You are on page 1of 7

Contents Home Search

Contents Home Search

Wage war on that ornery abdominal fat

with this militant 4-minute aerobics alternative!

By Senior Science Editor David Kennedy

Photography: David Haskell
Contents Home Search

WARNING: If you are reading this article for sheer amusement and/or you are not the type of per-
son who likes personal challenges, and you’re entirely convinced that creating an ultra-lean, mus-
cular physique is solely contingent on your genetics or “scoring” a supply of some “miracle” fat-
loss supplement, now is the time to turn to the next article. To read any further will only confuse and
frustrate you.

CAUTION: The following program is extremely vigorous and intended for healthy adults, age 18
and over. Please consult a medical or health professional before you begin this regimen.

a day for ridding yourself of all your

Guerrilla Cardio: Your most pow- superfluous flesh? It does have a ring
erful weapon for fighting fat of those “hypish” infomercials for all
Here’s the problem: You can different kinds of ab-training devices—
develop the best darn set of abs this you know, the ones that work so well
side of the big river; but if they’re all you only have to use them three min-
covered up by fat, what’s to show off? utes a day, and you’ll miraculously
Nothing but a big fat belly, that’s what. develop rock-hard abs! Right.
Here’s the solution: Wage war on that The Guerrilla Cardio program, how-
ornery abdominal fat with Guerrilla ever, is different. It’s not a gimmick. It’s
Cardio. It’ll “free” your dear abbies not based on blind guesswork or
from that prison cell of cellulite faster hype. It’s a real solution based on sci-
than any other cardio program ever entific research as well as real-world
developed. experience. In fact, according to
“So just what is Guerrilla Cardio?” Japanese researchers, it may be one
you ask. Well, it’s an eight-week, mil- of the best possible training plans ever
“The ideal cardio itant aerobics alternative specifically developed.4,5 Here’s the deal …
designed for folks short on time and
program would be “fed up” with abdominal fat—or just Building a better fat-burning program
just long enough to plain body fat in general. The premise Recently, Dr. Izumi Tabata, Ph.D., and
‘spark’ your metab- is simple: Rather than waste half your colleagues from the National Institute
day lazily plodding along in the so-
olism for that called “fat-burning zone” on the
of Health & Nutrition in Tokyo, Japan,
set out in search of “the ideal” aerobics
important post- Lifecycle or treadmill, hoping the fat training protocol—one that would most
exercise fat “burn” melts off before you die of boredom, efficiently increase fat burning and car-
you radically pick up the pace and
but not so long that alternate bouts of 20-second maxi-
diovascular fitness. Such a plan, the
researchers believed, should be:
it begins to eat mum-effort sprinting with 10-second
away at your hard- periods of rest. You do eight of these  High intensity. For years, we’ve
gut-busting intervals. And all told, been told that low-effort aerobics is
earned muscle!” excluding the warm-up and cool- the best method for burning fat. New
down, it’ll take you only four short research tells another story. While
minutes a day, three days a week. Yep, studies show high-intensity aerobics
you read right … FOUR lousy minutes may burn a little less fat than its low-
a day, THREE days a week. That’s it!
intensity counterpart during the time
“C’mon, four minutes!?” you say,
actually spent exercising, the total
incredulous as Arnold Schwarzen-
expenditure of calories (and fat!) is up
egger watching an infomercial for the
to 50 percent greater with intense car-
Ab Slide. “Bull——!”
dio.3 You see, most of the fat you burn
I know, I know … in an age when
we’re bombarded by suspect quick-fix with high-intensity cardio occurs after
fat-loss strategies—if you can even exercising, not during the workout
call things like thigh creams, “fat- itself. Research presented in the jour-
blockers” and prescription diet pills in nal Medicine and Science in Sports
and of themselves “strategies” for los- and Exercise shows that when you
ing fat—what I’m proposing is indeed work out using high-intensity inter-
enough to sound most people’s “BS” vals, the total amount of calories your
alarm. I mean, four minutes of cardio body burns is elevated up to 142 per-

