Cardioacceleration: Burn More Fat in Less Time

fat burning with cardioacceleration
Get shredded with no additional cardio time using this revolutionary high-intensity technique.

Updated July 5, 2018

Most of you who know that my stance on cardio is that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is definitely the way to go. For the many reasons why this form of cardio is far superior than long (and boring) steady state cardio such as walking, jogging or using an elliptical machine for 30 minutes straight (or even longer), read my article on the science of HIIT.

But you may notice that I talk and write a lot about a form of cardio I call Cardioacceleration. Many of you are confused about whether or not I now prefer cardioacceleration and have abandoned HIIT. Before I answer that question, let me first explain what cardioacceleration is.

Combine Cardio with Weightlifting to Accelerate Fat Loss

Cardioacceleration refers to doing intervals of cardio (usually 30-60 seconds) in between sets of resistance exercise. So for example, on chest day, you would do one set of the bench press. Then instead of sitting on your butt for a full 2-3 minutes doing nothing, you perform 30-60 seconds of cardio. This allows your chest to fully recover while you are performing some mode of cardio that typically involves the legs.

So you've eventually completed 30-60 seconds of cardio while you would have normally been just sitting there counting minutes or jawing with your buddies. And you can multiply those 30-60 seconds of cardio by the number of sets you complete in each workout. If you train chest, triceps and abs, and do 12 sets for chest, 9 sets for triceps, and 9 sets for abs, and completed 60 seconds of cardio, then you just completed 30 minutes of cardio DURING your chest, triceps, and abs workout. And now you don't have to spend extra time doing cardio after the weight workout is over. You can go home knowing you've done your weight training AND your cardio, all in one fell swoop.

You can see cardioacceleration in action in many of my training programs, including Micro Muscle and my Cardioacceleration Band Workout. But these are only the tip of the iceberg as far as my recommendations on this great fat-burning technique. I advise doing cardioacceleration on most of my training programs for those looking to maximize fat loss. Just one example of this is my Super-Man 2 program. I didn't actually write it into the workouts, but in the overview I recommend cardioacceleration it as an option.

Cardio Between Sets Can Reduce DOMs

A question I get a lot about doing the cardioacceleration is whether or not it will zap your strength on the resistance exercises. As I already mentioned, while you are doing the cardio, your target muscle group is resting. In fact one study from the University of California Santa Cruz suggests that doing cardioacceleration can actually enhance recovery. It may even help you grow bigger! The UC Santa Cruz researchers found that subjects doing cardioacceleration between sets of free-weight exercises had far less delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) than those just resting in between sets.

Now, you may not care much about DOMS. But the point here is why cardio-acceleration reduces DOMS. The researchers suggested that the cardioaccelration increased blood flow to the working muscles, which delivered more nutrients like glucose and amino acids, as well as oxygen, to the muscles to help them recover better. Coincidently, delivering more nutrients, especially amino acids, to the muscles during workouts can help them grow bigger. So the answer is no, doing cardioacceleration will not zap your strength; in fact, it may actually enhance your recovery as well as your muscle growth and strength gains. Personally, I've noticed that I'm bigger, stronger and leaner than I've ever been since I started using cardioacceleration.

Cardio Between Sets Improves Recovery

As the above study showed, cardioacceleration is basically active recovery. By exercising between lifting sets, more blood is circulating to and from the muscles. This keeps more oxygen and nutrients going to the muscles and more waste products being pulled away from them, which allows the muscle fibers to recover better and quicker between sets than when you just sit there. That’s why people end up getting stronger when implementing cardioacceleration, even when dieting, such as with my 1-2-3 Lean program (aka Shortcut to Shred).

If this all sounds anecdotal to you, trust me, it’s not. This isn’t just some technique I thought sounded cool and decided to try out for fun. (Because trust me, it’s not always fun!)

Since the University of California-Santa Cruz study, even more research has come out supporting cardioacceleration. One study in particular out of Brazil investigated active recovery between sets of bench press. Researchers had 12 subjects either perform bench step-ups or take complete rest between four sets of bench press where 80% of their one-rep max (1RM) was used. They reported in a 2014 issue of the Journal of Human Kinetics that when the subjects performed the active recovery between sets (cardioacceleration), they had blood lactate levels that were up to around 25% lower than when they took complete rest.

