Are Brief Workouts Effective for Fat Loss as You Get Older?

August 30, 2010

There is something to be said for brief workouts. Back in the 80’s, when I joined my first gym, it was common for workouts to last over 90 minutes.

In college I would train up to 2 hours per day with a group of friends. We would spend 90 minutes lifting and 30 minutes on cardio. The routine was “3 days on and 1 day off”. Although that was WAY too much time in the gym, each of us was in great condition. With that much time sweating and burning calories, it was bound to work.

The problem was that our workouts weren’t time efficient. With a few less beers per week and less calories, we could have got the same results with about 1/2 the amount of time spent in the gym. In fact, with enough intensity and with a proper diet I believe I could have maintained a low body fat percentage just training a few times per week.

Although a few intense brief workouts are enough for a 20 year old to stay ripped, I believe the rules are different for a 40 year old.

Brief Workouts
[The time element of training is rarely discussed. Usually it is just assumed that less time training is better. If you are in your mid 30’s or older, I think you might need to question this assumption.]

Raging Hormones, High Metabolism, and “Naturally Active”…

This past August, I spent the majority of the month on a West Coast road trip (one of the reasons I haven’t posted in a while). About a week into our road trip we reached Huntington Beach, CA.

This is one of California’s prime surf beaches. Anyway, one thing I noticed was how the majority of the young surfers were lean and fit just as a natural result of their circumstances. Not only did these young surfers have higher levels of HGH than the older people on the beach, they were out in the water for 4-6 hours at a time.

No wonder why they were in such outstanding shape. This isn’t a big breakthrough or anything, but it made me think more about age and fitness.

Why Are Young People Typically Lean Without Trying?

I know this is a generalization, but people in their early 20’s are typically lean with very little effort. On our road trip, we stayed in Sedona, AZ for a few days and went to a cliff diving spot called “Grasshopper Point”.

There was a group of college kids chugging beer and then doing crazy flips off of some pretty darn high cliffs. With only 1-2 exceptions all of these young people were in outstanding condition. You could tell they probably did a bit of training, but staying lean was probably as easy deal for them.

Again, not a huge discovery or anything, it just made me think about age and fat loss a bit more.

Grasshopper Point

[Grasshopper Point is an amazing swimming hole. On one side of the river is a beach and the other side is a steep cliff. You swim across, climb up as high as you want up the red colored cliffs, and simply jump back into the water. A perfect summer day!]

Let’s Discuss What Young People Have in Their Favor

So I am going to generalize a lot here. We have all seen overweight teens and naturally lean 50 year old’s. I’m talking about averages here.

1) More Natural Physical Activity Each Week:

I will use myself as an example. Back in college I didn’t have a car and walked everywhere.

Heck, just walking to and from class took up over an hour of my day, 5 days a week. In addition to that, I would play volleyball or pickup basketball 2-3 times per week for 1-2 hours at a time. I would estimate that I spent 8-9 hours per week of exercise outside of my gym workouts.

These days I’m lucky to get in 2 hours per week of exercise outside of my gym workouts. So 7 more hours of activity per week, even at a low intensity level, is significant. Now wonder it was a breeze to stay lean back then!

2) High HGH Levels

Young people are fat burning machines compared to their older counterparts. A big reason for this is the high levels of HGH in younger folk. HGH is a natural fat burning hormone and declines as one ages. Exercise can slow down this decline, but can’t stop it from happening completely.

Not only are the normal HGH levels higher in young people, my belief is that the “HGH response” to a workout is greater in younger people as well (not proven by a scientific study as far as I know, just a belief of mine based on experience).

3) A Higher Metabolism

The combination of being more active and producing more HGH typically means younger folk are burning more calories even when they aren’t active.

The average 20 year old also has more lean muscle than the average 40 year old and this helps a bit as well. No matter how you look at it, the typical 20 year old is burning more calories day to day than the average 40 year old.

Whether it is attributed to hormones, muscle mass, activity, etc…it all adds up to more calories being burned over the course of a day by a 20 year old compared to a 40 year old.

[San Francisco is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to. I could easily see living here. A big city in an amazing location.]

Let’s Examine if LESS Time Training is What You Need

I like the idea of brief and intense workouts, but is that going to get the job done? If you are over 30 and struggling to get as lean as you were in your teens and 20’s, it could be that you simply aren’t active enough each week. Is training less the smartest approach to dropping that excess body fat?

In my opinion there is a very good possibility that you need to spend a little bit more time in the gym, not less…especially if you aren’t as active as you were in your younger days.

You Can Only Diet So Hard Before You Are Starving Yourself

I do believe that diet is the first thing to look at when you are trying to get lean, but there is a lower limit. If you cut back the calories too far, you will become malnourished.

It is okay to eat slightly less than maintenance levels, but much lower than that for long periods of time is a terrible strategy. When reducing calories there is a lower limit. Even if you still need to lose body fat, it isn’t wise to go far below this lower limit for long periods of time.

There is An Upper Limit to Workout Intensity

If you perform too many intense workouts per week, you will over-train. You will break your body down at a faster rate than it can repair itself. To be honest, even a few ultra intense workouts per week can result in over-training. There is an upper limit to intensity that can’t be breached, even if you still have a lot of fat to lose.