56 MUSCLE MEDIA October 2001

Contents Home Search

cent more than low-effort aerobics  Fitness-promoting. The more fit you
within the hour after your workout. become, the more likely you are to use
And it doesn’t stop there. Research fat as fuel for any given activity. Peak fit-
published in the journal Metabolism ness is generally defined as having both
shows this potent post-exercise a high aerobic and anaerobic capacity. measure of aerobic fitness. As exercise
“burn” may persist for up to 48 hours Your maximum oxygen capacity, or VO2 intensity increases beyond your VO2
after exercising.1 peak, is generally considered the best peak, your body shifts to anaerobic
(without oxygen) energy production. In
the face of this oxygen debt, lactic acid
levels build up in tissues, making your
muscles feel sore. Your ability to con-
tinue exercising at this point is called
anaerobic capacity. Notice that athletes
in sports where a high level of both aer-
obic and anaerobic fitness are neces-
sary (wrestling, basketball, boxing,
speed skating, etc.) are some of the
leanest, most muscular individuals
around. Unfortunately, with most of the
cardio programs offered up today, it’s a
case of “either/or.” You either maxi-
mally stress your aerobic system (like
most slow-go cardio programs) or max-
imally stress your anaerobic system
(like most high-intensity cardio pro-
grams with long rest periods). So
clearly, a cardio program that maximally
improves both aerobic and anaerobic
capacity would be a godsend.
 Brief. Too much aerobics burns
muscle! And muscle not only helps
you look leaner and stronger, it also
makes your body more metabolically
active. The ideal cardio program
would be just long enough to “spark”
your metabolism for that important
post-exercise fat “burn” but not so
long that it begins to eat away at your
hard-earned muscle!

In their search for the ideal cardio

program, the Japanese researchers
didn’t have to look far. Interestingly,
just up the road, their countrymen on
the National Speed Skating Team had
been practicing a form of cardio fitting
all of the above attributes for several
years.2 And using it with astonishing
success, given their individual per-
formances at the most recent Winter
Olympics in Nagano, where Japanese
skaters won gold in the men’s 500
meters, bronze in the men’s 1,000
meters and bronze in the women’s 500
meters. More astonishing yet, per-
haps, might be these athletes’ builds— 57
Contents Home Search

muscular, powerful with hardly an To test the effectiveness of this brief

ounce of fat to show for … we’re talk- but brutally intense regimen, Dr.
ing body-fat percentages in the low- to Tabata and colleagues pit it against a
mid-single digits. Freaky lean, almost. moderate-intensity endurance pro-
By now, you can probably guess gram commonly prescribed by advo-
that this “secret” Japanese training cates of the so-called “fat-burning
protocol is similar to the one I intro- zone.”4
duced you to at the beginning of this In the moderate-intensity group,
article—eight intervals of 20-second subjects riding exercise cycles were
maximum-effort sprinting intermixed asked to pedal at 70 percent of VO2
with 10-second periods of rest. That’s peak for an hour a day, five days a
right, four minutes total, excluding the week. VO2 peak and anaerobic capac-
warm-up and cool-down. Intense … ity were measured before and after
fitness-promoting … short … and, as each training session for the duration
you’ll come to discover, not so sweet. of the six-week study.
A second group also exercised five
Putting Guerrilla Cardio to the test days per week—only, these folks
“… 8 very hard 20-second intervals weren’t afforded the luxury of pedal-
with 10-second rest periods may be ing along at such a leisurely pace.
one of the best possible training pro- After a short warm-up, this group was
tocols.”2 made to carry out eight sets of 20-
—Izumi Tabata, Ph.D., National second maximum-intensity sprints on
Institute of Health & Nutrition, an exercise cycle (170 percent of VO2
Tokyo, Japan peak—were’ talkin’ intense, folks!)

