Health and fitness can be viewed in three aspects: the mental, the physical, and the chemical. For any physical fitness program
to be completely successful, especially one geared toward fat loss, it must be complemented by good nutrition (i.e., the chemical), and it must be something that you can get excited about and want to keep doing (i.e., the mental), because no program will work without consistency no matter how good it is.
We’re going to discuss not only why the workout concepts and techniques described in this book can improve your physical appearance and functional ability but also why they are more exciting than many traditional methods (such as cardio and bodybuilding training) and therefore may be just what you need to stay mentally engaged and look forward to every workout.
Muscle is metabolically active tissue. In other words, muscle is the physical location in your body where stored body fat is burned (i.e., used as energy). More muscle requires more energy, so the more muscle you have, the more calories and fat you’ll burn over a 24- hour period of time, even while you sleep! Although the exact number of calories burned for 1 pound (0.45 kg) of muscle is debated to be between 30-50 calories per pound, we can safely go on the low end of this: 30 calories burned per pound of muscle. That means that adding just 5 pounds (2.3kg) of lean tissue would result in losing one pound of fat every month—without any changes to your diet. And, a 10-pound (4.5kg) muscle gain would
effectively double the metabolic effect.1 While a gain of 10 pounds of muscle seems like a huge deal to some people, the truth is that it’s actually a trivial amount of muscle when spread over an entire body.
Put simply, humans are just like cars. If you put a bigger motor in your car (i.e., add muscle mass), you’ll burn more fuel (i.e., calories) while driving (i.e., doing activities) than you did before. You want to be opposite of your car in that you want to become fuel inefficient, because the more fuel you can burn to perform a given activity, the better!
This is why strength training and maintain- ing muscle mass through proper training and eating strategies is critical for fat loss.
Muscle Gains through Strength Training
Now that you understand why you need muscle to effectively burn fat, the questions then become “How do I gain muscle?” and “How do I keep (building) muscle while losing body fat?” It’s no secret that the most effective method for gaining muscle is strength training. However, even fitness professionals seem to misunderstand the set and rep schemes that have been shown in the research to work best for increasing muscle (hypertrophy). You’ll often hear people around the gym spouting off advice like, “Do low reps to bulk up and higher reps to get lean and toned.” Unfortunately, that common advice is false. Here’s why.
First, being “cut” as men often say and “toned” as women often say just means that you are lean which comes from fat loss. Second, most of the men seem to be comfortable with training to gain at least some muscle mass, but many women unfortunately think they’ll get “bulky.” This is just plain silly, since women have significantly less testosterone than men. So allow me to speak specifically to women for a moment.
When you talk about “toning,” “enhancing,” or “shaping” certain areas of your body, what you’re really talking about is muscle. Put simply, muscle creates the shape of your body, and therefore more muscle equals more muscle tone. You can’t build a perkier, rounder, or sexier anything without building muscle.
And, ladies: To build that muscle, you need to stimulate muscle tissue, and tiny dumb- bells just aren’t the tools for the job. Instead, women often benefit from the type of heavier lifting that they’re more accustomed to seeing men do. Not to mention that, as I also stated earlier: Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, meaning it burns fat. Put simply, more muscle means a faster metabolism!
Third, your muscles don’t become leaner by doing any kind of rep scheme, because muscles only have one way to develop: They either get bigger and stronger (hypertrophy) from strength training, or they get smaller and weaker (atrophy) from a lack of activity. Or, they stay the same. In other words, your muscles form the shape of your body, and being lean (having low body fat) simply allows you to better show off that shape.
Developing Your Muscle Base:
The Foundation of success
Building muscle is like building a house: They both begin with laying the foundation. For the metabolic strength training concepts and workouts in this book to be maximally effective and as safe as possible, you must first possess a strength training base. Developing a training base is the foundation that you build on, and the better your foundation, the more you can build on it. You wouldn’t put on your shoes before you put on your socks. So follow the correct process—don’t just skip ahead to the stuff that looks the most fun—and you’ll get the best results possible. Spending 3 to 5 weeks developing a strength training base has several benefits:
• Strengthens your muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, bones, and so on.
• Helps you become familiar with per- forming basic strength exercises using optimal form to prevent training-related injury.
• Improves your body awareness and the ability of your brain to better utilize your muscles. This is known as increasng neuromuscular coordination.
• Increases your metabolic engine by adding muscle. (Remember, muscle is metabolically active tissue, and more muscle means you burn more energy both while you train and while you sleep.)
Adjusting sets and reps for Muscle Gains
One of the keys to building muscle—to develop your base—is creating the stimulus to elicit muscle growth via the sets and reps you use. Different set and rep schemes have been shown to elicit different physiological and neurological responses. Here’s an overview of the stimulus that each rep scheme creates.
