Do sprint workouts in descending distance order—400, 300, 200, 100 meters—for the greatest fat loss effect. A recent study of elite handball players compared an increasing distance order (100, 200, 300, 400 meters) with a descending order on hormone response and perceived exertion. These can also be done on a rowing machine or cross trainer if running is not your thing. Use time instead of distance as your marker points.

Results showed that by getting the longest, hardest sprints out of the way first, the athletes experienced a better metabolic hormone response:

• Growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) were both significantly elevated, indicating that this protocol could lead to fat loss and muscle growth.
• The descending distance order stimulated greater release of testosterone, and activation of the GH-IGF-1 axis for more robust body composition adaptations.
• The athletes rated the descending distance order as significantly easier, which would likely lead to a more moderate stress hormone response of cortisol. This is important since body composition adaptations can be blunted if cortisol is unnecessarily high.

Use this evidence when your goal is fat loss by programming workouts that are very intense to shock the system, but not too mentally challenging so that you don’t overly stress out about the degree of difficulty. Sure, it’s great to push you physical limits and grind through pain, just be sure to do it in a way that produces the most favourable outcome—training smart yields better results than just training hard.