58 MUSCLE MEDIA October 2001

Contents Home Search

with only 10-second rests between It’s go time!

each bout. Again, VO2 peak and anaer- Before you get too bright-eyed and
obic capacity were determined before, bushy-tailed at the prospect of doing
during and after the training. “only” four minutes of cardio a day, I Table 1
The results, in some respects, need to warn you—this ain’t as easy
Minutes 1-4:
weren’t too surprising—in others, they as it seems. In fact, Dr. Tabata notes
Warm-up @ 50% of perceived maxi-
were earth-shattering. As to be that even the Japanese speed
mum effort followed by:
expected, the moderate-intensity skaters—who, remember, are Olympic-
endurance-training group experi- caliber athletes—had to “lay down on
Minute 5:
enced a rather significant increase in the floor after the training.”2 Make no
Sprinting for 20 seconds
VO2 peak (about 10 percent), but, also mistake, Guerrilla Cardio is no joke, as
Rest for 10 seconds
not surprisingly, this regimen had you’ll soon find out. But after eight
Sprinting for 20 seconds
absolutely no effect on anaerobic weeks, I’m sure you’ll agree that
Rest for 10 seconds
capacity. On the other hand, the high- your new, chiseled, more muscularly
intensity interval-training group expe- defined physique will have been well
Minute 6:
rienced a stunning 14 percent increase worth the temporary moments of dis-
Sprinting for 20 seconds
in VO2 peak and a 28 percent increase comfort.
Rest for 10 seconds
anaerobic capacity.2,4,5 Outlined in Table 1 is your regi-
Sprinting for 20 seconds
This is believed to be the first study mented Guerrilla Cardio eight-week
Rest for 10 seconds
showing a single cardiovascular regi- system for slashing stubborn body
men improving both aerobic and fat. If you follow the program exactly
Minute 7:
anaerobic power so significantly. how it’s laid out, three Guerrilla
Sprinting for 20 seconds
What’s more, according to the Cardio sessions a week should pro-
Rest for 10 seconds
researchers, the 14 percent increase in duce nice results without delayed
Sprinting for 20 seconds
VO2 peak in only six weeks on the high- gratification. To prevent overtraining,
Rest for 10 seconds
intensity protocol is one of the highest try to incorporate the program on
ever recorded in exercise science.2 your weight training “off days.” For
Minute 8:
Bearing in mind these kind of sci- instance, I train with weights on
Sprinting for 20 seconds
entific results coupled with the real- Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and
Rest for 10 seconds
world examples of the Japanese perform my Guerrilla Cardio sessions
Sprinting for 20 seconds
speed skaters showing this protocol on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
Rest for 10 seconds
as the most efficient and effective mornings, before I eat anything.
path to total fitness (and conse- (Studies show cardiovascular exer-
Minutes 9-12:
quently, fat loss), don’t you think it’s cise performed first thing in the morn-
Cool-down @ 50% of perceived max-
a good idea to “lose” the low-inten- ing, on an empty stomach, burns up
imum effort
sity, long-duration aerobic exercise to three times more fat than the same
and instead give high-intensity amount of exercise performed later in
Now, while Guerrilla Cardio can be
Guerrilla Cardio a go? the afternoon!)
applied to all sorts of activities—the
stationary bike, stairstepper, etc.—I
would highly recommend you stick to
sprinting for a couple of reasons …
“The 14 percent First, all else being equal, sprinting
increase in VO2 peak elicits a significantly higher peak oxy-
gen consumption (VO2 peak) than do
in only six weeks on other modes of cardiovascular exer-
the high-intensity cise, according to researchers from
protocol is one of the the University of Missouri, Columbia,
highest ever who recently compared treadmill
sprinting to high-intensity exercise on
recorded in exercise a stationary skier, shuffle skier,
science.” stairstepper, stationary bike and
rower. This is important because this
new research shows the closer you
come to your VO2 peak while exercis-
ing, the more fat you’ll burn once that
exercise session is over. 59
Contents Home Search