One to 6 Reps
One to 6 reps per set are great for increasing muscle strength (i.e., force production) through primarily neurological factors such as increased motor unit recruitment. Addition- ally, this rep range serves as a nice middle ground for improvements in muscle strength and size. These rep ranges help your body bring more muscle into the game every time you use your muscles to lift a heavy load or explode in a sport event. If you think of your body as a computer, training in this rep range would be like upgrading your software so your computer runs programs (i.e., movements) faster and more efficiently.
Eight to 15 or More Reps
Eight to 15 or more reps per set have been shown to primarily stimulate increased muscle size (hypertrophy) through primarily physiological changes in muscles and connective tissues. Because this range uses a higher number of reps and lower loads, it creates more metabolic stress as well as an increased muscle pump, both of which have been shown to help increase muscle cross-sectional area (i.e., help you gain muscle). So, it’s the higher rep ranges above 6 reps (8-15 reps) that are generally most effective at helping you gain muscle because it creates more of a physiological response. To go back to thinking of your body as a computer, this rep range helps to more-so upgrade your hardware.
The two set–rep schemes just described are not mutually exclusive. Mixing both schemes can have a positive effect—if you have strong connective tissues and bigger muscles, you can lift heavier loads (in the 1-6 rep range), and if you’ve become stronger and better able to use the muscle power you have, each rep you perform (in the 8-15 rep range) will be more effective than if you didn’t have that improved neurological ability to recruit your muscles. Furthermore, although both rep ranges can facilitate positive improvements, you can certainly emphasize the rep range that best fits your goal. Additionally, a range of 6-8 reps can serve as a nice middle ground between the two rep ranges for improvements in muscle strength and size.
What is metabolic strength training
The basis of this book is metabolic strength training, which means using innovative strength training concepts to accelerate metabolism in order to help you lose body fat while building and keeping muscle. In addition, the programs are designed to give you a great workout that you actually enjoy. Let’s check out what the concepts of metabolic strength training are, how they work, and why they may be safer and more effective than other fat-loss training methods.
Three metabolic strength training concepts, which I call the three Cs of strength training for fat loss:
1. Strength training circuits
2. Strength training complexes
3. Strength training combinations
How the Three Cs Work
There are three reasons why the three Cs of metabolic strength training are extremely effective at burning fat.
1. They’re high intensity.
These workouts use challenging loads or lighter loads moved fast, both of which force you to work hard each time you move the weight. The higher the intensity, the greater the metabolic impact!2
2. They involve the entire body.
Each of the three Cs of metabolic strength training uses the entire body, involving your upper body, lower body, and core muscles. And, as stated before, muscle is metabolically active tissue, so the more muscles you work, the more calories you burn. The more calories you burn, the more productive your workouts will be—and the faster you will lose body fat.
3. They demand extended repetitive effort.
Research consistently reports that a direct relationship exists between the duration of exercise and excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is the number of calories expended (above resting values) after an exercise bout.3 The metabolic strength training protocols in this book take more time to complete than a traditional strength training set. So, not only do they require you to perform high-intensity, total-body efforts, but you’ll be performing them for extended bursts.
It’s great to use scientifically proven work- outs that have been evaluated in a study, but it’s unrealistic to ask that of every workout, especially when we’re changing workouts every few weeks to keep things fresh and interesting. Specific workout strategies don’t have to be scientifically proven as long as they are scientifically founded, meaning they are founded on the general principles that have been repeatedly shown to elicit the results you’re after. In this case, the three principles described in this chapter not only make scientific sense but also common sense. In other words, you don’t have to be an exercise scientist to see how the combination of these three factors will burn a ton of calories and be super effective for losing fat and building metabolic muscle, something that a morning stroll on the treadmill simply can’t match.
Furthermore, you’ll find that the workout programs provided in chapter 9 don’t just use one of three Cs for the entire workout. Instead, each program provides a comprehensive blend of the three to ensure each workout is more diverse and more effective. This is because, although founded on the same metabolic training principles, each of the three Cs offers unique benefits, and using all three more likely yields better results than exclusively using one.
Three Cs Versus Traditional exercise Methods
We can’t talk about new methods of fat loss like the three Cs without addressing traditional methods like cardio training, which is commonly thought of as the go-to exercise option for losing body fat. The first thing we’re going to do in this section is give you the naked truth about cardio training by debunking some all-too-common, uninformed training myths. Then I’m going to provide a solid, common- sense rationale for why the metabolic strength training concepts in this book are a safer, more enjoyable, and much more effective training option for building the lean and muscular body you want.
