TYPES OF CARDIO TO MELT FAT THE FASTEST
What are the benefits and which methods are best when it comes to aerobic training? I will discuss those in detail right here. Included are sample aerobic activities and guidelines to follow. Learn more now!
Losing stubborn body fat and getting into one's best possible shape may require at least some aerobic activity. The range of aerobic methods available and the different ways in which to engage in cardio are many - enough to cause confusion for those wanting to shed excess weight to reveal their hard-won muscles.
Question is: what are the best methods of aerobic exercise? Is there a perfect way to lose fat through cardiovascular means, and if so, what is it? Aerobic activity by its very nature requires fat to be used as a primary fuel source, with carbohydrates and protein being used to a smaller extent. Therefore it is obvious that in order to lose fat, some degree of aerobic work will need to be done.
However, the type of aerobic work needed for fat loss is a subject open to much debate. Aerobic activities (typically done at a moderate intensity, although higher intensity aerobics has been shown burn more calories) constitute any form of exercise that is repetitive, long, and hard enough to challenge the heart and lungs to use oxygen as a fuel source to sustain the body over a longer period (15 to 20 minutes or longer).
Aerobic activities can include:
With aerobic exercise, oxygen, fats and carbohydrates combine to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the basic fuel source for all cells.
However, given that fat is a more efficient fuel source for aerobic activity - as the body has greater fat stores (which are more easily mobilized in the presence of oxygen) compared to carbohydrates and proteins - it will be used preferentially during aerobic activity, which lasts longer than the short-burst glycogen-using anaerobic activity.
So, aerobic activity done at a moderate intensity (50-75 percent of Maximal Heart Rate [MHR], or within the mythological fat burning zone) appears to burn more actual fat, but does it help with greater fat losses over the longer term? Some researchers suggest not.
It appears that exercising aerobically at a higher percentage of MHR (75% or more) burns more in the way of total calories, which adds up to greater fat total losses. (Max Heart Rate is easily calculated by subtracting your age from 220.)
As long as the exercise is performed within the aerobic zone (using oxygen), and does not become anaerobic in nature (instead drawing from carbohydrates for fuel), the higher the intensity the better.
If more total calories are used, as opposed to a comparatively small amount of fat - as is the case with low intensity aerobics - these calories are less likely to be stored and fat losses will be much greater. With higher intensity aerobics, the body ultimately burns a smaller percentage of fat calories from a much larger number of total calories, so in the end more fat calories will be used.
This is not to say that low-intensity aerobics are worthless. As explained later, they do have their place. However, if one is to burn the largest degree of body fat in the shortest amount of time, higher intensity aerobics seem to be the superior method. Let us turn now to the benefits of high intensity versus low intensity aerobics.
All forms of aerobic training will provide many similar benefits, while high intensity and low intensity methods (although both within the so-called fat burning aerobic zone) have benefits specific to their respective functions.
To determine the exact intensity needed to benefit from a specific aerobic method, first it is important to determine lower and higher end target heart rates (THR). The low end of the target zone is 55% of your MHR. The high end of the target zone is 80% of your MHR. Use the calculator above to determine these numbers (or just subtract your age from 220, then multiply the result by .55 and .80, respectively.)
Aerobic exercise (regardless of intensity) will help to:
Aerobic Training Methods & Their Advantages
Once the appropriate aerobic intensity has been decided upon (depending on one's training goals), the type of aerobic exercise to be used can be chosen. Some types are naturally of a higher intensity, while others are lower in intensity; some are suitable for specific sporting goals, while others are best for achieving low body fat for physical definition.
The keys to choosing a good aerobic activity include finding one that is enjoyable and effective to ensure it is used consistently to good effect.
1. Walking (Burns 300-400 Calories per Hour)
Once thought of as a perfect aerobic exercise for fat burning and overall health, walking is now considered one of the least effective of the aerobic methods.
Although great for beginners or those with injury or who are obese, walking probably is not the best form of exercise for losing weight and achieving fitness, as it is of a much lower intensity compared to other methods.
