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.
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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!
The benefit of full body exercises is that they utilize more muscle in any given movement – thus, you burn more calories. The inherent intensity of the workout also means that each exercise becomes more challenging as your heart rate is sustained at a much higher level as a result of not giving yourself enough rest between exercises.
Here are a couple of benefits to following an exercise program combining circuit training and interval training:
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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 circuit training workout that will leave you huffing and puffing:
WARM-UP – bike, treadmill, elliptical, rower + dynamic stretching (5-10 min)
CIRCUIT (45 seconds for each exercise, with 15 seconds rest between exercises :: 5-7 min to complete 1 set)
Lunge walks with lateral raises
Plank (on stability ball)
Squats with medicine ball shoulder press
INTERVAL TRAINING (cardio machine)
20 sec @ 100% : 40 sec @ 70% x 5 = 5 min
Repeat Circuit and Interval 3 times
Total Workout Time: 45 – 50 min
Do this workout 4 times over the next 2 weeks and watch the difference intensity brings to your workouts – and your results!
About the Author
Yuri Elkaim is a world-renowned fitness, nutrition, and weight loss expert. He is the creator Fitter U and Treadmill Trainer, author of Eating for Energy, and the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for men’s soccer program at the University of Toronto.
His trademarked 12-week Fitter U iPod workout program has been helping thousands of people around the world get in shape and lose weight fast without the cost and inconvenience of hiring a trainer.
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