Investigating the roles played by cardio, strength training, and abdominal exercises in losing belly fat and getting strong abs.
I hope you had a great Easter and had a chance watch yesterday’s video on the impact of chocolate and sugar on belly fat.
Today’s video is jam-packed with more useful information that will help you understand how to workout properly if you want to lose belly fat and get strong and toned abs.
For instance, do you know how much and what type of cardio to do?
Is strength training really necessary?
What types of abdominal exercises should be used?
These questions (and a few others) are answered in this video.
Let the “April of Abs” continue…
We’re talking about abs and, specifically, today we’re gonna be talking about the difference between cardio, strength training, and specific abdominal exercises; which is best to what you should be focusing on, what’s the best way to use a combination of the three, if that is the best way to do it.
We’re gonna talk about the differences and similarities, the benefits, the pros and cons, the whole enchilada. You’re gonna really understand the difference, because a lot of people ask, “Is it better to do this, or is it better to do that?”
The first thing to understand is that there is no right or wrong way to do things. There are just better and less effective approaches to burning belly fat, getting a flat stomach, and really getting strong, toned abs, and that’s what we’re talking about.
What I’ve done here is, I’ve broken this topic down into long-term and short-term. These essentially denote long-term solutions or long-term benefits and short-term benefits.
Now, if I were a politician, I’d be focusing on the short-term benefits over my term, and that’s all that matters. But we’re not; we’re concerned about the lifelong results that you’re after but also getting some short-term benefits from what you’re doing.
Let’s start off by talking about cardio. We have two types of cardio. We’ve got long duration, slow intensity, ’cause the longer you go, the lower the intensity has to be. You can’t sprint for 45 minutes; that’s just physically impossible. Our slow, long-duration cardio has short-term benefits.
Long, slow cardio, why does it have short-term benefits? Well, let’s say you go for a jog for about half an hour, and you’re on the treadmill, or if you’re on the bike or elliptical, it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing. Typically, you look at the cardio machine, and it says you’ve burned X number of calories. Let’s say you burned 400 calories in 30 minutes of work on the treadmill.
That’s not bad, but what happens after you’re done? After you’ve done that work, what happens? Not much. You just haven’t taken your body, metabolically, to a level that’s going to continue burning calories after that 30 minutes of long, slow cardio, and that’s why this is called short-term. You’re burning calories during that specific time period and that’s it.
This is the typical mentality right here, this short-term mentality is typically what you see in commercials when you see companies advertising their chocolate chip cookies and the woman sitting in the office, thinking to herself, Oh, it’s okay. I can have one. I’ve done my cardio for the day. That’s “I burn two hundred calories; therefore, I can eat two hundred calories.” This is the thinking that basically is promoting this; this is stemming from that.
Does long, slow cardio have its place? Sure. I do long, slow cardio when I walk my dogs. If I wanna do a recovery jog, if I’ve worked out pretty intensely all week and I want something lighter to recover and rejuvenate my body, I will do some long, slow cardio, but I’m not doing it for the purposes of burning fat or improving my cardio endurance. I’m doing it as a recovery method.
That’s essentially the benefit of doing long, slow cardio. It should not be used for anything other than maybe building a base if you’ve never worked out before and using it as a recovery tool to help your body rid itself of some toxins and some lactic acid buildup after a workout or on its own.
Now, let’s look at the flipside to long, slow cardio, and this one’s gonna fit into long-term benefits. We’re gonna call this one HIT cardio or HIIT or basically known as interval training. What’s the difference between interval training and long, slow cardio? I’m gonna go up here; hopefully, the camera can follow me.
I’m gonna draw a small graph here; hopefully you can see it. Interval training is a bout of high intensity, low intensity, high intensity, low intensity, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Over time, what happens is, your general heart rate tends to increase over the duration of the workout, and because of that, there’s a benefit in terms of increasing caloric burn during the workout, so you also have a short-term benefit.
Actually, I’m gonna write this down in here as well, because you’ll actually burn more calories in a lot of cases doing interval training cardio in a short term, but you’ll also get a long-term benefit.
Here’s the thing. Let’s say at the top of this graph is your maximum possible, that’s like as fast as you can run. I’m just gonna use running as an example if you’re doing cardio. The max you could run, let’s say, on the treadmill is 10.0. So, you do an interval of ten seconds at 10.0; you drop it down to level 6 for, let’s say, 30 seconds, which would be down here. Bring it back up, bring it back down; bring it back up, bring it back down; bring it back up, and so forth.
What ends up happening is, over the course of, let’s say, 10 or 15 minutes, you’re spending X number of minutes at your fastest possible speed. Why is that beneficial? Well, obviously, from an aerobics standpoint, it’s very beneficial for improving your performance and cardiovascular endurance, but also from a belly-fat-burning perspective is that you are naturally increasing, you’re spending more time at a higher intensity, and that’s very important from a metabolic standpoint long-term, because now you’re revving up your metabolism.