[“Redlining” is a term I like to use when someone is eating below maintenance level calories and training intensely, but is unable to lose any more weight.]

When You Reach the Limits of Diet and Workout Intensity?

What variable can you adjust if you are at your limits with diet and workout intensity?

You can adjust the amount of time you train. This is logical, but it isn’t discussed much. If you are stuck at a certain body weight, simply add in 30-90 minutes per week to your training and you will lose weight again.

This has to be lower intensity training, if you are close to your upper limits already in terms of training intensity.

Why Cardio Is a Potent Tool for Fat Loss, In My Opinion

Cardio, whether it means walking outside or on a treadmill, is the perfect way to add in more activity without over-training. I like body weight circuits and HIIT and other versions of intense intervals, but there is a limit to how much I can do before I over-train.

If I am still not losing as much body fat as I would like, I can’t simply increase the intensity or I will burn out. What I can do is extend the amount of time I do steady state cardio after I do HIIT, or I can add in walking for 1-2 hours per week.

What Training in the 80’s Taught Me

The big thing in the 80’s was to bulk up in the winter and cut down right before summer. I don’t think this is a great strategy, but it taught me quite a bit about dropping body fat.

One thing I learned about fat loss was, given enough time on the treadmill or exercise bike and you can get as lean as you desire. This was before HIIT was known by the fitness community. Back then you would do steady state cardio for an hour per day, while eating a low fat diet to get extremely lean.

It wasn’t time efficient, but it worked. I even read about bodybuilders who would walk on a treadmill an hour in the morning and an hour at night to reach ultra-low body fat levels.

Weird Science

Steady State Cardio is the Great Equalizer

Unlike the 80’s, I don’t think it is smart to use steady state cardio as your main method of losing body fat. It simply isn’t as time efficient as HIIT or other form of interval training.

What I am saying is that if you are dieting properly and doing brief intense training along with HIIT, then it makes sense to add in lower intensity steady state cardio. Steady state cardio is one way a 40 year old can get as lean as a 20 year old.

Steady state cardio will make up for the fact that you are less active and your HGH levels aren’t as high, etc…this is why I call it the great equalizer. It is the ideal supplementary exercise to give that small extra push needed to burn off that little bit of stubborn body fat that many can’t seem to lose when they get older.

If You Are Training Hard, But Are Stuck at a Certain Weight

So if you are training hard already and your diet is dialed in, then my advice is to train a little more than you are training now. It doesn’t have to be time spent in the gym…it could be walking 2-3 times per week, in addition to what you are doing now.

Another approach is to just add 15 more minutes of steady state cardio to what you are doing now. Again, make sure you get everything optimum and as time efficient as possible before adding in additional steady state cardio.

The goal isn’t to live in the gym or train non-stop. It is to get in shape.


----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Wim August 30, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Great post, I don’t have to do any effort in staying lean whatsoever and I’m 17 years old. What you say is true that we are probably more active and all the other scientific stuff. Steady cardio is a pain and boring in my opinion though.. I’m trying to burn muscle mass in my upper legs since they look freakishly large in comparison to my upper body and calves. I’m doing steady state cardio for 50 minutes a workout now and I already miss the brief ropeskipping workout or hiit that only take 20 minutes. I guess we have squatting to blame. I wouldn’t add cardio at that age, I’d find a sport you’re into. A workout shouldn’t feel like an obligation, it should feel like you’re having fun and steady state cardio gets boring too easily!

Tom- Your Fitness Quest August 30, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Rusty, When I read the title to this post, I thought it was a reference to underwear. By the way, I usually work out in my briefs. I appreciate your comments about the differences between 20 and 40 year olds. I miss being able to push my body hard all day long with no consequences. Eventually there comes a time when you need more time to recover between workouts. I am stronger today than I was at 20, but I have to plan my workouts differently so I don’t work out as frequently or as long as I used to. Nice post

Dave - Not Your Average Fitness Tips August 30, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I wish I had my teens and 20s back to exercise. I would have been so much smarter and got into phenomenal shape so I didn’t have to work as hard in my late 20s and early 30s. It’s certainly harder to get in shape in your 30s, but I still think intense workouts can get you most of the way. I agree that there are times when you need to ramp up the intensity and exercise longer to bust through plateaus though.

Kelly - Fitness Overhaul August 30, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Welcome back Rusty! Well, this post really hit home for me. I am 41 and have been training since I was 14, so I’ve been at both ends of the spectrum. I agree that it doesn’t come as easy as it once did, but I am leaner now than I was in my entire thirties.

