When it comes to clients coming to me with a goal for improving body composition, fat loss is right at the top of the list. Lowering body fat levels isn’t just the same as lowering your bodyweight. When you lose bodyweight you’re likely to lose a little bit of muscle mass as well. But if the primary goal is fat loss then generally losing weight is the best place to start.
First thing I will tell my client when they come to me saying I want to lose the fat on my arms or belly is… You can’t spot target fat loss in one specific area. You have to work towards reducing overall body fat levels. Furthermore once you start to lose body fat some areas may lose body fat before others. For example, you may hold a higher fat percentage in your legs than your abdomen therefore your legs may take longer to get to your desired look. Now it comes down to how are you going to lose body fat?
To Lose Fat
You have to create a calorie deficit. Yes it’s as simple as that but what does that mean? In other words, you have to burn more calories than you consume. While of course diet is involved in that and often the main component, what I try and emphasise to my clients is moving more. This doesn’t just mean the workouts you’re doing during the week that involved intense exercise, but also those hours between when you wake up and when you got to bed.
Are you able to walk more? Take the stairs rather than the escalator. Walk between work meetings rather than catching a cab? If you are sedentary all day (Sitting at your desk) and just work out for an hour, two to three time per week, that might help improve areas of your health such as cardiovascular, heart health & bone strength. But when it comes to specifically weight loss the small little bits of movement throughout the day if frequent will add up and create a far bigger result and help you achieve the results you desire.
So let’s get down to what you can do in terms of exercise to increase that calorie deficit and accelerate your fat loss. These are some suggestions that you can try and incorporate to your day to day life or workout routine. Have a read below and also check out some example workouts I’ve added for you.
Start Walking More
It may seem small, familiar and just a little too easy, but it’ll make a huge difference. Waking is known as NEAT (Non exercise activity thermogenesis) NEAT is classed as the energy expended that is not involving planned exercise, sleeping or eating. The more you can increase your NEAT levels the higher your average daily calorie burn will be. Starting to see how it works? Get on your feet more often. Take that work call outside whilst on a walk. Skip the lift or escalator and take the stairs instead. It’s hard to burn adequate excess calories in an hour long intense session on its own. But if you are frequently getting in 10,000 steps each day that could actually make or break your daily deficit target.
HIIT is great if you are short on time
Besides taking more moments to stand up, doing a more efficient workout means you’ll blast more calories and burn more fat. For that, you’ll want to turn to interval workouts, says Costello.
Metabolic conditioning (aka metcon) workouts place a high-demand on the body by testing its different energy systems. “Once you influence your metabolic burn rate, it stays up even during rest intervals. That gives you a much more efficient fuel burn, without feeling like you overdid it,” says Costello. He suggests sticking with metcon workouts of about 30 minutes and HIIT workouts (in which you work at an even higher intensity) for about 15 minutes. Aim to do these every other day, or take two to three days of rest between each, so your body can properly recover, Costello says.
“As you get in better shape, you’ll see that you burn more calories week after week, because you don’t get as exhausted,” Costello explains. That’ll also help you reach the caloric deficit you need for weight and fat loss.
HIIT Example Workout
Tabata training structures a workout into specific intervals of work & rest. A tabata style workout consists of 20 second bouts of maximal effort followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeated 8 times. This taking 4 minutes. I’d then recommend resting for 2 minutes and repeating for 3 - 4 rounds.
Tabata style workouts cause the heart rate to spike quickly as you’re working at maximal intensity and with only a very short rest of 10 seconds means your heart gets high quickly and stays high for the duration of the workout. This compared to steady state cardio where your heart rate gradually increases as the duration of the session increases. On top of this your heart rate during steady state cardio will not reach the heights of tabata style workouts.
In terms of duration of sessions you can expect to burn the same amount of calories in a 20 minute tabata session than you would in say a 40 minute steady state cardio session of jogging. Therefore if you’re somebody who is time poor then in terms of bang for your buck you’re better off using a tabata style of training. Also if you’re somebody who dislikes the monotony of a long casual run then you’ll get just as much of an endorphin rush from completing a tabata workout.