It is thought that the lower the intensity of an activity, the smaller the number of calories burned per unit of time (it is also thought that 15 minutes of cycling will burn more calories than a 45 minute walk at moderate pace).
Furthermore, metabolism will increase on average for only one-two hours after walking, as opposed to higher intensity aerobic activity where it can be increased for up to 24 hours or longer.
Walking can be used for the following purposes:
2. Running (Burns Around 600 Calories per Hour)
A higher intensity method compared to walking, running (not sprinting, which is anaerobic) is an efficient, although high impact way to lose body fat and improve cardiorespiratory fitness.
The main benefit to running for weight loss purposes is that it is sufficiently high intensity to burn a greater number of calories, while stimulating the metabolic rate for a longer period afterward.
For fat burning purposes, the variation on running that could be considered is jogging, as this method - although higher intensity aerobic - does not cross the anaerobic threshold to burn carbohydrates as a primary fuel source. Running, as does walking, involves all of the lower body, only on a much larger scale.
Specifically, it works the hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, and gastrocnemius & soleus muscles (calves) to provide a great lower body workout. Running also recruits arms, therefore providing an additional calorie burning effect.
Running can be used for the following purposes:
3. Cycling (Burns Around 600 Calories per Hour)
Cycling involves the same muscles as does running, but has the added advantage of being lower impact, therefore making it ideal for virtually anyone (with the exclusion of those with certain injuries).
It can be done on either a stationary bike (the preferred option for those wanting to specifically burn body fat, as there might be fewer distractions with this method), or on the road.
Either of these approaches will suit almost anyone (regardless of cardiovascular goals) as the resistance can be changed to accommodate preferences in intensity level. Cycling is also ideal for HIIT (as will be explained later) as the resistance can be changed from lower to higher in rapid fashion. For bodybuilders, cycling can also carve definition in the frontal quad muscles allowing for greater separation come competition time.
Cycling as an aerobic activity can be useful for the following reasons:
4. Rowing (Burns Around 840 Calories per Hour)
Rowing on a machine provides an excellent total body workout, in addition to being a great high intensity way to strip body fat. It could be considered the perfect exercise as it works all the main muscles of the body, is of higher intensity than walking and of lower impact than running, and burns more calories per hour than any other commonly used aerobic exercise (around 840 per hour).
Rowing as an aerobic activity can be useful for the following reasons:
5. Swimming (Burns Around 600 Calories per Hour)
Like rowing, swimming provides a great total body workout, while burning a high number of calories. It is also very low impact as the body is working in a weightless environment (water), and, as a result, there is little risk of injury.
Using the common freestyle stroke will work well for most people, but if at all possible use a variety of strokes in order to place an emphasis on different muscle groups - this change in intensity will help to burn more calories.
Swimming is a great aerobic activity for:
6. Jumping Rope (Burns Over 1000 Calories per Hour)
Although a very high impact activity, jumping rope can provide a great aerobic workout if done correctly. It can also add definition to the calves and shoulders, as it works these muscle groups quite vigorously. Probably one of the harder aerobic methods, correctly jumping rope involves a tremendous amount of skill, strength, focus and patience.
Not commonly used as an aerobic method, jumping rope burns a higher number of calories per hour than rowing (over 1000) and is best used for shorter periods, as it might lead to impact injuries of the lower leg or hip if done continuously for too long.
Once mastered, jumping rope is an effective way to:
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is one of the newer and more effective ways to burn body fat. As many have experienced, HIIT provides an intensive aerobic option, which takes a fraction of the time to complete compared to the more traditional cardio methods.
As the name suggests, HIIT incorporates both high intensity aerobic work with a very high intensity component to provide a maximal fat burning effect, and an increased metabolic rate that can last for over 24 hours after training.
Regular aerobic training (although beneficial for fat burning) can place the body into a steady state in that the same pace is maintained throughout. This means the body has adjusted itself to the speed it is going and will try to conserve calories. With HIIT, the steady state problem can be avoided as the intensity is shifted every minute or so.
