This is going to be the first in a series of quick tips on the blog because I realize that a lot of people need reminders and pointers even on subjects that we have covered in the past, and these must perforce be “quick tips” as our new Hong Kong personal training gym has just opened and we are also in the final stages of finishing off a follow-up to The 12 Week Body Plan (that should blow your socks off if you liked the first book!).

The cornerstones of exercise for fat loss:

You can’t out train a bad diet!

Get this into your head right now, I don’t care how hard you bust your balls in the gym, if you eat like crap you will look like crap. Yes, I know that your brother’s lover’s cousin’s nephew eats at McDonalds three times a day and has an eight pack of abdominals. Guess what, he is a freak. You are not.

Is there really such a thing as "exercise for fat loss?"

There is an argument that “exercise for fat loss” is a bit of a meaningless term because all exercise can help promote fat loss. Even exercise that creates minimal metabolic disturbance such as traditional strength training will help create a positive hormonal environment for better body composition, however, it won’t be “optimal”.

Male fat loss results

Optimal Exercise For Fat Loss – create metabolic perturbation

As I wrote in the point above, optimal exercise for fat loss would be a program that creates maximal “metabolic disturbance” or “metabolic perturbation”. We can get all fancy and technical defining what this is but that will have to wait for another day. All that you really need to know is that metabolic perturbation disturbance will be stimulated by exercise modalities that keep your body off balance (ie not adapted). What this means in plain English is that if you go at one pace then you are failing to maximize your exercise for fat loss. You must change pace and variables even within a single workout. The antithesis of this principle is one paced jogging – although I am not one of these personal trainer who will come out with that line of BS that “jogging is bad for you”, or even worse the clowns who say “cardio makes you fat”, but what it certainly is not is the most efficient way to exercise for fat loss. This is because just like your motor car, if you plod along at one pace your body can shift into “economy mode” and do as much exercise as possible for as little metabolic disturbance as possible. Which of course makes massive evolutionary sense as we are genetically programmed to store fat to protect us from famine and even physical attack (hence the reason why so many of our vital organs are covered in a later of fat. If you want to read more about the best ways to use cardio for fat loss, I go into much greater detail in an earlier blog entitled cardio training program.

Lift Weights – the best exercise for fat loss

Too predictable, I know. Nothing else will create the right metabolic perturbation required for fat loss like the appropriate resistance training program. Where so many people go wrong is that they fail to follow these rules:

Keep the workout alive and train at pace – if you are chatting up the hot babe, texting your friends, or commenting on Facebook in the middle of a session then you are not working at the right pace to maximize fat loss.

When in doubt make it harder not easier – exercise for fat loss does not mean finding comfortable machines to park your butt on. Don’t sit when you can stand, use free weights over machines, and wherever possible move your skeleton through space – dips and chins done at pace will maximize body composition efforts like nothing else. Think compound, multi-joint exercises over isolation movements (most of the time).

Don’t fall into the “light weights for fat burning” myth. Yes, higher reps will keep you more active than lower reps and they have their place, but if you want to maximally tax your body you need to lift progressively heavier loads (therefore an indiscriminate smash 'em up session will always lose out to a well thought through and periodised training routine) so “go light” at your peril. And a word to wise, when paired with the right supersets/giant sets, low rep “fat loss oriented” training can be beyond brutal and work far better than light pumping sessions.