King of Fat Loss Interval Training Declares Best Interval Workout for Fat Loss is…

female athlete bodyQ: What’s the best interval training program for fat loss?

The one that gets you the MOST fat loss results in the least amount of exercise time with minimal or NO equipment.

I’ve tried every high intensity interval training (HIIT) program imaginable…

I’ve even used every piece of equipment (from cardio machines to kettlebells, from medicine balls to farmer walks)…

And I’ve trained thousands of men and women with high-intensity interval training and beginner interval training for every type of goal, from fat loss to marathons, and from bodybuilding to basketball, and I’ve found almost every interval training program works as well as the next.

I still remember when it first “clicked” with me that interval training was an incredible way to burn belly fat. I was a graduate student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, working on a study about androstenedione (the hormone supplement used by slugger Mark McGwire).

At the end of each workday, I changed from mild-mannered graduate student, “Craigory Ballantyne”, into hardcore University Strength Coach, “Craig ‘The Hammer’ Ballantyne”.

(Check out this photo from 1998! It was my “graduate student ID” photo.) craig-ballantyne_98

Around 4pm, I’d meet a bunch of athletes out on the “back 40” for speed training or intense interval training. I put those those guys & girls through some tough workouts, and I was right there beside them, training as hard as they were.

We started around this time of year, mid- to late-March, and kept going for 6 weeks until they all had too many exams to study for, or until they were done school for the year.

Now you might think 6 weeks isn’t enough time to get you in shape for any sport, but research agrees with me. In fact, in one study that I reviewed on my website waaaaaaaaaaay back in 2001 about sport specific interval training showed that 18 sessions of sport specific movement reduced injury in NHL players.

But I’m getting off-topic…back to fat loss interval training. In those 6 weeks, the athletes got into “mid-season” condition, and used hard intensity interval training burned off their belly fat that they had built up during the off-season from sports and during the in-season of beer drinking (as almost every Canadian University student does).

These guys and gals were shocked at how fast they lost stomach fat, and heck, even I was too, because up until that time there was really only one fat loss interval training study in the research journals, and no trainer was talking about interval training on the Internet.

So I stumbled across this secret fat burning workout method quite by accident, although it’s still amazing that today, over 11 years later, I’d guess only 5% of the general fitness population has even heard of interval training and how it can burn belly fat. It’s amazing how much long, slow cardio propaganda we still have to fight against. justsayno_book1

But lately I’ve also noticed a “dark side” to interval training. Too many people think that if “some” interval training is good, then MORE must be better, right? And the answer of course is, “yes and no”.

You only need to do 3 sessions of interval training per week, and the sessions just need to be short and focused on quality interval training. That’s how the fat loss interval training research studies are structured.

If you do 45 minutes of interval training, you are sacrificing quality for quantity, and that type of interval training is best left to marathon runners.

Even with soccer players, the longest interval training program I would use is 4 intervals of 4 minutes, with 3 minutes of recovery between intervals (for a total of 25 minutes – plus a few minutes warm-up and cool-down).

You simply do NOT need to do 45 minutes of interval training in order to lose fat. After all, folks doing those 4 minute interval training sessions (20 seconds hard followed by 10 seconds rest, repeated 8 times) do pretty darn well in the fat burning category, so why spend 1125% more time exercising when you don’t have to?

We all know, or SHOULD all know by now that diet is the most important aspect of fat loss AND “you can’t out-train a bad diet”, so again, the amount of exercise we need to lose fat is a lot less than what most people think.

I’m still partial to my original fat loss programs that used 30-60 second intervals followed by 60 seconds of rest, repeated 6 times. Those tend to work well on machines (where most people do intervals) and they give great results, and they are over relatively quickly (less than 20 minutes total exercise time).

However, even this old dog needs to learn a few tricks and I’m pushing the envelope to see how LITTLE interval training exercise is need ed to help you burn belly fat. So look for lots of new “in house” interval training experiments to take place in the Turbulence Training world.

You’re already seeing a few of them “come to life”, such as the bodyweight intervals in the Turbulence Training for Buff Dudes and Hot Chicks program. Buff Dudes and Hot Chicks workout

Keep your eye out for more creative interval programs that follow the #2 rule for fat loss programs:

The best program is the one that gets you the MOST fat loss results in the least amount of exercise time with minimal or NO equipment.

And never forget the #1 rule:

You can’t out-train a bad diet.

