Do you want to reveal a killer 6-pack without melting away your muscle mass? Here are a few ideas to help take your condition to the next level!
After my recent article on effective deltoid training, I was hit with a ton of feedback. Not only was I quizzed on other aspects of general mass building, but I was also asked if these same techniques would work if your goal was to whip yourself into phenomenal shape. I can most definitely say "yes".
Getting lean is the easy part, but keeping the hard earned muscle when focusing on fat loss can sometimes be a little tricky. For some trainers, it's like a doubled edged sword. They'll lose the fat, but also lose a substantial amount of muscle in the process.
Quite frankly, there is no reason why you should lose an ounce of muscle when training to get into shape. It's too damn hard to build in the first place to be going around and burning it up for no reason.
Remember, it's not just about losing weight. It's about losing the excess fat and accentuating your already existing muscle mass to showcase your best ever physique.
So what I want to share with you are some of my ideas for getting into shape. Granted these are the same tactics that I use to get into tip-top shape for the stage, but you can use these same principles to suit your own goal - be that for the stage, a '12 week Transformation' Challenge, or for a more generalized goal such as looking good for the beach.
Weight Training For Fat Loss
When we are on the 'mission for mass' we have no problems in regards to effective weight training. Hit the weights hard, challenge yourself to lift heavier at every single session coupled with a 'never say die' attitude, and you are well on your way.
We in fact thrive in the challenge of putting weight on the bar and mass onto our physiques. But what happens when our focus turns to fat burning is that the majority of trainers simply forget about every training tactic that has ever been beneficial.
Entering into the fat loss phase, priorities change. It's no longer about mass, it's now about that '6-pack'. But the problem for most trainers seems to be in the way they attack their goals. It's all about increasing the reps, decreasing the overload and chasing the burn right? Wrong!
Every time you step into the gym for a weight-training session, you should have one single goal in mind and that is to stimulate maximum muscle growth. It doesn't matter if you are 6 months from your end date or 6 weeks, it's all about gaining mass and strength. That's what weight training is all about, building muscle!
The best way to hit the weights is always the same - heavy load, low reps and limited volume. Focus on the basic overload training principles, both when you are trying to gain mass and when you are aiming to lose excessive body fat.
So what happens when you reduce the overload by reducing the weights and increasing the reps? You are taking away the very 'need' for your increased muscle mass in the first place. The reason you are carrying the additional muscle on your frame that you built in the off-season is because it is needed to survive your brutal training sessions.
If you take away the reason, you can take away the muscle. So to keep your mass, you need to continue training hard and pushing yourself at every session.
Additionally, muscle is a metabolically active tissue so the more muscle you have, the more calories your body needs during each day just to function. This alone can aid in fat burning and is just another benefit to hitting the weights hard!
Eating For Fat Loss
Aside from heavy training, nutrition can be seen as another one of those secret weapons for ultimate fat burning. Just like eating to get big, you also need to follow a detailed nutrition plan when you are dieting down and my number one rule is to eat!
Too many people believe that skipping meals and changing their entire outlook to nutrition will lead to accelerated weight loss, but if you start skipping meals and fail to provide your body with the fuel it needs to power through your workouts, you'll end up losing a lot of muscle for your trouble.
Eating for fat loss isn't just about cutting calories. It's about supporting your training and nutritional requirements with smart choices and creating the ideal calorie balance (relationship between calories in versus calories out) to get the job done.
With food choices, remember you still need to take care of your training requirements and overall health first and foremost.
This means you should focus on quality proteins, functional carbohydrates (high GI varieties around training and low GI varieties throughout the rest of the day) and essential fats.
When its time to cut calories, first focus on the meals outside the 3-hour post-workout window and then delete a balance of calories from meals as required.
Whenever one of my clients wants to focus on fat loss, the first thing I have them do is 'increase' their meal frequency.
Over the course of a day they will still be getting in the same number of total calories or sometimes even a little more, it's just an increase in meal frequency.
I often get quizzed on the reasoning behind this and it is pretty simple. Every time something passes your lips (be that solid food or even just a shake), your body needs to do its thing and process that food.
The more often you take in calories (as a meal), the more efficient your body can become in processing those nutrients and this may also speed up the body's ability to use stored body fat as energy.
I have no physiological proof that this is the case, just real world feedback. I have found that when I greatly increase the number of daily meals I have but keep the calories roughly the same; I get leaner with no increase in activity.
The leanest I have ever been for competition was in 2003 and I was eating 14 meals per day (and that is not a mis-print).
Cardiovascular Training For Fat Loss
Just like weight training, cardio exercise is surrounded by those age-old myths that people just don't want to let go of.
You know the style, 30-60 minute sessions on an empty stomach first thing in the morning and stay in the fat burning zone.
But remember, cardio isn't just about losing weight. It's about burning calories to enhance fat loss, and as such there is a better way.
An effective cardio session should be tackled in exactly the same way that an effective weight training session is - with intensity.
The traditional view with cardio is to keep the energy output under control so you burn a great percentage of body fat (compared to carbohydrates) during the session and your assumption would be 100% correct.
But that's not what effective cardio is all about. Effective cardio is all about utilizing energy and encouraging your system to run at a higher level.
Have you ever heard of the term 'sugar burner' when used to describe high intensity cardio?
No, well what it basically means is that due to the athletes high output they are mainly burning carbohydrates as the primary energy source to power through the session. Is that a bad thing? No way!
Remember, effective cardio training for fat loss is all about utilizing energy because the simple fact is, energy balance will always determine whether you gain, lose, or maintain weight.
Energy balance is the proportion of calories you take in versus the calories you burn up through exercise and metabolic functions. You lose fat only when you are in a negative energy balance.
How Does High Intensity Cardio Work?
- Well for one let's not forget that we are on a calorie controlled diet and you know exactly what you are eating each day.
You don't need to know every exact figure, but your nutritional choices and sizes need to be pretty consistent from day to day so you can make adjustments when needed.
Run with me for a minute and I'll give you a better understanding of effective cardio training.
You perform a high intensity session and burn X amount of calories (more then if you performed a lower intensity, higher volume session) and then your system will continue to run more efficiently for several hours which will help burn an additional amount of calories.
Does This Affect My Overall Calorie Balance?
- This will help you burn a greater percentage of calories, and the more calories you utilize during the day the quicker your body will tap into stored energy levels (that's your body-fat) to fill the void.
And that, my friends, is why high intensity cardio works so well. It lets you burn those stored calories quicker and the quicker you utilize them, the quicker you will reach your goal.
What Type Of Cardiovascular Exercise Can I Do?
- The world is pretty much your oyster here. You can do any type of cardio-vascular exercise, as long as it gets the heart rate up and you can deliver the required rate of intensity.
Here are just a sample of the things you could use to melt the excess fat away to reveal a rock hard mid-section:
- Hill sprints
- Interval training
- Mountain biking
- Power walking with the dog
In the Gym:
- Elliptical trainer
- Stair climber
Some are the traditional varieties and some I bet you never thought of. Again, remember intensity is the common denominator here and not necessarily the type of exercise employed.
Obtaining your ideal physique really isn't that complicated, but requires some hard work on a consistent basis. It's just a matter of manipulating the basic principles to suit your lifestyle and your individual goals, and then going for it!
Summer is just around the corner so what better time to put it to the test and display some devastating condition!