Last week we looked at the basic principles that need to be applied in order for a training programme to be effective. Today we’ll look at 2 methods of training that you can use to get leaner, stronger and fitter.
For the majority of people who are looking to lose body fat and improve strength and fitness, most exercise or training programmes will fall under the following headings: Weight Training, High Intensity Interval Training, Group/Class sessions and Steady-State Cardio. People will generally have a preference for one particular method, but in terms of improving body composition, a combination of 2 or more of the above will get best results.
“Pumping Iron” is probably one of the most mis-understood methods of losing body fat. For many people (mostly women), lifting weights is associated with Monstrous Muscles and fears of turning into Arnold Schwartzenegger overnight. As many lads who try to achieve this shape will testify: it doesn’t happen overnight, it requires years of dedicated training and nutrition, and in some cases it’s enhanced by very questionable “supplements”.
If fat loss is your goal, a 45-60 minute session of lifting weights that work the major muscle groups of the legs, back, chest, shoulders and arms will work best. By increasing the amount of muscle you carry, you will increase your resting metabolism (the rate at which your body burns calories) which will help to reduce fat levels. My female clients regularly drop a dress size in a month, using only weight training and a good diet. Apart from improving your body shape, it will also make you stronger which in turn makes everyday activities like lifting, pushing and pulling so much easier. There is no disadvantage to being stronger.
Weight training is very safe – as long as it’s done properly. If you’re looking to start this type of training, it’s very important that you have a well-structured programme designed by a qualified trainer. Make sure that you’ve been shown the proper, safe technique for each exercise and that you use this technique every time you lift. Once this good technique becomes automatic, you will be able to safely increase the amount of weight you lift.
High Intensity Interval Training:
H.I.I.T., as it is often referred to, has become very popular over the last number of years. The basic concept of this method is that it alternates short bursts of flat-out effort with recovery intervals of very little exertion. There are 3 reasons that I train with it myself and also use it with my clients: 1. It’s extremely effective at reducing body fat levels, 2. It has a very beneficial effect on improving sports performance and general fitness, and 3. It’s very time-efficient – a good session can be done in under 30 minutes. The only caution is that it is very tough, and is not recommended for beginners or the faint-hearted.
The other major benefit of H.I.I.T is that it is very flexible – it can be used with a whole range of different types of equipment, or with none at all. The props aren’t important, all that matters is the intensity of the effort. I usually start my clients with 4-6 sets of 30-45 seconds work intervals, alternated with 2-3 minutes recovery, depending on their experience and fitness levels. I use the treadmill, rower, stationary bike, bodyweight exercises or even stair-climbing to work the muscles in different patterns and to keep the “victims” interested!
This seems very easy until you try it: remember that you will be going at all-out, sprint pace rather than jogging pace. The result is very similar to weight-training: your metabolism increases post-workout with enhanced fat-burning, and it prevents muscle loss, unlike long-distance, endurance work.
Today was just an overview of 2 of my favourite training methods – future articles will go into more detail on specific exercises and programme design. Next week we’ll look at how to get the most from Group Training and Steady-State Cardio options.