Get ready to sweat to trigger the afterburn effect.

How to Trigger an Afterburn Effect in Building Abs

by Lindsey Robinson Sanchez

One of the hottest topics in fitness is the "afterburn effect" -- no pun intended. After a high-intensity combo of cardio and strength training, your engaged muscles can burn hundreds of calories for hours after you've left the gym. While the afterburn effect burns calories all over your body, there are specific abdominal exercises that can trigger that burn. All it takes is a few minutes of intense exercise that target your midsection. Perform these exercises three times a week with regular cardio for best results.

Triggering Afterburn

Exercise to exhaustion with short, high-intensity workouts rather than longer, low-intensity workouts. Intense exercising will rev up your metabolism and heart rate, and keep them up long enough after your workout to burn hundreds of calories. For every exercise, focus on doing your maximum number of repetitions within a 30- to 60-second period, rather than a specific number of reps and sets.

Rest for short periods, about 15 to 60 seconds, between exercises. You don't want to give your heart rate or metabolism any lag. This high intensity is what powers the afterburn effect.

Work multiple muscle groups at once to trigger the burn. Traditional bench presses, situps, calf raises and bicep curls are useful exercises. Since they target only one set of muscles each, they won't cause afterburn the way compound exercises will.

Squeeze in several short, intense exercises throughout the day rather than one long trudge. While a 5-mile jog certainly isn't bad for you, it won't promote afterburn the way several five-minute sprints will.

Afterburn Ab Exercises

Lie on your back on your mat to perform bicycle crunches. Place your hands behind your head, elbows out, legs straight in front of you. Tighten your abs and lift your upper body off the mat. Twist to the left as you bend your left leg so that your right elbow just touches your left knee. Straighten your left leg and bend your right as you twist to your right to bring your left elbow to your right knee. Continue as fast as you can for one minute. Rest for about 30 seconds and repeat for three to five sets. The combo of multiple muscle groups and cardio will trigger afterburn.

Get on the mat to perform reverse crunches. Lie on your back, knees bent at a 90-degree angle with your feet in the air so that your calves are parallel with the floor. Squeeze your abs and lift your bottom and lower back off the mat. Return to start and repeat as many reps as you can in 10 sets of 30 seconds each. Rest for no more than 50 seconds between sets. If you prefer to count repetitions, do 10 sets of 10 reps as quickly as you can.

Perform crunches immediately following the reverse crunch to target multiple core muscle groups quickly. Lie on your back with your elbows and knees bent, hands behind your head. Tighten your abs and lift your upper body off the mat. Return to start. Perform as many as you can in 10 sets of 30 seconds with less than 50 seconds in between. If you prefer reps, go for 10 sets of 10 as quickly as you can. Intensity is key in triggering afterburn. This exercise is called a high intensity interval training, or HIIT, 100 because of the fast, high-power 100 reps.

Keep your core tight as you jump rope. Stand up straight with the rope in your hands, hanging behind you, and pull your navel toward your belly button. Jump rope at maximum speed for one minute. Rest for no more than one minute and continue for eight sets. Believe it or not, the "sprint" nature of high-intensity jump rope can trigger afterburn for up to 48 hours -- wow!

Perform interval sprints to trigger an all-over afterburn. On a track or level field, run at top speed for one minute. Rest for no more than one minute, and continue for eight to 10 sets. Maintain a straight back and keep your abs tight to target your core. A smooth, even, flat track will allow you to run at maximum intensity without worrying about hills, holes or quick turns.

Items you will need

  • Exercise mat
  • Track or level field
  • Jump rope


  • For best calorie loss results, stick to lean protein and a low-fat diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that up to about 2,000 total calories per day.


  • Always consult your doctor before beginning an workout regime, especially one that calls for high-intensity exercise.

About the Author

Lindsey Robinson Sanchez, from Bessemer, Ala., has written for the "Troy Messenger," "The Alabama Baptist" and "The Gainesville Times," where her work was featured on the AP wire. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida. She writes style, beauty, fitness, travel and culture.

Photo Credits

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