Intervals vs Cardio with Tom Venuto

Today, I want to share an old interview with you that I did with my
friend Tom Venuto way back in 2003 or 2004. Tom is the author of the
Burn the Fat” that shows you how to burn fat & build muscle at the same time.

The interview covers his thoughts on interval training and cardio training, and I couldn’t agree more with his advice about “experimenting on yourself” to find what works best for you.

CB: Most of my articles and interviews on my sites promote interval training. However, traditional “cardio” has worked for people I know (mostly young guys). In your opinion, how does traditional cardio compare to interval training? What are the pro’s and con’s of each?

Tom Venuto:
Well, I would agree with what Ian King wrote in one of his Q & A columns:

“As to whether you respond best to higher intensity interval training (HIIT) or lower intensity steady state training will depend a lot on you. You should try both (not concurrently) and compare.”

You simply have to experiment. Test and discover for yourself what works best. How do you know what works best if you don’t test it and measure the results? I don’t create my own program based on what the latest research says or what the popular trend is.

I look at the research and pay attention to what’s going on at the “cutting edge,” but I don’t live and breathe by it. I do what produces results, period.

There’s no doubt interval training is highly effective and supported with research. A great benefit of interval training for many people is time efficiency. Another is that it is mentally and physically engaging. Long duration cardio can bore some people to tears.

My personal preference for my own fat loss cardio training is to work at the highest heart rate I can comfortably maintain for the entire duration of the workout, 20-30 minutes.

During pre-contest preparation, I often increase – in a progressive fashion – to as much as 30-45 minutes, so my program to this day is primarily conventional cardio.

I occasionally add in interval training more for variety than anything. I do like stair and hill sprinting though, and have done that for years. Oddly enough, I never really considered it “cardio” – I looked at it more as an adjunct to my leg workouts, although I’m sure I reaped some fat loss benefits from it.

We’ve all seen the research that compares low intensity, long duration cardio to HIIT, and we’ve seen the superiority of HIIT, but I’d like to see some research comparing, let’s say, 20 minutes of HIIT with 30-45 minutes of challenging steady cardio at the top of your target heart zone.

I find this type of cardio extremely effective and I imagine there’s a pretty substantial post workout afterburn in addition to the very large burn of fat calories during the workout.

It’s nice to know, though, that you CAN get a productive workout in just 20 minutes or less with HIIT.

Regardless of whether we’re talking about interval training or conventional cardio, you want to burn as many calories as you can given the time you have.

I definitely don’t believe in the idea that low intensity cardio burns more total fat. That myth has clearly been debunked by the research, even though it still persists.

Naturally, beginners and de-conditioned people need to build some kind of fitness base before doing the really high intensity stuff.

HIIT can be risky for certain people. Simple conventional cardio like walking is fantastic for the elderly and overweight, although cardio shouldn’t take precedence over weight training in any population.

CB: Tom, thank you so much for your suggestions.


Even though this interview is at least 6 years old, Tom’s advice is still as effective now as it was then.

Now take that info and start experimenting on yourself to see what works.

That is winning advice,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

PS – Books I read this weekend on planes & during my travels to and from San Diego (America’s friendliest city):

“The Alchemist” by Paolo Coelho, “Linchpin” by Seth Godin (essential reading for any business owner or employee who wants to become indispensable), and Re-Work (another book for business owners & employees who want more productivity). Also read latest Wired and Fast Company magazines (highly recommend both).

Have a great day!