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A Simplified Burst Training Workout For Fat Loss

If you’ve followed my writing for any length of time you know that I’m a big advocate of middle age adults utilizing burst training workouts for fat loss.

The reason I’m such an advocate is that I’ve found no more time efficient method of training that has the ability to produce such significant body composition changes.

A lot of people I meet who are unfamiliar with burst training are often somewhat skeptical when I speak about what can be accomplished with workouts lasting 30 minutes or less. There’s still largely this misconception that you have to spend an hour or more in the gym to see much in the way of results.

For a lot of folks this would be doing free weights or machines for 30 minutes and another 30-45 minutes on the stairclimber, elliptical, treadmill, etc.

While I’m certainly not saying these types of routines can’t work with proper progression and program design, it’s by no means the most time efficient or for that matter the most effective way to train.

That is if you’re a middle age or older adult who simply wants to lose excess body fat, tone up and add some lean muscle, along with improving stamina, energy, etc.

And accomplish all of this while juggling the demands of a busy lifestyle, which is an important factor for a lot of us.

More after the jump…

Let’s start with reviewing the three fundamental components of a body transformation.

While I am a big fan of working out at gyms, I also believe that there are specific types of equipment every person must have at home to keep up with their routine when there is no time to workout at the gym. Personally, I prefer calisthenics gear and their diet. This is something that I look to regularly reinforce in the minds of my personal training clients. These three components work in synergy with each other and need to be included together for optimal results.

  • A concern for muscle (resistance training)
  • Improved aerobic capacity (cardiovascular training)
  • Nutrition to support lean muscle (dietary changes)

While some who are “metabolically gifted” can get away with just doing one or two of these things (at least for a while), the majority of folks will need to be working on all three. I’ve seen this time and time again over the past twenty plus years I’ve been consulting with middle age adults.

There’s the woman who struggles to see her body fat go down regardless of how much she “diets” and spends time on the treadmill. Without resistance training and supportive nutrition, lean muscle gets sacrificed resulting in a down-regulation in metabolism (hence a propensity for storing fat instead of burning it).

There’s the man who hits the weights several times a week, but does little to no cardiovascular exercise and lacks adequate dietary changes. The end result of not combining the three components in some way is typically the same…a weight loss plateau or lack of body composition changes.

The pressure of trying to be “perfect” with the diet or find more time to exercise is often what leads even those individuals with the best of intentions to abandon their routines completely. Sooner or later they figure why bother when things aren’t working.

Here’s the reality….you don’t have to be perfect with your diet and if you can find a mere 30 minutes to be physically active 5 times a week, you can see a change in your shape.

If you tell me you can only exercise for 30 minutes or less once or twice a week, there’s not much I can promise you (regardless of how hard you exercise or how clean your diet is). Yeah, maybe you could get away with this when you were in your twenties, but no so much when you’re older.

The call to be physically active for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week, really comes down to priorities and how important your fitness and weight loss goals are to you. Even if that meant getting up a half hour earlier each morning, there’s typically a way if the desire is strong enough.

Ok, for the purpose of this discussion let’s say that 30 minutes is about all you’ve got to cut out of your schedule for exercise. How do you make this work with getting in BOTH resistance and cardiovascular based training?

Enter burst training into the picture.

While there are several ways to complete burst training workouts and numerous variations with this style of training, I’m going to show you quite possibly the most simplistic and easiest method to follow.

This method will work even if you have limited experience with working out and knowledge of how to change things up with your routines.

It’s what I call the “Compound & Cardio Combo” variation of burst training.

This is how it works…

The “compound” segment in the name refers to doing what’s called a compound movement with resistance based training. Think along the lines of doing an exercise that works multiple joints and muscle groups at the same time.

(shown above: dumbbell squat to overhead press- an exercise with two compound movements rolled into one)

For example a squat or lunge would both be considered a compound movement because they’re work multiple leg muscles at the same time. In contrast, a seated leg extension would be an isolation movement because it only works the quadriceps muscles in single joint fashion.

Isolation exercises are great for body building, but unless that’s your thing, you’ll get more bang for your buck by doing primarily compound movements.

The “cardio” segment of the name refers to doing some form of body weight calisthenics or cardio interval with or without equipment. You don’t have to be using a treadmill, elliptical, etc. This could consist of doing something as simple as jumping jacks.

So as you have probably already figured out we’ll be combining the two together. But not just in any old random fashion. Burst training is all about doing short bursts of high intensity effort followed by brief (often incomplete) periods of rest.

Here’s an example of a “Compound & Cardio Combo” burst training workout:

Dumbbell Squat to Overhead Press
Jumping Jacks – 30 seconds

Dumbbell Bent Over Rows
Dumbbell Lunges
Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds

Bench Dips
Dumbbell Goblet Squat
Jump Rope- 30 seconds

Abdominal/Core exercise(s) of choice- 1-2 minutes at end of each round or completed at end.


Ok, so you see there’s a couple of compound movements in each block followed immediately by a 30 second cardiovascular interval. Hence the name “compound and cardio” combo.