Studies have shown that—I call this the afterburn effect, where you’re actually after the workout, let’s say you’re doing intervals for 15 minutes, as opposed to doing a 30-minute cardio session long and slow, you’re gonna be burning a ton more calories depending on how you’re doing this during the actual workout but also after the workout because you’ve revved up your metabolism so high by working at a high intensity that this afterburn effect—I’m just gonna call this “afterburn” in parentheses here.
Your body’s gonna continue to burn calories as it’s trying to recover itself after the workout. The afterburn effect will be dependent upon two variables: the intensity at which you worked and how long you worked out at that intensity.
The higher the intensity and the longer you worked, the greater the afterburn effect, which means that you can go back to the office or sit on the couch and watch TV, and you’ll be burning calories to a greater extent, a much greater extent than if you did long, slow cardio.
This has been backed up by tons of studies. I wish I had them off the top of my head, so I could just quote different things, but I don’t have that capability.
Nonetheless, the higher the intensity you work at during the workout, the more benefits you’re gonna have afterward, as well as during the workout. That’s the cardio side of things; that’s the benefit of doing cardio, specifically interval training.
How often should you do interval training? I believe two to three times a week maximum, because it’s physically and psychologically demanding to push yourself to that extent. Two to three times max. Use maybe a nice, light cardio session if you want as a cardio tool, and that should be it for cardio; that should be it.
From a belly-fat loss or total fat-loss perspective, if you wanna see your abs, if you wanna do some of that first-thing-in-the-morning cardio with no breakfast, go for a walk and do something light where you’re tapping into more of your fat reserves at that intensity, at that lower intensity where you’re actually using fat as a fuel.
Here’s another cool strategy that you can use tat I didn’t talk about in that video. If you wanna do a little bit of interval training at the end, let’s say you do one of those prebreakfast workouts, do a long, slow jog or walk with your dogs or whatever you wanna do in the morning. Finish it off with just a couple minutes of just sprints or just even actually a couple sprints, one, two, three sprints of ten seconds.
Studies have actually shown what that does is it increases epinephrine or adrenaline secretion from your adrenal glands. And epinephrine, what it does is, it’s a hormone that goes to your fat cells, and it activates an enzyme call HSL, or hormone-sensitive lipase, to break down fat into its different components—free fatty acids and glycerol. These free fatty acids are then taken out of the fat cell, so the fat cell can shrink over time, and these will be metabolized or oxidized for fuel, so that’s pretty cool.
You have the high intensity, short-burst high intensity, it’s gonna release more epinephrine or adrenaline—same thing—it’s gonna go to that fat cell, it’s gonna say, “Hey, I need you to burn more fat,” because the epinephrine is a breaking-down hormone; it’s gonna mobilize energy reserves for enhanced blood sugar. That’s the benefit of doing high-intensity work.
Now, speaking of high-intensity work, let’s move over to strength training. Strength training is very, very important, and I’m gonna put it here. I’m just gonna call it ST. Long-term. If you want the long-term benefits of sculpted, toned abs—and, again, if you’re a woman, if you just want a flat stomach, you need to be doing strength training.
When I’m talking about strength training, in this case I’m also referring to specific abdominal exercises, but I’ll talk about that in the third part. Let’s talk about overall, full-body strength training for a second. Full-body strength training, the overall long-term benefit for this is that you’re developing more lean mass.
That’s very important from a metabolism standpoint because the more mass, the more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be or the higher your metabolic rate, I should say, will be.
That’s important because your metabolic rate, your resting metabolic rate, 70 percent of your total daily caloric expenditure is coming from your base metabolic rate, so the number of calories you’re burning at rest, and that metabolic rate is gonna be largely dependent on your lean mass, specifically the muscle you have. You need to be doing strength training from that perspective because muscle is much more metabolically active than fat is; it burns bout 50 times more calories than fat does, so that’s very important.
The other thing is that just from a posture perspective, you don’t wanna be slouching around like this, right? You wanna have a good posture because aesthetically, if you wanna be looking hot and sexy, well, you definitely wanna strengthen your abs, you wanna strengthen your core, you wanna strengthen your upper-back muscles, you wanna strengthen, actually, all the muscles in your body, because the more toned and strengthened they are, the more erect and more confident you’ll look and the more everything’s gonna look as it should.
Strength training is really important, and I’m gonna say one more thing about this. When it comes to actually burning fat, not necessarily building muscle, but from a burning-fat perspective, you wanna be using workouts, strength-training workouts where you’re pushing weight—a good amount of weight; not doing two-pound biceps curls, but a challenging weight—six to eight repetitions, full-body movements. You’re taking weight from the floor, for instance, to above your head. You’re moving that weight over a great amount of distance, and what that’s gonna do is, it’s going to burn a lot of calories based on the premise of work.
As you can tell, I’m a big science geek; I love this stuff. So, work—this is from physics—work equals force times displacement. You can think about force as the weight you’re using. The heavier the weight, the more force is in that equation. Distance, well, the greater the distance, the greater you move that weight, the more calories, denoted as “work” in this equation, you’re gonna use. The more muscle you involve basically is dependent on how far you move the weight.