An example of a HIIT workout is as follows:
Using cycling as an aerobic method, work at a moderate to high intensity pace (75-80 percent of MHR) for two minutes. Quickly change the intensity so that work rate is increased significantly (over 90 percent of MHR) for 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat this process for up to 30 minutes. Running, rowing or swimming are also methods that can be used in a similar context with HIIT.
HIIT is perfect for:
Aerobic Training Guidelines
As with any form of training, aerobic exercise should be taken slowly during the initial stages of training, especially if one is overweight or in an otherwise untrained state. Walking would be a perfect activity for the novice trainee as it is much less demanding than many of the other methods, and is relatively low impact.
Training too hard too soon might result in injury or burnout. It is also important to start out gradually at the beginning of a workout (if the activity is of a higher intensity) to warm the muscles and lubricate the joints for the work ahead.
Work within the Target Heart Rate Range
Although the concept of a fat burning zone has been discredited, it is still important to stay within a specified target heart rate range to ensure the body is working at its full capacity. Using the formula given earlier, one could determine the lower and upper limits of the target heart rate range and plan the session accordingly.
Try to work at the upper end if possible to gain greater benefits. Working below the target heart rate range will produce very little effect, while training beyond it could lead to injury.
Do Not Overdo It
Cardio should be done safely at all times. Trying to do too much will probably have an opposite effect to what is trying to be achieved. Fat burning and other health benefits will occur, so long as the session is no longer than 45 minutes to one hour (this is usually accepted as the appropriate length of time for one who is in good health).
Going beyond this could lead to a repetitive strain injury (depending on the type of activity used), and burn a great of muscle, which will ultimately cause the metabolism to slow down, therefore restricting fat loss. In conjunction with a weight-training program (aerobics and weight training combined is the best way to achieve total fitness), cardio will need to be carefully monitored so that overtraining does not occur.
Do Enough to Produce an Effect (The Significance Of Intensity, Time and Frequency)
To get the most from any aerobic training program, it is best to plan the intensity, time, and duration to ensure a sufficient training effect. These variables will change depending on what stage one is at and the specific goals they have.
For a general fitness aerobic program (for a moderately well-conditioned trainee) working on a cycle, intensity would be between 70 and 85 percent of MHR, time would be between 45 minutes and one hour and frequency would be four times a week. For a less-advanced trainee, less would be required.
Drink Water Before, During and After Training
Given aerobic training causes a great deal of fluid to be lost through sweat and body heat, it is important to drink water before, during (depending on the duration of training) and after exercising. Training aerobically without sufficient water intake (especially in the heat) may lead to dehydration and a reduction in performance so keep hydrated at all times.
To get into great shape, it is generally accepted that some aerobic training will be needed. However the type of training and the methods used will differ from person to person, and to achieve superior results it is important to select an activity that will work to ones best advantage.
It is hoped this article will have made clear the benefits aerobic training holds and the methods available.
CARDIO WORKOUTS: FIXING THEM
Cardio machines help you work very hard in a very short period of time, making a morning or lunchtime workout an exercise in efficiency. But most people don't use the machines correctly. Fix your mistakes during your cardio workout and exercises and you'll get more calorie burn for the effort.
The mistake: Too much bouncing up and down. Your head should remain relatively level while running; otherwise you'll tire out your joints—and yourself—too soon.
The fix: Improve flexibility to smooth out your stride. Try leg swings—hold the handlebar, stand on one leg, and swing the other back and forth, keeping your upper body still. This will loosen your legs.
The mistake: Too many long, steady, flat runs.
The fix: Run shorter and harder, mixing speeds and inclines to create intervals. Start with a 2 percent incline, and over several sessions work up to 10 percent. Just walk at steep inclines.
The mistake: The seat is too low or too high. A low seat fatigues the legs and stresses knees. Set it too high and your hips rock from side to side, which is inefficient.
The fix: Adjust the seat, people! Sit on the seat and place your heel in the middle of the pedal, where the ball of your foot would normally go. You want your leg fully extended, at the lowest point of the pedal rotation. By moving your foot to the correct position on the pedal, you'll have the right amount of bend.
The mistake: Cruising instead of charging.
