The 7 Best Workouts for Fat Loss

Any fool can lose fat, but getting shredded while keeping or even building muscle takes know-how. Here's how to do it.

The-7-best-workouts-for-fat-loss

Lose Fat and Build Muscle at the Same Time

Fat loss is simple, but improving body composition – losing fat AND adding muscle – is a lot trickier. It requires the use of smart nutrition and the best training methods.

A lot of people who focus on "fat loss" think of their lifting program as a way to burn more calories, and because of that they assume that the key is to do higher reps and a lot more sets. They're right, you definitely have to increase energy expenditure, but not at the expense of the growth stimulus placed on the muscles.

It's more important to focus on increasing density than volume. Density refers to doing more work per unit of time. In other words, rest less during your workouts. This will keep your metabolic rate high both during and after the session. It'll also promote a hormonal milieu that's conducive to fat mobilization. And if you plan it right you'll still be able to promote growth. Here are the best methods.

Method 1: Loaded Carries

Loaded carries simply means transporting weights various ways. It could be walking with weights in your hands (farmer's walk), carrying a load in the crook of your elbows (Zercher carry), holding a bar, dumbbells, or kettlebells overhead and walking with the load (overhead carry), or pushing/pulling a sled. Other implements can be used, too, like sandbags or wheelbarrows.

Loaded carries make the body work in a way that's not found in any other exercise: they combine a strong need to stabilize the trunk, dynamic movement, isometric tension in key muscles, as well as the need to fight "micro-oscillation," a minuscule but constant change in position that forces the body to recruit muscles to stabilize the load.

Loaded carries will...

  • Decrease body fat: Carries burn calories, promote an optimal hormonal milieu, and improve insulin sensitivity in the muscles.
  • Increase muscle mass: Carries keep the muscles under tension for a fairly long time, initiate muscular contraction to fight micro-oscillation, and provide loaded stretching of muscles.
  • Improve hardness: The whole body has to work in maintaining rigidity to stay stable and fight micro-oscillation.
  • Boost the big lifts: Carries can have a profound impact on performance on the big lifts by making your core bulletproof.

Two Ways to Use Loaded Carries

As a stand-alone: Do sets of a loaded carry movement just as if you were doing a regular exercise. Every type of loading/length will have positive impact on body composition, but you should choose the method that best applies to your goals.

Loaded Carry Chart

If body composition is your goal, either of the last three categories would be effective. If your main goal is to add muscle with some fat loss, sets of 50-80m with 90-120 seconds of rest is best. This will have the maximum impact on muscle mass while also burning some fat.

If you're after more fat loss, then either of the last two can be used interchangeably. The only difference is the mindset you have when doing them. Regardless, you work for about a minute (up to 90 seconds) with a similar rest period. You'll still get some muscle growth out of it, but fat loss will be maximal.

As a medley: Combine 2 or 3 different loaded carries in a circuit or use loaded carries with other metabolic exercises (rowing ergometer, sprinting, rope skipping, mountain climber, etc.) This approach allows you to keep a higher training density – you can basically go non-stop for 10-15 minutes – especially if you pick exercises using different body parts.

For example, you can do 5 circuits of sled pushing (40m), battle ropes (30 seconds), farmer's walks (40m), and Swiss ball crunches (10-12 reps). Another effective one: 50m with the Prowler, 50m of sprints, 50m of farmer's walks, and 50m of walking (the rest period) for 6 rounds.

Method 2: Upper/Lower Alternating Sets

By doing two exercises that target muscle groups that are far away from each other (for example, quads and shoulders) in rapid succession, the body has to quickly adjust blood flow to the working muscles. This constant need to adjust blood flow makes the heart and vascular system work extra hard. This is good for mobilizing fat and cardiovascular health.

Stick to slightly lower reps so you can handle fairly heavy weights while still getting the metabolic boost and cardiovascular effects. Shoot for 6 to 8 reps per set, but you can go up to 10-12 reps on some exercises. Pair two exercises together and rest roughly 20-30 seconds between both. Example:

  • Leg press 10 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Dumbbell shoulder press 8 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Leg press 10 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Dumbbell shoulder press 8 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Leg press 10 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Dumbbell shoulder press 8 reps

You can use any exercises you want, but for best results apply these rules:

  1. Include one upper body and one lower body exercise per pair.
  2. Try to avoid exercises with a strong postural component, like squats, deadlifts, and bentover rows. If you're not used to high density training, you might find it hard to maintain a proper lifting posture when you get tired.
  3. You can use isolation exercises, but do them near the end of a workout or pair them with a very demanding lift.
  4. Start at 3 pairings per workout until you become more efficient at high density work, then consider moving up to 4.
  5. Control the eccentric or negative portion of the movements, even going fairly slowly.

Method 3: EMOM with Alternating Exercises

EMOM means "every minute on the minute." These are normally done with 2 pairings per workout. This 4-rep method is more focused on strength, so use about 70% of your maximum, using only big lifts: squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, chin-ups, barbell rows, push press, front squats, etc. Pair one upper and one lower body exercise.

