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Cardio Acceleration

Science says it’s the quickest way to burn fat while building muscle.

By Dale Taylor

Even the simplest gym memberships are likely to present you with a head-spinning array of classes and workouts, all of which claim to burn fat and build muscle. However, rather than feeling spoilt for choice,  it can be confusing and makes it tough to figure out which exercises actually live up to their claims.

Fortunately, sports scientists at the University of California were also tired of these ambiguous choices, so decided to test the effectiveness of several kinds of training. In a 2008 experiment, the results of which were published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the researchers recruited exercisers and divided them into three training groups: one to do cardio, another group to do resistance training with weights, and a third (hybrid) group to run for 30-60 seconds after each set of weights (this last option is similar to the activities in bootcamp-style classes, where participants lift, run and haul heavy things).

Though each of the three groups did the same amount of work (three times a week for 11 weeks), the hybrid group came out on top by a long way, gaining the following benefits:

A 991 percent (no, that’s not a misprint) greater loss in fat mass than the cardio-only or resistance-training groups

An 82 percent greater improvement in muscle gains

A 35 percent greater improvement in lower-body strength

A 53 percent greater improvement in lower-body endurance

A 28 percent greater improvement in lower-body flexibility

A 144 percent greater improvement in upper-body flexibility.

That means that the hybrid approach to exercise — dubbed “cardio-acceleration” — not only burns more calories, but also builds bigger and stronger muscles and increases flexibility.

It delivers the exercise holy grail because you no longer have to do cardio and weights separately to achieve big results, making it ideal for the time-poor guy who’s looking for a quick, do-anywhere exercise routine.

The equipment-free workout on the following pages — designed by Dr Mark Bellamy, a sports trainer and sports psychologist — uses these principles to shave several points off your bodyfat percentage while adding muscle to your physique. Think of it as muscular multi-tasking your physique to perfection.

How to do this workout

Do the reps for Exercise 1, run hard for 60 seconds, then do Exercise 2, run hard for 60 seconds, do Exercise 3 and so on. Once you’ve done one circuit of all the exercises, rest for 2-3 minutes.

This workout can be done at a gym, the beach or your local park. If you’re in the gym, you have the opportunity to use several types of cardio equipment, so you could run hard on the treadmill for 60 seconds, or use a different cardio apparatus (stationary bike, rower) after each bodyweight exercise.

“The cardio element of the workout isn’t meant to be recovery time,” says Dr Bellamy. “Instead, you should treat it as you would an interval-training session, which means going at 80 percent of full effort for the full 60 seconds.”

Repeat the circuit twice — three times if you’re fitter than a butcher’s dog — and do it 2-3 times a week, leaving a day’s rest between each session.

Click here for the Cardio Acceleration Workout.