Strength Training For Fat Loss
When it comes to fat loss, most people embark on a program of cardio and dieting. Strength training is just an afterthought. Strength training, however, can burn just as much, if not more, fat than cardio. Why is it that people focus on cardio as their primary fat burner?
For one thing cardio does shrink you down. But it does just that: it shrinks down both your fat and muscle. You end skinny and soft. Bodybuilders, however, want to retain or even build muscle while burning off fat. Why? A larger engine burns more fuel. Larger muscles burn more calories and more fat.
While cardio burns calories and fat when you're performing it, high rep strength training has what is known as high EPOC or "Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption." This is a fancy term for saying how long your metabolism is elevated after exercise.
Studies show that a well-designed strength program can elevate your EPOC or metabolism for up to 38 hours after the workout. In other words, you continue to burn calories long after strength training. Whereas once you stop cardio, the calorie burning stops as well.
Strength training coupled with diet and cardio burns fat far more than cardio and diet alone. In bodybuilding terms, we call this "cutting up."
Bodybuilders bulk up in the off-season, gaining as much weight and muscle as possible. During pre-contest season, they strip away the fat through diet and training, which consists of weight training at higher reps with shorter rest periods. This sort of training induces a large dump of growth hormone (GH) in your body. GH is a potent fat loss hormone and a very mild anabolic.
Generations of bodybuilders have figured out through trial and error that high rep strength training coupled with cardio and low carb dieting gets them cut up.
Although circuit training is a great strength training routine for fat loss, logistically, it is not always feasible. Anyone who has tried circuit training in the gym knows how pissed off people can be when you hog up multiple machines and stations. Plus people will jump in on a machine, thinking that you're done because you moved on to the next exercise in the circuit.
To get around this, however, one can simply employ a "mini-circuit." This is where you alternate between an upper and lower body exercise. Rather than hog up multiple machine and stations and be interrupted by interlopers, you can stay at one or two stations and use one or two pieces of equipment.
Using mini-circuits gives you the powerful fat loss effect of circuit training without the logistical nightmare of procuring and securing multiple exercise stations and equipment. A typical exercise combination I use with my clients is a lower body exercise, such as the squat, coupled with pushups.
Focus On Higher Reps On The Big Lifts
Old-time bodybuilders relied heavily on machines, cables and isolation movements in their pre-season programs. Compound movements (such as the power lifts) and multiple compound movements (such as the Olympic lifts), however, burn more calories. The very fact that you have to use more muscles to stabilize the weight means that you stress and develop more muscle and burn more calories and fat as a result.
Machines and isolation movements just don't stress as much muscle and don't burn as many calories or fat as a result. You should, however, include machine and isolation movements to bring up any lagging body parts. For example, if you were lagging in rear deltoid hypertrophy, then you would include lying rear lateral raises in your program.