What you do in the gym sucks… Do this instead!

As a follow up to my last post I received a few queries on what I was actually talking about! Well keeping in line with the practical nature of this blog I thought I would give some samples. A couple of people have asked how this translates to performance in respect to strength levels and if it is relevant for those in regular competition. Fat loss can also be a product of this type of training; fundamentally this is due to the expenditure of a lot of energy.

The point I was making before previously is that conditioning needs to be varied for those seeking body fat reductions. From a performance perspective gym based conditioning does not need to be too heavy- perhaps only one to two sessions a week for those who have team or game based training time as well (commonly due to time commitments I find most gym time is best developing strength, power and correcting the postural issues that game time and general amount of training brings). If necessary then those training for a sport need to perform higher end intense work as they will get a general turnover of low level conditioning from their “skills” training.

For those training for reducing body fat the higher intensity stuff still applies. Two sessions of interval based training is usually the best choice. What type of exercises used can vary; my point on efficiency in the blog post before highlights that mastery of an exercise can limit its effectiveness. It doesn’t mean that it can’t be used, it just means that to end up with a washboard stomach variation is the key.

Interval training and high rep circuits though are not the be all and end all if you want to turn your body in to a fat burning furnace. Resistance training 2-3 times a week helps build and preserve muscle mass. For a lot of clients I tend to have a preference for strength based work (sub 6 repetition). Here we get a good return in strength- a lot of people don’t want their scale weight to go up so working with lower repetitions does not necessarily cause as much muscle damage and therefore less size gains. This is not to say I do this exclusively with clients- some may lift with higher reps as they want to install a hypertrophy response- most of the time though for fat loss a dietary modification has been made that will limit muscle growth meaning it’s just not that smart to chase fat loss and muscle gain at the same time.

Everyone though has a different preference and their programme should reflect this. I generally think that you should have one main preference in your programme of which your training and nutrition should be reflective. 3 times a week of lifting weights is the ideal either with 3 full body sessions or one upper, one lower and one full body training session. So the ideal training week may look like the below.

Monday Lower Body Resistance
Tuesday Intervals/ High Intensity
Wednesday Upper Body Resistance
Thursday Low Level Intensity Exercise
Friday Full Body Resistance
Saturday Intervals/ High Intensity
Sunday Rest

 Additional training can be done after each resistance session though this may be general activity or steady state. Also there is a low level intensity “recovery” day this may involve some general activity, posture correction work and generally a flexibility/ mobility circuit.

So what are is the best intensity based exercises to perform? Well there are some broad categories of which I use a variety of combinations in a session. Firstly, there is your standard ratio based sessions for instance 1 minute hard followed by one minute easy, 45 hard/ 20 easy, 30 hard/ 30 easy. A lot of press time has been given to “Tabata” style work outs- the original protocol of 20 seconds of high intensity followed by 10 seconds rest is just another timed interval. Simply if you do the same interval all the time your body will adapt and adjust. These sessions could be performed on c.v. equipment, running on a track or outside or with low level weights. My though process is changing a lot on this recently as I have had a larger base of clients to work with. Weight training works pretty well if this is the only time you are going to touch weights- full body complexes such as squat to press, squat to curl, kettlebell variations and modified bodyweight drills. I often use single leg exercises such as walking lunges and dynamic movement based drills such as weighted get ups and rolling sprints. These are metabolically demanding as they use the whole body as a unit.

Secondly, random drills can be quite fun as well, loaded sled dragging and pushing is perhaps my favourite at the moment- although most trainees won’t always have access to this I find that the movement is so alien to most people that for the first 3 weeks of training they forget how hard it actually is as they just try to keep breathing! Again this may be repetition based or time based though this type of training can be good for individuals who compete in strength based sports as you can add additional load (this brings down the work interval time but in turn heightens the intensity- I like this for the Rugby players I work with).

Thirdly, I love sprint based drills and hill running. On this type of stuff varied distances and work intervals can be used but find a steep enough hill and that will effectively tell you when to start and end the session. Track based sprinting is also good fun 100m, 200m and 400m are among my favourites. If you only have access to a commercial gym and treadmill perform 5 x 400m sprints at full pace (recover for as long as you want) it will definitely blow the cob webs out if you are not used to it.

 As you can see most of these methods of training involve full body movements and doing what are bodies are supposed to do- moving. Going for a 30 minute steady pace burn is okay after a resistance training session (if creating a calorie deficit is the idea) or as recovery but if you are serious about changing your fitness then simply this will not cut it when it comes to taking it on to the next level.

Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST (www.resultsfast.com)based in Ware, Hertfordshire. Specialising in athletic development, physique improvement and injury rehabilitation he provides personal training, strength and conditioning and nutrition coaching for motivated exercisers and those looking to make a long term change to their health, fitness and performance.

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