Diet? Maybe, but I'd say that although you have the odd slip-up, you also know what you should be eating to ensure you don't stack on too much weight. How about lifting weights? I'd also say you're most likely a savvy, switched on, fitspo-focused female - so you'll have your strength training on point too. And it's probably not low-intensity, steady state cardio you're missing either, as most women typically do too much of this already.
Nope - it's none of the above. It's HIIT and HIRT training - science's gift to a leaner body. I hear you: "James, although I totes love shortened words and ridic acronyms - what the hell are you talking about?" Let me explain: HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and HIRT stands for High Intensity Resistance Training. Read on as I explain both in more detail.
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You've most likely done HIIT workouts before as HIIT (also commonly known as interval training) is a way of doing cardio that involves alternating between short periods of all-out, close-on maximum effort work, and longer, lighter periods. This is the theory behind HIIT and why it works:
- 1. You burn more calories in a shorter space of time than you do with a long, slow to moderate session, meaning you get more bang for your calorie buck, and get out of the gym faster.
- 2. HIIT has a much greater transfer to overall fitness and sporting performance than steady state cardio.
- 3. You create more metabolic disruption, and therefore require a higher demand for oxygen with an HIIT session, which leads to a metabolic "boost" both during and after your workout.
- 4. This metabolic boost (known as EPOC - Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) can potentially last for 24 to 48 hours after you've finished your session.
Now, say hello to HIRT
Rather than lifting weights as you would normally - by performing a set, resting, performing another set, taking another rest, and so on, HIRT (refresher: that's High Intensity Resistance Training) utilises circuits, supersets, complexes, and takes out some (if not all) of the resting between sets. Don't get me wrong - traditional heavy lifting is still great, so don't get carried away and think that HIRT should replace it, but these are the benefits you can get from including more HIRT in your routine:
1. Like HIIT, HIRT saves time. If you only have 20 minutes to work out one day and think "that's not enough time for my strength session, I may as well skip the gym," then trying out an HIRT circuit will mean you're still getting your strength work in for the day.
2. The calorie burn is INSANE. Mix weights, cardio, short rest periods and high intensity training and you can't fail to burn calories and shred fat.
3. It's great if you play a sport or are concerned about athletic performance.
When reading about how beneficial both these 'new' training methods are, it's easy to start thinking of all kinds of crazy ideas as to how you can start doing them every workout. Slow down a tad though! Enthusiasm is amazing, but doing this makes it very likely you'll burn out, possibly injure yourself and quickly lose your training mojo. The key to making HIIT and HIRT work for you is to program them sensibly so that you don't get overly exhausted. Plus, you still need your regular strength work and even a bit of steady state cardio for recovery purposes.
Try this out for a weekly template:
Monday: Strength Session + HIIT
Tuesday: HIRT Session
Wednesday: Off or Steady State Session (for recovery purposes)
Thursday: Strength Session
Saturday: Off or HIRT
Sunday: Steady State Session (for recovery purposes)
The above works fantastically for a newbie or an intermediate trainer. But if you're a bit more advanced, or really want to take it to the next level and feel your recovery can cope, try this out:
Monday: Strength Session
Tuesday: HIRT + Steady State Cardio
Wednesday: Strength Session
Thursday: HIIT Session
Friday: Strength Session + HIRT
Sunday: Strength Session and/or Steady State Cardio
Remember, both HIIT and HIRT can be stressful on your muscles and nervous system. This is a good thing in terms of strength and fat loss, but you can have too much of a good thing. The smart thing to do is to listen to your body, as it will give you a clear message as to whether you're doing too much. If you feel your recovery and general mood and energy levels dropping, don't be afraid to ease back a touch.
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Before you start the program above, take a look at the general rules for HIIT and HIRT:
1. Start and end each session with a 3-5 minute warm up and cool down
2. Work periods should last 15-30 seconds
3. Rest periods should be between 2-8 times as long as your work period, depending on intensity and length of interval.
4. A session should last at least 8 minutes and no longer than 30 minutes.
1. Start each session with 1 to 2 lighter rounds of the circuit you'll be doing.
2. Reps on each exercise should be between 6-20.
3. Pick weights that are 20-40% lighter than what you'd use for straight sets.
4. A workout should comprise at least 3 exercises, and no more than 8.
5. Sessions should last between 8-30 minutes.
This can be done on any piece of cardio equipment, or with sprints outside (remember to warm up and cool down too):
- - 30 second sprint (this means giving 100% effort every time!)
- - 2 minutes active recovery
- - Complete this 4-8 times
Need a quickie? Try:
- - 15 seconds sprint
- - 45 seconds steady
- - Complete 10 times
Too easy? Then you just need to work harder in your "sprints" - you should be gassed at the end of each interval.
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Load a bar with a light to medium weight and perform 8-12 reps for each. Move from one exercise to the next without resting. Once you've completed the entire round, rest 90-180 seconds and repeat.
- Upright Row
- Shoulder Press
- Back Squat
- Alternating Backward Lunges.
- Bent Over Row
- Push Ups
Note: You can either complete a set number of rounds of this, or set a timer for 10-20 minutes, see how many you can do, then aim to better it next time round. Alternatively, if you don't have access to weights try 30 seconds of each of the following exercises, again moving from one into the other with minimal rest:
- Squat Jumps
- Push Ups
- Lunge Jumps
- Mountain Climbers
Rest 90 seconds, and complete 3-6 rounds.
That should be enough to keep you going a while and get you out of a fat loss rut and back to a lean, mean, fat loss-dominating machine.