Once you know why long cardio won’t bring out your abs, you’ll be on your way to a much better looking physique — and maybe a six-pack.

Lengthy, steady state aerobics will not give you a six-pack or even abdominal definition.

Evidence of this is clear when one looks at the abs of marathon runners and the abs of very short-distance sprinters.

In fact, check out the visibility of the six-pack, or extent of abdominal definition, going right down the list, beginning with the 26 mile marathon runner.

Next, move on to the 3,000 meter specialists, then the 1,500 meter specialists.

Continuing down the line, check out the midsections of 800 meter competitors, followed by 400 meter, 200 meter and finally, 100 meter specialists.

You will notice something very peculiar: The shorter the distance, the more pronounced is the athlete’s abdominal development.

It stands to reason that if a person wants to bring out the best abs possible, they should mimic the movement of the sprinters, not the long distance runners.

This means short stints of maximum-speed sprints, rather than hour-long sessions on the elliptical, bike, stair stepper, rower or treadmill doing steady paced movement.

This also means that class after class of dance movements and other aerobics will pale to what just a handful of hard sprints will do for the abs.

This isn’t to say that there’s no such thing as a man or woman, who participates only in long duration cardio, who has some abs visible.

With controlled diet and a good amount of exercise, many people have managed to show some abdominal definition despite avoiding high intensity sprints or other similar exercises.

However, for those wishing for the exquisitely sculpted six-packs that are sported by fitness models pulling up their shirts, or those demonstrating exercises in fitness magazines, those kind of abs are not going to come from jogging five miles a day or taking Zumba classes only.

Shutterstock/Viktor Gladkov

Why Long Cardio Won’t Bring out Abs

Typical aerobics classes and steady paced sessions on cardio machines, plus walking or jogging for miles around the neighborhood, fail to trigger what is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.

Though steady state cardio results in elevated heart rate and heavier-than-normal breathing, it certainly does not produce the severe oxygen debt that one feels after sprinting up four flights of stairs as fast as possible, or running up a hill as fast as possible, or sprinting down the street as hard as possible.

What happens at the end of these very short, but explosive movements?

Shutterstock/Franck Camhi

One is breathless, panting very hard, gulping for air. This is severe oxygen debt.

It is the same feeling that one gets after jumping rope as fast as possible for 30 seconds, or doing squat or pike jumps as quickly as possible for one minute. When you stop, you feel worked over.


When six to eight of these very brief but power-based movements are done with a few to several minutes of very easy pacing in between, the body goes into considerable oxygen debt.

This causes a ripple effect that includes, along the way, an unleashing of fat burning hormones.

The trainee’s body is in this oxygen debt state for many hours after completing the last burst of power.

Fat burning hormones are circulating in greater-than-normal doses, mobilizing the fat from the body’s fat cells and causing it to get burned up for recuperation.

This recovery period can last 24 hours or more following the power workout.

This is called the after-burn. It does not happen with endurance-based aerobics.

Six all-out sprints (fastest running, running up a hill, rapid box jumping, squat jumps, lunge jumps, etc.), done twice a week, will burn much more fat than a one-hour aerobics class taken every day.


There are, however, more and more cardio classes popping up that are sprint-based, such as some spin classes and boot camp classes.

Trade in the long slow cardio for very short bursts of all-out power, and this will start bringing out the abs, when joined with strength training.

If you want a chiseled six-pack, this doesn’t mean you should never again go for a five mile jog, long hike or take a step aerobics class.

However, suppose you’re already doing kind of cardio training three times a week.

Two of those should be sprint intervals, while one can be a 45 minute paced session on the revolving staircase or treadmill.

Warm Up Prior to Intense Interval Training

A 5-10 minute warmup is called for and should include very brief intervals that escalate in intensity, building up to the first all-out burst.

Never give up; you CAN have defined abs! Freepik.com, prostooleh

Now you know why long cardio won’t bring out your “stubborn” abs.

Start today on sprint interval training for a powerful fat burning effect.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.