I work harder at it, but I also am a lot more dedicated and more focused then I was when I was younger. I know that I have to work harder, so I stay focused. It’s like an athlete with natural ability that loses out to an athlete that works harder. I wasn’t lazy when I was younger, but I definitely didn’t have the work ethic that I have now.


kev August 30, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Hey rusty, im sooo sorry this has nothing to do with ur post, i just need some advice if its not too much trouble. I’m 16 and I joined my local gym a couple months ago im fairly muscular for my age and i was just wondering if u had any tips or exercises for me to do because i want to start doing free weights but i dont really know wat to do with them, sometimes it feels like im just wandering around the gym. any beginner/basic free weights exercises would be greatly appreciated. thanks.

p.s thank you so much for opening my eyes to HIIT training. i do it on the treadmill 4 times a week now and im really feeling the difference!

kev August 30, 2010 at 9:28 pm

oh ya, sorry forgot to mention that im fairly happy with the size of my biceps, quads, and calves, so exercises that concentrate on other muscles (pecs, triceps, etc) would be perfect! thanks

anonymous August 30, 2010 at 10:01 pm

A 40 year old also has twice the time to screw things up in the first place. Something I wish I paid attention to 20 years ago. πŸ™‚

Sue August 30, 2010 at 11:51 pm

I’ll echo what Kelly said. It took age and a pretty major surgery for me to reprogram my training. Three months of very intense daily physical therapy taught me what more training that is not necessarily “intense” can do. At 42 I am leaner and much stronger than I was in my 20s and 30s. Yeah, I have to work a lot harder, but I now enjoy the programming and planning that I need to do to meet my goals. While the rewards are great, I’ve also discovered that, unfortunately, if I slack off even a little the weight jumps back on. My incentive: be in good enough shape to enjoy retirement. That wasn’t my incentive 10 years ago!

Omar August 31, 2010 at 12:51 am

Hey rusty, i am glad you finally came back and began posting again. Two months ago i began visiting your site, and since then i literally read everything on your *Best of fitnessblackbook*. I really like your mentality when it comes to fitness, and i’ve been following the eat stop eat diet for a while now trying to get myself to have a >10% body fat. I have told so many of my friends and family to come here because they have been trying to get that hollywood look through many different diets, and have always been confused with the BS put out by all those fitness magazines.

I have a few questions tho that i was unable to find answers to them while looking through your website.

Thanks a lot rusty, and keep up the good work.

Raymond - ZenMyFitness August 31, 2010 at 5:41 am

Hey Rusty cool post its right up my alley being a 47 y/o male … its taken awhile to work out but its not volume of exercise its doing the intense workout and sound nutrition that gets results.
I see heaps of us oldies in Gym doing slow cardio very low intense weight session and guess what NO change whatsoever.
But you are RIGHT I do need to add in more steady state cardio cause I can’t do so many Hiits and getting injured is much easier now but weights session its right up there.
BTW: I just won our local indoor triathlon at the national gym closest 2nd and 3rd were two twenty year olds.

Will. T August 31, 2010 at 7:43 am

Hey Rusty great article as always, as a 19 year old I guess I have the challenge of fat loss at an older age ahead of me. As you have mentioned in previous posts however, there is a great opportunity to improve with age and make the most of the muscle toning years of exercise can provide, so hopefully it wont be a challenge.

Just a quick question- At my age, 6’1 and 156 pounds would you still recommend eat stop eat given all of the natural benefits I have as a young person- or would you suggest sticking to 3 meals a day 7 days a week as I am a growing boy?

Good to hear from you again, glad you had a great time.

Keep up the great work.

Yavor - Relative Strength Advantage August 31, 2010 at 8:45 am

Rusty did you take this photo of Grasshoper Point? It looks stunning!

Michael B August 31, 2010 at 9:03 am

Hi Rusty,
As always, thanks so much for all your great articles. Have recently been getting lean with a diet of 1500 calories a day and 3 weekly HIIT workouts (with resistance training). In this article you speak about the lower limit of calories. What would “too few calories” be for a six foot guy, about 170 pounds, looking to get to 160.

Michael B August 31, 2010 at 9:04 am


deb roby August 31, 2010 at 9:14 am

Yep, we older folk need to work differently- and often more- to get the same results. However, I’m old enough (58) to “settle” for someone different results, so it’s all cool.

Still at the point where I was my leanest -still about 22% but for me quite lean- I was working out 4-5x a week for an hour. Most workouts became metabolic which kicked in a huge production of HGH. I was a strong, lean women often mistaken for someone 20+ years younger.

Talking about the 40 year olds- take a look at the true fat-inducing menopausal hormone loss for frustratingly stubborn body fat retention.

David Gowing August 31, 2010 at 9:37 am

I completely agree with what your saying here. I think people are just less active theses days. It’s so easy to just hop in the car, when you can often walk. I think people can get caught up in the idea that you need to be in the gym constantly to get in shape, when really making a decision to be more active throughout the day can actually make a big difference.

I definitely notice a difference in how lean I am when I walk more. Great post!!

Darrin - Lean, Mean, Virile Machine August 31, 2010 at 10:03 am

Good points here, Rusty. I’m a young health nut and the people I give advice to are primarily young as well, so I really promote the high-intensity stuff not only as a way to get really lean and toned, but to save a ton of time in the gym as well. I’m always big on self-experimentation so we’ll see what else I need to do as I get older!

Anna - Path to Fat Loss August 31, 2010 at 11:46 am

Rusty, great article yet again. My parents live very close to Huntington Beach and my husband and I have a favorite fish taco restaurant there – forgot the name but I’m sure my husband will know πŸ™‚

Anyway, I’ve had a recent experience with steady state cardio by running with my dog one morning. The very next day, I noticed a 1 lb weight loss which I now attribute to steady state cardio. I guess I’ve been doing HIIT for awhile that now my body needs some low intensity activity.

Looks like you had a great vacation. By the way, I am loving visual impact! I am now in phase 2 and I see some noticeable differences. Thanks!


