What’s the best exercise routine for losing weight? Interval training, which alternates short bouts of high-intensity exercise with longer bouts of lower-intensity activity. “Both research and personal experience have proven it to be the most effective cardio for fat loss,” writes legendary trainer Brad Schoenfeld in his book Women’s Home Workout Bible . The less intense periods enable you to recover from the high intensity periods, with the result that you tend to burn more calories overall than if you exercised at one speed throughout your session. In addition, interval routines are especially effective at increasing your metabolic rate after you finish exercising, and this afterburn is associated with the release of two hormones (growth hormone and noradrenaline) that help break down fat stores.
Here are three different ways to spin interval routines.
Interval workout #1: Lifesprints
Using this regimen, Gail Trapp, PhD, an exercise scientist at Australia’s University of South Wales, showed that women who did an interval program lost more body fat than those who worked out at a steady pace for the same amount of calories. Trapp used a stationary bike, but you can also do the routine on an elliptical trainer or other machine that allows you to change the intensity quickly. Trapp’s research group offers a CD, available on iTunes, that prompts you to switch intensities.
Warm up for 5 minutes, and then start your intervals, sprinting all out for 8 seconds, then pedaling slowly for 12 seconds. Start with 5 minutes of intervals and work your way up to 20 minutes. Finish with 5 minutes of easy exercise.
Interval workout #2: 30-Second Sprints
This workout is most easily done on cardio machines but can also be followed outdoors using a stop watch. If you use the treadmill, vary the speed or the incline, or, for the advanced exerciser, both. On a bike or elliptical machine, vary the resistance or speed or both.
Warm up for 5 minutes, and then for 20 minutes alternate 30 or 60 seconds of sprinting with 1 minute of recovery at an effortless pace. Cool down for 5 minutes.
Interval workout #3: The Climb
Choose any cardio machine. Warm up for 5 minutes, and then complete the following sequence five times:
1st minute : easy exertion
2nd minute: moderate exertion
3rd minute: hard exertion
4th minute: very hard exertion (If this level is too challenging, repeat the exertion of the 3rd minute here.)
Finish with a 5-minute cooldown.
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