Faster Fat Burning

Combine lifting with high-intensity interval training to get leaner — and fitter — faster.
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It’s the one nagging question that comes up time and again for the gym rat: Where do I fit cardio in? And for most iron-loving guys, the answer is rarely appealing.

Before lifting? No, it&’ll zap strength levels and undermine the ensuing training session. After lifting? By that time, it will probably end up being a halfhearted 30 minutes on the treadmill because your weight workout kicked your butt. Skip cardio altogether? Sounds tempting, but it’s not exactly the best way to achieve (or hold onto) a ripped six-pack.

How about none of the above? Instead, do your cardio during your lifting session via cardioacceleration — a high-intensity training technique that will help you burn tons of body fat without tacking any extra time onto your workout. That’s right, no extra time. You can complete a 45- to 60-minute weight-training session with 20 to 30 minutes of cardio in, yes, 45 to 60 minutes. Best of all, you won’t sacrifice any results in the process; you’ll get bigger, stronger, leaner and more cardiovascularly fit by way of this ultra-efficient method.

There’s only one more nagging question to ask yourself: Why am I not doing cardioacceleration?

Get-Lean Lecture

The basic gist of cardioacceleration is that, in the course of an otherwise typical weight-training workout, you’ll do some type of aerobic exercise for the duration of your rest periods between every lifting set. For example, let’s say you’re doing three sets of 12 reps on dumbbell presses. You’ll do 12 reps of presses, then do a cardio move for 30 seconds to a minute, then go right back to another set of presses. You’ll repeat this for all exercises and sets in the training session. In essence, your rest periods become 30- to 60-second cardio intervals.

As for what constitutes an aerobic or cardiovascular exercise, it can be any number of things. Old-school activities like jumping jacks, jumping rope and running in place work well because they can be done in your current location at any time; whereas going over to the treadmill or elliptical between sets is typically an inefficient use of time, unless you’re training at home in a small space. Light barbell or dumbbell cleans also can be performed, provided you have the endurance to do continuous reps for up to a minute. (See “Cardio Laundry List” for more options.)

Battle-Ropes

That’s pretty much it. The time you used to spend standing around waiting for your next set becomes another half a minute or minute of cardio you don’t have to do after your workout or in a separate session. As a result, a lifting workout that was pretty good at burning calories and body fat in the first place is transformed into a hybrid of strength training and high-intensity interval cardio — a lethal combination that will take your get-lean efforts to another level.

“Cardioacceleration is as effective at fat burning as anything,” says renowned training expert Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., who has recently popularized the cardioacceleration method through his programs on JimStoppani.com. “I prescribe intense lifting to get lean as well as HIIT-style cardio. With cardioacceleration, you’re doing both at the same time. It has become my go-to training technique for anyone who has hit a plateau with their fat-burning goals.” 

Sweat Equity

If cardioacceleration sounds tough, that’s because it is. What it produces is a workout devoid of dedicated rest periods. When it’s performed correctly, what little rest you’ll get will come from the few seconds it takes you to transition from a lifting exercise to a cardio move and vice versa. However, this constant pace is indeed sustainable for an entire workout because the strength-training move and aerobic activity are complementary in the sense that they’re calling on different muscles and different energy systems. Think about it: The muscles being targeted on a bench press (the pecs) are different from those working during a bout of jumping jacks or running in place (the legs, mainly). When you’re benching, the legs are getting a rest; when you’re doing jumping jacks, the pecs are recovering.

Research supports this notion. In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, University of California, Santa Cruz, scientists found that muscle soreness was decreased when subjects did aerobic activity between sets of lifting exercises. “In the Santa Cruz study, the subjects actually recovered better when doing cardio between sets, even though it was adding extra work to the training session,” Stoppani says. “Your heart rate is elevated when doing cardioacceleration, which means more blood will flow to your muscles to deliver the oxygen and nutrients they need to keep contracting through an intense workout.

Worried that mixing your cardio and lifting will zap your strength levels and hinder your muscle-building potential? Don’t be. The enhanced recovery from the aerobic activity, evidenced by the Santa Cruz study, means you shouldn’t have to lighten the weights on your big lifts. “Cardioacceleration will enhance strength, not hurt it,” Stoppani says. “With increased blood flow, you should also experience a better muscle pump, which will help you build muscle.”

Another question bound to come up: Is doing cardio in numerous 30- to 60-second chunks as effective as doing a dedicated 20- to 30-minute session apart from lifting? Absolutely, if not more so. In a true cardioacceleration workout, there’s no substantial rest time during the training session. This will keep the heart rate elevated to some extent throughout, while it also moves up and down constantly in typical HIIT fashion to keep your body in a constant state of flux — in other words, a constant state of fat burning.

