The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between

The Best Methods for Fat Loss ~ Exercise, pt. 1

Fat Loss in general is not easy.  Not that the concepts for fat loss are hard, but that it requires work, diligence, time and effort.  In other words, the exact opposite of what people try to do in their day to day lives (to make things easier and more comfortable) is exactly what is needed to lose fat and keep it off.  On top of that, fat loss typically requires some sort of new actions, habits and thought processes.

With that said, I will discuss the best methods I’ve discovered to Lose Fat with exercises.

#1 – Walking – With a relatively modest diet and long-duration walking this is one of the best methods for those just starting out and trying to lose weight.  With that said, I’m not talking about a stroll in the park type of walk.  I’m talking about walking that keeps your heart rate around 60-70% of your max heart rate.  In order to do this, you most likely will have to be on a slight incline.

The reason why walking is so much better than jogging is that it doesn’t overtax your fat burning hormones (or fat storage hormones), while also helping to burn off more calories while not eliciting fatigue nearly as much as some of the other methods.  If you have an extra 50 minutes per day, 6 days per week, you will be well on your way to losing most of the fat that you will be able to lose.

2 – The Basic 8 Lifting Exercises – If you combine the walking with the 8 Basic Exercises that I think are essential in any person’s programming, regardless if you’re training for general fitness, fat loss or muscle gain, I think you will be well on your way of achieving the fat loss you want to achieve.  What are these basic 8 Exercises?

1 – Deadlifts – For those who finally get the form down right, this exercise is great because you can add weight and show that you can go heavier and push harder than most people would normally do on their own.  Deadlifts (especially Romanian Deadlifts) for women, is a great exercise for your legs. What women typically notice is that they are strong and that their butts feel firmer…and what woman doesn’t want a firmer butt?

2 – Squats – I believe that for most people I see in gyms in general, the back squat is rarely used, or if it is used, it’s definitely not used with the hips dropping down below parallel.  Front Squats are rarely even an option.

The point is that squats are not the easiest exercise to master (neither are the deadlifts), they definitely require more core stabilization (every time I go heavy with the front squats I have a deep, but good pain in my abs), and they help to develop your quads and glutes (aka, your ass) better than almost any other exercise.

3 – Overhead Press or Push Press – There are many people out there that say you don’t really need to do too much for your shoulders because they get worked with other body parts.  This may be true, but I have never felt that my shoulders were not able to handle a smart overhead pressing movement.  This movement, when done correctly also helps to get the scapula and assisting muscles firing correctly, which in turn help with “shoulder issues.”

4 – DB Chest Press (Any variation) – For years, I had problems with my incline barbell chest press, and so I avoided it or did a very limited range of motion.  Over the past year, with the squeezing of my shoulder blades, not flaring my arms out to the side as much when I come down and a complete lock-out at the top of the movement, I have had much better success, without the pain that I had associated with it, in the past.  Any variation will work, but I enjoy the incline chest press the most.

5 – Pulling Variations for the rhomboids/middle trap – This could be a Cable Row, Face Pulls, Single-armed dumbbell row, Inverted rows, Bent-over rows, etc.  As long as you are getting a full range of motion and are firing the rhomboids, everything else will fall into place.

6 – A Movement that starts on the ground and ends overhead – This can be a clean and jerk, a single-armed clean and press, or a snatch.  Most people would do best with the single-armed clean and press.

7 – A vertical pulling movement – This can be a lat pulldown, a reverse grip lat pulldown, chin-up, pull-up, single-armed variations, etc.  The bottom line is again to get a complete range of motion and to actually get the back muscles firing correctly.

8 – Anything you find fun – I think too often people fall into two classes with regards to their exercise selection.  They either only do their “mirror muscles” exercises or they only do exercises that they feel they really should do, instead of simply having fun with some of the movements that may not be worth much physiologically.  While I don’t believe you have to cut out any exercise if you like it, I think you should definitely include a main foray of exercises around the 7 Basics, while also adding ones that you like and that keep you coming back from a psychological perspective. 

In fact, if it was up to me, I would have the ratio of fun to basics exercises be in a ratio of 2 to 1 for adherence (if that’s your primary issue) and 1 to 2 “fun” to ‘basics’ for results. The only other consideration for the “fun” exercises is one’s ability to recover from them in a relatively “normal” time frame.  If you really find box jumps fun and do 100 of them, but it takes you a week to recover, you can keep them, but really consider the volume, etc.

These 7 Basic Exercises should really be the staples of any program. While I understand that there are 1,000’s of exercises people can do to target more specific muscles, to gain muscular size (or at least definition) in their arms, etc, but the bottom line is that if these 7+ exercises are the core of your strength training, and you’re trying to lose fat, you won’t find a better list.

3 – Not going to failure – Most personal trainers (myself included) like to push people hard.  Sometimes though, there is a point of pushing too far.  I think the ability to recover from exercise and the ability to enjoy it in the long-run is a function of seeing results while not being completely messed up (aka, completely exhausted) from the workouts.

This means that you might be sore, but that you will still have a modicum of energy.  I like to use the analogy of getting people to see the Grand Canyon.  They may be scared of heights and so I will have to coerce them in order to get to that point, as I would have to coerce people to get to the limits of where they should be working.  With that said though, I don’t like to push people off the cliff once we get them there – That is where I feel a lot of personal trainers go to with people who are first starting out.

Instead, get them to the edge, let them experience the awe of what they are capable of achieving, and then leave that area.  Go back another day.  The more they are exposed to their limits, without the fear of being pushed over, the less they’ll be scared of heights – the more they are willing to work hard.

4 – Pushing Yourself to Failure – Once you get to a certain point of having command over your body, you should really push yourself to your limits.  This may mean on a short-term scale of an exercise that you do weekly, or on a larger cycle of a plan, (anywhere from 4-16 weeks) of going hard and working hard “at your limits.”

After you have pushed yourself that hard, for that long, you then back off slightly, until you get to a point where you can recover, feel good and do it again.  It’s this cycle that will get you to your point, but the point is to be able to recover by being active (the walking), and to push yourself hard without feeling like one is a form of punishment.  The pushing yourself hard should eventually be seen as something of an individual challenge to be overcome, by yourself, for yourself and not something to simply be sloughed through (although at times, it may be a combination of both).

On Friday, I will post part 2 of The Best Methods for Fat Loss, Exercise edition.  In it, I will describe the other 5 “best” methods along with presenting a sample workout routine to get you started.

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