If you missed the first part of this, check it out here.
In this installment, I’m going to focus on exercise.
I firmly believe that weight training should be a part of your exercise program no matter what your fitness goals are, and that it is the most important thing you can do for fat loss. Let me explain why.
First of all, obviously, weight training burns calories. But not only does it burn them while you’re working out, intense weight training will temporarily boost your metabolism so that you keep burning calories at an elevated level long after you’re done.
Second of all, your body requires more calories to maintain muscle tissue than it does fat tissue. What this means is that the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns even when you’re not doing anything! The actual additional amount of calories burned is disputed, and this article provides an excellent analysis, but it’s clear that additional muscle helps in the long-term battle against fat.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, weight training is important to help keep the muscle that you already have. Because muscle is metabolically expensive, when you’re in a caloric deficit, your body is going to want to break it down and use it for energy, so you’ll end up losing both fat and muscle. Because of the second point above, you definitely don’t want this to happen because it’ll make maintaining your fat loss that much more difficult. By weight training, especially with heavy weights, you’re sending the message to your body that it needs its muscle. Doing this, combined with a protein-rich diet, will help minimize muscle loss.
There are other benefits of weight training, but hopefully these are enough to convince you.
As for how to weight train, that’s a topic for multiple posts itself, but here’s a few important points:
- Focus on big, multi-joint movements, like squats, deadlifts, military presses, dips, chinups, rows, etc.
- Do full body workouts, or upper/lower splits
- For fat-loss purposes, keep your workouts short (30-60 minutes) and intense (short rest intervals between sets)
A common objection people have to weight training – especially women – is that they don’t want to get bulky like the people on the cover of muscle magazines. Something you need to understand is that those people are genetically gifted, eat and train at insane levels, and (importantly) take boatloads of steroids. Trust me, you’re not going to get that big and bulky by accident, and it’s not going to happen overnight.
The quotes are there because I’m using this to refer to everything besides weight training. As mentioned above, I believe weight training to be of utmost importance, and it should always take priority, but if you have time to do additional exercise, it’ll help you burn additional calories, as well as conveying other benefits.
I prefer to do things that are intense for short periods, rather than low- to moderate-intensity endurance types of exercise, since I find the former much more effective (and way less boring) over the long haul. For me this typically means:
- HIIT, including Tabata
- Jumping rope
- Barbell complexes
Once a week, I’ll go for a run or a bike ride. In general, I think that endurance-oriented activities like running suck for long-term fat-loss (that’s a post for another day), but doing it occasionally is fine.
I’m 38, and over the years, I’ve been stupid about the way I exercise, so I’ve had my share of injuries. To help avoid this, every day I try to spend some time doing mobility and soft tissue work.
Mobility work consists of dynamic stretching and various exercises to improve the range of motion of my joints and muscles. I try to do this as often as I can, because I’ve managed to become rather inflexible over the years.
Soft tissue work consists of using a foam roller and tennis ball to essentially give myself deep tissue massages. This helps break down and clear scar tissue, and although it hurts initially, it has made a huge difference in keeping me pain and injury free.
In addition to the formal exercise listed above, I’ve made an effort to simply move more. This includes getting up from my desk periodically to just walk around the office, walking rather than driving to nearby stores, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and so on.
If you’re in a position where you’re just starting to try to lose fat, all of this may seem a little overwhelming. My advise would be to just start doing something. It really doesn’t matter what it is, and if you’re going from a relatively sedentary life now, you’ll most likely see huge improvements almost immediately. It’s best to try to do something you enjoy, because let’s face it, motivation is a huge factor for most people.
Jan 1st starting weight: 232.5
Starting BF%: 31