Josh August 31, 2010 at 12:21 pm

It’s important to clarify your goals when considering training time. For instance, regardless of age, if you are trying to add some mass, there is no need to be in the gym longer than 1 hour. Period, regardless of age. Doing so will do more harm than good. You need to be able to recruit more motor units to get the same job done.

For fat loss training though, can extend longer. It is a good idea to have all kinds of different training sessions. Short, HIIT sessions, as well as complex training, in addition to a few extended sessions that involve steady state cardio. This training variety, becomes more and more crucial with age.

Clint @ Crude Fitness August 31, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Spot on Rusty.
Having trained for a long time now, I seem to hit fat-loss plateaus more and more often.
The body is a smart little beast and can adapt to any strategy you throw at it after a certain amount of time.
Genetics has a lot to answer for also β€” otherwise you wouldn’t see guys like Matthew Mcconaughey with a bloated stomach with 6-pack abs on the outside. Impossible I would have thought πŸ™‚

Amanda Brown August 31, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Great post, less is definitely more. I saw this great You Tube that really gets the message across and I found this was a great tool to share with my clients;

Have a great HIIT program with good progressions is also a very good key element for getting the job done.
Keep up with the great writing

Katherine August 31, 2010 at 9:07 pm

I agree with you on this 100%. When I was younger I stay slim no matter what I ate. Now I have to exercise at least 3 days a week to keep my shape.

Alex August 31, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Hey Rusty, I hate to be a spammer but can you check out this link…its a link to a workout I’m thinking about starting, and tell me what you think:…

Thanks- Alex

Alex August 31, 2010 at 11:20 pm

I forgot to add I’m 18 years old and in pretty good shape although I’ve never really worked out with weights before.

Zorik September 1, 2010 at 4:43 am

Great article Rusty!

I have heard of older people taking HGH injections to increase/maintain their lean mass while working out. what are your thoughts about HGH injections? I think Sylvester Stallone takes it…

Wood September 1, 2010 at 4:44 am

Man sometimes I read cardio sux and the only solution is calorie deficit, now you write cardio is great… Confusing again.. πŸ™

Jason September 1, 2010 at 7:10 am

Hey Alex, I am a big fan of full body workouts. The program you linked to looks a little old school.

If you have never worked out with weights before I think you are best off training each muscle more often. But with less volume in each workout. This program looks too much for someone new. Stick with something basic to start out with.

Enjoyed the article

Brian September 1, 2010 at 10:34 am


San Francisco is broke & California is now charging residents for public services sent to accident scenes (Ambulance, police officer, etc..) Liberal-ass California is aesthetically attractive, but I wouldn’t recommend moving there.. Moreover, you will still overpay for real estate because owners of property do not want to sell because San Fran years ago created a system that caps their property taxes, which in turn, stops the recycling of real estate transactions.. No one wants to sell & buy back in to their new property tax rates.. California is in trouble & economically a total mess..

Great article though.. Glad you arrived safe from your trip..

katie September 1, 2010 at 11:34 am

hey rusty,
sounds like u had an amazing vacation :)….i really like ur this particular post especially for a person like me who would want a non muscular body. yes it is absolutely a 100 percent true that the actresses in the 80’s had a more slimmer and a non muscular body than the actresses of today.
Steady cardio does give more of positive effects than side effects.when i tried HIIT to lose fat around my hips it got my legs looking wider from side and little bit of muscularity increased. so right now i am planning to only do 45 mins of slow intense jog followed by a 20 mins walk……
Do u think i CAN LOSE FAT BY JOGGING FOR 45 min(5 times per week) with strict low cal and protein diet(as i want to lose muscle too)
also does slow intense jog for 45 min will build even a little muscle cause i really dont want any muscle.

thanks a lot in advance

admin September 1, 2010 at 11:42 am

@ Wim,

Yeah, it is pretty easy to stay lean at 17. Sounds like you are already developing a good workout habit. Keep it up your entire life and you will never have a problem with being overweight.

@ Tom,

Hopefully you workout at home. Yeah, I have to do less intense work than when I was younger and mix in a bit more of less intense training. Not a huge difference, but a bit of an adjustment.

@ Dave,

If I could have my 20’s back, I would have trained less and not worried about getting XX grams of protein per meal. The supplement industry really has people brainwashed on the protein thing.

@ Kelly,

I’ll turn 41 in a few months, so we are the same age. I don’t want to scare the younger people who are in their teens and 20’s…it is possible to get just as lean in your 40’s and beyond…just a little more patience and less room for error.

@ Kev,

You should pick up some sort of basic weight lifting course with pictures to get an idea. Or…here’s an alternative (Youtube will help).

Mon: Chest, Back, and Abs
Tue: Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps
Wed: Legs
Thur Chest, Back, and Abs
Fri: Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps

Pick 2 exercises for each body part. Do 4-5 sets per exercise. Go over to youtube and type in “best chest exercises” “best bicep exercises”, etc. Learn the free weight exercises that target each body part. If you school has a weightlifting class where someone can teach proper form, then that would be good as well. The idea will be to go into the gym knowing exactly what exercises you are going to do and how to do them.

@ Sue,

Yeah, I hear what you are saying about staying fit for retirement. I want to stay in great condition for another 40 years at least. There is a lot more exploring I need to do in the short time we get on this planet.

