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How much cardio do you really need to do to drop body fat? Turns out, it’s not nearly as much as you may think. In fact, while many women hop on the elliptical machine or head out for a half-hour run to burn calories, their time may be better spent elsewhere. “Steady-state cardio will always have its place, and there’s nothing like being wrapped in a blanket of feel-good endorphins after a long session. But nothing—and I mean nothing—will change the shape and proportions of your body like lifting weights,” says Gunnar Peterson, a Beverly Hills–based trainer whose high-profile client list includes Kim Kardashian and Minka Kelly.
On days when you have to choose between weights and cardio, he adds, the choice is simple. “The afterburn you get from doing a strength workout versus steady-state cardio is akin to having a savings versus a checking account,” explains Peterson. “Strength training will pay better dividends in the long term.”
But if you choose cardio, the type of workout you do can make all the difference in whether or not you shed fat while maintaining lean muscle. “From a true, fat-torching standpoint, sprints are really where it’s at,” Peterson says. “I suggest incorporating them in an ‘unsteady’-state cardio routine whenever possible.”
Still, no well-rounded program can thrive on one form of fitness alone. To truly tap into your fat stores, you need to strike a balance among strength training, intervals, and steady-state cardio. Peterson’s ultimate fat-melting routine, above, combines all three of these fitness elements in one action-packed program. Do it on days you really want to amp up your fat burn and get noticeable results in no time.
Peterson’s Fat-Fighting Workout
Cardio Blast 1: 30 minutes. Start with the cardio of your choice (running, swimming, cycling, rowing, elliptical, etc.), maintaining a challenging-but-doable pace for 10 minutes. Keep your rate of perceived exertion, or RPE, at about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Then add a 30-second sprint after every minute, recovering for 60–90 seconds at a moderate pace, until you reach 30 minutes total.
Pushup, 10-15 reps
Body-weight squats, 20-25 reps
Crunch, 30-50 reps
Jump rope, 50-100 skips (If you’re not good at jumping rope, you can also jump in place without the rope, moving your arms)
Cardio Blast 2:Walk for 30 seconds at a very brisk pace, then sprint for 1 minute; repeat for a total of 10-15 minutes.
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