The Training You Should Be Doing For Long Term Fat Loss
I come across many people (women in particular) who are scared of strength training due to not feeling they have the skills, or having been exposed to incorrect information.
After having my babies, I used to spend hours every week running up to 50km in total to try to burn fat and love my body again. But despite spending all this time and effort, and even when reaching my “goal weight” at the time, I was still dissatisfied with how my body looked and felt.
I now know there are a few key reasons for this, and I’ll share them with you today.
My journey started in 2014 when I became a group exercise instructor. I had read a bit about Metafit online and thought it sounded appealing because of the short time and results HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) promised. As fate would have it there was a Metafit course on when I was already in Sydney for training so I signed up!
Despite all the effort I was putting in running, and doing other exercise (no strength training), doing a Metafit session as part of the course absolutely killed me! I was shocked, a little deflated, but also determined. I had NEVER worked that hard in a short amount of time.
I made a personal commitment to myself to do 2 x Metafit tracks a week for the next 3 months to see if it was all it was cracked up to be before I decided to teach classes to others.
The results spoke very clearly for themselves in a very short time – I quickly dropped cm’s off my waist, felt stronger and more toned, AND improved my running pace…. and so here we are!
After a year or so of teaching Metafit I signed up for a High Intensity Resistance Training course to learn more about how to train with weights, and my love has grown from there. I’ve invested hundreds of hours practicing, reading the theory and the same in $$$ on decent equipment.
Strength Training – Who is it for?
Everyone – literally! Most people think of bodybuilders in the gym but in my opinion, everyone should include strength training and I use it in particular with clients for:
- Progressing the training of long term exercisers
- Body composition
- Enhancing fitness
- Fat Loss
- Beginners to advanced
- Older clients
- Improving health outcomes and chronic conditions
What Scares you about weights?
If I had a dollar for the number of times I have recommended weights training as a means for a goal and been rejected or ignored, we’d have a lot more weights! 😉
My goal is to break it down and make it less scary so more people can benefit. I do this by providing a private and fully supported training space, which is nothing like the typical gymnasium environment where you are left to fend for yourself.
“It will make you bigger” – it’s really friggen hard to get big, bodybuilders spend years trying to gain a kg of muscle. If your friend is doing weights and looks bigger, it is likely due to unmanaged nutritional factors such as increased appetite.
“It doesn’t burn enough calories for fat loss” – yeah, if you only judge your workouts by your fit bit, you won’t get a big reading. But, research shows that resistance training will increase your lean muscle mass, which does way more for improving your body composition than deducting exercise calories from what you eat.
“It’s complicated”. – I advocate for keeping it simple and going big – hundreds of bicep curls won’t achieve your fat loss goal.
“It’s dangerous”. One research review found an average 1 injury per 1,000 hours of training. This means you might get an injury every 4 years lifting weights vs every 6-8 months running marathons.
“You need variety to keep your body guessing”. Changing exercises every session doesn’t promote muscle growth. Progressive overload and focused training blocks do.
“You need fancy equipment”. I work on the bare minimum free weights with my clients. All you really need is push, pull, squat, hinge and press. These can all be done with a barbell and a few plates.
Building muscle, instead of losing it. In theory, you can go on a diet, put yourself in a medium to large calorie deficit, do no exercise and you will lose weight and body fat. BUT, you will also lose your lean muscle tissue, and risk re-gaining more body fat later. Yes, nutrition is a big part of the picture but resistance training does more than a high protein diet alone for building muscle. This will ultimately result in a more toned and leaner physique.
Diet hard with no training will result in poor health outcomes, poor posture, and “skinny fat” flab. Sorry!
You can track it – Exercise vs training. “Training is a systematic method of exercising done to achieve a specific goal”. Following and recording your training blocks means you can see your progress. Doing random circuits every week may get you feeling good, but it’s really difficult to link your outcomes to which sessions and exercises worked best – so that you can train more efficiently.
Stronger joints. Your strength training programme should improve your joint health, due to less impact than sports and cardio, in addition to strengthening the muscles that support your joints and movement.
Bone density. Avoid osteoporosis using strength training to improve your bone density and remain independent for your later years.
Increased confidence – strength training requires skill and focus right? Counting reps and sets and weight on the bar is hard. Applying this focus to your training, can translate into every day life. If you can do what many people never will, you can do lots of things!
You can’t gain strength without gaining muscle. When you lift more, you know you are building muscle without doing a fancy scan on your body composition. You simply couldn’t move more weight than before, if your muscle mass didn’t increase.
Strength training vs hours of cardio. While cardio is not inherently bad, too much cardio will potentially fatigue you, increase your appetite – AND it’s catabolic, meaning it breaks down lean tissue rather than building it like your strength sessions. Your body adapts very quickly to your cardio training, meaning you become more efficient and burn less calories. The only option then is to do MORE (hours), vs adding more weight to the bar in your strength sessions to increase the intensity. No brainer really!
How exactly can it help you lose fat?
Changing your body composition by building lean tissue. The more lean tissue to fat ratio you have, the better. Diet plays a role here, however I would argue that a solid strength training programme has more longevity and is able to fit into your life in the long term, vs going on a short term health kick for weight loss with lots and lots of cardio. Unsustainable for most people.
Psychologically, I find that if I can get my clients to focus on the process of getting stronger, they will also reach their body composition goal, but become more empowered in the process.
Exercise selection/how I programme for my clients.
As I mentioned, I like to keep it simple. I take a “top down” approach when programming for my busy clients – placing the exercises in order of priority. I start with the compound exercises that give more bang for your buck (squats, deadlifts, rows, press, bench etc), and then, if time permits, add in some accessory exercises to train specific muscle groups and add variety.
As compound exercises make your whole body work during the lift, they should always be a priority when strength training for fat loss in my opinion. Doing isolation work such as: booty bands, tricep extensions, bicep curls, calf raises, flyes and ab curls is an inefficient way to train for fat loss, though they do have a place in strength training programmes.
If you are starting out I recommend a session plan as simple as:
Squats (barbell, goblet or even body weight)
Deadlift/Hip Thrust/or Kettle Swings (depending on skill level)
A Single leg variation such as lunges or step ups – weighted or unweighted
A back exercise, for example: Lat pulldown, TRX Row, Barbell/Dumbbell Row, or assisted pull ups/inverted row.
A push exercise such as: Push ups, or Barbell or dumbbell lying press.
A Press exercise such as: Barbell or dumbbell overhead press – seated or standing.
Do 3-4 “hard” sets of 10 reps of each exercise. Select a weight that feels hard to do – ie; when you reach 10 reps you couldn’t do any more. Rest about a minute between sets.
The caveats – As mentioned before, nutrition does play a role. I haven’t touched on the basics of nutrition in this blog post as that is an entire topic in itself.
I am often asked to write a training programme for someone who is not my client. I will very rarely do this as I don’t believe in writing 12 weeks of exercises up front. Why? It’s a guessing game. If you wish to reach a particular goal more quickly, your programme should be fully supported including initial assessment, ongoing review, adjustment, progression and EDUCATION by a professional ideally. We study this stuff for a reason! Anyone can write a list of exercises for you to do, but the difference is that I offer customised programming to my clients, not standardised.
Start simple and progress. Beginners can make great progress really quickly. Make sure the sets feel hard, and track your progress – yes, this means you need to write your sessions down!
If you’re ready to step up into the wonderful world of strength training, but unsure where to start – get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to help or point you in the right direction for your goals.