Less is better when it comes to burning fat. Yep, that’s right. But before you get to giddy with happiness, let me explain. Less doesn’t mean that it’s easier and it certainly doesn’t mean you can slack off… heck no. In fact, if you do it right, less is often times MUCH harder! Now, I’ve been a fan of short high intensity workouts for a long time now and I can’t imagine spending any longer than 20 - 30 minutes total, working out. 20 - 30 minutes may seem incredibly short to some, but when you do it properly, it’s more than enough time to stimulate your muscles and boost your metabolism, so you can build lean strong muscles and burn fat effectively without wasting time.
The key to the effectively working out for such a short duration is intensity. How successful you are in getting the desired result is largely dependent on how much intensity you can put into a workout. The more you can push yourself the better off you’ll be. That being said, if you’re a beginner and new to exercising, this method needs to be implemented slowly and at your own pace. You need to allow your body to ease into the process or you’ll end up paying the price… usually extreme soreness. In fact, even if you’re already in decent shape, you’d still be better off starting off easier, until your body gets used to doing these types of workouts. The great thing is, your body adapts quickly, so it won’t take long before you can start gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts.
The intensity of the workouts can be increased many ways, but there are 3 ways in particular that really makes a difference.
(1) Increase the weight you use
Intensity increases relative to the weight you lift. The heavier the load the more intense the exercise becomes. However, choosing the right weight depends on the type of exercise, kind of workout, number of reps and sets. Selecting the proper weight is more of an art than science and ultimately it comes down to trial and error. Choosing the appropriate weight for you depends on your current strength level, so it’s important that you don’t get your ego involved (this is probably more pertinent for men than women). Lifting weight that’s too heavy does you no good, other than putting you at risk of getting injured. When you choose the proper weight, you should be able to perform the exercise with near perfect form. When fatigue kicks in during your exercise, it’s best to stop before your form starts getting too sloppy. You should never compromise form, just to finish the required number of reps.
(2) Speed or tempo of the exercise
You can easily change the intensity of an exercise, just by changing the speed or tempo. The slower the tempo, the more tension you put on your muscles and more intense the exercise becomes. However, moving too slowly becomes tedious and it can be difficult to get into a nice rhythm. When you’re doing workouts with all-out intensity, things like music, environment and speed/tempo of the exercises make a big difference. For this reason, I prefer to perform the exercise with a normal speed or tempo, which is a 1 second count on the pushing or pulling phase of the exercise (also known as the concentric contraction) and a controlled 2 second count on the return phase of the exercise (also known as the eccentric contraction). The exception to this rule is when you’re performing exercises that require explosive movements or momentum such as Olympic lifts and kettlebell exercises. When you aren’t able to use any weight or when the weight you’re using becomes too easy, but you don’t have access to heavier weights - slowing down your speed or tempo is a great way to increase the intensity of the exercise. For instance, try doing push ups with a 10 second count down and then a 10 second count up for 10 reps, or if you can’t perform push ups try bodyweight squats with a 20 second count down and a 20 second count up for 20 reps with no pause at the bottom or top. It’s pretty challenging!
(3) Rest intervals
Rest is another variable that can easily increase or decrease the intensity of your workout. The idea of rest is to make sure that your body recovers enough between exercises, so that you can give your best effort. However, depending on the kind of workout you’re doing, reducing rest is a great way to crank up your intensity. For instance, decreasing rest interval is a popular way to increase intensity when performing metabolic conditioning workouts. Metabolic conditioning is aimed at improving your overall fitness (strength, power and endurance) and a great way to get in shape for popular events like the Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race.
It’s important to note that decreasing rest is not appropriate for all workouts. When you’re doing workouts geared specifically for building pure strength or speed, getting ample rest is essential (up to 3 - 5 minutes). This ensures that you’re able to maximize your performance each time you perform the exercise. Also, rest is something that can be adjusted according to how you feel. If you’re not feeling energetic and feeling a little rundown, you may need to increase your rest interval. Getting extra rest can really make a difference in your recovery and give you that little extra boost, so you can give a better effort during the exercise.
So there you have it. Three key variables you can use to increase the intensity of your workout. Remember, more is not always better and when it comes to burning fat and building a lean body, it’s more dependent on intensity than duration.
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