Below are 8 moves that I love to use for tabata workouts. The great things about tabata style training is you can get a great workout in using just your bodyweight.
Start with your feet set shoulder width apart. Lower down into a squat making sure your chest is staying upright and your knees aren’t collapsing in. Once at the bottom a squat explode upwards as fast as possible and get as high as you can. Once landing land with bent knees do not land with locked knees and continue to perform the above. Find a tempo you are able to stick with for the whole 20 seconds.
Get on the floor, positioning your hands on the floor just outside of your shoulders. Keeping your core engaged drive through your palms and push your body into a high plank position. You should be aiming for your body to travel up in one line not allowing your hips to sag and come up off the floor after your chest.
Inhale as you lower yourself to the floor and exhale as your drive up.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, with your core engaged.
Take a big step forward with your one leg. Keep your arms by your side or placed on your hips.
Shift your weight forward with this leg, so your heel touches the floor first. Then lower your body until the forward leg is parallel to the floor. This is the bottom position.
Jump up, quickly switching the position of your feet while mid-air so your front leg moves back behind you and your other leg comes forward.
Gently land back on the floor in a basic lunge position with the opposite leg forward. Repeat this movement pattern, switching legs on each jump for the whole 20 seconds.
Starting in a high plank position. Squeeze your glutes and engage your core. Drive one knee at a time towards the same elbow. Whilst taking that leg back drive the other one forward performing the same movement. Make sure you keep your back flat and your bum isn’t in the air. The knees should be about 2 inches off the floor.
Start in a high plank position. Your hands should be placed about shoulder-width apart. In one sweeping motion, rotate your body to the left and kick your right leg through. Using your left arm, touch your hand to your toe. Bring your hand and foot back to high plank position, and repeat on the opposite side, touching your right hand to your left foot.
Super simple but tough! Start in a low plank position. Squeezing your gluten and engaging your core. Without letting your hips rock from side to side transfer into a high plank. Then lower yourself back down into a low plank and repeat the movement for the whole 20 seconds.
An extension on press ups. Start lying flat on the floor on your front. Perform a press up and as you start to get towards the top of the rep jump the feet in towards the hands stand up and perform a star jump. Lower yourself back down to the floor in a controlled fashion.
Begin in plank position on all fours, with your body in a straight line and your legs and arms shoulder-width apart. Stack your hands under your shoulders.
Jump forward like a frog into a wide squat position. Your knees and feet should land just outside of your elbows. Release your hands and look forward. Then place the hands back on the floor and jump back into the plank position and repeat.
Add resistance training in your workouts
Apart from high intensity intervals sessions & increasing your step count, another way to increase your fat burning and muscle building formula is resistance training. Strength & resistance training is unbeatable, because it’s the only thing that prolongs muscle tissue as you get older. Your typical cardio based sessions can burn more calories, but it doesn’t do much to prevent muscle loss especially during a fat loss stage. Furthermore to this the more lean muscle tissue you have the more calories you will burn each day.
Another bonus of strength training is it prepares your muscles to work even harder when completing tough high intensity workouts. To keep the real benefits from resistance training make sure you are using the principle of progressive overload. This means each session you should be looking to either use heavier weights or increasing rep ranges. Progressive overload makes sure the muscles are getting different stimulus each session and you’re not plateauing. Preventing you from making further gains in your fat loss journey. See below for what type of resistance training I’d recommend.
Example Resistance Training Session
Box squat x 5
Romanian deadlift x 8
120 seconds rest between sets x 4
BB bench press x 5
Prone row x 8 (1 sec hold at top)
90 seconds rest between sets x 4
DB step ups x 8 (each leg)
DB push press x 8
90 seconds rest between sets x 3
Bicep curl and press x 10
DB lateral raise x 8
Tricep push down x 10
60 seconds rest between sets x 3