We all want to shed a little more fat, but it will never happen unless-
A. Your nutrition habits support your goals
B. You're consistently training at least 4 days/week, and
C. You lift weights and do some form of conditioning aka cardio.
If you can't answer honestly to 'A.' stop reading now and fix that part first. You CANNOT out train a bad diet, period the end.
If you want to become a fat burning machine and keep fat off, you MUST do some sort of strength training. Don’t get caught in the cardio trap and believe you’ll get super lean by crushing cardio all day every day. Hopefully we all know at this point that the more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate (rate at which you burn calories at rest) is. In order to really boost your results you also need to do the right types of conditioning.
While you're lifting weights you're using the ATP-CP system, which lasts for up to 12 seconds of high power/short duration energy output such as heavy squats, pitching a baseball, running short sprints. Mainly carbohydrates, or stored energy is used to produce that outcome. The added bonus of training the ATP-CP system often is that you will raise your BMR as well. Your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), otherwise known as the afterburn is prolonged for hours after training in this energy system as well. All that means is that you'll burn more calories and use mainly carbs to replenish your muscles after lifting or sprinting.
Regardless of the training goal or aesthetic results someone is looking for, strength training is without a doubt the most important aspect of the regimen. It doesn't matter if you're a college football player, a housewife of Atlanta (they better win the Superbowl), or a 47 year old mother of 3. You need to strength train in order to shed fat and keep it off.
You don't, however, need to sprint or do HIIT (high intensity interval training) in to get those results. You can combine your strength training with low intensity aerobic training to shed fat. If you're a fitness junkie like me, you can strength train, do HIIT, and do low intensity steady-state conditioning get the results you want. You just have to know how much and when to do it.
How often should you strength train and what kind of set/rep schemes will get you to shed fat???
Here's how often - You can get away with a bare minimum of 2 days a week strength training if you're workouts include 1-2 compound, heavy lifts and you're pace of the workout is fast and intense. Obviously strength training for 3 to 4 days per week would get you better results a little quicker, but not everyone can make that commitment. You should follow up those heavy lifts with mlti-joint, "functional" lifts and finally finish with some isolation/vanity "beach muscles."
If you're strength training consists of isolated, single-joint lightweight movements, 2000 crunches and the elliptical, you essentially warmed up for the entire time, burned minimal calories, did not improve muscle tissue quality (aka stronger muscles that boost your metabolism), and certainly did not earn a meal.
Here are set/rep schemes you should do - We get this question all the time and most of the time people are amazed at the answer. Low reps with heavy weight will make you a lean fat burning machine. Training that way won't make you big or bulky. Training the compound lifts in the 1-6 rep range between 80-90% of your 1RM won't produce a hypertrophic (muscle growth) stimulus. It will, however make your muscles stronger, which in turn makes your lean body mass (lack of fat) higher, which in turn means you'll burn more calories during your workout and while you're at rest.
Training with lighter loads, higher rep ranges and longer duration sets will produce a hypertrophic stimulus. In other words your muscles get bigger and bulkier. Take professional bodybuilders for example, they bang out exercises with 5x12, burn out sets to failure multiple times in a single workout, drop off sets where they do reps, drop some weight off, hit more reps and continue that until they can't do anymore. They do that bc their goal is to make their muscles as big and visible as possible.
To help ensure you reach your goals right them down, review them often, be specific, make a timeline with a deadline and go after it with everything you have. If you don't have a goal that's pulling you toward the outcome you desire, you're more than likely gonna take the easy way out.
No easy day.
*Disclaimer - if you follow all these guidelines for losing fat, but your nutrition habits suck, YOU WILL NOT reach your goals.*
All right, let's get into the highly debatable cardio discussion. To me, it's not a debate, rather a matter of knowing what your goals are and committing to a plan.
The underlying objective here is to lose fat.
If your primary goal is to lose fat so you look good for the summer months and you're not concerned about physical performance for sports, you have some options:
1. Slow steady state cardio such as walking, hiking or sled dragging/farmers carries 2-3x per week for at least 30 minutes. Pro - easy on the body, Con - boring as hell!
2. H.I.I.T.- High Intensity Interval Training 2x per week. Pro - short duration Con - can beat up your joints and risk of aches, pains and possible overuse injury
3. Sprint- 1-2x per week Pro - short duration, but jacks up your metabolism Con - takes time to build up to an actual true sprint and depletes your CNS, which means you'll need more time to recover for strength workouts.
DO NOT DO ALL OF THESE YOU WILL EVENTUALLY GET INJURED AND BE OUT OF TRAINING ALL TOGETHER. You can, however, mix and match. For example, 1 steady state conditioning workout and 1 sprint workout on a weekly basis that goes along with your strength training routine. Or, 1 HIIT workout, and 1 sled dragging workout each week.
Allow me to note once again- Nutrition is of the utmost importance, Strength training is next and then cardio. If you only do cardio, you'll burn fat, but you'll also burn any muscle you have which will work for a little while. As soon as you stop that insane routine of cardio you'll gain weight mostly in the form of fat bc your metabolism will be moving at a glacial pace.
If you're an athlete and need to lose fat, but also need to improve your performance do this:
1. Strength train 3-4 days per week
2. Practice your craft - the best way to get better at your sport is to practice with intensity, even if you do it on your own.
Athletes should not be put on a regimented cardio routine unless they have a long off-season and they're not practicing their sport on a weekly basis. The only other reason might be if the athlete is recovering from a surgical procedure or major injury and they can't practice their sport yet. Under those circumstances the athlete should focus on building their aerobic base first before diving ahead full steam post-op.
Apply these principles based on your goals and you will surely reach them.
Be committed, Be consistent, Don't make excuses, Take action.
Dominate Another Day.