@ Omar,

Glad you like the site. As far as questions go, I don’t have time to answer everything, because I get A LOT of comments these days…but I do my best to answer a certain percentage of comments. Thanks for referring people to the site. I appreciate it!

@ Raymond,

I didn’t know you were that old. I visited your site and you look much younger than that! I agree with you about intensity…make sure and have that in your program first as well as diet properly. At that point if you still aren’t as lean as you would like, add in some extra lower intensity exercise. Aweome job on the triathalon!

@ Will,

You could probably do just fine with 3 meals per day. Possibly ESE 3 months before summer at your age (and given that you are already lean). The roadtrip was fun. Me and my girlfriend want to do one at least once every 3-4 years.

@ Yavor,

I didn’t take this shot. I have some great ones, but haven’t uploaded anything to my computer yet. Sedona, AZ is one of the prettiest cities I have ever seen. The geography is gorgeous.

@ Michael,

You can get by at that calorie deficit for a while, but I would mix it in with periods of time where you are eating more. Their isn’t an exact amount of calories I can pinpoint. If 1500 is working and you still stay somewhat strong, then that is fine. Every 2-3 months, you should maybe go 2-3 weeks with quite a few more calories. You can alternate until you hit your target goal, then do ESE without counting calories to maintain.

@ deb,

Yeah…women have it tougher than men as they age. Great job on staying fit.

@ David,

Yeah…I keep saying to myself that I am going to walk more. I really need to go out of my way to insure that I stick to that goal. It does make a big difference.

@ Darrin,

Yep, HIIT and all of that intense stuff along with a calorie deficit is priority and works well. As you get older you just may need to supplement it with some lower intesity steady state stuff to insure you stay lean. It isn’t a huge difference, but a tweak that helps as you get a little older.

@ Anna,

Glad you are enjoying Visual Impact! I like phase 2 and 3 the best. Phase 1 works well, but that higher volume lifting to fatigue isn’t always fun. What I liked about Huntington Beach was that it was “family friendly”. I’m at the point now where I enjoy laid back atmospheres. I am glad it wasn’t a huge college party scene…just big groups of families on the beach having BBQ’s and swimming, etc. What a fun place.

@ Josh,

Good point on goals. I sometimes assume that everyone is trying to lose at least a little body fat, but obviously that isn’t the case. Someone who is just trying to add muscle and isn’t as concerned with body fat, can get away with much less training.

@ Clint,

Matthew McConaughey does have weird abs now you mention it. What is funny is that huge protruding, but ripped midsection is what happens to a lot of heavy steroid users. Many bodybuilders have the same issue. I’m not saying he uses roids or has in the past, but who knows?

@ Amanda,

That Paleo video is cool. Methuselah made it a while back and his blog is awesome:

@ Katherine,

Yeah it gets a little tricky as we get older, but just a few tweaks can make a big difference.

@ Alex,

It looks pretty good. This type of routine is more geared towards muscle mass -vs- strength. It has more days in between muscle groups than I typically recommend, but it will work for a while. Give it a shot for 3-4 months and simply move to something different once you stop getting results. It is at least well thought out.

@ Zorik,

I have a “no needles” policy (unless someone has a medical condition like diabetes). I know this works well, but can’t imagine taking HGH. Stallone does take HGH, but to be honest, he looks a bit “off” to me.

@ Wood,

Calorie deficit first, then HIIT, and slower cardio as a “supplementary” exercise to burn a little more fat than intense exercise and diet alone. Hope that makes sense. The foundation is still calorie deficit and intense training.

@ Jason,

Good advice on that workout. I don’t think people need that much rest in between body parts unless they are blitzing the heck out of their muscles each workout (which is something I don’t recommend for the long term).

@ Brian,

That is good to know. As a visitor, California looks awesome…good to hear some of the downsides.

@ Katie,

I train with my girlfriend and she doesn’t want any muscle increase on her legs and butt at all. What we do for her is HIIT on machines that don’t produce the pump or lactic acid buildup. This is to insure that her cardio isn’t “pumping up” the legs. The elliptical is a great piece of equipment for this. You can get the shortness of breath from HIIT and all of the good things that come with that, without the burn in the legs.

What I would recommend is doing at least 10-15 minutes of HIIT first and then do your steady state treadmill jogs. It will just make it more likely that you will burn fat at a steady rate. I completely get what you are saying about avoiding exercises that build up the lower body. My girlfriend will kill me if that happens!


Joel September 1, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I really believe that intensity in your workout will make a difference in how much fat will be burnt or kept off. Eating the right food will naturally benefit to. Thanks for this post.

If anyone is interested in more information losing weight, I’ve got a deal for you at: Good luck to all of you on your journey to being healthy and slim.

kev September 1, 2010 at 1:00 pm

thanks rusty, that was exactly what i was looking for:)

Dave Herron September 1, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Well, I am 59, and am in much better overall shape today than ever before in my life, and it’s all attributable to the right nutrition and regular gym workouts, so I’m not paying much attention to age…in fact many of the younger people I see in the gym texting and talking aren’t even close to me today.
So you older people….you can be fit and lean and strong, and even better than the kids…just get your routine and activities in order and it will happen.

katie September 2, 2010 at 6:20 am

hi rusty,

yes i totally understand ur girlfriend’s point….no girl would desirably want muscular thighs its just heartbreaking……i did try elliptical but i dropped it after i noticed some ab muscle development that sticks out. my right thigh muscle is increased due to recumbent bike and HIIT got my left thigh look wider. i am really out of choice right now. i cant stop exercising as i need to loose hip fat reall bad, the only choice i have left is slow intensity jog.

will jog for 45 mins give me any muscle increase by any chance ?cause i really dont want to take any more risk πŸ™

eva September 2, 2010 at 6:49 am

what about intermittent fasting for increased HGH release as a tool for the over 30 – crowd?