These results were due to a better clearing of lactate resulting from greater blood flow to and from the muscles and better conversion of lactate into a usable energy source by the muscles. Despite the lower lactate levels, the subjects did not experience any performance benefits, such as more reps performed or producing more power on the bench press sets. Earlier studies have shown similar reductions in lactate levels with some accompanying performance benefits as well.

This study provides a glimpse into how cardioacceleration helps you get stronger while leaning out. By helping to keep lactate levels lower by doing active recovery between sets, the muscles will essentially have more “left in the tank” for subsequent sets. This will help you complete more total reps per workout, which can make a big difference in your results for strength, muscle growth, endurance, and fat loss.

While it may be surprising to some that there were no performance benefits reported in the aforementioned Brazil study, that’s exactly what I would’ve expected to see. The subjects in the study had never used active rest between sets of weight training. In fact, they weren’t even trained lifters. When people first start using cardioacceleration, they typically see a slight decrease in strength and endurance during the workout because they’re not used to doing so much activity. The extra work crammed into basically the same amount of time is so taxing that the reduction in lactate levels doesn’t offer any benefit. However, after a week or two of using cardioacceleration, the extra activity is no longer taxing on the body and the reduced lactate levels start to improve recovery between sets—and as a result, you get stronger.

Sometimes you have to take a small step back before you can move forward. In this case, it takes some time for your body to acclimate to the boost in intensity that comes from cardioacceleration.

Although some people think that cardioacceleration is nothing short of pure magic, the science clearly shows how it works to drop fat effectively and efficiently while also allowing you to get stronger and enhance muscle size and endurance. Not bad for something you do when you’d normally be sitting on your ass wasting time!


Cardioacceleration Is HIIT

So back to the question of whether or not I've abandoned HIIT in favor of cardioacceleration. The answer is no. Cardioacceleration IS HIIT! Remember, you're doing 30-60 second intervals of cardio. And then moving on to something else. And then coming back to the cardio. Those are intervals. And because those intervals only last 30-60 seconds, you can do them at a high intensity. Since cardioaccleration involves intervals of cardio done at a high intensity, cardioacceleration is essentially HIIT. It's just another form of HIIT that you can do. Plus, on days that I don't hit the weights I still do my power cardio workouts. If you are not familiar with my power cardio routine, check out my Power HIIT article.

Regardless of the training program you're currently following, I suggest that you give cardioacceleration a try. Since I started using it, I can tell you that I will rarely ever do a weight workout without using cardioacceleration. When I sit around in between sets doing nothing, I feel like I am wasting time and even impeding my recovery and the results I am getting. I assure you that once you have adopted to this style of training you too will find it difficult to every go back.

Watch my video explaining and demonstrating cardioacceleration

Cardio Between Sets Is More Convenient

One worry that most people have regarding cardioacceleration is that it's difficult to swap from the weight exercise to the cardio exercise in a crowded gym. But this is not true: As long as you are creative with your cardioacceleration exercise choices. Many people think that cardioacceleration means you have to jump on the treadmill or stationary bike, or elliptical in between sets. Yes, you can use these cardio machines, but you don't have to. One of my favorite cardioacceleration exercises is simply running in place (trying to keep it intense by keeping the pace fast and my knees high) in between sets. I can do this right next to the bench or machine I am using and not lose my station.

Here's a list of many exercises that you can use for cardioacceleration. I suggest that you alternate frequently for variety. I also suggest you think outside the box to come up with some versions that work for you.

For more cardioacceleration tips, watch the video below

Cardioacceleration for Beginners

My 1-2-3 Lean, AKA Shortcut To Shred program, introduced millions to the concept of cardioacceleration. Since then, cardioacceleration has revolutionized the way people view cardio. Cardio was always considered a separate entity in workout programs that was done at some time other than when you trained with weights. Some do their cardio right after they hit the weights. Some do their cardio right before they hit the weights. And some keep their cardio and weight training separated by a few hours or even do it on separate days from when they train with weights. But cardioacceleration combines weight lifting AND cardio at the same time.

