As a strength and conditioning professional, it is important to make time to ask each person I meet the following question, so we can define what exactly we’re going to work on in the gym to help them meet their goals.
“Why is fitness important to you right now?”
Identifying why gym time is important to each individual can lead to a greater level of success in fitness. In eleven years of working with people of all ages and various goals, the most common reason I have found that people look to improve their fitness is to lose fat.
The goal may be packaged differently in how it is presented to me, but at the core, it’s about losing fat. If fat loss is the overall reason in fitness, then we need to be clear in how we approach this goal and try not to confuse the goal of losing fat with the goal for losing weight.
Let’s be clear, there is a difference between weight loss and fat loss.
Here are some specific training methods designed to provide the best physiological responses for losing body fat.
1. Metabolic Resistance Training
The goal for this method is to value the use of resistance training as the foundation for fat loss programming. Workouts are designed to incorporate every muscle group with heavy resistance, with little rest, and with an intensity that elicits a metabolic disturbance hormonally and physiologically. If workouts are performed correctly, the training effect will leave the metabolism elevated for several hours post-workout or a prolonged excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).
To give an example of a broad concept of EPOC, if you trained for one hour on a Monday morning, your body’s metabolism will still be elevated and burning more calories at rest until Tuesday evening.
How do you workout using metabolic resistance training?
Each workout should use the entire body in exercise clusters like supersets, tri-sets, or quad-set format with non-competing exercises to create the highest metabolic demand. In other words don’t work the same muscles in the same set of exercises. If you pick squats as one exercise, try not to pick another leg exercise in the set. The amount of times you perform each exercise is known as your Rep range. The number of repetitions for exercise will fluctuate depending on your level of conditioning, but a good rule of thumb for the number of reps per exercise can be determined by how fast your body generates lactic acid or the muscle burn. Remember this method of training is not your bodybuilding or isolation type of workout.
2. High Intensity Anaerobic Interval Training
The second training method for fat loss programming is high intensity interval training (HIIT). This method of training, in my opinion, has saturated the fitness world from the at-home DVD to the online fitness guru taking you through a series of insane exercises. HIIT is an effective method of cardio training for fat loss; however, most people confuse HIIT with metabolic resistance training.
HIIT cardio burns more calories than steady state endurance cardio and elevates the metabolism significantly more than other forms of aerobic cardio. Anaerobic interval training, like sprints or tabata-style workouts, are designed to improve the conditioning capacity of the body while at the same time achieving results in less time. A balanced combination of both Metabolic Resistance Training and HIIT creates a demand of the body to maintain muscle mass while reducing body fat.
3. Aerobic Interval Training
The third training method for fat loss programming is Aerobic Interval Training. Before fitness DVDs or fitness apps, there were rogue speed junkies using the treadmill for more than just running and walking. Aerobic Interval Training is the parent that gave birth to the idea of HIIT.
Even though the metabolic demand is lower than the previous two training methods, Aerobic Interval Training is perfect for someone who is just beginning or getting back into fitness. Training design for this method is simple and requires minimal equipment too. In the gym, a treadmill or elliptical is the best for the job. Aerobic intervals require there to be an increase and decrease of speed every 60–90 seconds for 45–60 minutes.
4. Steady State Aerobic Training
The fourth training method for fat loss programming is just your run-of-the-mill endurance cardio training. Nothing fancy to it, you simply run to burn calories. The thermic effect of activity in aerobic exercise isn’t hard enough to increase EPOC significantly to carry over beyond the session itself, but calories do count. Burning a few hundred calories a day will add up.
Running or walking for exercise alone may be great for the heart, however running has very little effect on your metabolism and fat loss long-term.
5. Steady State Low Intensity Activity
Going for a walk in the park or around the neighborhood won’t burn a lot of calories, but the mental and emotional release is well worth the time to enjoy being outside and away from the stresses of work. Finding time to take a walk can help reduce stress levels, which may be the culprit behind high levels of cortisol and belly fat.
As you are deciding goals and what success looks like to you, keep in mind your reason for fitness. Don’t confuse fat loss with weight loss when deciding what’s important to you right now. If fat loss is the most important, be sure to incorporate all five methods of training. If you feel overwhelmed with creating a formula for success on your own, reach out to a physical fitness coach who can assist in designing a game plan for training.