Want noticeable results in less time? Get the fastest results by combining cardio and sculpting into a single workout (and even a single move). You’ll also get the best kind of bonus benefit: You’ll burn three times more fat than with cardio alone. And to burn calories faster, you have to challenge your body. Here are 5 techniques that will help you get fit and look good — fast!
1. Resistance. The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn. Building muscle is the best way to burn more calories and lose more fat and boost metabolism around the clock. (The post-exercise afterburn from cardio also boosts metabolism, but the effect is comparatively brief.) Incorporating weights in your workouts will give you a more youthful, slim and shapely appearance. Start with a set of 3, 5 and 8 pound dumbbells. As you get stronger, continue to maximize your results by using heavier weights.
2. Four-limb exercises. Pair an upper body sculpting exercise with one for the lower body to save time and burn calories faster. The corkscrew is a good example: "This power move tightens the hips and thighs, strengthens the core and firms the chest, shoulders and back while keeping the heart rate strong. You can’t get more bang for your buck," says The FIRM Master Instructor Rebekah Sturkie. Learn how to do the corkscrew and four other cardio-sculpt moves in this video clip.
3. Muscle confusion. To prevent plateaus and see continuous results, alternate between light-weight, moderate intensity workouts and heavy-weight, high intensity workouts. The light-weight workout burns tons of calories. The heavy-weight workout increases muscle that will burn calories even when you’re not exercising. It’s one way to create "muscle confusion," which will "shock" your body into better, faster results. And you don’t have to do high-impact moves to boost intensity; low-impact moves work just as well if you keep your feet moving while doing overhead arm movements with dumbbells. Adding a balance element to your workout can also help you burn calories faster, as your muscles will have to work harder to keep you stable.
4. Light resistance. You can pack a lot of calorie-burning into a cardio workout by slightly slowing down standing cardio moves and adding basic arm movements while holding dumbbells. “By moving both your upper and lower body together, and adding resistance, you really boost your heart rate and burn more fat and calories without adding more time to your workout,” says The FIRM Master Instructor Alison Davis-McLain, who's created a number of The FIRM's signature cardio-plus-weights workout DVDs and kits.
5. Interval training. You may have heard the theory that if you stay at a steady intensity level throughout your workout, your body goes into fat-conserving mode just after your workout. You can avoid this with interval workouts — changing your intensity level every few minutes. You’ll continue to burn calories long after the workout is over. If you mostly walk, add in some running bursts. If you usually run at a steady pace throughout your workout, add sprints and lunge-walking bursts. If you do aerobics, alternate your sequences with plyometric jumps and slower muscle-toning moves.