CR September 2, 2010 at 9:37 am


Welcome back. Sounds like you had a blast. If I knew you were coming down, I would have invited you and your girlfriend to dinner in Santa Barbara.

This topic you have chosen is difficult because there are so many variables and I am in agreement with you.

One being the development of muscle memory. I believe that if you are fit in your teens and twentys through athletic training, your body will send you signals when it gets out of what feels normal and you will normally do something to keep it from going too far over the edge.

Second you come into this world with everything your body needs, but it must be properly maintained through diet and exercise. Let’s take Jack Lalane for example. Diet can include HGH stimulants (L-Arginine, L-Ornithine stack) as well as GotuKola for the ductless glands. Trace Minerals are vitally important and I touch on them in my blog multiple times.

I am of the camp that you only need to do three or four different exercises, but can add more for specific needs. All exercise can be cut down to just swimming a few laps for those so inclined.

30 minutes or so every other day is more then enough to maintain a strong taut physique at any age past 24 when your muscles have an idea of what is required of them.

Kim September 2, 2010 at 9:39 am


Thanks for the great posts and fantastic website! I look forward to your new posts and have learned so much from your site.

I was wondering if you’re going to write a post about female training for those of us who are naturally more athletic/ muscular? You’ve alluded to the workouts of your girlfriend and sister many times, but I would love to know exactly what they do. As someone who is more muscular and looking to get more of a Victoria Secret model look, I would love to see a post on the best workout to achieve this goal.

Thanks and keep up the great work!

Jessica September 2, 2010 at 12:31 pm

I would love to hear more about your girlfriend’s routine. How many days per week does she go to the gym? And what exactly does she do there? Cardio? Weights? Yoga? Also what does her diet look like?

Demond Thompson September 2, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Interesting. I’m in my mid-30s and I workout less than I ever have and I’m in better shape than I was in my 20s. I agree that most of us get more exercise during our 20s than as we get older. I just don’t agree being on a treadmill or steady state cardio is the answer. I actually get more hungry and eat more when doing steady state cardio.

Short and intense workouts continue to work for me, and I don’t think I’m in the minority.

I liked your analysis though.

Demond Thompson
CEO and President of KY Art of Play
(502) 533-0478

Michael H September 2, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Don’t burn muscle mass!! If you are only 17, I doubt you have reached your potential. Just take a break from squatting and deadlifting and do some other training, but don’t burn muscle mass. Get an opinion from someone about your upper leg muscles and if they think that your upper leg muscle are freakishly out of proportion (doubtful), then just stay away from serious leg workout for awhile. Burning off muscle mass is a dumb idea and should never be done on purpose. September 2, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Fat loss is primarily about your diet, not your workout.

David - Get Fit Get Lean September 2, 2010 at 7:53 pm


Those kids at Grasshopper point were “chugging bear?” Young kids today are crazy! HaHa.


Staying Hard September 2, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Great article Rusty. We also need to implement a complete and comprehensive fitness and nutrition program along with this all work out. Thanks for the nice post.

Jamie September 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm

First and foremost this is one of the best fitness blogs I have ever seen on the web Rusty. You covered key parts of nutrition elements and work out philosophies that will help many people get into a successful fitness regimen. I personally am a personal trainer and an owner of an Illuminate Gym and I know our philosophy with working out is to make weight lifting a more aerobic activity rather than an anaerobic activity. This means those days of spending 90 minutes in the gym are over because you were taking way too many breaks. At Illuminate Gym we call our work out philosophy ‘High Oxygen Training’. That basic principle of our personal training style is training people at on a 2-1 time table (exercise to rest), and we have been very successful with our clients and I myself lost over 30 LBS on this program. Get in, get what you need to get done, and get out of the gym!

Mike - Fitness Contrarian September 3, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I like to control my weight with my diet but if I need to burn some extra calories I take long easy walks whenever I can.

I agree – you can’t just keep increasing your intensity in the gym or make your hard workouts longer. You will windup over-trained.

Long easy activities are a great way to stay active, burn some extra calories and not over train.

