...there is a knack to speeding up your fat loss in the gym, and these are the eight golden rules.
There are lots of ways to speed up fat loss in the gym, and each works pretty well - just not for every single one of us. The trick to effective fat burning is working out which approach is best for you - not just physiologically, but also in terms of what we like and don't like to do in the gym.
Most beginners do better when they separate their strength training from their cardiovascular workouts for example, while more experienced gym-goers need a bit more focus on certain movements and specific body parts, and while some of us do best with higher rep circuit training workouts, others benefit most from lower volume, strength training focused workouts.
But for those of us with some level of gym experience - that is three to 12 months of regular working out - there are eight basic rules to speeding up your fat loss, whatever your mind and body preference:
1. Do full body workouts: When it comes to shifting body fat, full body workouts trump split routines - we're talking maximum results in minimum time. Full body workouts challenge our major muscle groups, while placing a serious demand on the cardiovascular system, the combination of which works wonders for fat loss. This is especially true for those of us who can only get to the gym three times per week.
2. Work from the bottom up: One of the most effective ways to burn fat is to perform super-sets or giants sets (circuits) using exercises that alternate between the upper and the lower body. These types of workouts place a massive metabolic demand on the body and allow muscles in one part of the body to temporarily rest, whilst we work others, and that means that we can tax both the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system. An example of this might be to alternate between squats and chins ups before moving onto lunges and push ups.
3. Do more in less time: The most effective fat loss programmes are those that create the most metabolic disturbance, and that means stimulating as many muscles as possible, while challenging our cardiovascular system above and beyond a regular cardio workout. These workouts often include higher reps with shorter rest periods, and include a lot of work in a short amount of time. This could be as simple as picking two exercises, say lunges and rows, and doing as many rounds of ten of each as we can in a given time, say 10 minutes.
4. Turn up the volume: If you are serious about getting into shape, you need to be prepared to work your muscles - heart and lungs simultaneously - whilst also doing lots of volume (reps and sets). When we are training for strength, total volume is lower, whilst trying to lift as much weight as possible - which also means longer rest periods (typically 2-5 minutes). When we are talking about fat loss however, we need to do the opposite - more reps, more sets and more total time under tension, with just enough rest to allow us to keep going (typically 30-90 seconds). This is why circuit training and timed sessions, where we do more work in less time, are hugely effective for fat loss.
5. Mix up the tempo: Time under tension is perhaps one of the least considered tools in our fat loss armory. When we talk about reps and sets, what we should really be talking about is the amount of tension we put our muscles under. In a nutshell that means lighter weights but more reps. The increased energy output also elevates your heart rate and boosts post-workout energy expenditure (EPOC) so you're also burning more calories long after the workout is over.
6. Do what you are not good at: Efficiency is the enemy of fat loss - as we get better at an exercise that was once metabolically taxing, we of course use less energy. Great news if you are training for long distance events, bad news if you're trying to shred fat. If you want rapid fat loss, pick things that you are not good at and do them repeatedly. Once you get good at them, switch to something else and repeat the process.
7. Combine weights and cardio: For many of us, metabolic resistance training is likely to be the most effective, time efficient, way to lose fat. If you have a good base of muscle power and technique, a combination of strength and cardiovascular training works well for fat loss, and will probably give you the best results, quickest. The key however is to know your way around the gym before you start doing challenging exercises, under load, in a state of partial fatigue. Spend the time learning the technique and then speed it up.
8. Get the weight right: OK, so I may have mentioned that higher reps with lighter weights are great for fat loss, but don't take this as a ticket to pick exercises and weights that don't challenge us. The weight we use should be determined by the number of reps to be completed. So if for example the workout asks for 10 reps, you should pick a weight than you can lift 10-12 times, rather than a weight that you could shift 25 times. That might seem obvious, but the misconception that all full body or circuit style workouts should be done with light weights, because you can nail higher reps, is possibly the biggest mistake that we make in the gym - and one of the major reasons we don't see results. Although higher rep workouts will be done with relatively lighter weights, you still need to challenge your body within the given rep range.