Step By Step Guide to Your Own Workout Routine - Part V: Example Routines - Round 2: Fat Loss Support Routine

Image 1: These abs were not sculpted in the non-existent "fat burning zone" - that's for sure.
Today's fifth installment of "Step By Step Guide to Your Own Workout Routine" series is about working out for weight, or I should say fat loss. In the past installments of this series, you have learned, how to incorporate your workout sessions into your daily and weekly routines (Part I), you have read about the basic workout types and their goal-specificity (Part II), you have recapitulated the basics about workload, sets and reps (Part III) and you have seen two detailed example routines that would be appropriate for trainees with a health, respectively hypertrophy focus (Part IV). And while both of the previous workouts will unquestionable help you shed fat, as well (assuming you got your diet dialed in), a fat loss specific routine should be more intense than the health routine and distinctly more metabolically demanding than the hypertrophy routine from the previous installment.

Working out for weight loss, not losing weight while working out

Before we get into the details of the actual routine, it is important to remind ourselves that we are not designing a workout to burn a maximal amount of calories. We are not designing a workout to lose the maximal amount of weight. And we are not even designing a workout to actively burn the maximal amount of fat, while in the course of the workout. What we will do, though is to design a workout that will...
  • help you keep all your muscle while dieting, and
  • prevent your metabolic rate from plummeting
This does also mean that the lions-share of your weight loss will happen in the kitchen, i.e. via modulating your macronutrient ratios and total energy intake, and in your bed.. not what you are thinking now! I mean, while you are sleeping ;-)
Figure 1: Effects of 12 weeks on a 800-kcal liquid diet with either endurance or resistance training on body composition and resting energy expenditure per pound of lean body mass in healthy obese men and women (left, based on Randy. 1999), and effects of 6 months of aerobic or resistance exercise in the absence of energy restriction on body composition and resting metabolic rate of young normal weight women (right, based on Poehlman. 2002)
Accordingly long steady-state cardio in the non-existent "fat burning zone", like the ones by which the obese subjects on an 800kcal starvation diet from the 1999 study by Randy et al. effectively" reduced their lean body mass and resting metabolic rate (RER; interestingly measure per pound of lean body mass, so the reduction was not a simple consequence of the muscle loss!) will not be part of your regimen (Randy. 1999; cf. figure 1, left). Likewise, you will not be working out like mad at 90% of your maximal heart rate for 40 minutes on the treadmill, as the young women in the Poehlman study from 2002 did (Poehlman. 2002; cf. figure 1, right) and shut down your metabolism to "make sure" that your weight jojos back up, when you fall of the wagon or simply decide that you have lost enough weight.
Figure 2: Body fat (measured by 4x skinfold), waist circumference and weight loss in women after 10 weeks of 5x week walking at 80%HRMax for either 2x15 or 1x30min (left; Murphy. 1998) and energy expenditure (in kcal/min) before during and after workout a full body resistance training workout with matched workloads performed slow (2s con, 2s con), explosive on the concentric or explosive and heavy (Mazetti. 2007)
What you will do is a combination of frequent, short, intense cardio-vascular workouts, similar to those thrice weekly 3x10-min workouts at 80% of their maximal heart rate, which helped the 47 women (44y) in the 1998 study by Murphy et al. shed more body fat than 1x30 minutes workouts at the same intensity (Murphy. 1998) and explosive lifting sessions (2s eccentric, explosive concentric) in the 8-10 rep range, similar to those 2007 study by Mazetti et al. (Mazetti. 2007; note: I am making this argument rather in view of the amount of glycogen you will deplete during your workout; this will ramp up AMPK and thusly increase your insulin sensitivity and fatty acid oxidation, cf. "AMPK's Effects on Body Composition").
You cannot "work out" a desolate diet! What you put, or do not put in your mouth is the key determinant of successful fat loss. And while we will have a "Step By Step Guide to Your Own Dietary Regimen" in the future, there are two basic rules apply to every non-morbidly obese person: Don't cut your calories back more than -20% unless you have very good reason, such as a bodybuilding contest due in a few weeks, and there is no need to go no-carb or no-fat.

