LIFTING SMART SERIES: Maximizing fat loss by doing cardio, specifically HIIT


It may not seems obvious and if anyone says cardio is killing you gains, throw a dumbbell at them (Just Kidding). But seriously, ignore their advice. If you don’t do cardio, then you will never reach your full muscle building potential. Cardio helps with the following

1) Remove fat: Whats the point of building muscle if you can’t see them? You need to get rid of fat and cardio will help you do it.

2) Increasing lifting intensity: To build muscle you need to progressively increase the intensity with which you lift weight. This can be done by increasing weight, reducing rest interval, increasing training frequency or by using many other techniques that I will discuss in another post. But the common factor across all of them is to increase your intensity. Increase in intensity requires increase in VO2 max (VO2 max is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense, or maximal exercise). The best way to increase oxygen utilization is to increase VO2max. The best way to increase VO2max is to do specific type cardio called HIIT.

3) Keeps your heart healthy: Pretty self explanatory.



HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. The word “intensity” is in the definition . HIIT is a training technique in which you give your maximum effort for short interval, followed by short active recovery periods. You repeat this process several times. HIIT helps you keep heart rate up and increase fat burning.

You can read more about HIIT and its benefit in American College of Sport Medicine research article here. Now you will find lot of information on doing HIIT but it won’t be in context of lifting weights. So here is the common questions that we get for people doing HIIT while they are lifting weights:

Q: Should I do HIIT Training pre-workout, post-workout or any other time.
A: It really depends on you. You will see same benefits irrespective of when you do HIIT. I personally do HIIT pre-workout. It acts as my warmup. Moreover, I personally realized that if I to do HIIT post-workout, I sub-consciously reduce intensity of my workouts. Also I like to do HIIT with my lifts. That way I am not in gym 2 times a day.

Q: Should I do HIIT empty stomach?
A: Not a hard rule but I would recommend it. As this is high intensity workout, if you do it full stomach, you run the risk of puking. If you still plan to eat something, have a meal atleast 30-45 minutes before the workout.

Q: How often should I do HIIT?
A: As its only 20 minutes long, you can do it either alternate day. If you are intermediate, try to do 5 days per week. But the best formula is to do same days that you are lifting. So if you are doing a 4 day workout plan, do it 4 days. There is no disadvantage of doing it more. Make sure to give your body proper rest so it can recover from the workouts.

Q: Can I do HIIT with strength training workouts?
A: Yes.

Q: Can I do HIIT with bodybuilding workouts?
A: Yes.

Q: Can women do HIIT?
A: Yes.

Q: Should I do HIIT on legs day?
A: As I do HIIT pre-workout, I do them on leg days too. You have to judge it yourself. If you have strength in legs, go for it.

Q: When should I not do HIIT?
A: If you are in pain or suffering from DOMS, skip it.

Q: How long should I do HIIT for?
A: 20 minutes HIIT interval is sufficient. Anything longer means you are not putting your full intensity.

Q: I feel dizzy after doing HIIT. What do I do?
A: Either you are not hydrated or don’t have energy.

Q: Can I do HIIT with cycling, outdoor running, swimming etc?
A: Yes you can. But in my experience, its usually hard to maintain intensity when doing HIIT outdoor. Treadmill or machines helps you maintain the pace.

Q: Should I stretch before and after HIIT?
A: Yes. No injury is worth it. Always stretch.

Q: Can I do HIIT indoor?
A: Yes. Best way to do is start with Burpees. Do 10 burpess, walk for 45 seconds and then repeat for 10 intervals.

Q: Will I lose muscle doing HIIT?
A: HIIT is still cardio. You will lose some but nothing significant.

Q: Whats the best way to maximize HIIT results?
A: The best combination to maximize HIIT results is to do following:
1) Do HIIT empty stomach
2) Do it as the 1st thing in the morning after proper stretching.
3) Do atmost 20 minutes.

Q: How to do a HIIT on treadmill?

A: Its pretty simple. All HIIT programs follow same format. It starts with warmup, then 5-6 intervals of high and low intensity and finally 3 minutes of cool down. Here is a 20 minutes HIIT on treadmill.

  1. Perform a 3 minutes warmup. This is walking on treadmill. No running just walking. 
  2. Increase the speed to sprinting pace and sprint for 1 minute.
  3. Decrease the speed to walking speed and walk to 1 minutes.
  4. Repeat step 2-3 for 7 times.
  5. Do 3 minutes of cool down at walking pace.

If you have any more questions, please leave them as comments and we can answer them.