The best fat burning workouts are those that use a lot of calories while you are doing them and then trigger the metabolism-boosting effect of Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) aka the ‘after burn’ to maximise your fitness results and calorie burning. In this series of workouts, Patrick Dale shares his favourite fat burning workouts.

By placing your exercises in a very specific order, you will develop muscular end urance (or strength if you lift sufficient weight) and cardiovascular fitness as you burn calories.

PHA training, short for Peripheral Heart Action, is a great way to develop multiple fitness components while burning fat by the veritable bucket load. PHA is circuit training with a demonic twist where special attention is placed on the order of your exercises.


By placing your exercises in a very specific order, you will develop muscular endurance (or strength if you lift sufficient weight) and cardiovascular fitness as you burn calories like a loon. If you only have a couple of hours a week to exercise but want to build an athletic, lean and fit body, PHA is for you!

When you exercise, blood is diverted away from non-essential areas of your body to the muscles you are working. This requires an increase in cardiac activity or in less flouncy language, your heart beats faster and harder.

If, once the blood has arrived at the required destination, you perform an exercise for another (and preferably distant) part of your body, your heart must again beat harder and faster to deliver blood to where it is now needed. All of this blood shunting and heart pumping means your metabolism will be significantly elevated and that will ensure lots of calories are burned both during and after your workout.

Peripheral Heart Action Training_2

Rather than worry about the nuances of designing a PHA workout, here is one for you to try. But first, a few guidelines.

– Finish the bouts of cardio feeling like you have given them your all. The higher your heart rate as you dismount from the treadmill, bike or rowing machine, the more effective this workout will be!

– Move quickly from one exercise to the next. Anything longer than a few seconds transition time will make the workout less effective. This may mean you need to set your exercises up in advance or be prepared to make ‘on the hoof’ substitutions if your intended exercise is busy if working out in the gym. Try to swap ‘like-for-like’. For example, if you cannot do dumbbell bench flyes and presses, do press-ups instead.

– Use light to moderate weights. You should aim to reach muscular failure between 12 to 20 reps. The last few reps should be hard but still performed using proper exercise form. Remember, lactic acid is your friend and the more you feel your muscles burning, the greater your EPOC
(Excess, post oxygen consumption aka the ‘after burn’) will be.

– If you want to include any isolation exercises such as biceps curls or crunches, do them after the main PHA workout is finished.

– As always, warm up before and cool down after your workout.

Your fat burning PHA workout Perform one, two or three laps of the following exercises:

1. Treadmill – 3-minutes
2. Dumbbell bench fly and press
3. Lat pull downs
4. Overhead lunges
5. Rower – 3-minutes
6. Dumbbell alternating push press
7. Barbell bent over rows
8. Barbell squats
9. Bike – 3-minutes

The exercises

Treadmill- 3 minutes

You should be nice and warm already so start off at a brisk pace and increase either speed or incline so that you finish your third minute at close to maximum effort.

The higher your heart rate as you dismount from the treadmill, bike or rowing machine, the more effective this workout will be!

Dumbbell bech fly and press

This exercise combines two chest exercises into one to maximise calorie burning and chest sculpting. Lie on your back on an exercise bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Hold the dumbbells over your shoulders at arms’ length. Turn your hands to face inward. With a slight bend in your elbows, open your arms and lower the dumbbells down and out to the side until your hands are roughly level with your shoulders.

Peripheral Heart Action Training_3

Squeeze the dumbbells together again. Next, bend your elbows and lower the weights down to your armpits. Press them back up. This constitutes one repetition. Continue alternating between flyes and presses for the duration of your set.

Lat pull downs

Working the muscles on the side of your upper back, lat pull downs will help balance your pushing and pulling muscles. Hold the bar with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Sit down on the seat and lean back slightly. Inhale and pull the bar down to the top of your chest (and never behind your neck). Exhale and extend your arms to return to the staring position. Keep your chest up throughout.

Overhead lunges

Holding your arms above your head will challenge your core muscles and also drive your heart rate up even higher. With a dumbbell or barbell in your hands, raise your arms above yourhead and stand with your feet together. Take a large step forward, bend your legs and lower your rear knee to within an inch/few cm’s of the floor.

Stand back up and perform an identical repetition leading with the opposite leg. Continue alternating legs for the duration of your set.

Rower -3 minutes

Your arms and legs should be feeling tired by now so rowing may well feel harder than normal. Suck it up and get on with it – you are only doing three-minutes after all! Start off briskly and increase your speed over the three minutes so you finish at close to flat-out speed. Despite your high intensity effort, make sure you row with good technique and do not round your lower back.

Remember: legs push/armas pull/arms push/legs pull. Avoid flailing your arms and legs in an unsynchronised fashion!

Dumbbell alternating push press

This exercise works your shoulders, triceps, core and even your legs – talk about workout efficiency! Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder-height, hands turned inward. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly, lower into a quarter-depth squat and then quickly stand back up. Use this momentum to help you push one of the weights up and over head.

Lower it back to your shoulder and then dip your knees again. Press the opposite weight up. Continue alternating sides for the duration of your set.

Barbell bent over rows

Despite being an upper back and biceps exercise, the bent over position used in this exercise means it really delivers a whole body workout. Using an overhand, shoulder-width grip, hold a barbell in front of your thighs and stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.

Hinge forward from your hips and lean over until your upper body is at roughly 75-degrees. Keeping your torso locked in place, bend your arms and pull the weights up to your abdomen. Lower the weights back to arms’ length and repeat. Do not round your lower back.

Barbell squats

Squats are such a great exercise that, really they should be included in every workout you do and in this instance, we’ve saved the best exercise until last! Hold your barbell across your upper back and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Push your hips back, bend your knees and lower until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor. Do not round your lower back but instead, keep your chest up and head facing forward. Stand back up and repeat.

Squats are such a great exercise that, really, they should be included in every workout you do and in instance, we’ve saved the best exercise until last!

Bike -3 minutes

As before, start fast and get faster so you finish your three minute cycle at close to maximum speed. On completion, rest for a moment and then start back at the top of the programme with three fast minutes on the treadmill.

Lots of people complain that they have too little time to exercise and if your do your weights and your cardio on different days i can see how that could be true. PHA, however, combines cardio and weights in one great “do-it-all” workout that will deliver results in three hours or less per week! Three hours out of 169? Who hasn’t got time for that?


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