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There’s no denying that the treadmill is a fantastic tool for burning bodyfat and helping you uncover your hard-wrought muscle mass. But many Muscle & Fitness faithful are lovers of iron—you love to get your hands on heavy dumbbells and loaded barbells as often as possible. As far as you’re concerned, any time not spent waging war against some kind of resistance is futile. Devoted gym rats such as yourself enjoy building muscle while torching bodyfat, rather than programming in an extra half-hour for an entirely separate pursuit.
For you, we have just the answer. By piecing together the following high-intensity, power-based movements in circuit fashion, you can build muscle and eat away at bodyfat more efficiently than by just running or biking. The M&F Ironclad Cardio program will not only help you burn more bodyfat but will also leave you with a distinctively more refined and athletic physique. After all, if you had your choice between big-daddy dumbbell swings and another mindless jaunt on the conveyor belt, which would you choose? That’s what we thought.
By now you should be familiar with the term HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. It’s a type of cardio in which you perform short intervals of high-intensity exercise followed by short intervals of low-intensity work, or recovery. For example, on the treadmill you’d alternate about 60 seconds of sprinting with 30-60 seconds of slow walking until you reach your desired total time. Volumes of research show that HIIT cardio burns more fat than cardio done at a steady pace, even when the steady pace is maintained for a longer period.
Leave it to us to boost the effectiveness—and brutality—of an already effective workout. The M&F Ironclad Cardio program uses the same basic interval scheme as HIIT, but running shoes are optional. We’re swapping out boring treadmill or bike sessions for hardcore exercises that’ll hit every muscle fiber in your body to burn more bodyfat and send your strength and conditioning off the charts.
This program also addresses two of the main drawbacks of traditional cardio: 1) It’s not as effective at burning calories postworkout as weight training; and 2) most programs really work only your lower-body musculature, thus limiting the total release of fat-burning enzymes.
Weightlifting boosts your metabolic rate (calorie-burning) higher and for longer after a workout than cardio does, research shows. One reason is that weights provide resistance, which is what causes the muscles to become taxed, both biochemically and mechanically. This is why many calories are expended to get the muscle fibers back to their original condition and beyond. Typical cardio, like running, does provide resistance as your legs propel your body and absorb the landing, but not to the same degree as resistance training.
Most cardio is a labor of legs: running, cycling, StepMill, etc. What about the rest of your muscle mass? Selective weight training allows you to broaden the scope of the muscles you want to involve. And the more muscles in need of recovery, the more calories that are burned to fuel that recovery process over the next several hours to days. Hitting more muscles also engages more fat-burning enzymes, poten-tially doubling their activity in your body, which means an instant increase in fat-burning.
The M&F Ironclad Cardio program will mimic a HIIT cardio scheme. You simply do an exercise for one minute followed by 30 seconds or less of active rest (however long it takes you to get to and set up the next exercise), then you do the next exercise for one minute, and so on.
We’ve selected three exercises each for upper body, lower body, whole body and core. To keep yourself well-rounded, we suggest you do the same number of exercises in each group, with a minimum of one and a maximum of three. In other words, it’s probably not best to perform upper-body exercises exclusively in one session, lest you defeat the purpose of maximizing your muscular recruitment. Instead, stick to our game plans as outlined here. These programs feature the proper balance of exercises to get your heart rate up while chiseling away at stubborn blubber.
These workouts are short, but don’t let that fool you. Even the beginner program, at just more than 12 minutes (including active rest), promises to kick you between your kettlebells. Once you become more familiar with the rigors of these routines, feel free to swap out exercises within the same group. (For instance, it’s okay to replace the weight plate woodchop with the plank.)
We recommend performing one of these workouts 2-3 times a week on days when you’re not training regularly. Here’s a sample split:
1 Chest, back, abs
2 Ironclad Cardio
3 Legs, shoulders
4 Ironclad Cardio
5 Arms, abs
6 Ironclad Cardio
To really spike your metabolism, occasionally perform an Ironclad Cardio workout after your normal weight-training routine. Each program has some guidelines for progression, but as a general rule you’ll aim to perform more reps, use more weight or increase the intensity of every exercise to continue making gains. The programs listed here offer different levels of work, but you can also implement the suggested intensity markers to make your routine more difficult. Once you can complete a workout in relative comfort, it’s time to up the ante.
Complete these circuits twice, performing each exercise listed for one minute straight. Rest only long enough to get to the next move. Once you can comfortably finish three cycles of a given workout, increase the intensity of the exercises, aim to complete more reps, add more weight or swap out the moves for new ones in the same group.