Although any type of physical activity can have positive health benefits, the benefits ofsteadystate cardio training from a fat-loss (without muscle loss) perspective are often misunderstood and overstated. Especially because research has shown aerobic activity (cardio) to be the optimal mode of exercise— over resistance training—for reducing body fat in a timely fashion.4 Now, these results are only half of the training puzzle because you don’t just want a “lean” physique; you want a lean, strong and athletic-looking physique. And, in order to achieve the “strong and muscular” part, you’ve got to do resistance training, which is why the researchers of these types of studies also commonly state that a program including resistance training is needed for increasing lean muscle.
To understand why common statements such as “If you want to burn fat, do cardio” aren’t very accurate, you must first have a clear understanding of what steady-state cardio training is and what it isn’t. Once you understand what it is, you can better under- stand what it does and doesn’t do for you.
You’ve probably heard the terms aerobic training, which means “with oxygen,” and anaerobic training, which means “without oxygen.”
Cardio = aerobic training
Metabolic strength training = anaerobic training
The main thing that separates aerobic from anaerobic training is intensity. Here’s a real-world example to help illustrate this concept: Let’s say you and a friend are jogging together. While you are jogging, you are carrying on a conversation. If you’re able to speak in normal sentences without any huff- ing and puffing between words, you’re in an aerobic state. However, if you both decide to pick up the pace and speed up to a fast run or sprint, you’ll still be able to talk to one another, but you’ll be unable to get out full sentences without taking a breath, which means you’re now in an anaerobic state. This example is called the talk test. It’s a simple but legitimate method of telling whether you’re in an aerobic or anaerobic state.
When you’re in an anaerobic state, your body exclusively burns glycogen, which is what your body turns carbohydrate into after consumption. Glycogen is synthesized and stored mainly in the liver and the muscles. And, it’s your body’s preferred energy source. However, when you’re in an aerobic state, your body has many options available to use as energy, including energy from glycogen, fat, and muscle tissue.
All of this information brings us back to the question, does aerobic training (i.e., steady- state cardio) exclusively use energy from fat? The answer is, no! Sure, steady-state cardio training can burn fat, but it’ll likely use its preferred energy source: glycogen. And, it can burn from muscle tissue as well, which is why few endurance athletes have much muscle mass. Now, with physiology in mind, it’s easy to see how cardio training sessions burn more overall calories than resistance training sessions. But, that fact is: it still doesn’t mean that cardio is the long-term fat loss answer.
Sure, if you’re looking for quick fat loss, I’d certainly say doing a few 20- to 30-minute cardio sessions per week is a good idea to get you quick gratification. And, it’s unrealistic to think that doing some cardio for 4-6 weeks will turn you into a skinny endurance athlete with low muscle mass, especially if you’re using them to complement a workout program that emphasizes strength-training exercise concepts such as the ones provided in this book. How- ever, it does mean there’s no need to go nuts and fall into the false belief that more cardio exercise means more fat loss—especially on a regular, long-term exercise basis. In fact, more cardio (with less or no strength training) will most likely lead to less muscle, which is not a good place to be in terms of strength, performance, or physical appearance.
Strength training is considered anaerobic training because it’s high in intensity and burns energy exclusively from glycogen. That said, remember the previous illustration about talking while running together, and the faster you run, the more anaerobic you become? Well, the cool thing about anaerobic training is that it also gives you the benefits of aerobic training.
Think of a ladder: The higher you climb, the more intense the exercise becomes. In other words, the bottom rungs of the ladder represent aerobic activity, whereas the higher rungs of the ladder represent more intense, anaerobic activity.
When climbing up the ladder, you can’t get to the higher rungs (i.e., anaerobic activity) until you’ve first climbed the lower ones (i.e., gone through aerobic activity). Additionally, when you climb down (i.e., recover) from the higher steps of the ladder, you return to an aerobic state. So, on both ends of anaerobic train- ing intervals (i.e., sets of metabolic strength training) you also get an aerobic training effect. But, if you only do aerobic training (i.e., stay at the bottom of the ladder), you’ll never get the unique metabolic and health benefits offered by anaerobic training.
The time between anaerobic bursts such as sprints or heavy lifting creates an aerobic effect while you allow your body to come down (i.e., rest) between sets. Again, high- intensity activities such as the three Cs of metabolic strength training have been shown to accelerate metabolism for up to 72 hours after the workout due to the effects of excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).5 Steady-state cardio training, on the other hand, has not been shown to create nearly the same EPOC (exercise after-burn) effect.6,7
Each of the three Cs of the metabolic strength training featured in this book take anywhere from 60 seconds to several minutes of constant strength-based activity to complete. That’s several minutes of high-intensity, total-body effort. Essentially, based on the scientifically-founded principles of fat loss, the metabolic strength training workouts get you better fat-loss results for your training time compared with traditional training methods.