While Shortcut To Shred is a great program for those interested in melting off body fat while building muscle and strength, it is a fairly advanced program. It's certainly one that beginners may not want to jump into and hit the ground running.

As I said above, for beginners especially there can be an adjustment period when introducing the intensity of cardioacceleration to your training regimen. Beginners will need a stepping-stone program that will prep them for the rigors of a program like Shortcut To Shred, yet will be intense enough to spur fat loss and boost muscle growth, strength, and endurance.

My Beginner Cardioacceleration Program is the perfect plan for beginners or those trying to get back into weight lifting who want to maximize fat loss while gaining lean muscle mass, increasing muscle strength and boosting muscle endurance.

You'll pair two exercises that you will do back-to-back with little to no rest between exercises. This is sometimes referred to as supersets. You will tackle eight exercises pairs, or supersets, for a total of 16 exercises per workout. The first exercise will serve as your "weight exercise" and the second exercise will serve as your "cardio" exercise for most exercise pairs.

In each workout, you will also perform an exercise pair that is designed to "prehab" common weak links in the body.

"Prehab" is a term that refers to training a muscle group in order to prevent injuries. The three most common areas of weakness on our bodies—and therefore the areas that often flare up and are painful, whether from repetition in training or in our daily lives—are the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder girdle, the tibialis anterior muscle on front of the shin (which often flairs up as shin splints), and the lower traps, which can lead to neck and shoulder pain from daily activity.

To target the rotator cuffs, you will pair cable external and internal rotation exercise. To target the tibialis anterior you will pair cable toe raises with standing calf raises, and for the lower traps you will pair straight-arm pushdowns with shrugs. Instead of focusing on reps each set, you will simply clock yourself for time.

In Phase 1, Weeks 1 and 2 of the program, you will clock yourself for 30 seconds per exercise and try to keep rest time between all exercises to a minimum. In Phase 2, Weeks 3 and 4 you step it up to increase the time of each exercise to 45 seconds. And then in Phase 3, Weeks 5 and 6 you ramp up time again to 60 seconds per exercises.

Your goal in the second week of each phase is to try to use slightly heavier weight and/or complete more reps in that time frame than you did in the first week of that phase. Just don't increase the weight so much that it becomes difficult to perform reps before the time is up on each set. In the next week, you'll have to increase the time of each set by 15 seconds. So be sure to hold back a bit on the weight. And it's always better to err on the side of going too light than too heavy, especially in Phase 1, Week 1.

In my Workouts section of the site, you can click on each exercise and read how to perform the exercise and see me demonstrate how to do it. However, some of the exercises are a bit more tricky. So I've included some videos below for a few of the exercises for a more in-depth breakdown:

The Kettlebell Swing

Smith Machine Hang Power Clean

Straight-Arm Pushdown

Whole-Body Training

The Beginner Cardioacceleration Program uses a whole-body training split, which means that each workout you train all the body's major muscle groups.

You'll do one exercise for most major muscle groups and two exercises in a few cases. But each week, you will do three completely different workouts that target all the body's major muscle groups. This way each muscle group is targeted from a variety of angles and there is less boredom.

This program is scheduled to increase the exercise time every two weeks. However, you can certainly take longer than two weeks with the current time you are using on each exercise until you feel better adapted and ready to increase it by another 15 seconds.

Whether it takes you the prescribed six weeks or longer, once you are used to doing the exercise pairs for 60 seconds, it's time to graduate to my Shortcut To Size/1-2-3 Lean Program to continue burning more fat and building more muscle size, strength and endurance.

Diet Recommendations

As anyone should know, the results you see in the gym can be enhanced or limited based on the diet you follow. I highly recommend that you use my Dieting 101 article for your diet and supplement regimen. At least read it, by clicking on the link below:

If it seems a bit too complicated for your liking, then jump into my 1-2-3 Lean Diet and Supplement plan, which is a bit simpler to understand and follow. 

The Beginner Cardioacceleration Program

Download Phase 1

Download Phase 2

Download Phase 3



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