When I work with my clients, one of the key elements that I incorporate into all of our workouts is INTENSITY. In my view, intensity is the most critical aspect of any exercise regime and can mean the difference between someone who reaches their goals and someone who doesn’t. Increasing your workout’s intensity will stimulate your body to burn more calories and induce a greater cardiovascular response. It will also allow you to have a more time efficient workout.
If you are looking to burn fat and become more toned, then increasing your exercise intensity is critical. Many people have the misconception that if you workout at a higher intensity you will no longer be burning fat since you will be in your “cardio zone”. Whereas, if you keep your intensity low for a longer duration you will burn more fat since you will be in your “fat burning zone”. Let me clarify this for you once and for all. By training at a low intensity (<70% max) it is true that you use fat as your predominant source of fuel. While exercising at a higher intensity (>75% max) your main fuel source is carbohydrate but you will ultimately burn more calories. And since 1 pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories, the ultimate goal is to burn as many calories as possible to create a negative energy balance!
One of the best ways to achieve this intensity is through the use of full-body compound circuit training (strength training) in conjunction with interval training (on the cardio equipment). The benefit of full body compound training is that since it utilizes more muscle in any given movement you burn more calories. The intensity of the workout also means that each exercise becomes more challenging as your heart rate is sustained at a much higher level.
Here are a couple of benefits to following an exercise program combining circuit training and interval training:
1. Intervals and circuits vastly reduce boredom. Traditional steady state cardio training and/or weight lifting can become quite boring. Interval training and circuit training offer more variety and excitement to your workouts.
2. Interval training increases post-exercise energy expenditure (calories burned following exercise) more than steady-state exercise, which means that more fat is burned. After intense exercise, the body needs extra calories as it works to repair muscles, replace energy stores (i.e. carbohydrate) and restore the body to its normal state (e.g. reduce heart rate). As this can take many hours, you will keep on burning more calories long after the workout is over. In fact, research shows that metabolic rate is higher for several hours following interval training compared to steady state exercise.
3. Interval training burns more calories. As an example, 30 minutes on an Elliptical machine using a steady state program will burn roughly 292 calories, whereas 30 minutes of intervals will burn approximately 584 calories!
Here is a sample workout that will leave you huffing and puffing:
bike, treadmill, elliptical, rower 5-10 min
Circuit (45 seconds for each exercise, with 15 seconds rest between exercises)