As we rapidly move through the new year, the winter is coming to a close and giving way to our next highly anticipated spring/summer.
And thus, the focus of most fitness-minded individuals begins to shift from thoughts of shivering while shoveling snow to simmering in the sun and sand!
However, it is right about this time that another shift takes place – one in which we prioritize fat loss (over pure gains in mass), so that we can present a ripped, muscular and jaw-dropping physique at the pool, beach or barbecue.
And while it is obvious that a proper diet is at least half the battle when looking to incinerate as much body fat as possible, in this particular article I am going to focus on the training and cardio aspect of the equation.
Cardio is rather self-explanatory, but I will present to you a progressive and strategic approach so that you get the most out of this rather mundane, but necessary activity.
The main goal of resistance training is to build muscle and increase strength, but when workouts are programmed properly, lifting weights can also help to melt body fat like butter in a microwave – which can actually reduce the need for excessive cardio.
Ok, let’s jump into it, so you can shed some fat fast and see what’s actually “under the hood!”
Yeah, Cardio Sucks – But We Gotta Do it!
With the exception of the (rare) genetic freaks out there that can simply alter their diet and get their body fat into the mid-single digits without ever stepping on a treadmill, cardio is a requirement when one is looking to get into top condition.
Now, I will let the world’s many scientists and exercise gurus continue to fight it out as to whether HIIT or steady state cardio is best for creating a shredded and muscular physique - because I personally think this argument is a waste of time. The truth is, both of these methods can work – and it has been proven time and again out in the “trenches” by thousands of athletes, bodybuilders and serious fitness buffs.
Thus, my feeling is that one should not limit themselves to either HIIT or SS, but rather utilize them both. Just as variety is a key component to weight training, it can also be applied to cardio.
However, one aspect of a smart and effective cardio program (for inducing continuous fat loss) that I firmly believe in is “progression”. Begin with a certain amount and add in more week by week until you hit your goals. Below is an example of what an 8-week, progressive cardio schedule may look like.
- Training Days: 25 minutes steady state
- Off Days: 12 minutes HIIT
- Training Days: 30 minutes steady state
- Off Days: 14 minutes HIIT
- Training Days: 35 minutes steady state
- Off Days: 16 minutes HIIT
- Training Days: 40 minutes steady state
- Off Days: 18 minutes HIIT
- Training Days: 45 minutes steady state
- Off Days: 20 minutes HIIT
- Training Days: 50 minutes steady state
- Off Days: 22 minutes HIIT
- Training Days: 55 minutes steady state
- Off Days: 24 minutes HIIT
- Training Days: 60 minutes steady state
- Off Days: 26 minutes HIIT
- With steady state the goal is to progressively increase intensity until your heart rate is at about 65% of maximum. Once there, this heart rate should be maintained for the duration of the session, followed by a 2-3-minute gradual cool down.
- Heart rate can be calculated with the following formula: 220 – age x .65 = goal
- With HIIT cardio you will be alternating between periods of slow-paced/recovery cardio and maximum intensity cardio throughout the duration of the session. I have had excellent results alternating 90 seconds of slow-paced cardio with 30-second bursts of all-out cardio to drive heart rate as high as possible.
Strategic Weight Training for Fat Loss
Very intense weight training workouts can burn a sizable number of calories and will result in a boost to the metabolism that far exceeds what cardio can boast. Additionally, by building a greater amount of muscle mass, we automatically increase our daily calorie expenditure – like a furnace turned on high!
However, when the main goal becomes getting lean and shredded, you can make your weight training sessions far more effective for fat destroying by making a few adjustments in the exercises, reps and program arrangement.
1. The Exercises: When utilizing weights to burn fat it is most beneficial to perform mostly compound (multijointed) lifts, especially when it comes to larger muscle groups like back, chest and quads. These movements will most effectively raise the heart rate, burn calories, increase natural growth hormone production (note: GH is a powerful fat burner), and enhance metabolic rate.
2. The Rep Range: Since we are focusing on burning body fat you want to keep reps in the medium to medium/high range, or about 10-12 for upper body exercises and 12-20 for the lower half. By doing so you will again burn more calories, push out more lactic acid (which further increases GH production), and stimulate the metabolism, while still giving your muscles a challenging enough workout to still ignite hypertrophy.
3. The Exercise Arrangement: Most of the time when concentrating our efforts into building pure muscle mass we utilize a “straight sets” approach, with 2-3 minutes rest in between. However, when looking to get “sliced and diced” enough to display that gnarly 6-pack and deep separations/cuts through every body part it is far more effective to use specific types of high intensity techniques such as supersets, circuits, and mega-fast paced training.
Below are three examples of the types of weight training workouts you can begin utilizing to help “rip up” your physique just in time for summer!
Workout A: The Rapid Paced Body Fat Burner
|Alternating Barbell Lunges||3||12-15 Each|
|Stiff Leg Deadlift||4||12-15|
|Underhand Grip Bent Over Row||3||10-12|
|Narrow Grip Bench Press||3||10-12|
|Standing Military Press||3||10-12|
|Close Underhand Grip Pull Up||2||Failure|
|Incline Bent Leg Hip Raise||3||Failure|
Workout B: The Upper/Lower Superset Fat Incinerator
|A1. Hack Squats||3||12-15|
|A2. Weighted Dips||3||10-12|
|B1. Leg Press||3||12-15|
|B2. Wide Grip Pull Ups||3||Failure|
|C1. Walking Dumbbell Lunge||2||12-15 Each|
|C2. Seated Dumbbell Press||2||10-12|
|D1. Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift||2||12-15|
|D2. Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curl||2||10-12|
|E1. Hanging Straight Leg Raise||2||Failure|
|E2. Bench Dip||2||Failure|
**Rest between supersets should be no longer than 2 minutes
Workout C: The Circuit Fat Smasher
|Incline Bench Press||-||10-12|
|One Arm Dumbbell Row||-||10-12|
|Smith Alternating Reverse Lunge||-||12-15 Each|
|Wide Grip Upright Row||-||10-12|
|Lying Leg Curl||-||12-15|
|Upright Torso Dips||-||10-12|
**Move from one exercise to the next as rapidly as possible.
**Do not go to failure on each movement, but perhaps 1-2 reps short.
**If attempting to perform multiple circuits rest about 3-5 minutes in between each by slowly walking around the gym until ready.
The workouts above would be best performed every other day, perhaps on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday.