Want to get rid of that stubborn muffin top that doesn’t seem to get with the program like the rest of your body? No, we aren’t going to talk about the latest fad for problem areas; we already know spot reducing is a myth. But what will it take to shed stubborn belly fat? Well, if you want to stop sucking it in, you are going to have to suck wind… literally. Find a steep hill and in a few weeks you’ll know why hill sprints are your new best friend for shedding belly fat.
Get Greater Results in Less Exercise Time
As a form of HIIT (high-intensity interval training), hills sprints are short workouts with alternating intervals of high-intensity sprinting uphill to elevate the heart rate to 75-85% of maximum capacity, followed by intervals of moderate-to-low intensity jogging or walking downhill to allow the heart rate to come down. When going “all out” in this fashion, you are literally gasping for breath because you are pushing your body to its limits. In short bursts that is a good thing because you are now operating under the “afterburn” principle, scientifically referred to as EPOC, exercise post-exercise oxygen consumption.
To quote a recent article on the topic, “The most recent study [on HIIT training], out of Australia, reported that a group of females who followed a 20-minute HIIT program consisting of eight-second sprints followed by 12 seconds of rest lost an amazing six-times more body fat than a group that followed a 40-minute cardio program performed at a constant intensity of 60% MHR.” Pretty interesting findings.
The way the “afterburn” effect works is when you are sprinting so hard that you are literally out of breath and muscles are “burning” from the build-up of lactic acid, your body goes into overdrive to make up for the oxygen deficit and clear out the lactic acid. Making up the oxygen deficit can take up to 16-24 hours post workout, resulting in greater calories burned than if you did cardio for a longer time at a lower intensity.
But don’t toss out your low-intensity steady state (LISS) cardio just yet. Because if you really want to shed stubborn belly fat, you will want to follow up your hill sprints with good ol’ LISS cardio either right after or later in the day. With this winning cardio combo, its “bye, Felicia” to that muffin top.
Easy to Do In and Out of the Gym
Just find a hill. The steeper the better. The steeper the hill, the harder you have to work on the way up, but, the longer the way down for an extended “rest” period. When Mother Nature decides you need to take your belly-fat shredding indoors, do your hills sprints on an inclined treadmill.
Easier on Joints
Unlike running for miles and miles, hills sprints don’t put as much strain on joints. The impact is interrupted with longer rest periods than higher-intensity activity.
When to Do Hill Sprints
Cardio of any form, especially hill sprints, should be done after a weightlifting session. You want to make sure there is enough fuel in your muscle’s tank to perform the exercises. The danger of not doing it this way could result in muscle loss as your body may break down precious muscle tissue for energy to compensate for lack of glycogen used up during your sprints.
Get Started with Hill Sprints
Once you find your hill, your mini Everest, warm up for 10 minutes or so by performing 5 sets of 5-10 reps of exercises such as arm circles, jumping jacks and burpees. Be sure to include dynamic stretches.
To avoid injury, make sure your form is solid.
- Head up and eyes forward. Our bodies tend to follow the path of our eyes so make sure to look straight ahead.
- Remember you’re doing this for a tight and lean belly so keep your core engaged and abs tight, but allow yourself room to breathe.
- Keep your chest up and don’t hunch your shoulders.
- Arms should be at a 90-degree angle and move them up and down in rhythm with your body.
- Don’t sway or waddle. Knees should be up high as you run and hips should be kept forward.
- Use the balls off your feet to push explosively with every step. Don’t let heels make contact with the ground.
When starting out, we recommend doing no more than 5 sprints at about 75% of your maximum effort on your first day. During each session increase your intensity with every sprint so you don’t burn out on your first pass. Start with two sprints a week and work your way up to four or five sprints over a period of a few months.
The Cool Down
Cool down for 10-15 minutes until heart rate returns to normal. Hydrate and perform some static stretching.
Add a Challenge
So you’re a hill-sprinting badass, sprinting up to four to five times a week and now you want a bit of challenge. Try these:
- Wear a weighted vest
- Increase the distance/ time of sprint
- Decrease rest/ descent
- Do bodyweight exercises like squats or push-ups before sprinting uphill.
These same challenges can be added to hill intervals done on a treadmill. Remember to add LISS cardio like walking on a treadmill or stationary bike right after your sprints or later in that same day. If hill sprints are your best friend for shedding belly fat, LISS is its partner in fat-fighting crime.