EPOC: An Epic Fat Burner

August 24, 2011

By Mark Dugdale, IFBB Pro; Photography by Paul Buceta; Model: IFBB Pro Mark Dugdale [Q] Mark, I’ve been doing the same kind of cardio forever ⎯ steady-state for 30–60 minutes per session ⎯ with good results. Does HIIT have any advantages? [A] HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is getting a lot of attention because studies have proven that it’s vastly more effective at favorably improving body composition than steady-state cardio. But I hate to fix something that isn’t broken, so if you’re seeing good results with your present cardio approach, then perhaps there’s no reason to change. However, you might find that HIIT gives you better results and since the workouts are shorter, you’ll have more time to dedicate to other areas of your life. Results show that HIIT, when properly performed, significantly increases excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This means that while you may burn more calories during the actual 60 minutes of steady-state cardio, you’ll burn significantly more calories with a 20-minute HIIT session when measured over the course of the next 24–36 hours. HIIT ramps up your metabolism and fat oxidation for a longer period of time than traditional steady-state cardio and, it takes less time (a typical HIIT session takes about 20 minutes) ⎯ what could be better? [Q] Hey Mark, if HIIT is so effective for fat burning, why do so few bodybuilders train that way? [A] That’s an interesting question. I really don’t know the answer, but I have a couple guesses. Honestly, most bodybuilders I’ve met, apart from Branch and Dorian, don’t really train all that hard. HIIT doesn’t take much time, but it takes a significant amount of effort (and mental focus). Sometimes people are simply too lazy to put forth the level of intensity required to obtain the benefits of HIIT. Furthermore, I’ve often related bodybuilders to dinosaurs ⎯ big, powerful and mostly unwilling to change. Bodybuilding has been beating the steady-state cardio drum like it beats the low-fat/moderate-carbohydrate drum ⎯ both work to some degree, but aren’t optimal. For the 2009 Olympia my cardio was essentially HIIT ⎯ sprints, kettlebell work and jump rope, and I was one of the best-conditioned guys in the show. [Q] I’m looking for a way to spice up my conditioning and I read in one of your columns that you like doing mini-circuits. Is it possible to get the benefits of HIIT by using traditional weight-room moves with lighter weight? [A] Sure, but I’d say as a general rule you should reserve traditional weight training for muscle growth, not necessarily fat loss. That said, I did do some lactate-inducing sessions while preparing for the Olympia. The idea is to hit bodyparts that are far away from each other in a circuit fashion using a rep range of 15–20 without rest. Another great EPOC-jacking session using barbell squats is as follows: Squat with a weight for 20 seconds straight, rack and rest for 10 seconds, repeat 10 more times. Your workout will be completed in less than six minutes, but the EPOC (and fat-burning effect) will be significant.


You don’t need an hour on the treadmill to get ripped. Try Mark Dugdale’s high-intensity circuit for a leaner you, repeating the cycle 6–8 times without rest between circuits. Exercise - Reps/Time - Intensity Elliptical Machine - 5 mins - Low Two-Handed Kettleball - 15 reps - High Swing Jump Rope - 1 min - High Elliptical Machine - 1 min - Moderate