Question: What’s the best fat-loss workout to help me lose 20 pounds over the next few months? I’m ready to get in the best shape of my life this year and want to make sure I’m doing everything correctly.
Answer: The single most important factor for fat loss is diet.
You can do ZERO cardio and do nothing but singles, doubles and triples in your training and still get ripped if your diet is dialed in.
That doesn’t mean it’s the most effective way but it can be done through diet alone. There’s nothing else you can do to enhance fat loss the way a good nutrition plan will.
That means you need to avoid sugar, liquid calories, fried food, processed food and all the obvious offenders. Your meals should consist of organic lean protein, vegetables, some fruit, healthy fat like coconut oil and [lean] grass-fed [beef] along with starchy carbs like yams or jasmine rice on training days. Everything else is out.
The more body fat you have to lose the fewer carbs you’ll be able to tolerate. The leaner you are the more carbs you’ll be able to consume.
Strength Training For Fat Loss
Now, as far as training goes, it doesn’t change much. The usual inclination is to double your reps and cut your rest periods in half. But that will only lead to you getting small and weak.
The purpose of strength training is to get bigger and stronger. During a fat loss-focused phase, strength training shouldn’t change significantly. You still want to keep the big, compound exercises in there because they incorporate the most muscle mass and burn the most calories.
Even though your primary goal is to lose fat you should still train like you’re trying to build muscle and gain strength.
To lose fat you will need a caloric deficit. That means you won’t be gaining much in the way of muscle during an extreme fat loss phase, but that doesn’t [mean you] have to lose muscle or strength. In fact, I’ve seen plenty of people gain strength over the course of a 12-week fat-loss diet.
So you do your normal strength-training routine with big lifts and bodyweight exercises, sets primarily in the five to 12 rep range (and up to 20 on some lower-body exercises), with rest periods at somewhere between 45 seconds and two minutes.
In general, rest periods should always be pushed no matter what the goal.
I’m not a huge believer in the ultra-long rest periods for full recovery of the nervous system. In this regard I’ve always been influenced by Louie Simmons and like shorter breaks between sets and a brisk pace throughout the workout. This will boost conditioning levels and help you stay leaner.
Then, when your main strength work is done, you have the option of following it up with a high-intensity finisher for five to 10 minutes. This could be sled pushes, kettlebell snatches, battling ropes, heavy-bag work or sledgehammer swings. Or you could combine them all into a circuit.
If you normally train four days per week and don’t do any finishers at all right now, don’t immediately add one to every single workout. Start by adding a five-minute finisher to two of the days and then work your way up slowly over the next few weeks.
Aside from adding in two to three finishers per week you can also add one to two days of hill sprints (or flat-ground sprints if you don’t have access to a decent hill). But again, this has to be done on a slow, gradual basis. If you add all this at once you’ll find yourself overtrained and coming down with the flu within a matter of weeks.
A 12-Week Schedule For Increasing Workload
Here’s a 12-week schedule for adding more conditioning to your training, assuming you are doing zero right now:
Week 1: Two five-minute finishers
Week 2: Two seven-minute finishers
Week 3: Two eight-minute finishers
Week 4: Two eight-minute finishers, one 15-minute hill-sprint workout
Week 5: Two eight-minute finishers, one 15-minute hill-sprint workout
Week 6: Two 10-minute finishers, one 15-minute hill-sprint workout
Week 7: Two 10-minute finishers, one 20-minute hill-sprint workout
Week 8: Two 10-minute finishers, one 20-minute hill-sprint workout
Week 9: Two 10-minute finishers, two 25-minute hill-sprint workouts
Week 10: Two 10-minute finishers, two 25-minute hill-sprint workouts
Week 11: Two 10-minute finishers, two 30-minute hill-sprint workouts
Week 12: Two 10-minute finishers, two 30-minute hill-sprint workouts
Take it slow and remember that no matter how much extra work you add in you can only really lose two pounds of fat per week without losing muscle.
If you’re obese this may increase to five pounds and if you’re trying to go from 10 percent body fat down to seven this may end up only being a pound a week.
There is no “best fat-loss workout” that can defy human physiology. If you follow a proper diet, train hard, do some finishers and sprints you’re doing all you can. Now you’ve just gotta be patient and disciplined.
So be realistic and don’t sacrifice your size, strength and health in the process of getting ripped.
Get lean once and stay that way for life.
Jason Ferruggia is a renowned fitness expert based out of Santa Monica, CA. He's trained hundreds of clients and been featured in various media outlets during his 18-year career. Find more of his content on his website and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.