Diet is STILL the key to fat loss and I’m just here to make your workouts interesting,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Click here for the coolest, fastest, fat burning workouts

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  • CB classic over-trainer here. Looking forward to seeing the “how little” info.

    • Phil

      I’ve been doing intervals since before we called them intervals, going back to my competitive days (wrestler, college and national level) in the late 70’s early 80’s. Even during long sessions of jumping rope years later, I would do ‘sprints’ to get the heart rate up.

      Most recently, over the last year and a half, I’d been doing stairs. I find these to be a GREAT interval workout, and one you can mix up as often as you’d like. For example there are 72 steps from the floor to the roof of the building I work in. At the end of the day, I change and head to a back stairwell. I walk a flight of 72, jog down then I’ll ‘mix it up’. Some days I’ll run up and down twice, then sprint up once taking 2 steps at a time (takes between 18 to 19 seconds to get to the top), 6 sets of these, then walk again to cool down. 20 total flights (actually the 72 steps is 3 flights, so it’s really 60, but I count the full 72 steps as a single flight). Takes roughly 24 minutes, give or take a minute. Other days I’ll walk one, run 4 and sprint 2, do 3 sets of these. Again 20 total ‘flights’, takes around 24 minutes, but the back to back sprints change things up. Some days I’ll do a ‘one for one’, meaning run one sprint one, other days I’ll run a bunch, then in the middle (around the 11 minute mark) I’ll sprint 5 in a row, then go back to running for the last 8 or 9 minutes. Sometimes I throw push-ups into the mix, usually at the top of the steps after a sprint leg.

      All in all it’s a great workout, really good for overall fitness.

  • Andre

    hey craig i started using interval training about 2 weeks ago since i am trying to get in shape and quick for a police obstacal course that i hope to have to run in about a month. anyways i have been doing a 3 min warm up (3mph) followed by 1 min hard (10 mph) 2minutes low (3-3.5) … and a 5 minute cool down for a total of 18 minutes. but i was wondering what you thought of a 3 min warmup (3 mph) 3 min hard (10 mph 6 min mile) 3 min easy (3 mph) … and a 3 min cool down??? the obstical course is a 1/2 mile and i want to be able to get through it in record time last time i ran it in 4 minutes and 02 seconds but i would love to shave it down to 3:20 or below. any help you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Hi Andre!

      You would be better off simulating the obstacle course as much as possible. First, you should run on real ground, not the treadmill. Second, you should analyze the course for your strengths and weaknesses, and work on the technical aspects. That will get you more results than treadmill intervals of any kind.


  • Juan V

    Have any good, effective off season training guidelines and workout for a potential college soccer player? I am a big fan of TT and want to tailor it to soccer. Any ideas?

  • Andre

    thank you craig, that was just what i needed.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      happy to help!

  • Al S

    Since i do my bodyweight circuits at home and i am too cheap to buy a 300 dollar cardio machine to do my interval training, can i use a jump rope for my interval training? Or do you have any other ideas that i can do my interval training and not have to spend a bunch of money on to get results? Thanks!

  • Al S

    So are you saying that along with my traditional bodyweight circuits I can do bodyweight intervals as well? Isn’t that sort of the same thing? I’m confused.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      i missed that you were already doing circuits. we use circuits in place of traditional intervals. so you don’t need to do both

  • Al S

    So you are saying that my bodyweight circuits act as both resistence training and interval training? Cool. Like hitting two birds with one stone.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Depends on the person and the exercises.

  • Al S

    Thanks. By the way, i read your latest diet article on fruit and veggies and it mmade more sense than anyother article i have read. Fruits and veggies: plain and simple.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      thanks Al, glad you liked it!

  • Jason

    Hey Craig,

    I really enjoyed reading your article and had a question. Last April I was up to 350 pounds (the most I’ve ever weighed in my entire life). Since then I dropped 55 pounds, ran 2 half marathons, a stair climb, and back in the gym at least 3 times a week. One of my toughest things though is putting together a proper diet plan that balances good calories with enough energy to keep pushing. I’ve noticed lately, that I’m not losing much weight, but still losing size. Can you recommend any diet plans to help me with reaching my goal of being back to 250? Thanks in advance for your help!

  • I LOVE HIIT and it works better than anything else! I am glad that you are sharing the good news and trying to help people around the world get the most out of their routines. I encourage this type of training daily and only a few actually let it absorb. The rest of the people continue to have flat/flabby butts because all they do is jog for hours! Thanks again


  • RayLee

    Would like to know what HIIT video would you recommand.

    • What do you mean? For instruction or follow along training?