Chest/Shoulders/Triceps (Push)

Incline-Dumbbell-Bench-Press

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Cardioacceleration (seconds)

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

4

8

60

Bench Press

3

10

60

Cable Crossover

3

12-15

30

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

4

8

60

Upright Row
superset with
Dumbbell Lateral Raise

3 3

10 12-15

- 60

Dip

4

8-10

60

Cable Pressdown

4

10-12

60

Back/Biceps/Traps (Pull)

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Cardioacceleration (Seconds)*

Barbell Bent-Over Row

4

8

60

Lat Pulldown

3

10

60

Straight-Arm Pulldown

3

12-15

30

Barbell Curl

4

8-10

60

Incline Dumbbell Curl

4

10-12

60

Dumbbell Shrug

3

10-12

60

Smith-Machine Behind-The-Back Shrug

3

12-15

60

Quads/Hamstrings/Calves (Legs) + Abs

Romanian-Deadlift

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Cardioacceleration (seconds)*

Smith-Machine Squat

4

8

60

Leg Press

3

10

60

Leg Extension

3

12-15

30

Romanian Deadlift

4

8-10

60

Leg Curl

4

10-12

60

Standing Calf Raise

3

10-12

60

Seated Calf Raise

3

12-15

60

Hanging Leg Raise
superset with
Crunch

3 3

10-12 12-15

- 60

*Cardioacceleration interval with the exercise of your choice, to be performed after every set for specified amount of time in lieu of a rest period. 

Cardio Laundry List

Use any and all these aerobic exercises recommended by Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., as part of your cardioacceleration workouts:

  • Battling Ropes
  • Bench Step-Up
  • Box Jump
  • Dumbbell Clean
  • Dumbbell Snatch
  • Dumbbell Lunge
  • Elliptical**
  • Heavy-Bag Work
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Jumping Rope
  • Jump Squat
  • Kettlebell Swing
  • Knee Tuck Jump
  • Lateral Bound
  • Lateral Box Jump
  • Lunge Jump
  • Medicine-Ball Throw or Slam
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Rowing Machine**
  • Running in Place
  • Side-to-Side Shuffle
  • Skipping (in place)
  • Speed Skater

**Machine cardio exercises often aren’t conducive to quick transitioning, but at some gyms, cardio equipment is conveniently located at lifting stations. 

Burning Tips

Heed these helpful tips to make the most of your cardioacceleration workouts and maximize the fat-burning effects:

Keep Moving. If there’s one nonnegotiable rule of cardioacceleration, it’s this: Constant motion is required. No standing around. Go directly from your strength move to your cardio with no rest. If you’re not in the greatest shape and you’re sucking wind, keep the cardio intensity low — for example, lightly jog in place instead of doing burpees. If even that is too much to sustain for an entire workout, start by doing cardioacceleration for only a certain portion of your workout (i.e., the first — or last — four exercises) and gradually progress from there to where you can do it for an entire hourlong training session. Rest (pun intended) assured that you’ll get something of a break after completing all sets of a lifting exercise while you transition to the next one; if you’re doing supersets, you’ll have similar transition time as you set up for the next superset pairing.

Use A 30- to 60-Second Window. Cardio intervals (formerly known as rest periods) should last between half a minute and a minute. Any shorter than 30 seconds and you likely won’t recover adequately for your next lifting set; going for longer than 60 seconds will slow the back-and-forth pace of the workout and decrease intensity.

Feel Free To Alter Your Cardio Source. You don’t have to stick to just one or a few aerobic exercises in a workout. Do as many as you like. Pick a different cardio move for each lift you do, or even switch back and forth between, say, jumping jacks and burpees for four sets of a single exercise. For ideas of different sources of aerobic moves, refer to “Cardio Laundry List”.

Consider Your Gym Surroundings And Be Strategic. The best way to keep moving and minimize transition time between lifting and cardio is to do non-machine aerobic moves that can be done right next to the bench or cable station at which you’re training. But if your gym, for example, happens to have a dip station adjacent to a rowing machine, that will make for a great pairing during an upper-body workout. If there’s no such station next to a piece of cardio equipment you really want to use, make the lifting exercise a bodyweight move like push-ups, which you can do anywhere.

Have A Plan. We’ve included sample cardioacceleration workouts in this article, but if you choose to create your own, do it before you start your workout. Don’t just say, “I’ll figure it out as I go.” If you do that, you’ll find yourself standing around for 30 seconds after a set of lat pulldowns, trying to decide what aerobic move you want to do next, which defeats the whole purpose of the technique.

For more programs, workouts, tips and expert insight from Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., visit
jimstoppani.com