One of the questions we frequently see on strength training forums is how to design an effective exercise fat loss program. There seems to be so much information available on fat loss that it often leaves people feeling overwhelmed and confused. Since fat loss is such a hot topic these days, as it rightly should be, we are going to give you a crash course on how to design an effective and intelligent fat loss program. So put on your thinking caps and let’s get started.
In our other article “Attack Your Fat” we talked about the top five principles we recommend for losing body fat. Below is a list of those principles:
In this article we are going to get into the specifics on how to apply principles one, two and three. So let’s jump right into it. For principle number one; “Perform Full Body Circuits,” it is essential to pick multiple movements from the Revolution Movement System list and perform them in a circuit. If you remember from our first article “Attack Your Fat” we recommend circuits because you end up burning more energy in a shorter period of time. You also improve your overall conditioning due to the lack or rest as you move from exercise to the next.
In regard to principle number two “Perform Big Multi-Joint Movements” and principle number three “Train Movements, Not Muscles,” there are 9 movements we teach and emphasize at our training studio in La Jolla, California. The movements are based on studying Paul Chek’s Primal Movement Patterns as well as strength coaches Keats Snideman and Josh Henkin’s exercise concepts. We have found from personal experience and from working with hundreds of clients that when these 9 movements are performed physical health improves and fat loss increases. Here are the following 9 movements:
|1. The Squat||Step Ups, Lunges, Pistols, Single leg Squats|
|2. The Deadlift||Barbell, Dumbbell, Kettlebell, Single Leg|
|3. Pushing (includes overhead pressing)||Bench Press, Military Press with KBs, Barbells, dumbbells, sandbags, kegs, cables|
|4. Pulls (includes rowing)||Bent Over Rows, Standing Cable Rows, Rope Pulls|
|5. Cleans||Kettlebell, Barbell, Sandbag and Kegs|
|6. Snatches||Kettlebells, Barbells, Dumbbells, Sandbags, Kegs|
|7. Throwing and Flipping Objects||Medicine Balls, Kettlebells, Stones, Logs, Flipping Tires|
|8. Carrying Objects||KBs, DBs, Medicine Balls, Kegs, Stones, and any other weight|
|9. Sprints and Jumps||Sprinting, Jumping, Agility Ladder, Rope Skipping, Cone Drills|
Where Do I Start?
Principle number one says perform full body circuits. So the first thing to do is pick a minimum of three and up to ten exercises in a single program. We recommend arranging your program so that the body gets a very well balanced workout where all parts of the body are getting conditioned. Let’s say you are going to perform 5 exercises in a circuit. Rather than picking two or three of the same types of movements, pick multiple movements. Apply the following guidelines when designing your exercise plan:
(Note: You could also add in movements 7 & 8. For simplicity we have limited the number of movements to just five.)
So now that we have the five exercises picked out we must arrange them in the proper order. Generally it is safer and smarter to place the more technical exercises in the beginning of the circuit. For example a double kettlebell back lunge requires more strength and concentration than a single bent over row, a military press, a snatch and jump roping. Therefore you start off the circuit with the double KB back lunge. Single leg exercises are usually more difficult to perform than double leg exercises. They require more nervous system involvement and therefore are better placed in the beginning of your training plan.
After the back lunge you can then add the kettlebell snatch. Movements that require a lot of speed and power also tax the nervous system so that is why you want to perform the snatch second. For the third exercise you could perform the single kettlebell bent over row, then the military press and end with the jump rope. You would then perform the entire circuit, all five exercises in a row without resting. Once you complete all five exercises you will rest one to two minutes depending on your current level of conditioning. If you are new to this type of training we recommend resting at least 2 minutes between circuits. If you are in better condition you can rest only 1 minute. Perform anywhere from 2 to 5 circuits, again depending on your current fitness level. When we map out the plan it would look like this:
|Double Kettlebell Back Lunge (alternating)||6 per side|
|KB Snatch||10 per side|
|Single KB Bent Over Row||10 per side|
|Single KB Clean and Military Press||6 per side|
|Jump Rope||1 min.|
A Well Rounded Program
When looking at the program you can see that it is well rounded in the sense that many different parts of the body are being conditioned. What is also important to note is that multiple bio-motor abilities are being trained as well. Qualities such as strength, flexibility, power and endurance are being addressed in this program. Our training philosophy and purpose is to teach people “real fitness for real life.” Life is so unpredictable that it’s essential that your body knows how to function at a high level in the real world. If the training you do does not make you function and feel better in your daily activities you are wasting your time. We constantly hear from our clients that perform these types of programs how much stronger and powerful they feel in their daily lives. They have increased energy, less body aches and pains, and a sense of renewed confidence as they move, lift and challenge their bodies. And of course, people love the fat loss that results from this type of training.