Best – Mike

lynn September 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Hi Katie,

I totally relate to your situation. I am very muscular naturally without any workout. Think Madonna or SJP. I can build muscle even eating 800 calories!! Granted I am certainly in the minority, but it gets frustrating when people just dont get that SOME women bulk really easily. I have tried it all… HITT, HITT followed with steady state. Marathon cardio. high rep light weights. What I have found is the elliptical bulks quads. Running any faster than 5mph builds both quads and glutes.
I got my thighs to their slimmest when I walked 3 times a day at 3mph for an hour at a time. But granted its not possible to find that kind of time on a regular basis. Currently I JOG in a fasted state at 4.6mph for 45 min. 3 or 4 mornings a week. I also make sure to walk atleast 3 to 4 miles every day. ( Easy because I live in NYC) This has kept my legs as lean as my genetics will allow. I honestly would recommend no sprinting or any sort of HIIT if you bulk easily.
I know its frustating! I wish I could embrace my natural physique but unfortunately I really prefer a more softer more delicate build. πŸ™‚ Good luck! sounds like you are really dedicated

Elise Lowerison September 3, 2010 at 6:41 pm

I just came across your health and fitness blog. Your article about how to lose weight at an older age was especially interesting. I especially liked your comments about whether or not more time and intensity should be spent training when you reach the age of 30 and over. I am adding you to my favorites. We’re in the same industry, the business of encouraging health and fitness. We market a product called The AbStand: We would love for you and your readers to check out our ab workout product. Any feedback would be appreciated as well. Thanks!

Farley September 4, 2010 at 11:19 am

Rusty – you should do an e-book for us 40+ year olds looking to lean out.

I use weights, HIIT cardio and a paleo diet and have dropped 50 pounds, but my body recomp. stopped months ago and won’t budge. You’re dead on in my opinion: more activity is the key.


Sue September 5, 2010 at 7:22 am

Great post. I was just doing HIIT and not really losing much body fat. When I added in the 1hour walking on treadmill – almost daily, the body fat started to drop. I am 43 and sit at computer a lot of the day studying so I need to do the cardio.

Darvis Simms September 5, 2010 at 9:00 am

Rusty, great article. I’m one of those fellows who started working out in the 80s with the bodybuilders. I developed a very basic routine that has worked for me for over 30 years in keeping my body fat around 10%. I do basic strength training and I eat a balanced diet. Then I manipulate my cardio to a stay at the body fat level I desire.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
Darvis Simms

Alykhan - Fitness Breakout September 5, 2010 at 4:36 pm


The college lifestyle of walking everywhere and playing pickup sports definitely allows younger folks to stay lean with relative ease. Both of these decline as people get older and busier. Just one of the natural pitfalls of the real world.


Josh September 5, 2010 at 5:48 pm

It’s amazing how training principles can change over the years. Even today, philosophies really vary. For example, some say that you shouldn’t train any longer than 45 minutes to an hour, whereas others say that you can train up to 2 hours and not catabolize (sp?) muscle because you’re lifting in short spurts over time rather than continually moving.

Really awesome read, and I think metabolism has the most to do with why younger people can stay leaner and gain weight as they get older. Some people I know in college drive everywhere, drink 2-3 nights per week, never work out, but they still stay lean. That can definitely catch up to them when they get older.

Martin Berkhan September 6, 2010 at 6:42 am

Good post, Rusty.

Brief workouts are definitely effective, not only for older peeps but also for 20-something’s.

I spend no more than 90 mins/week TOTAL at the gym and use no more than 2-3 sets per muscle group.

Big difference compared to other guys is I do them with maximum effort and don’t half-ass it. One good high intensity set is superior to ten mediocre sets.

Quality > quantity in a big way when it comes to weight training, especially if we consider the time factor. With so many other things going on I don’t have much time to mess around at the gym anymore.

Razwell September 6, 2010 at 8:34 am

Anyone who thinks a few sprints twice a week is going to have any impact on fat loss is VERY naieve. HIIT is ONLY a compliment at best. On its own you will remain FAT.

Active living all throughout the day is what works. FORGET working out.

I strongly suggest you look into Dr. Linda bacon Ph.D. We all cannot be thin. Obesity is extremely complex and the advice on The Biggest Loser is JUNK with zero scientific basis.

Hazman - Crazy Fitness Guide September 6, 2010 at 10:13 am

Once again Rusty, a great post, I really agree with this, but at the same time, it makes me wonder, Age shouldnt really be a factor when it comes to getting into shape, its just the lifestyle constraints that get in the way for people in their 30’s and onwards, as they dont have as much time as the younger guys, younger guys are more active, all over the place, having fun, doing loads of activities, I would know because im 20! lol…The issue I have is…I do Eat stop Eat, and workout hard, do sports, but never get leaner! But back to the original post, I think that anyone in their 30’s and onwards should just focus on staying as active as they really can, just work up a sweat, get a pump, and just go all out on workout days, walk around more, get involved in a hobby of some sport for fitness, or even martial arts, anything really!…We humans arent different from each other, I really dont think age comes into play, but more about how active you can be, this is what I agree on mainly!

Kurt @ Losing Weight Quickly September 6, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Great post again! I am in my mid 30s and am significantly less active than I was in my 20s. I am by no means overweight, but I am not nearly as fit as I was then. I have been experimenting with HIIT and some other shorter intense workouts, but didn’t think to add cardio to it. I am looking to get leaner, so I guess I’ll give it a try.

patrick September 6, 2010 at 4:53 pm


I have been looking at your website and really enjoy what I have been seeing. I’m curious to know what type of meal replacements you would recommend. Have a great day!

Thanks in advance,


John in Cincy September 7, 2010 at 2:38 am

Rusty – I think you need to cut Sly Stallone some slack. You say he looks a little “off” to you and maybe so, but he’s still in truly amazing shape. All the more so, considering he’s now 64. And as the following videos show, he’s doing a whole lot more than just juicing.

