For many people, the biggest obstacle to achieving chiseled abs is losing the fat that covers the abdominal muscles. One of the best ways to make this happen is with exercise at a high, but varied intensity. Sit-ups and related abdominal exercises are not going to get you there!
Instead, doing sprint intervals for less than 30 minutes a few days a week can produce dramatic fat loss around your midsection if you do it right.
This article will tell you why sprint intervals are your go-to exercise for losing belly fat with tips for making it happen.
Save Time/Lose More Fat
The biggest draw to interval training is that it leads to MORE belly fat loss in LESS training time than other modes of cardio. Repeatedly, studies show that more fat loss is achieved in sprint interval program that use 20 to 25 minutes of training time than those that use 45 or 50 minutes of aerobic training.
How do they do it?
Here are four reasons sprint intervals are worth the effort.
#1: Fix Your Metabolism
The number one reason sprints are the best conditioning strategy for trimming your waistline is that they force the body to burn fat. Compared to aerobic exercise, which tends to burn carbs and activate pathways that degrade muscle, sprints enhance the body’s production of enzymes involved in fat breakdown, while simultaneously building muscle.
#2: Increase Afterburn
Anytime you do brief but intense exercise, your body burns calories at an accelerated rate during the 24-hour recovery period. Technically, this is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC for short, and it works because trained muscle must restore physiological factors in the cells, which translates into accelerated energy expenditure to quickly trim your waistline.
#3: Increase Growth Hormone
Growth hormone is a powerful fat burning hormone that helps restore damaged tissue. It is released in the greatest amounts in response to physical stress above the lactate threshold, which is the reason sprint training is so effective for belly fat loss.
#4: Improve Fat Burning Hormones
One of the worst things about belly fat is that it is metabolically active, releasing dangerous hormones that harm health and cause inflammation. Interval training has the opposite effect, improving function of the entire endocrine system. For example, adiponectin is a key fat burning hormone that is released from fat tissue during exercise. It also reduces inflammation and acts as a trigger for the release of a substance called PGC1 that is like a “master switch,” enhancing muscle and metabolic functions.
So, why do fitness magazines always recommend ab training for belly fat loss?
Quite simply, they don’t know what they’re talking about! Ab training programs may be beneficial for giving you stronger abs, but they don’t burn many calories or shift the body into fat burning mode. They also don’t improve hormone balance because the volume and intensity is too low.
For the best looking abs, include the following components in your workouts:
- Try a well-tested cycling interval protocol: 8-second sprints with 12 seconds rest for a total of 20 minutes.
- Try hill or stair running in which you sprint up as fast as possible and jog down. Try to repeat immediately. Do 8 to 16 reps.
- If you’re advanced, do sprint intervals at a track. Try 20-second all-out sprints with 20 seconds rest in 4 sets of 4 intervals. Rest 3 minutes between sets.
- Pay attention to what and how much you eat. Sprints can help you lose fat without dieting, but watch out that you aren’t eating more calories than normal either as a “reward” to yourself, or because you’re not recovering effectively and stress hormones are remaining elevated.
- Train against resistance. Research shows that sprinting against resistance increases the stimulus to the muscle, resulting in lean tissue growth and a higher metabolic rate. Scientists recommend doing sprints on a resisted bike, a weighted sled, or a self-propelled treadmill.
- Program smart. Look for ways to give yourself mental relief when designing sprint workouts. Try “pyramiding” down in intensity: Do decreasing distance sprints of 400, 300, 200, and finally 100 meters.
- Do a total body strength-training program in which you use multi-joint exercises such as lunges, step-ups, chest press, pull-downs, and chin-ups. These exercises require you to contract all the muscles in your trunk if you do them right.
- Restrict ab training to one exercise per strength training session—opt for reverse crunches or leg lowering if you have a strong lower back.