At the moment, I'm doing 1:3.

What type of exercises for HIIT?
Any types of cardio like running, swimming, jumping, skipping or even Tabata. You can also do bodyweight squats 10reps and then squat hold for 30secs for 8 rounds. Be creative!

When is the best time to do HIIT?
You can do HIIT after your strength training workout or you can do it on your non-workout days.

Case study
I went for running this evening and did HIIT for the second time. My intervals will be 30secs of fast-run (can't sprint yet) followed by 90secs of slow walk for 8 rounds.

What I found out is that, in within the 10mins of HIIT, I've burnt approximately 200cals. I cooled down by jogging at a very slow-paced for about 7mins and I've burnt only 68cals. Amazing how HIIT works eh?


  1. I have to disagree with 'the human body was simply not designed for long duration, repetitive, steady state activity.
    ' or that it is 'against evolution'. Though JF may have some points that I totally agree on, mainly on strength training, I've got to disagree on his take on steady state cardio.

    If an individual IS an endurance athlete and WANTS to improve performance in that area, he/she would want to do some long distance endurance stuff. Overusing muscles IS a form a conditioning be it in weight training, HIIT or endurance sports. Also, muscle loss, cortisol and injuries can be managed with a diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants and protein.

    The advice JF gave generally goes out to those who wants to stay 'in shape', meaning a body composition of less fat and more muscle mass. This however does not apply to endurance athlete like marathon runners or triathletes, which he did not specify.

    Endurance athletes are often associated with sickly, scrawny looking people but not all endurance athlete look like that, *especially* triathletes who get more work done than marathon runners -

    Don't get me wrong, as I'm a fan of HII sprint/jogs but I don't think that endurance sports should be banned out completely. Would I recommend doing ONLY endurance training and nothing else? No, I wouldn't. Would I join a triathlon? Nope. Would I join a full marathon? Nope. I'd join and train for a 10k marathon though, and get better at running a 10k distance. It's just a personal preference.

  2. How does overusing muscles is a kind of conditioning? Seriously, I wouldn't want to risk losing muscles by doing too much of steady cardio, esp when I'm a woman. You know how hard it is for women to gain muscles compare to men.

    Yes. I thought of this idea and to add it in my blog, but since you wrote it first. I agree that if you want to train for marathons, by all means go for the long cardio. Like I said earlier, they have the better stamina compare to other fitness people, but they burnt the least calories. The point here is about fat loss.

    If people are training for marathons, then JF's statement of "'the human body was simply not designed for long duration, repetitive, steady state activity" is not applicable to them. You are right,

    But if people are aiming for fat loss, then JF's statement can be applied to them.

    It's all going back to the individual's goals. For me, I would definitely yawn and keep on looking at my watch if I gotta run for 1hr at the same speed. Well, I'm not training for triathlons or marathons, so I've got no time to lose.

    I've seen friends who are into marathons, superb stamina, ran 20k, but they do not look anywhere near lean. Why is that Kev?

  3. When you've not exercised before but decided to bench press 20kg one day, you are overusing your muscles. That translates to conditioning. You overuse, you get stronger. And yeah I've said that JF's opinion would serve the people who are into overall fitness best, but he did not specify. I didn't say that he was wrong. And there's also this whole 'I hate endurance training hence it is bad' thing going about people who just absolutely hates them for whatever reasons.

    "I've seen friends who are into marathons, superb stamina, ran 20k, but they do not look anywhere near lean. Why is that Kev?"

    Maybe they got the nutrition part wrong? Maybe they are only doing endurance running and nothing else? Maybe they don't care about the way they look? I wouldn't know.

  4. When you train (doesn't matter if it's steady state cardio, hiit, or strength training), your body releases two kinds of hormones: adrenaline and cortisol.

    It releases adrenaline first, but after a period of time cortisol is released. Which is why it is not recommended that you have a prolonged training period... 45 minutes - 60 minutes is ideal. More than that, cortisol takes over.

    Diet also plays a role... in a sense that after training, it is best that you consume protein as soon as you can so your muscles won't erode.

    In terms of which method is best for fat loss or overall cardio health, it is up to the individual. Most people would gravitate towards HIIT since it is less boring and doesn't take too much time.

    Not everyone has time on their hands.

    Some, like Kev and even Forrest Gump.. prefer long distance running.

    There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to fitness. The programme should be designed based on goals, needs as well as 'body type' (ecto, endo, meso).

  5. If i may offer my 2 cents... i agree with KevL. With the right diet and nutrition, you get to minimize the loss of muscle mass even when you do pro-longed activity that is repetitive and at a steady pace (like jogging)

    So jogging is fine, as long as you take good care of your nutrition. The problem arises with people who just wanna lose weight and don't care what weight they lose (water, fat, muscle). So they end up starving themselves and do loads of jogging, resulting in them looking like a stick.