Note: This is an old post from the archives that I felt was worth reminding people about…learn & enjoy!

Not long ago, one of my friends told me about guerrilla cardio as his favorite fat burning cardio workout. Have you heard of it? It’s an ultra-intense cardiovascular workout based on a study done by Dr. Izumi Tabata, Ph.D..

Dr. Tabata, a researcher at the institute of Health & Nutrition in Tokyo, Japan, conducted a study compairing cardiovascular endurance training vs. high intensity cardiovascular training. In Tabata’s study, one group did a full 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days per week. Group two also trained 5 days a week, but performed up to eight 20-second sprints of high-intensity cycling with a 10-second rest (pedaling at a slower rate) in between [1]. They performed these sprints between warm-up and cool-down periods.

Tabata found that group 2 athletes (on the high-intensity program), got fitter faster than group 1 athletes who focused on endurance training despite the large difference in time spent working out (each day group 1 did 60 minutes & group 2 did 4 minutes). After this study was released, Muscle Media magazine published an article in October 2001 entitled: Guerrilla Cardio, which suggested a cardio program based on these findings.

Guerrilla Cardio

Minutes 1-4: Warm-up 50% perceived exertion

Minutes 5-8: Sprint- for 20 seconds; Rest- 10 seconds; Repeat

Minutes 9-12: Cool-down at 50% perceived exertion

Are you wondering how 4 minutes of exercise can burn more than 60 minutes? At first glance it doesn’t make any sense at all! But remember, the true benefit of high intensity interval training (HIIT) comes from the calories burned after the workout is complete. Intense exercise boosts oxygen consumption (called excess post-exercise consumption, or EPOC for short) and calorie expenditure after exercise to a greater extent than moderate-intensity activity.

Guerrilla cardio is an extremely challenging cardiovascular program that will burn fat & if you really go all out, you will be exhausted at the end of this workout.

This protocol does have some limitations when it comes to incorporating it into a fitness routine. The cardio session really only contains 4 minutes of actual challenging exercise and EPOC is tied to both exercise intensity (how hard you work) and exercise duration (how long you work for) [2]. If you are only exercising for 4 minutes, no matter how instense, there is a limit to the number of calories (and therefore fat) you can burn in that short period of time.

Remember that losing body fat comes down to burning more calories than you consume, period. You have the option of doing that in a variety of ways, some more effective and more efficient than others.

Your ultimate goal should be to adopt habits that enable you to maintain a fitness as a lifestyle, and that may or may not include HIIT or guerrilla cardio. Maintaining a long term program ultimately depends on what style of workout enjoy, what challenges you, and how much time you have.

If you are running short on time at the gym, the guerrilla cardio program will give you a kick butt workout in no time flat. A total of 35 minutes to spent at the gym could include 12 minutes of guerrilla cardio and 23 minutes of focused resistance training. You’ll have burned calories, maximized your time, and you will also be reassured that you’re getting the benefit of post workout calories burned (via EPOC, recovery, and subsequent muscle tissue growth).

My advice is to add guerrilla cardio to your repertoire of training methods. Use it as another fat burning tool, especially when you are short on time. If you would like to learn how to incorporate the guerrilla technique as well as others into your cardio training plan, let me know by emailing and we can set up a training session or get you started with a training calendar. Good Luck!


1. Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K (1996). Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 28, 1327-1330

2. Bahr, R., Gronnerod, O., & Sejersted, O.M. (1992). Effect of supramaximal exercise on excess postexercise O2 consumption. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 24, 66-71