Cardio For Getting Shredded

It kills me every time I walk into a gym and see 50% of the real estate covered in cardio machines.cardio

People churning away, reading magazines on a stationary bike, watching tv on the elliptical, chatting with their friends on the treadmill.  They are totally crushing the ‘fat burn program’ on that $3,000 heap of metal. They will be doing that for hours multiple times a week.

The problem is that there are far better ways to get shredded in much shorter amounts of time…

Steady State Cardio and the Fat Burn Zone Confusion

First, let’s clear up a misconception.  Word on the street is that you burn more fat during low intensity steady state cardio, such as walking or jogging.  Totally false.

While your body does burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities (50% of calories from fat) versus higher intensities (35% of calories from fat), at higher intensities you burn far more calories overall, ultimately leading to more fat calories (in a much shorter amount of time).

Confusing?  Let me put it this way.  If I walk on the treadmill for an hour and burn 250 calories, I may have burned about 125 calories from fat.  But let’s say I train Primal style and run several sets of hill sprints, followed by a high intensity finisher.  In about 20 minutes, I could burn 500-600 calories, with 210 calories from fat.  One-third of the time and far more fat burn…

Pretty eye opening right?

Get off the treadmill, crank up the intensity, and do work!

cardio

So what exactly do you do?

You have a number of options.

Hill Sprints or Sprint Intervals

Sprint hill.  Jog back down.  Repeat.

Sprint intervals are the same concept.  Sprint 20 seconds, rest for 20.  As you get better, increase the duration of the sprint and decrease your rest time.

Sled or Prowler Work

Load up the sled or prowler, strap yourself in and get to work.  Pull or push for distance.

Lately, I have been loading up a prowler with about 60% of my bodyweight and sprinting 40’s while pushing it. About 4 sprints with this is enough and a great finisher to heavy weight lifting.

MetCon (Metabolic Conditioning)

MetCon is really just a fancy word for interval training.  It is a short duration, fast paced workout designed to kick your metabolism into high gear and turn you into a fat burning machine for long after you have left the gym.  Under the MetCon realm, there are a number of options:

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

  1. You could lump hill sprints and sprint intervals into this, but when I think of HIIT, I use it with weights and different exercises.
  2. Weight circuits, where you pick 5 or so exercises, and perform them all consecutively for specified reps, with no rest in between.  That is one set.  Do several sets.
  3. Intervals, where you pick one exercise (say bodyweight squats), perform for a timed duration, then rest, and repeat is another.  Plyos work well here too.

Random Guidelines for High Intensity Training

women's cardio

  • Coupled with a 4 day a week weight lifting routine, 2 sessions a week should be enough.  Anything more and you are jeopardizing your recovery times.
  • Sessions should last roughly 20 minutes or so.  Anything more is overkill.
  • This is not meant for everyone.  If you cannot perform high intensity training initially, start with steady state cardio until you are capable.
  • High intensity is not an excuse for poor form.  Form trumps all.
  • Train outside when possible.
  • Metabolism is a function of muscle mass.  The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism is, and the more effective your training will be.

All the best!!

— Tank

11 thoughts on “Cardio For Getting Shredded”

    1. Derek,

      A mile wouldn’t be too bad. Generally durations of 45mins plus are what I tell people to avoid. Ever notice the body of distance runners versus sprinters? There is a reason sprinters are ripped and jacked and marathoners look so damn skinny.

      If you like to run, that’s one thing. I have a few people that just love running, and I can’t fault them for that. You gotta do what you love. But if you are just a dude that wants to get ripped, 20 minute high-intensity sessions are the way to go. They are far more effective for fat loss and save you a hell of a lot of time; time that you could be spending doing squats, deadlifts, other things.

      — Tank

  1. Derek,

    A mile wouldn’t be too bad. Generally durations of 45mins plus are what I tell people to avoid. Ever notice the body of distance runners versus sprinters? There is a reason sprinters are ripped and jacked and marathoners look so damn skinny.

    If you like to run, that’s one thing. I have a few people that just love running, and I can’t fault them for that. You gotta do what you love. But if you are just a dude that wants to get ripped, 20 minute high-intensity sessions are the way to go. They are far more effective for fat loss and save you a hell of a lot of time; time that you could be spending doing squats, deadlifts, other things.

    – Tank

  2. I stumbled upon your website on facebook and couldn't stop reading for two days, I'm fascinated by the info, I found a sample high intensity workout. 20 pushups, 20 squat jumps, bear crawls, walking lunges and sprints. so I went to a park and did the circuit 5 times with very little rest between sets. Awesome! how many days a week should I incorporate this type of circuit?

  3. Ryan,

    That's awesome man. That circuit sounds brutal. As far as frequency, it really depends on how much fat you are trying to lose and what your current body fat percentage is.

    If you are 15% or less and are trying to get down in the single digits while maintaining and gaining muscle mass, then twice a week is probably good.

    If you are in the 20% or more range, you could probably afford to do more (3-5 at most). Anything more than 5, you may be jeopardizing your gains and doing too much if you are lifting weights consistently.

    Keep after my friend!

    — Tank

  4. Thanks Tank! You also said that upper/lower split is best, what does that look like?I wanna train and look like an athlete, not a bodybuilder! Can u give me an sample routine? Do I do whole upper in one session or split upper up?

  5. Nice article Tank, as always! If you're doing cardio 2x a week, when is this best done? The morning of your lower/upper day? And should it really be in the morning, or can you do it in the afternoon after your morning workout?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Niklas,

      Sounds like you are in some serious shape. I just don’t recommend it because if you are cranking out that many thrusters or front squats, it’s pretty stressful on your body. If someone is lifting weights 4 days a week, they simply don’t need to do that much tabata, especially if they are trying to build muscle.

      Depending on your weekly workload, you could pull off tabata a few times while preserving muscle or not hindering muscle gain. If you simply wanted to burn fat, then you could do it several times with no real issues.

      — Tank

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