True or false: Losing fat is 90% diet and 10% training. False. That’s actually the formula for losing weight-a very different goal.
I’ll explain. Most trainers will tell you that your diet is the most important factor in your pursuit of a fatfree body. After all, you can eat 1,000 calories (think two Snickers and a Big Gulp) a lot faster than you can burn them. But that’s still only half the equation. Simply cutting calories without exercising-or worse, doing the wrong type of exercise-doesn’t just burn fat. It burns fat and muscle. So you’ll weigh less, but your body will be weak and soft instead of lean and hard.
The fact is, the way you train is every bit as important for fat loss as the way you eat. Unfortunately, when most guys think of exercising to lose weight, they think of aerobic activities such as jogging or cycling. And while both burn lots of calories (which is important if you have trouble sticking to a diet), when it comes to burning pure fat, aerobic exercise is about as overrated as Lindsay Lohan’s acting. Here’s why:
Your body adapts to cardio. Meaning, the more you do it, the more efficient your body becomes at burning fat for fuel, causing you to burn fewer calories from your fat stores each time you exercise.
It takes longer. Because your body adapts to aerobic activity, your workouts have to last increasingly longer in order to provide the same calorie burn. This not only increases the amount of time you have to spend in the gym but also increases the odds that your body may start breaking down muscle instead of fat for fuel.
The benefits are temporary. Aerobic activity doesn’t increase the amount of fat you burn after your workout. Your metabolism returns to normal shortly after stepping off the treadmill.
THE WORLD’S MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO LOSE YOUR LARD
At this point, it should come as no surprise that hitting the weights is the best way to get rid of unwanted fat. The trick, though, is knowing exactly how to train to accelerate the rate at which your body burns fat, without sacrificing any of your hard-earned muscle. The first step: Forget about training individual body parts. Instead of doing arm and shoulder days, think of your body as a single unitand try to work as many muscles as possible each session.
Studies show that the more muscle you stimulate in a workout, the greater the boost to your metabolism for the next 24-48 hours (a process known as “afterburn”). That means your body burns fat at an increased rate long after your workout is over-while you’re driving to work, watching TV, or even sleeping.
OK, so you ready to start lifting? Aim for three full-body workouts per week, resting a day between each. (Because you’re working your entire body each session, you’ll want to avoid lifting on back-to-back days, in order to give your muscles time to recover for your next workout.) Here are the four essential rules you must follow to ensure you get the most out of your muscles-and your fat-loss workout-every time you set foot in the gym:
1. Use free weights. Machines are designed to target individual muscle groups. This actually reduces the total amount of muscle involved in moving the weight. For instance, a legextension machine works one major muscle group: the quadriceps (and maybe your jaw if you grind your teeth hard enough). A freeweight squat, however, hits more than 250 muscles.
2. Stay on your feet (whenever possible). Nothing shuts off muscle like sitting or lying down. For example, a standing curl is generally better than a seated curl because your back, hip, leg, and even big-toe muscles have to work just to keep you standing.
3. Do compound exercises. Always opt for exercises that force you to move at more than one joint-the squat (hip and knee joints), bench press (shoulder and elbow joints), and rows (shoulder and elbow joints) are all excellent examples. These “big” lifts require a tremendous amount of energy, stimulating the release of muscle-building and fat-burning hormones and accelerating your results.
4. Go heavy. Conventional wisdom used to suggest that high-rep, light-weight workouts were the best way to lose fat and increase muscle definition. But in reality, low-rep, heavy-weight workouts burn more calories. More important, they also work more muscles, increasing your “afterburn” once you leave the gym. (Low-rep, heavy-weight workouts also have a much greater protective effect on your muscle, preventing it from being used for energy and ensuring that your weight loss comes purely from fat.)
The bottom line when lifting to lose fat: Stick to 5-12 reps, using the heaviest weight that allows you to complete each rep with good form. Perform 3-5 sets of 4-6 exercises per workout. (If you do four exercises, do more sets per exercise; if you do six exercises, perform fewer sets.)
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