Common Fat Loss Pitfalls, Part Two

23/01/2013 08:32 | Updated 24 March 2013

In my last blog post, I highlighted some of the potential mistakes people make when trying to implement too many changes in a short space of time. I would like to emphasise that it is excellent to want to change (partly because I'd be out of job otherwise.)

My tone was not meant to be didactic - it just proves a constant source of frustration that training and fat loss are subjects where people will defer to anecdotal advice from a friend/website to the detriment of progress. The beauty of losing fat/building muscle is that it is a science.

In this post, I will explain why I am not a fan of redundant 'cardio', why men should change their workouts more and also make an impassioned plea for women to start resistance training.

I mentioned avoiding unstructured running in my last blog. My reasons for opposing 'just running', unless you are built for it, are that it is not an efficient way to burn fat (you'll have to burn carbohydrate before you get to it) burns muscle tissue, decreases testosterone, is pro inflammatory and rough on the joints unless you are structurally balanced. It also creates more oxidative stress aka free radical damage.

Let's look at a typical New Year running plan i.e. running at 10km per hr on a 1.0 gradient for 30-45 minutes three times a week. People will start this in January and still be doing the same speed, gradient and frequency in September. What was challenging to the metabolic and cardiovascular systems in January is not eight months later.

Despite the fact that you still sweat and have an increased pulse, physiologically, you've adapted. One might refute this by mentioning the fabled 'fat burning zone.' To counter this, I would argue that you burn the greatest percentage of fat calories when you are asleep.

My point is that whilst the percentage of fat calories burned when jogging is higher, the overall expenditure is low. When you sprint, you are burning a smaller percentage of fat calories but of a far higher number i.e. the overall fat burned is greater and you will also continue burning fat long after you stop (a key reason why weight training is also a good option) due to, wait for it, post exercise oxygen consumption (your cells getting their breath back.)

Solution? Once you have developed your endurance 'base' fitness (six-eight weeks from scratch) progress to intervals/boxing/circuits. All excellent ways to get a great cardiovascular response and burn fat. Just make sure that you perform these to your own ability, with appropriate rest and progressions to avoid stagnating/boredom.

Before I start alienating runners, the same is true of people following a resistance programme. Let's look at '10 reps Tony'. A stereotype who has done the same three day split for years: Monday - chest and biceps / Wednesday - back and shoulders / Friday - legs (which quickly morphs into chest and biceps - part II.) Same exercises (flat bench, incline bench, dips) same reps (3x10) same rest (60 seconds - which actually means three minutes because you need to sip your Lucozade and look at the girl on the cross trainer) same volume (three sets of each exercise) as for tempo/time under tension (no idea, just get the biggest weights out and let's get groaning). Progress? Minimal to non-existent.

Before someone sneaks on me, pre-career swap I was that person! You could say I've learnt from experience. Try changing some of these variables -

• 6x3, 4x8 or 3x15 as different rep ranges for strength, hypertrophy and muscular endurance

• Take longer rest for low reps and focus on load. Take shorter rest periods for eight reps and upwards, use lighter weights and good form.

• Ditch the isolation (curls, leg extensions and tricep extensions) and stick to compound exercises (squats, chins and deadlifts).

• Vary which muscle groups you work and in what order e.g. Full body, upper/lower splits, pre exhaustion etc

• Four weeks then switch it up. Keep things interesting (always make sure you seek appropriate tuition.)

Many women will avoid resistance training altogether. Please, please don't. Some females (hammer throwers and heavyweight olympic lifters) are genetically predisposed to be powerful and heavy. They still need to eat massive quantities of food, perform a huge volume of resistance work and may be taking a lot 'supplements' to help. They also have high body fat levels. Women do not produce sufficient testosterone to build large muscles (15-20 times less than men).

I have worked with dubious models who have been explicit that this is not an option! Once female clients start resistance training, they love the positive changes they experience in terms of fat loss, building lean tissue and improved posture.

Breaking it down...

• Moderate (not light) weights, short rest periods (45-60 seconds) and 8-15 reps per exercise (I will post a workout next week).

• Why? This will stimulate a lot of lactic acid, lowered blood ph and a consequent surge in growth hormone.

• Scratching your head? It is perfect for getting rid of fat i.e. you won't look like Arnie - it will make you lean and lithe (especially if paired with yoga or pilates.)