Fat Loss 101:
Designing A Fat Loss Workout
I call this Body Systems Prioritization (BSP).

A heart attack is a pretty easy example to understand, but eating a bag of candy that triggers a massive insulin response -- slowly harming our pancreas with every spike -- doesn't register as a bad idea when it comes to fat loss. Please understand your endocrine system -- which is responsible for the pancreas -- is a higher priority for your body than losing fat. So, if you challenge your endocrine system, you are shifting focus away from fat loss.

In order to lose fat, it's important you take care of all higher priority health issues first, albeit a digestive concern after a lousy meal, a handful of sprints to battle off excess sugar you consumed, or a couple months focused on improving heart health by reducing high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Think about fat loss strategically by focusing on your body's highest priority health concern first.

Once you've addressed all immediate health concerns -- from bad diet to bleeding ulcers and joint pain -- it's time to discuss how to design a fat loss workout. There are four major points to consider:

  • Mode -- bodyweight or weight-based resistance training
  • Frequency -- 2-4x/week (2x/week is for maintenance periods; 4x/week for accelerated fat loss)
  • Intensity -- alternating 3-5/10 intensity with 8-9/10 intensity (by exercise, within a superset, or alternating in a giant set)
  • Duration -- 25 minutes + warm-up and cool-down

A lot of people make the mistake of doing cardio for fat loss; while traditional cardio has benefits related to stress reduction, inflammation reduction, etc., it's not the most effective way to lose fat. Also, machine-based cardio (ellipticals, treadmills, etc.) should be used with caution, as they tend to place your body in an artificial position and force it to exercise awkwardly.

Instead, consider shifting your exercise 'mode' to bodyweight or weight-based resistance training. Your bodyweight is typically all it takes to reach momentary muscular failure (MMF). MMF is what dictates results. When you hit MMF, your body is forced to undergo a repair process, consuming oxygen and burning calories. This is known as EPOC, or Excess Post-execise Oxygen Consumption.

One of the best ways to spike your metabolism in a fat loss workout is by combining exercises into a single set. When you combine two exercises into one set, this is called a superset; similarly, when you combine 3-5 it's called a giant set. When you combine all exercises within a given workout into a single set, this is referred to as circuit training.

By stacking exercises into supersets, giant sets, and circuits, you are loading your muscles, spiking your metabolism, and then resting. By alternating between lower and higher intensities, you'll be able to get more from every rep of every set you do.

When building giant sets, I recommend you sequence your sets as follows:
Squat
Push
Lunge
Pull
Plank

Over the years, we've noticed our clients get the best results by choosing one exercise from each category above and then doing all five exercises back-to-back, as a single set. Typically, we recommend you emphasize 'squat' and 'push' on the same days, and similarly 'lunge' and 'pull'. 'Planks' emphasize your core, so we train that intensely on every workout.

On a 4-day workout schedule, here's how this might look:

  • Days 1, 3: Emphasize squat, push, and plank by choosing harder exercises or heavier weights and lower reps.
  • Days 2, 4: Emphasize lunge, pull, and plank by choosing harder exercises or heavier weights and lower reps.

The fastest way to learn an exercise is by using a faded feedback schedule. This means you'll want to have constant and continuous feedback on form and intensity in the beginning. Ideally, this involves a spotter or workout partner, along with a full-body mirror so you can check your own form.

Over time, you'll want to lessen the amount of feedback you're getting and move towards assessing your performance at the end of every set... and, eventually, at the end of every workout. This is called summary-based feedback, and it's a necessary step to teach your body how to move on its own, without spotting or cueing from another person.

After six weeks of performing a movement correctly a "plastic" change takes place in your nervous system, which means you now have an actual physical representation of this movement imprinted into your movement memory. Plasticity means you gain coordination, and coordination means you gain strength with movement. Naturally, you get faster results when you're able to get the full benefit from an exercise, rather than spend most of your energy making sure you don't mess up form or hurt yourself.

Every time you exercise, your goal should be to push a little further than before. By progressing the demands of each exercise over time, you'll get results through Wolff's Law, which says:

"Your body will respond to any stress or demand placed upon it."