The workout: Strength + AM/PM HI(I)T sessions

In view of what I have deliberately emphasized in the red box above, i.e. the fundamental role your diet plays when it comes to losing superfluous body fat, the following template is not a workout that will "make you lose fat", but one that will ideally support your "fat loss":
    The fat loss support routine, four training days per week
    • S1: Intense full body compound movement circuit training: You perform one set of each exercise in the given rep range and move on to the next, after one "circle" is completed you start anew. Try to hop from one exercise to the next in ~60-90s to keep your heart rate elevated. Depending on your fitness level perform the circle 2-4 times 
      • Bench press or hammer strength BP: 8RM
      • Squats or Leg press: 8RM
      • Underhand pull ups or pull downs: 8RM
      • Clean and press: 8RM
      • Deadlift: 8RM
    • As you can see there is no range for the reps. This means that you will perform 8 repetitions of each exercise in each round of your circle - no matter what!
      • start your first circle with a weight you can lift for 8 reps
      • on subsequent rounds, if you can still perform...
        • at least 4 reps - rack the weight, take 10 deep breaths and do as many reps as you can, repeat until you get 8 reps, go to the next exercise
        • less than 4 reps - reduce the weight by -15% and perform the rest of the reps - if you can't perform the rest in a row, rack the weight, take 10 deep breaths and rep out the rest; in the next round of your circle start with the reduced weight
    • conclude your workout with 5 minutes on an incline treadmill (e.g. 5km/h at 10° incline) at a leisure pace; the cool-down is the only time in your workouts where you should be able read the flex / cosmopolitan and talk to your friend on the exercise equipment next to you about the latest gossip ;-)
  • R1: Rest day - well deserved!
  • H1: HIT + HIIT day - You will perform two training sessions on your high intensity (interval) training day; the first one will require that you set your alarm clock, so that you can jump out of bed, get dressed and perform a 15min HIT workout at 80% of your maximal heart rate on an empty stomach (if you want guzzle 5-10g of BCAAs during your workout). The rest of the day is yours, until either right after your work-day or at least 4 hours before you go to bed (otherwise the workout will interfere with your fat loss and beauty sleep ;-) you perform a 15-25min HIIT workout.
    • AM: 3min warm-up + 15 minutes at 80%HR doing whatever you like, and fits your type; examples for normal and fit individuals, as well as options for people who still carry more than a few pound too much:
      • fast-paced jogging
      • rowing
      • speed skating
      • cycling / ergometer
      • stepper or cross-trainer
      • swimming (for the good swimmers)
      • rope skipping (for the very fit ones)
      • hiking / walking
      • water gymnastics
      • simply taking the stairs to your office in the 25th floor ;-)
    • PM: HIIT - 3-5 min warm-up + 4-7x 45s intervals with 120s active recovery, i.e. if you sprinted before you just walk now; use whatever equipment you feel is suitable and change things up from workout to workout (I assume you will perform the AM workout at home and head to the gym for the PM workout, so that you should have more than just one option)
      • sprinting on track or stable treadmill
      • cycling preferably on spinning bike or stable ergometer
      • rowing on machine with easily variable resistance
      • rope skipping
      • stairmaster
      • etc.
    • do not neglect the warm-up on any of these workouts - if you injure yourself, your fat loss will come to a screeching halt
    • do never look at the kcal-counter on any of the equipment you use; remember: you are not there to "burn calories"!
    • do not confuse intensity with a high resistance or maximal workload; go fast not "heavy" and only increase the resistance on the equipment, when that does not suffice to bring up the intensity; do not use weight vests or similar equipment, unless you want to ruin your joints
    • do not add a "45min cool-down", believing that this will help you lose body fat; stick to a <5 min cool-down after either of the workouts
  • H2: Same AM workout as H1, only 3x intervals in the PM workout + additional ab-work
    • Ab circle: Perform 3 supersets (60s rest between sets) of
      • hanging leg raises 15-20
      • bicycle crunch to failure
    • Optional mobility work
  • R2: Rest day - well deserved!
  • H1 or S1: A bodybuilder on a contest diet would perform S1, while a slightly chubby person wanting to look good naked would repeat routine H1; optional: rotate from week to week
  • R3: Rest day - well deserved!
This is just a template! I have said that before, but I will repeat it once more. The above routine is just a template. Beginners for example can tweak it to their individual conditioning and skills, by reducing the number of circles and intervals they perform and selecting the right HI(I)T exercise/equipment. It is also possible to replace the exercises in the strength workout - even a machine based training is better than no strength training at all - but it would be better to start with 10-12 reps and a trainer or mentor to teach you how to perform the compound exercises properly than to simply avoid them completely. It should also be mentioned that a "fat loss support diet", just like any fat loss diet, is not something to stay on forever - rmember that and take a week or two off, before digging a whole from which you cannot escape anymore (cf. "The Over-Motivational Roots of Overtraining & Orthorexia")
If you have never trained twice a day before, this may seem like overkill. Having done that, as well as the stupid 45-90min workouts in the "fat burning zone" (everybody makes mistakes, when he/she is young ;-) many people still believe were the non-plus ultra for fat loss, I can yet tell you that the AM-PM routine is not only way more productive, it is also comparably "light". So, if there was anything you should be concerned about in the above workout, that would be the lifting session. I can guarantee, you will soon realize that the rest day thereafter is more than "well-deserved" ;-)

Keep moving! And don't watch TV in-between workouts if you cling to life ;-)

And as with all the previous as well as the strength workout template which is going to be published tomorrow, staying active even when you are not in the gym is the key not only to an improved body composition, but more importantly to your health. After all, Matthews et al. have shown only recently, that the positive association between all-cause mortality and the time US adults spend in a sedentary state was not "fully mitigated" even by high levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity - specifically, if this time was spend watching television (Matthews. 2012). So don't dare lying on the couch on your rest day, if you don't want to rest... ah, risk shortening the rest of your life ;-)
Disclaimer:The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. It is by no means intended as professional medical advice. Do not use any of the agents or freely available dietary supplements mentioned on this website without further consultation with your medical practitioner.