The fix: Vary the intensity, with 2 to 3 minutes of high-cadence pedaling and a 3-minute recovery and then repeat for 15 minutes. Stand occasionally which will add another dimension to your workout, standing requires more muscle not only to push the pedals, but also to support and balance your body.
The mistake: Too little resistance. Many people allow momentum to do the work for them instead of propelling the step with their leg muscles.
The fix: Set the resistance correctly to be able to feel that you are pushing the ramp down when you make a revolution rather than flipping around freely.
The mistake: Getting bored.
The fix: Do intervals. It will force you to reach a higher intensity of training for a sustained period of time. Try 90-second blasts every few minutes, with recoveries twice as long. Reduce recovery time as your fitness level increases.
The mistake: Holding yourself up with your arms. A lot of people put their hands on the railing and lock their elbows with arms straight down. That's like using crutches.
The fix: Rest your hands lightly on the bars only for balance. Keep your body upright, with just a slight lean forward.
The mistake: Too little resistance.
The fix: Go slower, with challenging resistance. You'll give yourself a tougher workout, increase your heart rate and maintain your time in the training zone longer. Result: You'll burn extra fat in the long run.
The mistake: Your hands bump your knees, which throws off your cadence.
The fix: Take a tip from rowing crews to create a fluid motion: Think of the stroke as a dance, counting 1-2-3 and 3-2-1. On 1, push with your legs; on 2, "swing up" your body by leaning back; on 3, draw your arms to the bottom of your rib cage, spinning the flywheel. Then reverse it: 3, extend your arms; 2, swing your body forward from the hips; 1, bring your legs up after the handle passes your knees.
The mistake: A long, steady slog, which leads to inefficient exercise. You're spending too much time rowing at a moderate intensity.
The fix: With medium resistance, do four to six 10-minute sets of high-intensity rowing with 2 to 3 minutes of rest in between. This will allow your heart rate to come down a bit so you can regroup with intense effort. Result: You'll expend more calories and get out of the gym quicker.
8 Cardio Myths That Are Making You Fat
These common misconceptions might be keeping your scale stuck, but there are easy ways to change that and lose more weight
1. Weight Loss = Focus on Cardio over Strength Training
All cardio and no strength isn't just boring, it may cause you to burn fewer calories overall. “Strength training builds lean muscle mass, which both increases your metabolism and decreases fat,” says celebrity trainer Elizabeth Hendrix Burwell, co-owner of High Performance Gym. “So the more muscle you build, the more calories you burn on a day-to-day basis."
Some strength training workouts can even double as cardio: A recent study by the American Council on Exercise found that kettlebell exercises can burn up to 20 calories a minute—the equivalent of running at a 6-minute mile pace! Maximize your weekly workouts’ weight-loss benefits by incorporating up to four non-consecutive days a week of resistance-based exercise such as kettlebells, TRX, and weight lifting (our Real Secret to Skinny Workout is a great one to try).
2. Do Cardio First then Hit the Weights
This age-old question is about as common as the chicken-or-the-egg conundrum: Should you start with cardio or strength training? “If you’re hitting the treadmill for an intense cardio session and then plan to hit the weights afterward, you’ll have little left in your tank to make your resistance training count,” says Lindsay Vastola, a certified trainer and founder of Body Project Fitness and Lifestyle. When it comes to doing a full, high-intensity cardio session and an entire resistance training workout, perform each on separate days, Vastola says, so you can give both your all and burn more calories in the process.
3. You Should Burn At Least 500 Calories During Your Cardio Sessions
Slogging away on the treadmill to hit some magic number is a waste of time and energy since machines can only roughly estimate your metabolic rate, Vastola says. Ignore the red digits on the console and focus on intensity instead. If you work harder in shorter bursts, you’ll burn more calories even after your workout is over. Use a heart rate monitor (aim to stay between 75 to 85 percent of your max heart rate) or the rate of perceived exertion scale of 1 to 10 (strive for an 8 or 9 on high-intensity intervals) to determine if you're working hard enough.