The idea is to work through all three exercises in a block with minimal to no rest between movements using a weight amount or set number of repetitions that will challenge you.

You rest for 30-60 seconds after the completion of that block and either repeat again 1-2 more times or move on to the next block in circuit fashion.

The abdominal/core exercises can be incorporated as active recovery at the end of each round or simply added in at the end of your workout. Again this all depends on your individual goals and allotment of time.

Now I should mention that there are lots of ways to adjust and vary this type of workout. If you’re just starting out you could select just (3) compound movements total for the workout and do your combos with one compound movement and one cardio interval in each block.

There’s also a lot of variance in what you can do for the cardio interval component. This could be done on a rowing machine, stationary bike, treadmill, etc, if available (prices available at It could also consist of plyometric or non-plyometric (not producing much joint impact) exercises.

The idea is to simply perform an activity that gets your heart rate up with a short burst of high intensity effort. See my post entitled “Great Ways To Get In Cardio Without Running” for examples of various exercises you can do.

So how do you change up this type of workout so you don’t plateau?

There are quite a few ways, but are a few of the easiest ones to remember:

  • Increase the weight used for your compound movements
  • Increase the number of repetitions completed with each compound movement
  • Combine (2-3) compound movements together either with a pause between movements or flowing together

Some examples of combining two or more compound movements together include:

  • Dumbbell Squat to Overhead Press
  • Dumbbell Lunge to Overhead Press
  • Push Up to Pull-Up
  • Cable Squat to Row
  • Dumbbell Push-Up to Renegade Rows
  • Kettlebell Goblet Squat to Reverse Lunge
  • Sandbag Clean to Squat to Overhead Press

As you can see the type of resistance or equipment used really doesn’t matter, there are lots of options. You can use your own bodyweight, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, sandbags, suspension straps, resistance bands, you name it.

The difference is you’re simply not making your way from one seated machine exercise to the next, doing your 3 sets of 10 or whatever, and allowing a lot of rest between sets. You’re working large muscle groups with integration and doing short bursts of high intensity effort with brief recovery periods.

Doing compound movements in this fashion alone will be enough to get your heart rate up. Try doing a set of squats immediately followed by some rows and you’ll see what I mean. By adding that 30 second cardio interval to the combo, you’ve got cardiovascular conditioning happening for sure.

It’s the best of both worlds, cardio and resistance training all rolled up into one…

Work at your own pace and allow longer rest periods in the beginning as you need it. This isn’t about trying to bury yourself in the first five minutes of a workout. A burst of higher intensity effort will mean different things to different people. Over time your conditioning, strength, and stamina will improve and as it does you simply progress your intensity right along with it.

One thing you’ll notice that I didn’t mention with ways of changing up the workouts is adding more time to your cardio intervals. There can be diminishing returns by trying to do longer intervals. The reason is it’s difficult to maintain high intensity effort for much longer than 30 seconds. Think about doing a sprint, how long could you realistically run in an all out sprint?

For most people this will be less than 30 seconds. Now granted you don’t have to sprint or run at all for that matter to do a cardio interval, but ideally you should be looking at movements that get your heart rate up in a hurry. Jogging on a treadmill for 1-2 minutes won’t have the same hormonal impact as a 20-30 second sprint, rounds of burpees, kettlebell swings, etc.

Keep the cardio intervals short and work hard. If a movement becomes too easy, pick a more challenging one.

Bottom line…

By working out this way you’ll see improvements across the board, both with lean muscle development and cardiovascular conditioning. As an added bonus, the hormonal responses from burst training help stimulate fat loss when conditions are right with your diet.

If you have the time and want to add some additional cardiovascular work at the end of a burst training workout, just keep the intensity on the low end. Think along the lines of walking on an incline, ellitpical work, stationary bike, etc. This is by no means necessary for most individuals although some will find it to be helpful with weight loss.

If you work really hard during your burst training workout, you’ll likely find that you don’t have much left in the tank for anything else anyways. As always listen to your body.

I just wanted you to see that you don’t have to think about resistance training and cardiovascular training as being components that have to come separately. There is a way to get both in at the same time and it’s called burst training.

Best of all you don’t need a lot of time to do it.

I’ve spent years and countless hours of research and trial & error experimentation to become an expert with this style of training. One thing I can assure you is that when done with consistency and in combination with a supportive nutrition diet, anyone can see dramatic changes in how they look and feel.

It’s by no means easy as burst training requires focused all-out effort, but it certainly can be worth it if you’re willing to work hard.

Give it a try and see what you think.

As always if I can be of assistance in any please don’t hesitate to let me know. We provide personal instruction and consulting for this style of training every day at my Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studio.

Even if regular personal training isn’t feasible for any reason, getting some personal instruction on the best routine for your individual needs can pay huge dividends in the long run.

I hope that you found this post to be informative. Take care and God bless.

Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios located in Mt. Pleasant, SC. Learn more about how you can receive a totally free no-obligations trial of his personal fitness programs.


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Category: Burst Training.