Second, sprinting is tough. In fact, “Sprinting is

it’s so tough, many people actually tough. In fact,
fear doing it, which is exactly why I
recommend it. (Remember, if you it’s so tough,
move away from what you fear, you many people
get weaker. But, when you move actually fear
toward what you fear, you get
doing it, which
Let’s assume you’re going to apply is exactly why I
Guerrilla Cardio to running sprints, recommend it.”
like I do. I work in maximum-effort
“spurts” intermixed with brief periods
of rest, which allow me to somewhat
catch my breath before digging deep
for another gut-busting burst.
For instance, I’ll roll out of bed, put
on my sweats and running shoes, grab
my stopwatch and head to the track.
After a four-minute warm-up jog
around the oval, I’ll take off for my first
20-second sprint, followed by a quick
10-second rest, followed by 20 seconds
of more sprinting, 10 seconds of rest,
and so on, until those unpleasant four Can you see your abs? Are
minutes are up. Then I’ll close it out you winded walking up a
with another four-minute jaunt around flight of stairs? Are you
the track to cool down. And that’s it. fueled by endorphins and
Only 12 minutes total—and just four energy, or are you con-
minutes of relative discomfort. stantly run down, tired and
Personally, I try to go all-out for my uninspired? at long-distance runners, such as
sprints, only because I’ve been doing It reminds me of an old saying … “If marathoners. There’s really no com-
this program for quite awhile. If you you do what you’ve always done, parison, is there? Not only do sprint-
haven’t sprinted since your PE days, I you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” ers have better-built physiques, their
would highly recommend you gradu- I mean, think about it—if those long, body-fat percentages rarely stray
ally, over a period of weeks, work up boring, unfocused exercise routines— above single digits.
to maximum-effort sprinting. If you the type that so many millions of peo- Bearing in mind the scientific
take off like you’re Maurice Greene ple conduct, week in and week out— research and the real-world examples
going for the gold in the 100 meters, were really the best way to burn fat showing the high-intensity, short-
you’ll never make it through the four and increase energy, why, then, do so duration route as the most efficient
minutes, and you’ll probably not make darn many overweight women and and effective path to true and total fit-
it period, unless there’s an EMT at the men who take part in all those aero- ness, not to mention fat loss, don’t you
ready to resuscitate your sorry butt. bics classes, month after month, look think it’s time to add Guerrilla Cardio
Take it easy the first couple times. and feel exactly the same now as they to your training schedule?
Sprint at 80 percent to 90 percent of did a year ago?
References Cited
your maximum effort for the first two Conversely, off the top of your 1
R. Bahr and O.M. Sejersted, “Effect of Intensity on
or three weeks until your heart and head, what words come to mind when Excess Postexercise O2 Consumption,” Metabolism
40.8 (1991) : 836-841.
lungs can handle it. I ask you to think of world-class sprint- 2
C. Bass, “Forget the Fat-Burn Zone: High Intensity
Again, if you are not a well-condi- ers? Speed … Power … Energy … Aerobics Amazingly Effective,” Clarence and Carol
tioned athlete, by all means, check Muscularity … Lean. Right? Truly, Bass,, 1997.
J. Smith and L. McNaughton, “The Effects of Intensity
with your doctor before starting a have you ever noticed that some of of Exercise and Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen
program like this. the leanest, most muscular physiques Consumption and Energy Expenditure in Moderately
Trained Men and Women,” Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 67
around belong to sprinters? Sprinters (1993) : 420-425..
Conclusion who, by the way, avoid long-duration 4
I. Tabata, et al., “Effects of Moderate-Intensity
Endurance and High-Intensity Intermittent Training
When people ask me whether or not endurance exercise like the plague! on Anaerobic Capacity and VO2max,” Med. Sci.
they should give Guerrilla Cardio a go, Compare endurance vs. short-distance Sports Exerc. 28.10 (1996) : 1327-1330.
I. Tabata, et al., “Metabolic Profile of High-Intensity
I simply ask them if they’re happy with speed athletes: Look at the physiques
Intermittent Exercises,” Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 29.3
their current level of physical fitness. of elite 100-meter sprinters and then (1997) : 390-395.

60 MUSCLE MEDIA October 2001