4. Stay in the "Fat-Burning Zone" When Trying to Lose Weight
Your body does burn fat as fuel during lower-intensity workouts (a.k.a. the "fat-burning zone" of about 65 percent of your max)—however that's not necessarily what you need to focus on for weight loss. What counts the most is your overall calorie expenditure, not the fuel source. “The higher the intensity of your workout, the more total calories you will burn," says Marta Montenegro, a certified strength and conditioning coach and adjunct professor of exercise and sports sciences at Florida International University. That burn lasts up to 24 hours after your last rep or step, and studies show you’ll shrink your belly fat faster, she adds.
But before you go switching all of your cardio sessions to high-intensity, maximum-effort training, remember that this type of exercise isn’t without its risks, such as injury and over-training fatigue. Montenegro recommends alternating between low- and high-intensity workouts to give your body proper time to recover and build consistency. For example, do your high-intensity interval training on Mondays and Thursdays, low- to moderate-intensity on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and mix in some yoga or strength on Tuesdays and Fridays.
5. Cardio on an Empty Stomach Burns More Fat
You can't drive a car without gas, so why expect something different from your body? The trouble with this theory is that the large muscles that power you through your cardio exercise rely heavily on a combination of carbs and fats for energy. When you run or bike on an empty stomach, your body will turn to the carb and fat fragments in your bloodstream and muscle stores, not to the fat in your fat cells to energize your workout, says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University. This strategy could completely backfire, she adds, as you may become hyperglycemic and low on hydration, which can cause you to cut back on the intensity or stop before you've put in the 40 to 50 minutes research has shown is necessary for your body to burn fat.
Skip the pre-gym fast and show up ready rock (and torch major calories) by fueling up about 90 minutes before your workout. Olson suggests something light and easy to digest, such as a small piece of fruit and half a cup of low-fat yogurt sprinkled with a couple of tablespoons of granola, or try one of these pre-workout snacks. And be sure to wash it down with one or two full glasses of water.
6. Training for a Race is a Great Way to Slim Down
There a tons of benefits to running a 5K or marathon—improved cardiovascular fitness, more stamina, working out for a good cause if you run for charity—but seeing the number on the scale go down isn't necessarily one of them. All the training you do to cross the finish line makes your body efficient at conserving energy so you can go the distance, and as you increase endurance, you’ll gradually start burning fewer calories during your runs, says Jon-Erik Kawamoto, a certified personal trainer, strength coach, and former competitive runner. Great for your race, but the exact opposite of what you need to lose fat. Couple that with the common increase in appetite—and subsequent increased calorie intake—and some runners may in fact gain weight.
To meet your race goals and shed a few pounds in the process, supplement your running program with up to three resistance training workouts a week that focus on equally working opposing muscle groups (such as your back and chest) and improving joint mobility and function to build strength and burn additional calories, Kawamoto says. He also suggests switching out one day of running for a cross-training cardio workout to help prevent injury and offer a new challenge to your cardiovascular system. And don't forget to be sure you're eating plan provides the nutrients your body needs without adding unnecessary calories.
7. Always Split Up Cardio and Strength
Now to totally confuse you: While often it's beneficial to split up your sessions if both are at a killer intensity, there are times when fusing strength and cardio can be both efficient and effective. In one study, people who cycled for 20 minutes in the middle of a resistance workout saw a greater metabolic impact post-exercise than those who hopped on the bikes before or after lifting weights. "This means your calorie-burning metabolism will stay on fire after the exercise session has ended," Montenegro says. So next time you can’t decide between cardio or strength, why not perform both? An easy way to do is to use the treadmill as active rest between strength sets.
8. If You Do Enough Cardio, You Can Eat Whatever You Want and Still Lose
We only wish!!! Not only do most of us (and the machines we work out on) overestimate how many calories we burn during our workouts, we underestimate how many calories we’re eating too.
Exercise alone just isn’t effective enough to burn fat, says Bret Contreras, a certified strength and conditioning specialist. “A recent study suggests that the average obese person loses approximately five pounds of fat over the course of eight months through cardio or resistance training alone,” he says. That’s an awful lot of work for very minimal results, so don't forget the "calories in" side of the equation and follow a healthy diet that delivers the calories you need to eat to lose weight.