Optimum Cardio Duration for
Fat BurningBy Tom Venuto - author of
Burn The Fat, Feed The
I dont believe in prescribing the same
cardio, weight training, or nutrition program for everyone. Generic programs
are ultimately going to limit you, although they can be a good way to start.
(Its better to start something than sit around analyzing all your choices
and doing nothing).
I believe in customization of nutrition and
training. Initially, the customization is based on your goals, experience
level, body type and metabolism. That gives you a starting point. Then you
launch whether you think youre ready or not. Your routine doesnt
have to be perfect - you can fine tune it later.
Once youve begun taking action, you
must gather feedback on your progress (weight, measurements, body fat, lean
body mass, photos, the mirror, etc). Once you start getting feedback, you
decide whether you need to change your training and nutrition based on the
There are plenty of scientifically based
guidelines for training intensity, training frequency and training duration for
cardiovascular fitness and weight loss (for example, the American College of
Sports Medicine and other health, fitness and medical organizations have their
position stands and exercise prescription recommendations). There's also no
shortage of authors and "experts" with personal opinions on the subject.
However, theres no "best" duration,
frequency or duration to do cardio, except the amount it takes you to get the
results you want. That amount is not determined by opinion, committee, formula
or even by scientific studies. That amount is dictated by results. Results are
what count. Period. You are your own lab experiment and "scientific study."
Im not an advocate of huge amounts of
cardio or 40 minutes or an hour every day, or whatever. Im an advocate of
being willing to do the amount of cardio it takes for you to get the results
you want. Results should come on a weekly basis if youve got it right. It
makes no sense to continue with the same plan after a week of getting no
results. "Do what youve always done and youll get what youve
always gotten." If what you're doing isn't working, you have to try something
else. When it comes to fat loss, I like to increase cardio first.
As for Bill Phillips' Body For Life method
of cardio, that is simply high intensity interval training, with an increasing
peak interval as the workout progresses, ending with a maximum 10 effort (which
Phillips calls the "high point").
Theres nothing wrong with the BFL
method. Its quite excellent actually. High intensity interval training is
an effective method to get the most out of a brief workout. Another good thing
about the BFL method is that it has built-in progression. Most people
understand and use progression in their weight training workouts, but they
completely forget to use progression in their cardio workouts.
The flaw in the BFL cardio method is the
single frequency and duration prescription for everyone. Phillips writes, and I
quote, 20 minutes of cardio, no more, no less. That doesnt
allow any personalization according to goals, experience, body type, metabolism
and actual weekly results. You should adjust your training volume, frequency,
intensity, and type according to your actual real world results, not by some
dogmatic "formula" written in a book.
What Phillips has successfully achieved by
giving a single recommendation is to make things easy for his readers.
Hes taken the decision-making element out of the program. Most beginners
are so confused by all the training methods that they become paralyzed with
fear and indecision and often dont start at all. Sometimes people NEED
someone to tell them EXACTLY what to do. Phillips made it black and white,
leaving no grey area.
Thats probably a good thing for a
beginner who has no concept of program design and no intuitive sense of how
their body responds to exercise. However, once you develop the innate bodily
wisdom and sensory acuity to realize how your body is responding to various
training and nutrition protocols, then you should free yourself from rigid and
inflexible regimens and learn to adjust according to your results.
Regarding long interval workouts: Sure, you
could do 40 minutes of intervals, but technically, they wont be
high intensity intervals. Intensity and duration are inversely
related. You can do interval training for 40 minutes and its a
good method but the intervals wont be as high in intensity as the
20 minute workouts. If they were, you wouldnt last 40 minutes.
The article of mine you referred to was the
fat loss success series. The type of cardio I recommended in that
article was not BFL-style cardio, nor was it necessarily interval training
(although it could be). What I suggested was that you increase the intensity
and duration of your cardio when you arent getting results.
Naturally, the longer the duration, the
lower the intensity, but intensity is relative. I have seen astounding rates of
fat loss (visible daily improvements, literally), by progressively pushing to
the highest intensity you can sustain for up to 45 minutes. Long cardio
sessions dont have to be low in intensity; they can be moderate to
Long duration and low intensity is NOT the
best way to lose fat. Even though you burn a greater percentage of calories
from fat with low intensity cardio, you dont burn enough total calories
to put a dent in your fat stores.
I also dont recommend staying at 20
minutes three days a week and only manipulating diet to get increased fat loss.
I prefer increased exercise frequency, duration and intensity first, then
calorie reductions second. In short BURN THE FAT, dont try to starve it.
If you put yourself into a feedback loop and
let your results dictate your strategy, you can become your own expert and your
own coach. You will learn a lot about your own body, you will get great results
continuously on a weekly basis and you will never be confused about training
methods again because each method will fail or prove itself in the real world.
This feedback process is covered in detail in chapter 4 of my downloadable
e-book. You can get more info here:
Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle
For more great articles like this one, go
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Tom Venuto is the Fat Loss Expert
Tom Venuto is a bodybuilder, gym owner, freelance writer, success
coach and author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle" (BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets
of the World's Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has written over 150
articles and has been featured in IRONMAN magazine, Natural Bodybuilding,
Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Mens Exercise.
Tom's inspiring and informative articles on bodybuilding, weight loss and
motivation are featured regularly on dozens of websites worldwide. For
information on Tom's "Burn The Fat" e-book,