Essentially, we’re looking at how much weight are you lifting, over what kind of distance are you moving that weight, and those two variables will determine how many calories or how much work you are doing. That’s very important because remember in that first video, when I talked about sit-ups not being, they don’t really do anything from a calorie-burning perspective ’cause they’re so small and localized?
That’s because you’re using very little weight, maybe just the upper half of your torso; the distance is so small, you’re maybe just bringing your shoulder blades off the floor; and therefore, there’s very little metabolic work.
Compare that to doing a squat press. You’ve got weights on your shoulders; from a standing position, you drop down to a squat and bring the weights above the head. That’s gonna be more metabolically demanding than a sit-up.
You’re not necessarily just focusing on the abs, but you’re focusing on total body reconstruction, or total body makeover, where you’re burning total calories, you’re getting the body revved up, warm. That’s the way to elicit more fat burning. That’s the strength-training perspective: full-body exercises, big movement, large distance using good, challenging weights with good form.
The third part—so, the strength training really has a long-term benefit. You’re not gonna get much short-term benefit from a calorie-burning perspective from a workout using weights. Depending on the intensity and if you have it set up in a circuit-training fashion, you might, but the real benefit is in the long-term, so don’t let the short-term stuff fool you.
The third thing, the final thing we wanna look at is the abdominal stuff, the ab-specific exercises, the core-abdominal exercises. The benefit here, I’m gonna just say both; I’m gonna just put “abs,” “abs.” I’m gonna say there’s a benefit in the short-term and the long-term. The benefit in the short-term is that you feel like you’re doing the work.
You know, a lot of times we go to the gym and we don’t even know what we’re doing. We just say, “Hey, you know what? My arms look a little thin today, so I’m gonna do biceps and triceps”? That’s the training mentality of a lot of us, myself included. If I don’t have a plan set out, I’ll just go to the gym and say, “You know what? I think my biceps need to look a little bit bigger today, so I’m gonna hit the biceps.” It’s ridiculous, right?
So, this short-term effect is the sense where you feel like you’ve had a little bit too much to eat over the last couple days, your abs feel a little bit flabby, so you wanna feel a good burn, you feel like you’re doing something in there. The short-term benefit for doing abdominals is for that, the psychological satisfaction. Get that burn in those muscles; you can feel them getting tighter.
Again, it’s a very short-term effect. Almost like if you were to do biceps curls; your biceps would grow in size for a couple hours, and then it would kinda go back to normal. This is the short-term benefit of doing abdominal-specific exercises.
The long-term benefit to doing abdominal or core-specific exercises are numerous and very important. One thing that’s really important to understand—and I’m gonna talk about this in another video—is the different types of abdominal exercises.
Movement versus stability, I’m not gonna focus on that right now, but just understand this: If you’re doing abdominal exercises—I’m not talking about sit-ups; I’m not talking about ridiculous movements like leg lifts and sit-ups and all sorts of stuff that’s gonna contort your back and put your lower back at an increased risk of herniation. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about doing properly designed abdominal and core workouts that are going to integrate not just your six-pack or your eight-pack muscles, but all of the muscles in your core, because your core is made up of a whole lot of different musculature, so you need to be able to hit the front, the sides, the back, the deep. All those muscles are really, really important, and I’ll talk about those in a different video.
Essentially, abdominal training has its importance in the sense that the more you can develop your deep-core muscles and the outer-core muscles and all those muscles we’ve just been talking about, the better your posture’s gonna be. So, just from a posture perspective, it’s really important. From a low-back and back-health perspective, doing proper core exercises is gonna help big time.
The third thing is that, from a performance standpoint, energy transfer, if you’re an athlete, if you exercise, if you play sports, the energy transfer from your upper to lower body or your lower to upper body is greatly enhanced through a strong core. For instance, I love tennis, so if I’m serving in tennis, what do you think is one of the most important movements or muscle groups for me to strengthen specifically on a serve?
Well, if you said my arm, you’d probably be incorrect. You might be correct to some degree, but the most important movement or muscle group that I can strengthen for a better serve are my legs, because as I go into my serve, as I push down into the floor, that same force will push back through my body and end up in the service motion. The stronger my legs are, the more power I can generate on my serve, and that’s all transferred through my core.
Now, I know this is kind of going a little bit more beyond the belly fat and the abdominal kind of protocol that we’re talking about, but the notion is that you need a healthy combination of cardio—the right cardio—the right type of strength training, and specifically designed core and abdominal workouts that will strengthen your core without compromising your lower back.
We’ll keep it at that. I know this has been a longer video. Thank you for your patience. I hope you’ve learned a lot. In another video we’ll be talking about specific abdominal exercises, the different types. I’m also gonna be sharing my top ten core exercises with you and a lot more.
Stay tuned to the videos. Do not miss a single one. If you’ve been enjoying this stuff, let me know below, and I’m gonna keep cranking this out, because it’s the April of abs.