Building Training Programmes for Fat Loss: Part 1…

Lets face it personal training is expensive. Not only is it expensive but if you do a basic search for personal trainer in your local town they are on the increase. In my local town of Ware/ Hertford there appear to be over 20 trainers all plugging different approaches for fat loss from different diets to extreme exercise regimes. What works though? Well taking up your activity burns calories but what gets the best results. What follows are the three basic components of  a training programme.

Item 1- Aerobic Exercise.

This can be seen in the form of jogging or any other form of low to moderate cardiovascular exercise. Currently, this is a form of exercise deemed inefficient by the fitness industry for fat loss. The advantages are that it require minimal equipment and is the easiest to perform for beginners physically and psychologically. From a scientific definition point of view this may be considered to be working at a threshold of under 70% of an individuals VO2 Max. In some individuals this will be enough stimulus for fat loss as the intensity will be enough to cause an overreaching effect. In physically fit individuals this level of exercise may be considered extra activity and have to be performed for a longer duration to burn a suitable amount of fat. The negative implications for this are that the body adapts quickly to this level of intensity and therefore to elicit further responses exercise intensity or volume will need to be increased. From a hormonal standpoint excessive training volume may not be beneficial, this in line with not enough intensity to promote the hypertrophy of muscle mass can in effect decrease net metabolic rate as aerobic exercise if poorly prescribed can be anabolic in nature meaning that lean muscle tissue is broken down. This does to a point explain why new exercisers undertaking an exercise routine see decreases in weight followed by a plateau as the body adapts unless training volume or intensity is modified.


Item 2- Anaerobic Exercise.

This can be described as periods of high intensity followed by a rest period such as sprints or circuit training. This method is well used in the fitness industry and rightly so as it mixes periods of elevated intensity with rest in effect causing an acute overreaching effect in the exercise session which places the body under stress which it has to adapt to. Again anaerobic exercise is dependant upon the fitness of the individual being trained, the intensity that the individual is being placed and the period of recovery before the next interval. This type of training is very metabolically demanding and therefore it’s use in comparison to aerobic methods of training needs to be limited.


Item 3- Resistance Exercise.

Resistance training is hard to quantify as in effect everything is resistance training if you are moving your own bodyweight. Weight training in itself burns calories though not necessarily the same amount as anaerobic or aerobic training. The advantage of weight training is that it promotes the growth and importantly the maintainance of lean muscle mass which in effect keeps the energy demands of the body elevated. Methods including super setting exercises (pairing exercises performed one after the other) to be time efficient are useful as well as providing extra stress to the cardiovascular system.

Repetitions for each exercise of between 8 and 12 are effective for lean muscle maintainance. Rest periods should be around 30 seconds to 90 seconds as the muscular system is the main system to be fatigued and therefore full recovery is not necessary. If the desired response is to get stronger then performing 6 repetitions and below is the ideal rep range as there is a need here to challenge the nervous system. It is important for longer rest periods here to let the body recover fully.

Typically most programmes recommend one form of exercise to promote weight loss. This approach is in effect limited as variations in stimulus cause the body to adapt. Net fat burning in a session of exercise is dependent upon the cumulative intensity and volume of the session. At rest we are burning more fat proportionally compared to the other fuels in the human body. This is the same for low intensity exercise. During low intensity exercise calorific expenditure per minute of exercise can be around approximately 5kcals though net fat loss is higher if we work at a higher intensity as well as the net amount of other fuels that the body can use for energy. During intense exercise calorific expenditure per minute can be at 10kcals and above. Obviously intense exercise can not necessarily be maintained for long periods. Resistance training in it’s traditional form has a calorific expenditure between high and low intensity work. High intensity work and resistance training place a greater stress on the body and have a higher post exercise calorific burn compared to low intensity work.

The way these methods of training are combined depends on the individual but each of these items of training form the basic tool box for smart fitness training programmes.

Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST ( 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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