As a personal trainer in Singapore, the majority (I would guess 90%!!) of my clients come in to lose some body fat. With all the obesity we have, fat loss should concern everybody
Several really good coaches have come out with excellent fat loss manuals, methods and training programs. So how do you choose?
In this article I will be discussing my own experience with different fat loss protocols.
NOTE: ALL the methods below will not be effective without good nutrition. You need to eat enough protein, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats for this stuff to work.
Its been guessed that you need about 3-4 hours of physical activity PER DAY to overcome a poor diet and still lose fat. In our sedentary lives, we need to eat right for fat loss or else it just isn’t going to happen.
Method 1 – Long, Slow, Distance training (LSD)
Stair climbers, elliptical trainers, jogging, swimming, whatever. The main idea here is, “lets burn as many calories as we can during exercise”, and “lets make sure as many of those calories are from fat”. From an aesthetic perspective, the thought is “long distance, endurance athletes are thin, so to get thin we should do LSD training.”
In theory this makes alot of sense. LSD does burn alot of calories because it can be done (as the name suggests) for a LONG time. A bigger portion of the calories used are fat due to the “zone” at which the exercise is done. However recovery is easy and you won’t burn calories outside of your exercise time.
In my time in the armed forces, long runs were very popular. While training for a half marathon, we ran 12, 14, and 16km runs each week. What happened?…I got thin and weak. “Well at least he got thin” you might think but I got THIN not LEAN.
I had marginally visible abs but nothing like the ripped appearance you might expect from so much endurance training. I also lost 30cm from my broad jump and a few tenths of a second off my sprint times.
My bad experiences are the norm for people who use this method. In addition LSD takes a lot of training time and takes more and more as you get “better” at it and need to increase the distances and mileage.
Science also backs up these experiences. For fat loss, LSD is not even an improvement over diet alone.
An example of a LSD training program would be 45 mins of swimming 2x a week, and 45 mins of jogging 2x a week.
Does it work? – No, its ineffective and takes alot of time.
In other areas like rehabilitation and therapy, there is a place for LSD training. But there is NO PLACE for it in a fat loss program.
Method 2 – Metabolic Disturbance Training
The main idea of metabolic training is to create as much “disturbance” to the body’s systems so that we burn calories all day not just when we are doing the exercise. In addition, it maintains and even builds muscles and that’s important when losing fat.
This disturbance is so great that one study shows 9 times greater fat loss for this form of training when compared to LSD training. And the exercise time was lower for the metabolic training group.
They just did such intense training during that exercise time that the body was burning above normal calories for up to 38 hours after the training session. WOW. The calories burnt DURING exercise was about 1/2 the LSD group, but the total calories burnt was far higher.
Whats happening? Lots of disturbance to the body’s state, so lots of adaptation. That adaptation is fat loss.
I have used this method extensively with clients and myself as well. It plain works. Fat melts off. The workouts are short (1 hour or less) and challenging. I have clients losing 10kg of fat in 2 months easily.
Here is a sample of a metabolic fat loss workout that was performed just a week ago by one of my fairly strong clients. Note A1, A2 etc mean that the exercises are performed one after the other, a “super-set”. All exercises are done with a 3 sec lowering and 2 sec lifting timing
A1: Stiff Leg Dead lifts x 12 reps rest 45s
A2: One handed Push ups x 6 reps/side rest 45s repeat A1 Total 5 super-sets
B1: Seated Cable Rowing x 12 reps rest 45s
B2: Barbell Lunges x 10 reps/side rest 45s Repeat B1 total 5 sets
C1: Stability ball sit ups x 12 reps no rest
C2: Shoulder external rotation x 15 rest 30 sec Repeat C1 total 3 sets
The training session ended with 10 mins of interval sprints on a stationary bike. The total training time was about 60 mins.
Does it work? YES!. This is THE preferred method of fat loss for my clients. Results are just about guaranteed, the body simply cannot keep fat around when its being worked like this.
Method 3 – Interval training
This method burns calories, and creates significant disturbance and post exercise calorie burn. It’s disadvantage is that it doesn’t do as well at maintaining/building muscles as resistance training (but its not nearly as bad as LSD). Interval training can really vary from a sprint(90-100% of your best) + a walk(20-30%) to a fast striding pace (75-85%) + a jog (40-50%) or anything in between.
I use some kind of interval training for all clients wanting fat loss. Its not as demanding on recovery as resistance training so it can be added to most training programs.
A sample interval session would be:
10 sec sprint cycle (100% effort) followed by, 20 sec slow cycle (30% effort) repeat 20-60 times depending on conditioning level. The time used is only ten to twenty minutes, however the effectiveness is very high.
another example of a lower intensity (not as effective but less demanding on recovery ability and can be done more often)
30 sec fast cycle (80% effort) followed by 30 sec slow cycle (30% effort)repeat 10-20 times
Does it work: Yes. Intervals are a valuable fat loss tool in any training program. Not as good as Method 2 but intervals can be added in for added effect.
Method 4 – Strength training
This method focuses on retaining as much muscle as possible while letting fat loss occur through diet. The weights that you life should reamin heavy, and the number of reps per set should remain low. The idea is to make sure that we lose little to no muscle or strength during the fat loss phase.
My experience of this is a personal one. On a diet with few calories, I did not perform any intervals or LSD training because my calorie intake was to low to support those training methods. I reduced body fat to about five or six percent and had a very lean look. If I had used a different kind of fat loss training method, my muscle mass would have dropped and that would have been terrible news on a reduced calorie diet. Exercise volume (total weight lifted) must be kept low because we match this kind of training to a lower calorie diet.
A sample workout would look something like this
A: Barbell Squat 3 reps x 6 sets 120s rest between sets
B1: Barbell Row 5 reps x 3 sets 90 sec rest
B2: Military Press 5 reps x 3 sets 90 sec rest
C: Step up 5 reps/leg x 3 sets 90 sec rest
Does it work? Yes but the workout doesn’t burn that many calories and the disturbance is not as much as metabolic training (Method 2).
So far all I have given are the 4 main methods that are in use today. “So what should I use?” you ask. Ok It depends on who you are.
For a beginner to intermediate client (1 year hard training or less) with a fat loss priority, Use method 2 and 3 together. 30-40 mins of metabolic training + 10-20 mins of intervals will do the trick.
For an advanced client (great technique, strong for their body weight), use method 2, 3, and a sprinkling of 4 (1 in every 6 to 8 training sessions. 40 mins of strength/metabolic training + 10-20 mins of intervals
For a athletes in metabolic sports (lots of running around) who need to lose a bit of fat, use method 2 with a bit of 4. Sport training will take care of the “interval” requirements.
For athletes in a power/speed sport (sprints, throws, weightlifting) who need to make a lower weight class, use 4 with a bit of 3. Let a reduced calorie diet take care of the fat loss. Use exercise and hard training to maintain your power, speed, explosiveness and strength. Also keep the intervals in the high intensity range. If your sport training has tempo runs or sprints, you can cut out the intervals entirely.
Hope this clears up any misconceptions about fat loss training. Once again you MUST eat cleanly for fat loss. Get to you goals quickly and wisely.
Coach Jonathan Wong, is a sought after Singapore personal trainer and performance expert who has helped hundreds of clients in Singapore achieve their fitness, fat loss and sports performance goals. He Is also a fitness author and a member of Singapore Men’s Health Advisory Panel. Visit his website and blog for a free 1500 page e-book and constant updates. http://www.coachjon.com
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