By Dr. Mercola
If you could cut your workout time significantly while burning more calories, gaining strength and even improving your performance, would you do it?
Most people would do so in a heartbeat, which is why, if you're still spending an hour or more exercising at a steady pace, there's some major news you should know.
By increasing the intensity of your workout and interspersing it with short periods of recovery, you can increase your excess post oxygen consumption (EPOC), sometimes known as the afterburn effect. This means that you'll continue burning calories after you're done working out – a win-win situation no matter how you look at it! Want to know more?
10 Workout Shortcuts to Burn More Calories
If your interest has been peaked, keep reading on. Today's featured article details 10 simple strategies you can use to shave time off your workouts while maximizing your calorie burn.
1. Pyramid Training
Many strength training programs encourage you to perform a set of exercises, then rest the muscles before repeating. Pyramid training exhausts your muscle groups without stopping for a rest. You start off with lighter weights and more repetitions, then increase your weight gradually by about 15 percent while decreasing the number of reps, until your muscles are exhausted.
2. The Tabata protocol
Dr. Izumi Tabata's high-intensity interval-type training (HIIT) protocol calls for just 20 seconds of all-out drop-dead effort, followed by a mere 10 seconds of rest. This intense cycle is repeated eight times. This protocol reduces your risk of diabetes, increases your maximal aerobic power and anaerobic capacity, and:
"Another soon-to-be-published finding, which Tabata describes as 'rather significant,' shows that the Tabata protocol burns an extra 150 calories in the 12 hours after exercise, even at rest, due to the effect of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. So while it is used by most people to get fit – or by fit people to get even fitter – it also burns fat.1"
3. Interval Cardio
Ditch your hour-long jogs for a shorter, more intense workout, such as sprinting for 30 seconds alternated with a minute of recovery. My Peak Fitness workout, which involves 30 seconds of maximum effort followed by 90 seconds of recovery, is the HIIT approach I personally prefer and recommend.
4. Mix Cardio and Weights
There's no rule that says you have to do weights one day and cardio the next. You may want to try an upper body exercise, such as chest flies, followed by squats for your lower body and then finish with a quick HIIT activity. Personally, I typically finish my Peak Fitness HIIT workout with Power Plate stretches, 10 pull-ups, 10 dips and 20 inverted pushups, and call it a day.
5. Drop Sets
With drop sets, you start with your typical weight then gradually drop the weight in each following set. The secret is to perform the sets immediately after each other, with no rest in between, as this will increase your EPOC (your calories burned after your workout). Try dropping the weight by 20 percent after each set, and by 50 percent for the last set.
Plyometrics are quick, explosive types of movement that can help you burn large amounts of calories in minimal time. Consider adding plyometric drills that last for 5-10 seconds to your workouts for added calorie burning. To do a plyometric push-up, for instance, once your sternum touches the floor, hold your position and breathe for about three seconds, then perform an explosive push upward. You can also try jump squats or jumping on and off a small box or even a low chair if you're advanced. Because plyometric exercises are so intense, you should only do 2-3 sessions a week to give your body time for adequate rest and recovery.
7. Super Sets
Super setting refers to performing exercises on opposing muscle groups, such as back and chest or biceps and triceps, with no rest in between. This saves time and allows you to stimulate more muscle growth. Try alternating dumbbell chest presses with close-grip pull-downs, for instance.
8. Compounds Sets
These are similar to super sets, but instead of working opposing muscle groups you do two sets of exercises on the same muscle group, such as tricep extensions followed by tricep kickbacks. This saves time while giving your muscles a powerful workout; you only need to do one or two sets and you'll be done.
9. Giant Sets
Build lean muscle and lose body fat quickly with giant sets, which entail three exercises for the same muscle group completed all in a row (just 10 seconds of rest should be included in between each set). This will effectively strain and challenge your muscles in a short period of time, allowing for muscle growth and saving you time.
10. Combine Two Moves Into One
When you incorporate two moves into one, you get a total body workout in a shorter amount of time. For instance, try a squat with an overhead press or a lunge with a lateral raise.
Another Unique Workout to Burn Calories 'Off the Charts'
People are increasingly looking for unique workouts that bring the fun back to exercising, and kettlebells are becoming popular for this very reason. Unlike lifting a dumbbell, which keeps your center of gravity fixed, kettlebells incorporate movements that throw off your center of gravity and use your core muscles to keep you balanced.
The end result is a dynamic, whole-body exercise routine that incorporates cardiovascular, resistance and range-of-motion training into one workout, while burning more calories. In a study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE),2 researchers wanted to determine how much of an aerobic workout you really get by using kettlebells. They used 10 volunteers, ranging in age from 29 to 46, who were experienced with kettlebells, and asked them to do a workout consisting of swinging a kettlebell one-handed between their legs and over their head in what's known as a "snatch" motion.
During the workout, participants burned an average of 13.6 calories per minute aerobically, plus another 6.6 calories per minute anaerobically.
"So they were burning at least 20.2 calories per minute, which is off the charts. That's equivalent to running a 6-minute mile pace. The only other thing I could find that burns that many calories is cross-country skiing up hill at a fast pace," said the study's lead researcher, John Porcari, Ph.D.3
The benefit came, researchers noted, not only because of the total-body movement that the kettlebell snatch routine requires, but also because it was done using the high-intensity interval training format, as described above. In the video above, Darin Steen demonstrates the squat-jump using kettlebells. This is just one of more than a dozen kettlebell exercise videos you can watch for free to give you some simple yet powerful techniques to add to your fitness regimen today.
As with most things in life, a balanced routine works best, so you'll want to avoid placing too much emphasis on cardio, strength training or any one type of activity. Instead, vary your routine significantly using bodyweight exercises, HIIT, flexibility training, weights, yoga or pilates, stretching and any other activity (such as kickboxing or martial arts) that interests you in order to get a comprehensive fitness program.