What makes Metabolic Strength Training so beneficial?
The human body has the amazing ability to adapt to the demands we place on it. As Aristotle said, you are what you repeatedly do. Earlier we talked about how becoming fuel inefficient (the opposite of your car) will help you burn body fat faster. What do think you’re teaching your body to become better at when you train using lots of long, slow, distance cardio training? You’re teaching it to become more fuel efficient because it knows it’s got to keep as much fuel as possible to last for the long haul. In other words, due to the adaptive properties of the human body, doing lots of steady-state cardio training, on a regular basis for increasing distances, forces your body to become better at conserving energy (i.e., glycogen), which means you’ll gradually burn less and less energy (i.e., calories and fat) as you become better trained. This is great if you’re training to become a distance runner, but it’s a problem when your goal is to maximize fat loss.
Metabolic strength Training Versus Traditional strength Training
If you’re an athlete looking to improve your conditioning, which is the ability to resist fatigue during physical anaerobic activity, the training concepts and workouts in this book, especially the circuits and complexes, are just what the doctor ordered to help you outlast the competition. You see, traditional strength and power training methods are great for improving your peak strength and explosive power, but they’re not so great for improving your power endurance, which is the capacity to produce the same level of power for a longer time—the length of competition. In other words, many of the low-rep, high- load training methods help you to peak your power in short bursts, but they don’t prepare you to go five rounds or beat your opponent to the ball at the end of the fourth quarter.
However, training methods such as the complexes and circuits featured in this book do help increase your power endurance because they require you to perform a high amount of effort for extended periods of time, which is exactly what power endurance is. And, the principle of training specificity tells us that the adaptations to training will be specific to the demands the training puts on the body.
Metabolic strength Training Versus Traditional cardio Training
One pitfall of the false belief that steady-state cardio is the long-term answer to fat loss is the negative side effects of the two most common cardio training methods, jogging and cycling. Both of these training modalities are effective forms of exercise, and they’re nice ways to get outside and do something active, but there are a few major drawbacks to doing them regularly. For example, both jogging and running (jogging is a slower run with a shorter stride) can be tough on your joints because for each step you take when running there is an impact force of about two to three times your body-weight. The impact force results from an abrupt decrease in velocity of the foot as it contracts the ground. And, in a 30-minute run, a typical runner will have about 5,000 impacts. So the accumulation of all those impacts that are likely the root of the injury problem. The impact force and the ensuing impulse wave have been identified as potential factors resulting in injuries, such as stress fractures, shin splints, cartilage breakdown, low back pain, and osteoarthritis, have been associated with these large forces and subsequent impulse wave.8
Also, most of us sit too much during the day. At work many of us sit at a desk, and at home we sit while using the computer and watching TV. It’s no secret that sitting (i.e. being sedentary) isn’t the best thing for functional capacity (i.e., our movement ability and athleticism), but physical activity is great for helping us to get lean and increase our strength and performance. Although cycling is physical activity, it is done from a prolonged sitting position where you’re hunched over the bike. So, you’re not only sitting all day at work and at home, but when you work out, you’re sitting again! Plus, the cycling gets your body better at cycling, but it doesn’t do much for strengthening your muscles for day-to-day activities.
This information is not intended to convince you to quit running or cycling, especially if you enjoy these activities. It’s simply to inform you of their limitations and risks. That said, the workout programs in this book, which use the three Cs of metabolic strength training, provide a tremendous metabolic training effect without nearly the impact on your joints that comes from running or jogging. Additionally, the workout protocols are designed to fight the negative effects of sitting by training your muscles in more athletic postures and more dynamic movements.
If you do want to use traditional cardio activities, I recommend performing them at another time of day than the metabolic strength training program. For instance, you can do one type of workout in the morning and do the other in the afternoon. This strategy is especially helpful if you’re using cardio on a short-term basis to get some quick fat loss, or for recreational activity. If you can’t work out twice in the same day or prefer to get everything done in one workout, you can add cardio to the end of your strength training workouts because the cardio activity is less intense and less complex than the metabolic
strength training. But do not do cardio first because going into intense metabolic strength training in a semi-fatigued state will interfere with your performance.
The metabolic strength training concepts you’re going to learn about in the chapters to follow are safer and more effective than traditional cardio training. Plus, they’re more interesting and less monotonous than just doing the same activity at the same pace for an extended length of time.
As stated in the beginning of this chapter, for any physical fitness program to be successful, it must be complemented by good nutrition. As you know, the higher-quality fuel you put in your car, the healthier it stays and the better it performs. Unfortunately, the constantly changing diet fads and complex, often restrictive diet plans we are constantly bombarded with have left many frustrated and confused about a process that should not be much more complicated than putting quality fuel in your car.