The most effective cardio to get you lean!

Today we’ll add another string to your strong, sexy and lean bow.


Girls, who has tried any of the workouts I’ve posted lately aimed at getting lean, strong and sexy? Guys, have you started to work on dropping body fat and getting strong? If you’ve dived into it then you’re no doubt starting to feel, see and notice the positive changes taking place.

If not, why not? Do you want to be sitting here in one years time still in pain, still not fitting those jeans you so desperately want to get back into, still a bit worried about venturing to the beach and stripping off, still sleeping badly, functioning poorly at work and lacking energy? Looking back going- I wish I’d started with that training a year ago…


Now is the time to start, and here’s the perfect solution for you time poor people: High Intensity Interval Training.


So far we’ve delved into hypertrophy and strength training, two key players in achieving the above results. I’ve given you some sample workouts in varying intensities and ability levels that should have you starting to progress along your journey to gain the healthy, sexy body you want.

However I’ve also mentioned High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as another training modality and given an example workout of hill sprints.

Has anyone tried some hill sprints? Tough work hey! These are designed to be hard work, hence the term High Intensity. Not medium, not kind of tough, but HIGH. The aim here is to push your limits and get as close to your ‘threshold’ as you can.

Did you come close to vomiting? That can happen with extreme end HIIT. I’ve had many a workout where I’ve pushed myself to the brink of my pain barrier and close to the edge of complete exhaustion. It can suck massively at the time, but I bet after that pain subsides you feel pretty bang on!

In fact just yesterday a client of mine was swearing at me as the end of her HIIT session approached (a great indicator of how hard someone’s working!), she was working very hard! However, once that had subsided she was feeling energetic and on asking her today how the rest of her day went she answered this: “Fantastic! I was full of beans and slept so well last night and woke ready for an awesome breakfast and a great day.” Now that’s what I’m talking about!

What is HIIT exactly?

Well I’ve mentioned the high intensity part, so the rest is the interval nature of this training.

Intervals meaning you work hard, then you rest, then you work again and so on, thus creating intervals of work. Interval training is always expressed as a work:rest ratio. A classic example is the good old ‘sprint a lamp post/walk a lamp post’. If the sprint took you 10 seconds and the walk took you 30 seconds, this would be expressed as a 1:3 ratio.

Ratio is vital to the outcome of your HIIT, and you must monitor the rest element relative to your work in order to gain the most benefit. For example if you wish to increase your bodies ability to work at high intensities whilst tolerating lactate in the system then you would perform a 2:1 or 1:1 or 1:2 type ratio. Alternatively if your goal is more aimed at increasing your speed then you would look at using a ratio favoured heavier towards the rest, such as a 1:4 or 1:5. Another reason for this would be as a beginner with the aim of working up to a higher lactate session.

Too many people make the mistake of not fully utilising their rest interval, which means adequate recovery has not taken place which means that your next work period will not be done to a sufficient intensity.

This work/rest style of training is a fantastic way to increase fitness levels, increase metabolism, fire up the right energy systems and get your body consuming oxygen at a higher rate for long periods even after you’ve stopped exercising!

How does HIIT work to burn my fat?

This increase in oxygen demand and the subsequent usage is commonly called EPOC, which stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, and means that the intense exercise you did earlier that day will have your body still working and burning fat long after you’re session is finished.

You’ll also be firing up your fast twitch muscle fibres which will create an anabolic state and encourage a hormonal response in the body that is conducive to forming new muscle, and most definitely burning body fat.

This anabolic state is created by a high work to low rest ratio, which results in high levels of lactate in the body. This in turn promotes the production of testosterone and growth hormone, both vital pieces in the fat burning puzzle.

Implement this into your weekly training programme, stick at it and coordinate it with lean eating and a switched on lifestyle and you’ll soon be on the way to achieving your goals, whatever they may be- this will help get you there!

What about my long slow duration cardio?

