Training Tips for Fat Loss
Training for fat loss can be confusing, especially to beginners. Strength and conditioning coach Adam Hearn explains what you need to know about nutrition and training to accelerate fat loss.
Fat loss seems to be everyone's dream and nightmare simultaneously. The majority of people are looking to lose body fat and emulate those that grace the front covers of fitness magazines.
Why do so many struggle to achieve their fat loss goals? Are there any secret methods when training for fat loss which fitness models use that they are keeping from us mere mortals?
The simple answer is 'no', a smart training and nutrition strategy along with dedication and consistency will help you get to where you want to be. Many make the mistake of overcomplicating their approach to training, I am here to tell you how to keep it simple and effective by focusing on what really matters.
Firstly, I would like to state that I believe nutrition to be the unsung hero when it comes to fat loss, you cannot out-train a bad diet.
Some would suggest that we must consume fewer calories than we expend in order to lose weight, I would argue that there is far more to it than simply calories in vs. calories out, but that is a different story.
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Therefore, either we can reduce our calorie intake and keep activity levels the same, or we increase activity levels allowing calories to stay higher. I'm a strength and conditioning coach so I'll focus on the training aspect to fat loss...
Strength training for fat loss
Strength training should form the foundation of any training programme when an improvement in body composition is the objective - whether it is fat loss or muscle gain.
When the focus is on training for fat loss, we want to hold on to as much of our muscle as we can. Many will eliminate resistance training and focus on endurance exercise in the hope to facilitate fat loss, however this is a sure fire way to lose a lot of that muscle you worked so tirelessly to gain.
Additional work can be completed following your strength training or on off days to augment fat loss. Not many of us have hours upon hours to train these days, so the following four methods discussed are as equally efficient as they are challenging when training for fat loss.
1. Rest-pause training for fat loss
Metabolic stress is one of key contributors to gaining mass and fat loss. The best way to elicit metabolic stress is by keeping rest periods on the short side. Rest-pause training is great for those of you who cannot pull yourself away from the weights and cannot face traditional conditioning work.
You can utilise rest-pause training with exercises such as pull-ups, rows, dumbbell (DB) presses, and dips, major movements such as squats and deadlifts are not advised. The idea is to take your 10-12 repetition maximum (RM), complete a set until technical failure, take 12-15 deep breaths and go again for as many reps as you can.
Aim for at least 20 reps, and each week look to beat your rep record, once you hit 30 reps then up the weight. Not only will you be providing your muscle with some serious potential for growth, your heart will be pounding come the end of the giant set.
2. Circuit training for fat loss
Circuit training has been around for years - it's simple and can require very little equipment. Circuit training involves performing a number of exercises back to back with no rest in between. You can utilise bodyweight exercises, or use external resistance such as kettlebells, dumbbells, and a suspension trainer. Here is an example:
- 10 kettlebell swings
- 10 push ups
- 10 mountain climbers
- 5 chin ups
- 10 DB clean and press
- 20 battle rope swings
Rest for 60-120 seconds and repeat for 6-8 rounds. Use your imagination here and you can create some seriously tough workouts with the simplest of exercises.
3. Strongman training for fat loss
Strongman training is an excellent builder of strength, however it can also provide a powerful conditioning tool. Strongman training has been show to elicit a powerful hormonal response, similar to that of traditional resistance training. Typical exercises can include:
- Loaded carries such as farmer's walks
- Tyre flips
- Heavy sled drags / pushes
- Battle ropes
If limited for equipment, simply pick up the heaviest dumbbells you can manage and walk tall for as long as you can, repeating 4-6 times.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) appears to be all the rage these days, it's easy to see why as it is extremely effective. HIIT involves exercising maximally for a short period of time (up to 45 seconds) before taking a significant rest period.
You can manipulate work to rest ratios to challenge specific energy systems, however to keep things simple a 1:4 work:rest ratio is a good place to start, so sprint maximally for 30 seconds and rest for two minutes, 6-10 sprints should be enough.
Not everyone is 'ready' to sprint on flat terrain and many may be risking an injury. Hill sprints will soon fix this because they prevent you from over striding and require zero equipment. Just find a hill and sprint up it as hard as you can, with a walk down recovery, up to 2-3 times a week.
Take home tips on training for fat loss
Optimal fat loss requires hard work and consistency with regards to both fat loss training and nutrition, both must be on point. Use conditioning work that you enjoy or are most likely to adhere to.
Do not make the mistake of eliminating resistance training all together, simply increase your activity levels using resistance based conditioning and you may even build some new muscle whilst slashing body fat.
Further reading on training for fat loss
Ghigiarelli JJ, Sell KM, Raddock JM, and Taveras K. Effects of strongman training on salivary testosterone levels in a sample of trained men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research; 2013; 27(3):738-747.
Goldberg AL, Etlinger JD, Goldspink DF, and Jablecki C. Mechanism of work-induced hypertrophy of skeletal muscle. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise; 1975;7:185–198.
Lakhdar N, Denguezli M, Zaouali M, Zbidi A, Tabka Z, and Bouassida A. Diet and diet combined with chronic aerobic exercise decreases body fat mass and alters plasma and adipose tissue inflammatory markers in obese women. Inflammation (ahead of print) 2013.
Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research; 2010;24(10):2857-2872.
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