Lose belly fat and improve your health by doing strength training and high-intensity intervals. Compelling research shows that the BEST way to get rid of belly fat is to train with hard but short bursts of exercise, a style that taps into the anaerobic energy system more than the aerobic.
Burn More Belly Fat with Sprint Intervals
Several convincing studies show that high-intensity anaerobic interval training is the best conditioning strategy for losing belly fat. In contrast, one research group that has conducted a number of experiments comparing aerobic and anaerobic training for belly fat loss write, “Disappointingly, aerobic exercise protocols have led to negligible fat loss.”
Anaerobic interval training is effective for fat loss because it taps into different energy pathways than aerobic exercise. High-intensity exercise such as weight lifting and sprinting enhance the body’s production of enzymes involved in fat breakdown, and activate pathways that lead to muscle development.
For example, a 2007 study showed that in as little as 2 weeks, active women who performed interval training experienced a 36 percent increase in the use of fat for fuel during exercise.
Lose Belly Fat With Sprint Intervals: The Evidence
The following are examples of the superiority of anaerobic interval training for belly fat loss from the research:
- A 12-week high-intensity interval training program produced a 17 percent decrease in belly fat in overweight young men. Subjects lost 1.5 kg of belly fat and 2 kg of total fat, while building 1 kg of muscle. Fat burning increased by 13 percent due to the 3-day a week program of 20-minutes of cycling in which the subjects sprinted for 8 seconds and then did 12 seconds of recovery.
- The same 20-minute cycling interval program produced 2.5 kg of fat loss in young women in 15 weeks, and the majority of the fat loss come from the legs and abdominal area. The sprint intervals were compared to a steady-state aerobic program that produced no fat loss.
- A 16-week study had trained athletes perform either a sprint interval protocol or steady-state running four days a week. The sprint interval group lost 16 percent or 1 kg of visceral fat as well as 2 kg of total fat, compared to the endurance group that lost no belly fat, but did lose 1.4 kg of lean mass. The belly fat loss appears to be small, but be aware that subjects were lean, trained athletes to begin with and had less belly fat to lose than overweight subjects.
- An 8-week interval program using both high- and moderate-intensity intervals decreased belly fat by 44 percent in middle-aged men with type 2 diabetes. Subjects increased quad muscle size by 24 percent and improved insulin sensitivity by 58 percent—a dramatic improvement that highlights the other mechanisms involved in belly fat loss (muscle building, insulin health & blood sugar management).
Sprints Take Less Time than Aerobic Exercise
Not only does anaerobic training help you lose MORE belly fat, it helps you lose it FASTER and with LESS training time. Repeatedly, studies show that more fat loss is achieved in high-intensity programs that use 20 to 25 minutes of training time than those that use 45 or 50 minutes of aerobic training time.
Scientists write that anaerobic intervals are overwhelmingly preferable to aerobics for producing belly fat loss, and that the estimated optimal dose of aerobic exercise necessary to lose belly fat appears to be 3,780 calories expended per week. This is an high volume of exercise that would require 1 hour of moderate intensity aerobic cycling 7 days a week to burn 550 calories a day so that you could lose even a pound a week!
In less than half the time you can get better results with anaerobic training. A 1994 study is indicative of this: Participants did either 20 weeks of aerobic training or 15 weeks of intervals (15 sprints for 30 seconds each) and lost nine times more body fat and 12 percent more visceral belly fat than the aerobic group.
What is so interesting about this study is that the energy cost of the aerobic program over the whole study period was 28,661 calories, whereas for intervals it was less than half, at 13,614 calories. In less time, the interval group lost much more weight—nine times more weight.
How do researchers explain it?
Aside from greater fat oxidation and afterburn, hormone response plays a major role…
Sprints Improve Hormone Response
Sprint intervals and anaerobic exercise in general improve your entire endocrine system. Both training modes enhance the cells’ sensitivity to insulin, making anaerobic training a successful treatment for diabetes.
Perhaps most important, anaerobic exercise also elevates growth hormone (GH) —a powerful fat burning hormone—much more than aerobic training. GH is released by the body in greater quantities in response to physical stress above the lactate threshold, which is the reason sprints are so effective.
Another hormone called adiponectin that is released from fat tissue during exercise also helps burn fat. Emerging scientific evidence shows that any time you perform forceful muscle contractions, adiponectin is released, which acts as a “master switch” that enhances muscle and metabolic functions, thereby burning belly fat.
Strength Train to Lose Belly Fat
If you dislike interval training, you can still trim your midsection by doing strength training with a high volume, using large muscle groups, and short rest periods. This metabolically intense type of training is fantastic for increasing GH and aiding belly fat loss.
You will get results from a resistance training program that includes the following components:
- Multi-joint lifts such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, split squats, step-ups, chin-ups, pulls, and chest presses. Add isolation exercises only if you have extra time.
- Train with a higher volume—work up to more than 4 sets per exercise. Shoot for 24 to 32 total sets per training session.
- Train with a higher intensity—include some training in the 70 to 85 percent of the 1RM range.
- Include short rest periods (30 to 60 seconds) and always train a “finisher” that requires near maximal effort for more GH response (25 reps of squats or 2 minutes of leg presses, for example).
- Count tempo for every lift so that you apply a specific amount of tension to the muscles. In general, opt for longer (4 second) eccentric tempos and short or explosive concentric tempos.
- Shoot for 3 to 4 hours of total training time per week, which includes resistance training and a few short sprint sessions.
Anaerobic Training Is More Fun & Less Boring than Aerobic Exercise
Intervals and strength training take less time and provide much more variety than aerobic training.
Not only are you doing many different exercises in a strength training session, but you are pushing yourself to reach new personal bests. When you see how it can transform a fat belly into a lean, cut midsection, you will be that much more motivated to continue!
In addition, although sprint interval training can be mentally challenging, it only requires a short workout. Plus, most people enjoy feeling powerful and fast from going all out. Get a training partner to help push you through the hard parts and know that by working hard but smart, you will get better results.
Mix It Up with Modified Strongman, Varied Strength Protocols & Sprints
A few more anaerobic training suggestions to lose belly fat include the following:
- Try modified strongman training: Do sled training, tire flips, and a heavy farmer’s walk.
- Mix up strength training protocols with circuit training and supersets that use very short rest periods. For example, do supersets with 10 seconds rest when switching from the agonist to the antagonist exercise and 60 seconds between sets.
- Try a sprint training workout in which you do 20 second all-out sprints with 10 seconds rest in 4 sets of 4 intervals. Rest 3 to 4 minutes between sets.
- Try hill or stair running in which you sprint up as fast as possible and jog down—repeat immediately. Do 8 to 16 reps.
- Try a sprint-endurance workout with six to eight 200-meter sprints (about 30 seconds each) with a 3 to 4 minute recovery.
There is overwhelming evidence that belly fat loss is best achieved with anaerobic exercise that is with a high, but varied intensity. Be mindful of nutrition, train hard, and see the belly fat melt away!
- belly fat
- body composition
- body fat
- fat loss
- interval training
- modified strongman
- resistance training
- sled training
- sprint intervals
- strength training
- training partner
- weight loss