You must start a new set every minute. On odd minutes you'll do exercise 1 and on even minutes you do exercise 2. Example:

  • Start 4 reps back squat
  • 1:00 4 reps bench press
  • 2:00 4 reps back squat
  • 3:00 4 reps bench press
  • Etc.

Your first option is to do a whole workout using only that approach. This means doing 2 such pairings in your workout for 14-20 minutes each. Start at 14 minutes and work your way up. Take about 5 minutes between both pairings and do nothing else in that session except for maybe some minor work for the abs or other small muscle groups, but for no more than 15 minutes total.

The second option is to do a regular (but a bit shorter) lifting session and finish that workout with one EMOM pairing for 14-20 minutes. This would be your finisher.

Method 4: Elimination Circuit With Climbing Reps

This is almost like a game. You create a circuit of 5 exercises covering the whole body. They all have to be big movements:

  • 1 squat variation
  • 1 horizontal press (barbell or dumbbell bench/incline)
  • 1 hip hinge variation (any deadlift, Olympic lift variation, etc.)
  • 1 vertical press (barbell or dumbbell military/push press)
  • 1 pull (pull-up, chin-up, row)

Do all these exercises as a circuit. You're allowed 60 seconds (beginners), 45 seconds (intermediate), or 30 seconds (advanced) between stations. Use approximately 60% of your 1RM for each lift.

Start your first round doing 5 reps on each exercise. When you've completed a round of the circuit, add one rep per exercise while keeping the same weight:

  • Round 1: 5 reps per exercise
  • Round 2: 6 reps per exercise
  • Round 3: 7 reps per exercise
  • Round 4: 8 reps per exercise

You'll be perfectly fine adding one rep per round up to about 8 reps. At that point, fatigue will build up. On some exercises you might not be able to add another rep. When you can't complete the required number of reps on an exercise, drop it from the rotation and continue on.

What happens then is that you get less rest between individual exercises, which will invariably cause you to drop another exercise from the rotation. Continue in this manner until you have no exercises left in the rotation. Then go dip your head into an ice bucket.

Circuit Training

Method 5: Strength/Size Metabolic Complexes

This method is also great for improving athletic performance. It combines three exercises done as a complex (one after the other with a brief rest period). All three exercises target the same muscle group.

The first one is used to build strength, so you'd do a big basic lift for 3-6 reps per set. The second exercise is a hypertrophy movement done for 8-12 reps. The third is a metabolic exercise done with sets lasting up to 60 seconds. Here are some examples:

Lower Body Example 1

  Exercise Reps Rest
A1 Back Squat 4-6 30-45 sec.
A2 Leg Press 10-12 30-45 sec.
A3 Sled Pushing 40m 3 min.

Lower Body Example 2

  Exercise Reps Rest
A1 Sumo Deadlift 4-6 30-45 sec.
A2 Leg Curl 10-12 30-45 sec.
A3 Kettlebell Swing 30 3 min.

Upper Body Example 1

  Exercise Reps Rest
A1 Bench Press 4-6 30-45 sec.
A2 Incline Dumbbell Press 10-12 30-45 sec.
A3 Battle Ropes 30 3 min.

Upper Body Example 2

  Exercise Reps Rest
A1 Bentover Barbell Row 4-6 30-45 sec.
A2 Cable Seated Row 10-12 30-45 sec.
A3 Rowing Ergometer 200m 3 min.

Method 6: Active Rest Between Sets

This simple method consists of never taking actual rest periods during training. This means you include some light training or activity between the sets of each exercise. This activity isn't so intense that it prevents you from performing at a high level in your actual lifting exercise; it's just enough to keep your heart rate elevated.

One effective method is ab work during upper body workouts, or postural exercises like band pull-aparts and rotator cuff exercises during lower body workouts. You could even do things like forearms or calf work. Just make sure that the movement you select doesn't have a negative carryover to your main lift.

Example:

  • Do the first set of your main exercise. Take no more than 15-20 seconds rest.
  • Do active rest work for about 45-60 seconds. Take no more than 15-20 seconds rest.
  • Do the second set of your main exercise.

Continue in this manner.

Method 7: Walking

Adding an hour of brisk walking every day can do wonders for body composition. Sure you could jog or do HIIT, but if you're already training hard in a caloric deficit, doing too much intense work could lead to negative outcomes like the overproduction of cortisol.

Walking, however, won't raise cortisol. In fact, it might lower it because it helps you unwind and relax. While it won't burn a ton of calories, it can still make a significant difference. A fairly rapid walking pace can use up about 350-400 calories in an hour. Over a week that comes up to 2400-2800 calories. A pound of fat is about 3500 calories. While the math isn't quite that straightforward, it could amount to an extra 4-5 pounds of fat loss over a 12-week period.

Never dismiss something because it's not "hardcore." I walk one hour every morning when I'm in a fat loss phase and sometimes I'll go take another walk in the evening. Every bit helps!

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