Razwell September 7, 2010 at 8:28 pm

You’re wrong Rusty. The foundation is ALL DAY low intensity movement – ALL DAY ACTIVE LIVING. Sprints are a SUPPLEMENT.

Intense workouts alone aren’t worth a damn for fat loss. They are too short. FORGET workin out. Just do active living. Fotmal exercise results in about a one pound weight loss yaaay.


Robin B September 8, 2010 at 8:42 am

For the past 4 months , I have been following a routine similar to yours. 20 mins Hiit on the treadmill followed by 20-25 mins of
steady state cardio. I have cut out lower body weight work and focus on less reps, more weight for the upper body , 3 times a week.
To my dismay , I have seen my thighs increase in size and some weight gain around the middle. My diet is fairly clean and I practice ESE 1-2 days a week. I am not sure if this is because I am hitting perimenopause .I am thinking of going back to the longer SS cardio routines. I feel that those workouts were more effective for me. Any thoughts?

katie September 12, 2010 at 9:45 am

Hi lynn,
Thanks a lot for your advice, i am surely going to follow it. i am really concerned about the way i look. I am 40 kg in weight but I have a lot of fat around my hips and its really heart breaking cause its impossible to wear skinny jeans. I did not have muscular legs but when i did the recumbent bike in just 4 days i got thigh muscle pumped and it looks ugly. i tried HIIT and my thigh looks worse due to muscularity. my body tends to develop muscle really fast……

I will follow your suggestion about jogging lightly for 45 mins….but is it a gurantee that i will loose thigh muscle for sure? also i am planning to go on a protein deficiency.

Thank you very much for understanding me ….. i will follow your suggestion. πŸ™‚

God bless

Dan September 24, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Thanks so much for the blog. As a personal trainer how many days a week do you suggest someone a bit older get into the gym with this higher intensity workout with weights? I only ask because these shorty workouts in the gym must be at a higher intensity and I wonder if you should scale back on the number of times they train in the gym to ensure you don’t over train.

wolverine October 5, 2010 at 10:18 am

Hi Rusty!!! i hope you still get the chance to respond to this!! what you say makes sense, i just wanted to know that if by increasing cardio as we get older also means we cant substitute cardio with bodyweight intervals anymore????

wolverine October 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Razwell, your statement doesnt make sense sorry, when you say intense workouts are too short and what you need in all day active life, no one doubts that all day activity helps, but its not intense enough to blitze excess fat except you are already slim and have good genes

Kathi November 19, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Oh, how I remember those college days,when I was 5’9″ and weighed 121 lbs. I did everything I could to gain wieght,, several milkshakes a day,any junk food and pop available in the dorm. I REALLY HATED TO BE SKINNY. I would love to relive those skinny days. Now at 62 it is difficult to loose the weight I have put on. It seems to creep up on you when you are not expecting it. you just think you will always be skinny and eat the same foods. NOPE.

AshDash November 25, 2010 at 4:19 am

I actually address this with 90 second exercises on my site: I really appreciate the acknowledgement of alternative types of fitness maintenance that differs from the run of the mill. Thanks

whey protein dangers April 4, 2011 at 5:13 pm

It’s true that there are certain limits in dieting. There can be danger if you don’t observe properly. Everything that is too much will give a negative result. So it is best to be knowledgeable when it comes to your diet.

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AstridGrover July 25, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Thank you for the article. It really hit home for me. The whole 20 vs 40 scenario is so true. In my 20’s i didnt have to workout to maintain my weight and i can eat whatever whenever. But now that im 30, alot of discipline has to be put in because my weight can drastically increase in 3days.

cycling to lose weight August 27, 2011 at 5:09 pm

The great thing is that you’re not expected to look as toned when you’re 40 as when you’re 20.

Ios On Android Phone January 18, 2012 at 9:20 pm

It’s like an athlete with natural ability that loses out to an athlete that works harder. I wasn’t lazy when I was younger, but I definitely didn’t have the work ethic that I have now.

phil July 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm

great article and very true. at age 47, time has caught up with me and i’m really made to work for my results as opposed to 20 years ago when a couple of sprints per week and the occasional session at the gym would sort me out nicely. however, age has its rewards and i’m far more tuned in to my body’s requirements with a much better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. as a result i’m in far better shape now, simply as a result of being more focused on what i require from my workout sessions. diet becomes less important as you age, just make sure you eat an even mix of healthy macros at maintenance; instead, my focus nowadays is on how i train, which is at high frequency and intensity with low volume and duration, or in other words short, sharp and often. at 6’1″ i’ve maintained a steady weight at 175lbs with 11% b/f since i turned 40 and my training is now a groove which has become a positive habit, nice one. as rusty said, focus less on your diet and more on your training, cheers and good luck!

Rvtl Anti aging Formula May 8, 2013 at 9:01 pm

I think that everything published was very logical. However, think about this, what if you were to create a awesome headline?
I am not suggesting your content isn’t solid., but suppose you added a headline to possibly grab people’s
attention? I mean Are Brief Workouts Effective for Fat Loss as You
Get Older? – Fitness Black Book is a little plain. You ought
to look at Yahoo’s front page and see how they create article headlines to get viewers interested. You might try adding a video or a pic or two to get people excited about everything’ve written.
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