If you want to lose fat at a rapid pace, you do need to push hard at things like intervals, circuits and HIIT. The problem is knowing how hard should you push. Figuring out the ideal workout intensity for things like interval training is almost an art. Besides diet, proper intensity in your fat loss workouts is what makes the difference between looking good and looking your best.
[One indicator of proper workout intensity is your skin feeling hot to the touch. It takes a bit of self-discipline to push your comfort zone to reach this point.]
What I Mean by Fat Burning Workouts
When I speak about fat burning, I’m not just talking about the fat you burn during the workout… I’m talking the total calories burned during the workout, the metabolism boosting effect from the workout, the workout’s ability to increase HGH, etc…basically all of the factors in your workout which lead to fat loss.
The Strategy I Recommend for Fat Loss and Muscle Definition
I like to separate the fat loss portion of the workout from the strength training portion of the workout (most of the time). For muscle definition, I recommend brief low volume strength training with heavy weights. This will create firm defined muscles. Most of the time the strength training is the easy part. The intensity comes into play when you are doing the fat loss, calorie burning portion of your workout. You should do a somewhat intense fat loss workout at least 3 times per week. This can be HIIT, body weight circuits, or any other strategic interval or circuit workout that makes sense.
A Low Intensity Workout Doesn’t Create an “After Effect”
What I see a lot of the time in the gym is the lack of intensity when it comes to the fat loss portion of the workout. Walking on a treadmill is a waste of time, unless you are resting up for the next interval. Honestly, the amount of calories you burn doing low intensity cardio isn’t going to make a huge impact on your physique. There is a strategy I outline in my low body fat cardio routine that involves low-to-medium intensity cardio, but this is done after an intense session of HIIT.
Too High of an Intensity Level Is a Negative As Well
I won’t get into cortisol, because there are a number of factors besides workout intensity that can lead to the release of cortisol into your system. To me, the biggest problem with too high of an intensity level is what Brad Pilon calls the Activity Sine Wave (read this post, it is a good one). Here’s a quick summary of the Sine Wave: If your workout is too hard and intense, you are very likely to “overcompensate” by resting more than normal after the workout. You need to pretend like your workout never happened without compensating with extra rest to get the best fat loss results. Working out hard and then sitting on the couch the rest of the day because you are tired, is not a good fat loss strategy.
How to Tell If Your Fat Loss Workout is the Correct Intensity?
I look for a thing called the “HGH Flush”. I forget who coined this term, but this is just an indicator of a good fat loss workout. If your skin is slightly red and hot to the touch and you are out of breath after your workout, then you have achieved the HGH flush. Remember your PE teacher in Junior High making you “run lines” or pushing you until you were out of breath and your skin felt like it was on fire? This is the HGH flush which is an indicator that your metabolism will be increased after your workout and that your body will release a bit more HGH than normal (your body’s fat burning hormone).
Operate on the “Edge” of Your Comfort Zone
A big mistake I see personal trainers making with their clients is pushing them too hard too soon. I had a personal trainer brag that he could take me through a workout that would “destroy me”. Um…no thanks. The deal is to workout with enough intensity to get that HGH flush, but no so hard that you have to take a nap after your workout. This is what I call hitting the “Sweet Spot” of workout intensity. As you get in shape, you can gradually push yourself harder. If you are forced to overcompensate with more rest than normal, then back off a bit your next workout.
Note: This has nothing to do with the post, but I wanted to let my girlfriend know how proud I am of her. She is a women’s designer who has a product line in most of the hip high-end boutiques in Seattle. She kicked butt in a recent fashion show, won a feature spot in a major metropolitan magazine, and is now trying out for Project Runway. She is quickly gaining notoriety in the fashion world and I’m excited that I get to witness all of this first-hand. I’ll let you guys know if she makes the cut in Project Runway!
[My girlfriend had her models walk to Ladytron at her last fashion show. The song she used (Black Cat) isn’t allowing me to embed off of Youtube, but here is another song by Ladytron. Great stuff!]
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