The Hierarchy of Fat Loss

"As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble" - Ralph Waldo Emerson (writer, philosopher)


A few month's back we let you peek inside the construction of our training at the gym based around the most effect principles for fat loss. It was taken from an important article (for us anyway) written by one of our mentors, Alwyn Cosgrove, and it bears condensing into one blog post.

If you've always wondered why our classes and training are set up in a certain way, why you do burpees, goblet squats, strider sprints and alternating lunges, it is all based on the following principles. 

1) Nutrition

Yes, it's true, you can lose fat without exercising. In fact, Alwyn's article mentions nutrition as the first two components of fat loss, it is that important. You simply cannot do a bicep curl in one hand, while munching on a burger with the other, and expect amazing results. You can NEVER outwork a poor diet. The ones who tell you that you can are liars, thieves, or blessed with freaky genetics.

Losing weight via healthy eating is great, but you also don't want to become weak, get injured, have excess skin, and lose that endorphin rush that is so important from exercising. So the next step you want to incorporate in the hierarchy of fat loss, is...

2) Metabolic Resistance Training

You'll have likely heard of the effects of this type of training, whereby after creating a "metabolic disturbance," you can burn fat up to 36 hours after your workout. Study after study has been made to conclusively show that this is the best training method for fat loss (refer to the original article for evidence).

So how does it work and what does it look like? The most effective way to create a metabolic disturbance is to try to engage and intensely attack as many muscle groups as possible, using resistance. Bicep curls and side lying leg lifts might get you stronger but single joint work is not as effective for fat loss. Things like weighted lunges, step-ups, pull-ups, goblet squats, deadlifts, trx crunches and rows are far more effective. Surprise, surprise, you may have noticed these exercises in our Bootcamps, Get Strong and TRX classes and is a staple of our personal training.

So unless you have a metabolic health disorder or you're an alien from another planet (the same one who allegedly abducted Renee Zellweger and replaced her with a completely different person) it's nearly impossible that this type of training won't work for you. It's pretty hard to cheat biology!

So how do you make metabolic resistance training effective? Make sure you lift weights that are heavy enough to burn your muscles and drain your central nervous system. Do compound movements as mentioned above. Ensure that you are engaging your core and the correct muscles for each repetition, and that you're leaving each training session blowing out your derrière! If you are quite bulky, losing weight through nutrition first will really help you perform better in training.

Finally, we do realize not everyone likes to lift weights, so the next stage is level is...

3) High Intensity Anaerobic Interval Training

Or as I'm sure you'll have heard its shortened term - HIIT. This is where you perform short but intense bursts of exercise, with little rest in between. If you've been part of Victoria's Strider classes you may have experienced intense sprints, hill climbs etc... like this, and if she's feeling extra horrible that day, she'll put you through a Tabata-style class of burpees, jump squats and more compound movements.

Much like #3, this has to be done with intensity. Walking in and out of a burpee doesn't cut it if you're more than capable of doing it with a jump. Like we said above, if you have trouble performing these types of exercise, losing some weight by correcting your nutrition, and starting off at a less intense pace is the way forward. If mobility or tightness is an issue then dynamically stretch, foam roll and  attend Yoga, Pilates, Stability Ball, Fitness Essentials and the Sunday Tune-Up before progressing.

Here's a brief mention of the last two in the fat loss hierarchy...

4) High Intensity, Steady State Aerobic Training (e.g. running at an intentional fast pace over a long time period) 

5) Low Intensity, Steady State Aerobic Training (e.g. walking)


Ok, so you might be thinking what does this all mean to me? What it says is, if you are a busy parent and only have 1-2 times per week to workout and you want to lose fat, then you shouldn't be running slow for 20 minutes and then doing a mat-based Pilates class. You should be paying attention to your diet, and then smash your muscles hard and fast (i.e. a session each of #2 & #3).

If you have more time on your hands, say 3-4 sessions per week then variance in your training will be the best route. If you do high intensity training three times per week then a fourth session of lower intensity (Yoga, Pilates, Running) will help you recover better while still putting stress on the body and still expending calories.

What this hierarchy also shows is that if you are couch-based and ready to take on a fat loss program, you might want to work your way up from the bottom of the intensity ladder for a few weeks, as your tight, inactive body might not be able to take the stress of a high-intensity class.

Finally, this also clarifies that while there is no magic pill or 30-day, 60lb weight loss transformation, whoever "created us" has said if you work hard for around 3-4 days per week for just 30-45 minutes, and eat healthy 80% of the time you'll lose weight, gain muscle, be strong and live longer.