It’s boring… Ok, well that’s just my opinion, but this slow steady state style of cardio generates a catabolic effect within the muscles, meaning that you start to actually lose muscle mass. That most important stuff you’ve worked so hard for with your other training! So the long slow stuff definitely has its place within many people’s training programs, but that depends entirely on their goals.

If we want to get lean, sexy, strong and form a shape that has defined curves and a six-pack then HIIT is the most bang for your buck cardio option, hands down!

Let’s revisit our two extremes to make this point:

On the left we have a marathon runner whose body has had to either shed muscle mass or prevent any from forming in order to remain as light as possible permitting greater distances to be covered. The sprinter on the right completes resistance training and HIIT. They have definition and real shape. Who wants to be skinny and who wants to have sexy shape and definition?

Obviously not everyone wants to look like a stacked sprinter, but remember these are extreme cases. For you to get muscle, lose body fat and resemble a more balanced version of this sprinter (guys and girls), HIIT has to trump long slow duration cardio.

Sounds tough, what do I do exactly?

As I mentioned, these workouts should be gruelling. To succeed in anything we need to put in the hard work and push our limits. HIIT requires that!

You have two main options:

  1. Short burst of around 15s work at 100% effort, followed by a rest of around 90 seconds (depending on your fitness level). Repeat this 5-10 times, again depending on how you handle it.
  2. Longer bursts of around 45seconds work at around 85% effort, followed by a rest of around 90 seconds. Repeat this 5-10 times, again depending on your level and motivation.

Remember it should be hard work on those intervals. If you’re new to it then go conservative to start and build from there. You’ll soon learn your level and how much you can handle. Remember now- the recovery here is key. It must be an active recovery but at super low intensities, eg. Sprint:slow walk.

Afterward you may look something like this:

Also please note that this isn’t for everyone. If you’re lacking in motivation and more likely to flag your workout because it is going to be hard, then you’re best to back it off to something more manageable in order to ensure you still train. I of course have an argument to that-build up to it and push past your comfort zone. Learn to really push yourself!

Also some people with injuries should think twice about this work. Ideally you’ll be pairing this with your resistance training in order to strengthen your muscles, bones and connective tissue so handing this will be no worries, but if you’re truly starting out with weights and tough HIIT then work up to it.

Let’s look at an example:

So, if you go back to the start of this action plan you’ll see our weekly layout. On Saturday we have hill sprints for 30 minutes. We’ll follow option 1 from above. You’ll need to be at a hill or some stairs.

  • So start off with 5-10 minutes getting warmed up. Make sure to include some dynamic stretching.
  • Then you’re going to sprint up the hill at close to 100% effort. This should be 15-30seconds. Go for a shorter distance until you’re familiar with your level and ability on this.
  • Walk down to the bottom slowly making sure to breath from your diaphragm and give yourself 2 minutes recovery.
  • Aim for at least 6 repetitions of this and remember you need to be blowing and should be yearning for the end!
  • Take some time to cool down by slowing walking and have a stretch.

This should be over in less than 30 minutes and have you looking forward to refuelling which you’ll need to be on top of throughout the remainder of the day.

How should I refuel after this session?

That is very much dependant on many variables. We are going to get into that more specially soon. However, for now, make sure you get some good quality protein, good quality simple carbohydrates within 30 minutes of finishing. Keep this up during the day whilst introducing quality fats and reducing the carbs.

Stay tuned for workout nutrition, otherwise get cracking on your HIIT sessions, make sure it’s a part of your program in conjunction with your resistance training and lean eating and you should be seeing and feeling the changes happen!

Any questions about this stuff or anything else relating to fitness, nutrition or meat? Contact me here.


3 comments on “The most effective cardio to get you lean!

  1. Great post Mike, I’m a big fan of HIIT and use it regularly myself. My preferred medium for executing this is with a Kettlebell or a set of stairs. Last week I did a stair session and have still got some wicked calf DOMS today. One of my favourite HIIT sessions is 3 x 10 x 100m sprints on the minute, give it a go by all means but do expect to hurt!

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