Repetitions: How many?
Due to the fatiguing nature of these types of circuits we recommend keeping the reps between 5 and 10. The reason is that when you become fatigued your chances of injury go up and your skill level usually goes down. It takes a highly conditioned athlete to handle higher reps (10,20 +) during a circuit. We recommend focusing on using low to moderate rep ranges (2-10 reps) and this will encourage better technique and skill. With ballistic exercises like kettlebell swings and snatches, assuming that you have developed excellent technique, you can safely perform up to 20 or 30 reps. Remember, the more reps you perform the more fatigued you become. When in doubt, LESS IS MORE! Live to train another day and let the circuits get you in shape rather that one high rep exercise.
Focusing on Movements = Big time Fat Burning
When designing a fat loss program it is essential that you include various movements from the above chart. When you focus on becoming skilled at all nine movements we GUARANTEE that you will get more fit, period. By focusing on movements you are burning more energy. All the movements require the whole body to work as one integrated unit, one harmonious piece of machinery. And if you think about it logically, it just makes sense. If your goal is fat loss, you want to turn your body into a FUEL BURNING furnace. Burn more energy throughout the day and you will get leaner.
Get some Variety
The beauty of this system is that you will never get bored as there are endless ways to add variety to all nine movements. You can change grip positions, the width of handles and the angles at which you perform the exercises. You can change from a bilateral movement (a two handed military press for example) or switch to a unilateral exercise (a single arm military press). Or you could you use Charles Staley’s concept of “the same, but different.” Perform the same movement and make it a little different. Instead of doing deadlifts with a barbell, do deadlifts with 2 kettlebells. Or, rather than press a barbell, press a keg overhead. You could spend your entire life perfecting these movements and never exhaust the ways in which to vary them.
Fat Burning Cardio
This is another area where people get so confused. We constantly hear the following questions. What is the best form of cardio for fat loss? Walking? Swimming? Do I need to keep my heart rate at 120 beats per minute? Is the stair master better than the treadmill? Doesn’t sweating while doing “hot yoga” burn fat? The myths are out there and people are still confused about which cardio to perform. To keep true to principles two and three, we recommend doing cardio that burns the most energy in the shortest amount of time. While walking and slow paced cardiovascular activity is very healthy, it doesn’t compare with interval or sprint training.
Sprint training (interval training) is when you perform a cardiovascular activity (sprinting, swimming, fast walking, and biking) with intermittent bursts of speed. For example, let’s say you want to perform some fat burning cardio at your local high school track. What you could do is perform our favorite sprint workout, 10 x 100 yards sprints done at 6- to 70% intensity. What that means is that you will sprint 100 yards at 60 to 70% of your maximum speed, walk the end zones, and then sprint another 100 yards. You will continue in that fashion, sprint, walk, sprint, and walk until all ten 100 yard sprints are completed. You will notice several things. One, the workout is challenging. Two, the workout does not require a large time commitment. Three, you may feel nauseous. For most people this is huge change in the way they have approached their cardiovascular conditioning. Research repeatedly shows the effectiveness of interval training on fat loss and its positive effect on overall health. Give it a try, but remember to start off slowly.
In conclusion, when designing an effective and fun fat loss program apply the principles outlined in this article. Keep in mind that even though all nine movements have the potential to be immensely beneficial, it is important that you know your orthopedic limitations. It is safe to say that there are no bad movements but there are poor applications of movement. Not all movements might be good for you. If there are some movements that cause you pain or trouble, focus on the movements that work well for you. Stay tuned for part two of this article as we will discuss how to design an effective nutrition and lifestyle program for maximum fat loss to go along with your exercise plan.
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