This means if you ask your body to do one more rep, you'll gain endurance; if you ask your body to lift a slightly heavier weight, you'll build strength.

Remember, when you're asking more of your body, it's never at the sacrifice of form. Form first, always. This is what keeps you safe, and safety is what produces long-term results; if you get hurt, you're going to rebound and lose everything you've worked so hard to gain.

Here are some of the most common form mistakes we see:

Squats:
  • Knees over toes (make sure to keep your weight in your heels to prevent your knees from crossing forward past your toes)
  • Bending too far forward at the waist (keep an upright posture and neutral spine position to work your core and prevent any low back strain)
  • Choosing the wrong muscles (trying to use your quads to do all the work instead of recruiting your abs on the way down and glutes on the way up, which will balance tension between your quads and hamstrings, and even recruit your calves!)
  • Losing core support (while standing, for example, you might arch or round your back)
  • Lacking full range of motion (instead of going all the way down to 90 degrees at your knee, people stop 5-15 degrees sooner and miss out on the most challenging part of the exercise.)
  • Asymmetrical movement (you might try to place more weight through your right left than left, or vice versa; instead, stay centered.)
Pushes:
  • Loss of core, arching, twisting, or rounding of back (should be neutral spine position)
  • Reaching hands out in front of body (should be hands or fists underneath shoulders)
  • Rounding of mid-back (should keep shoulder blades slightly retracted, or together, and tops of shoulders relaxed and down)
  • Choosing the wrong muscle (example: trying to use your triceps to do most of the work in a wide grip push up instead of your chest and vice versa)
Lunges:
  • Too much weight in the back leg (instead, all of your weight should be placed directly into your front heel)
  • Knee over toes (make sure to lunge while keeping your knee over your front ankle, as to avoid crossing past your toes and placing all the strain in the patellar tendon)
  • Too narrow of a stance (be sure to stand hip width apart or slightly wider when lunging)
  • Collapsing pelvis (make sure your hips are stable and aligned parallel to the ground when you stand)
Pulls:
  • Hunching/raising up one or both shoulders (should have shoulders down and back, instead)
  • Asymmetrical movement -- pulling harder with one arm than the other (a pull up should be an even amount of effort from your left and right sides of your body)
  • Choosing the wrong muscle (trying to use your arms to do the work in a pull up instead of your lats and the muscles surrounding your shoulder blades.)
  • Arching the low back (keep your core tight to avoid this)
  • Using momentum (a good pulling movement should be able to be done slowly and steadily)
Planks:
  • Loss of core, arching, twisting, or rounding of back (should be neutral spine position)
  • Reaching hands out in front of body (should be hands or elbows underneath shoulders)
  • Rounding of mid-back (should keep shoulder blades slightly retracted, or together, and tops of shoulders relaxed and down)

And when it comes pairing the foods you eat with exercise you do, there are certain rules you're going to want to follow:

  • Rule #1: High-intensity/sprints burn sugar, and sugar destroys fat loss.
  • Rule #2: Eat whole foods (processed foods shift priority to your liver and other organs, since they are not naturally occurring)
  • Rule #3: Stay hydrated (dehydration shifts your body's focus to your kidneys and urinary system)
  • Rule #4: Choose easy-to-digest foods to fuel your exercise program (pre-workout meals in the form of organic vegetable juices and fruit smoothies are recommended)
  • Rule #5: Eat for energy. Choose foods based upon how they make you feel, for the better and more energetic you feel, the higher your metabolism will become.

Master fat loss by learning how to properly design your own workout program. Figure out your body's highest priority, choose the best parameters for your workouts, select the best exercises and stack them together in the right order, be sure to rest frequently enough to recover and put your best effort into the next set, and fade your feedback over time. Also, be sure to watch out for form and dietary mistakes along the way!

Now, this may sound like a lot to take in, and it is (at first.) So, why not let us help you? All you have to do is click 'Activate My Membership' below, and you'll instantly be given 30 days FREE in Create My Workout, where we've done all the program design for-you.

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