Let’s face it, if you’re training seriously to alter your body composition, you’re not doing it because you don’t have enough body fat. No, like ninety-nine percent of gym goers, you would like to see an increase in lean muscle, and a decrease body-fat. I’m not saying you want to get bodybuilder-big, or fitness model-ripped, but your goals almost certainly fall somewhere on the more-muscle-less-fat spectrum.
With this in mind, if there was one type of exercise you wanted to be favouring, it would be the type that helped build muscle whilst simultaneously supporting the stripping away of body fat. You didn’t need me to tell you that bit, did you? It wasn’t a great leap of deductive reasoning, after all. What you want to know is, do such exercises exist? My answer to that is, of course they do. What’s even more exciting than that, though, is that there are four that are king amongst them all, and I’m about to list them here for you.
There are many reasons why the squat is such a phenomenal exercise. First of all it targets the legs, the biggest muscle group in the body. Muscular growth means a higher metabolism, a higher metabolism means more fat burned at rest. If you’re going to target muscles to grow, target the biggest group in the body. Secondly, with a barbell on your shoulders, you’re engaging your entire core, another not-to-be-sneezed-at muscle group. Besides which, you’re going to be wanting to build a little lean muscle for when that fat’s stripped away, otherwise you’re just gonna look emaciated. That’s right, squats are going to help strip fat, pack on lean muscle, and they’re going to jack up all the gains you make with your upper body training.
Things to remember – Keep your back straight, keep your weight on your heels. Keep the negative (downward) movement slow and controlled, and don’t pause at the top and bottom. We want those muscles to remain under tension for the duration of the set.
What the squat is to all the muscles down the front of the body, the deadlift is to everything in the posterior chain. As well as being a muscle-building, fat-burning powerhouse of a move, and an essential part of the process of building a chiselled physique, deadlifts are also useful for building all those muscles we regularly use in our everyday lives for picking things up and putting them down. Evolution was kind enough to provide us with opposable thumbs, the least we can do is keep our bodies fit enough to make proper use of them.
Things to remember – Straight back and weight on your heels, just like the squat. Make sure your muscles are fully engaged before driving through your heels and pushing the ground away whilst gripping the bar. No pause at the top and bottom.
High Intensity Interval Training
Why does high-intensity-interval-training work? There are a number of reasons, but let’s try to keep it simple. With traditional, long-slow cardio, your body might burn some fat, but it also burns anything else it can find, including muscle tissue. This means your metabolism will slow down and you will be more likely to store fat. Which sucks if your goals are less fat. Sure, you can got for a walk, but to net optimal results from that you’re going to be having to do it for more time than anyone with a job, family or other life commitments can realistically spare. High intensity intervals, however, work on your short-term, anaerobic energy systems, the recovery processes of which see you continuing to burn fat once training is through. Furthermore, doing this throws your body into survival-mode. Think about this for a moment, when we were living as hunter-gatherers, the way our bodies were designed for, we mostly either walked from place to place, as dictated by our nomadic tendencies and survivalist instincts, or we were running very fast towards or away from animals depending on our relationship to them on the food chain. Either way, catching them or not being caught was a matter of survival, so it was something our bodies adapted to very quickly, and when we place our bodies under that sort of pressure to perform and then recover, we cause the hormonal big-guns to get broken out. HIIT convinces our body that we need to survive, so it goes into “adaptation for survival” mode and supplies us with all the growth hormone, testosterone, epinephrine and norepinephrine it can produce. Want less fat and more muscle? Yes? Then we like these hormones.
Things to remember – Try it on the rower. All out, hard as you can for twenty seconds, followed by ten seconds of slower paced rowing. Do eight rounds and do not pace yourself. Go maximally for all eight rounds. Round number eight will likely be a little slower than round number one was, but as long as you keep working as hard as you can that doesn’t matter. Keep your back straight, pull the paddle into your navel, place lots of power into that backward movement by using your back and legs in tandem.
What if I was to tell you that there existed an exercise that combined all of the most awesome elements of everything I just talked about above? It doesn’t mean you should neglect the other moves in this list, but in terms of bang-for-your-buck, you’re going to have a hard time beating the Prowler Push.
The prowler is a weighted sled that sits quietly in the corner of any gym worth having a membership to until such a time that some well-informed person chooses to break it out and go from regular to awesome in one short workout. Arguably the best way to use it is to load it up with a challenging stack of weight plates, get behind it and push it back and forth. Keep your hips down, your head up, your core engaged, and drive forward using your legs. Pretty soon you’re going to start seeing similarities to the body Conan forged on the Wheel Of Pain.
Try a 1:1 work to rest ratio. Push it back and forth for one straight minute, then rest for a minute. Then do it again. Then do it again. Do it for as many rounds as you can. I like to fit five in at the end of a conditioning session, but if you can do more you should.
Happy training guys.
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