“All exercise burns calories,” says Dr Jeff Volek an exercise and nutrition scientist at the University of Connecticut. “But it’s the combination of different types of exercise that will optimise your leanness.”
In one of Volek’s studies he put people on a reduced calorie plan, and divided them into three groups. One group didn’t exercise, another did aerobic exercise three days a week and a third did aerobic and weight training three days a week (like this programme).
The results: those who combined lifting with aerobic exercise, the way you will in this plan, shed nearly 3kg more fat.
How you'll do better
So a blend of weights and cardio is the best way to lose fat, but it is possible to go not one, but two better. First, the cardio plans that follow are short enough to be done after your weights session. This is the perfect time because doing cardio after weights burns 27% more calories than cardio by itself, according to research from the University of Tokyo.
Secondly, you won’t be running, cycling or rowing at the same old steady state pace, you’ll do interval training – alternating between periods of hard work and recovery. Research at Laval University, Canada found this kind of training can burn up to three times more fat than exercising at the same pace. So you’ll be doing weights followed by optimum length cardio sessions.
The result: more muscle, less fat and a body that’ll make those old T-shirts at the back of your cupboard fit like a torso-shaped glove.
Your action plan
After your weights workout choose one of the following interval training regimes and aim to wrap up both your weights and cardio in an hour at most. Mix it up as much as possible and never repeat the same interval workout twice in a week.
You don’t have to do it in the gym either. After you’ve finished the weights hop on your bike or go outside for a run. Just follow the work-to-rest guidelines in the cardio workouts section. If you want to go for a long run at the weekend, do it in the morning. When you wake up, your core body temperature is at its lowest, allowing for improved endurance.
“In a recent study, people riding bikes could push themselves 5.3 minutes longer at 6:45am than at 6:45pm, because a cooler body delays overheating,” says study author Dr Ruth Hobson. Stick to the routine for four weeks and you’ll have more muscle, more leisure time and the very best results in the shortest time possible.
How To Get Lean
1. The stationary bike – 20 minutes
Step 1: Do a 4-minute warm-up ride on low resistance
Step 2: Ride as fast as you can for 40 seconds then pedal slowly for 20 seconds so you can recover. Repeat this 10 times.
Step 3: Ride as fast as you can for 20 seconds then rest for 10. Do this 6 times.
Step 4: Set the bike to a low resistance and ride for 3 minutes at a slow pace to cool down.
Why: “You’re seated and don’t have to propel your bodyweight forward, so you burn fewer calories than running,” says Christian Finn of the factsaboutfitness.com. “To get around this, the periods of hard work are much longer, making your body expend a huge number of calories while building a set of calves that’ll stand up against the chunkiest of trainers.”
2. The rowing machine – 20 minutes
Step 1: Do a 3-minute warm-up row on a resistance of about 5.
Step 2: Set the resistance to level 10 then row as hard and as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Keep the resistance set to level 10 but grab the handle with an underhand grip and row for 60 seconds at a pace slow enough to catch your breath. Repeat this 7 times.
Step 3: Alternate between rowing for 15 seconds at a fast pace and 15 seconds at a slow pace. Do this for 7 minutes.
Step 4: Cool down for 3 minutes by rowing at a slow pace.
Why: “The rower’s resistance can easily be adjusted making it ideal for these short intense intervals that harvest calories while building bigger arms and a wide back that’ll block anyone else’s chances of getting to the bar,” says Finn.
3. The treadmill – 20 minutes
Step 1: Do a 4-minute warm-up by running at a slow speed that’s just fast enough to make you jog.
Step 2: Sprint at a speed of about 15kph for 90 seconds then reduce the speed to about 7kph, so that you jog for 90 seconds to recover. Repeat this 3 times.
Step 3: Sprint at a speed of about 17kph (or faster if you can manage it) for 60 seconds then reduce the speed to about 7kph, so that you jog for 60 seconds to recover. Repeat this 3 times.
Step 4: Cool down for 1-2 minutes by walking at a slow pace.
Why: “Short, intense intervals (30 seconds on and off) aren’t suitable for treadmills – they take too long to speed up and slow down. So the work and rest periods last longer than on any of the other machines,” explains Finn. You’ll drip with sweat and feel the runner’s high. Your new lean physique will be pretty dizzying, too.
4. The cross-trainer – 20 minutes
Step 1: Do a 3-minute warm-up at a slow speed.
Step 2: Start with the resistance at a comfortably low level. Increase the resistance by 1 level every minute. Do this for 7 minutes then reverse the process and decrease the resistance every minute.
Step 3: Once you’ve worked the resistance down to a low setting, stay at that pace for 3 minutes to cool down.
Why: “If you begin with a high resistance on these machines they can stick and become hard to move,” says Finn. “Gradually increasing the resistance helps you ease into the tougher settings so you can force your legs and core to work harder, burning more calories and building the balance to excel at any sport.”