Have you been spending hours a day jogging on a treadmill or climbing imaginary flights on the Stairmaster in hopes of burning fat with nothing to show for it? If so, this article is for you, homie.
Being physically activity on a daily, or at least semi-regular basis is a part of being healthy.
The facts don’t lie - People who are more physically fit tend to have better health markers and lower levels of body fat.
Exercise also burns calories, which can help you lose more weight than if you were to focus solely on diet.
The problem, though, is that many dieters make the mistake of following exercise protocols that are "less than optimal" for their goals.
“How many overweight people do you know who spend 10+ hours a week jogging and using cardio machines with nothing to show for it?"
While there is no bad or wrong way to exercise, there are certain types of exercise that are more effective for the specific goals.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that your primary goal is to lose as much fat as humanly possible, and so it makes sense that you should be following an exercise plan that's designed with losing fat as the main outcome, right?
This Three Step Exercise Plan incorporates exercise strategies that will help you demolish fat, and heck, you'll even building lean muscle in the process!
The best part is that I am going to provide you with ACTIONABLE advice, so you can get started the second you finish reading. 🙂
Your Three-Step Fat Loss Exercise Plan
Before I get into the three steps, I'm want to remind you that exercise is just a part of losing weight.
Your diet and nutrition are far more important, especially in the long run.
If you haven't started making diet changes or learning my philosophies on nutrition, then be sure to download my Fitness Start-Up Plan.
It's 100% free and is 30+ pages of actionable and no-BS advice.
Step One: Incorporate Resistance Training
In my opinion, the best style of resistance training is strength training (or lifting weights)
Quick side note: Don't you think it's hilarious that we refer to strength training as "lifting weights"? I just think it's ironic how there are all kinds of fancy-pants ways to go about strength training (CrossFit, Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, etc.), but at the end of the day, we are just picking things up and putting them back down.
Humans are strange creatures.
If you only do one form of exercise throughout your weight loss journey, it should be weightlifting.
I'm sure you know that lifting weights is necessary for building muscle, but did you also know that it plays an essential role in maintaining muscle while dieting?
In fact, resistance training is the NUMBER ONE way to ensure that you don't lose lean muscle while dieting.
(Eating enough protein is also important, but not as much as training)
Most people neglect the weight room while dieting and get less than optimal results in return. They may be perfect with their nutrition too, but the weight they lose isn't just fat - it often includes muscle, too.
This leads to the Skinny-Fat look that drives dieters crazy.
Here’s a video that does a fantastic job explaining what Skinny-Fat is, and how to avoid it (hint: he recommends lifting weights too 😀):
Even if you don't care about building lean muscle and looking "muscular" or "toned", there are a number of other benefits for building muscle.
Here are the notable ones:
- Increased Metabolism - muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat, meaning you'll burn more calories the more muscle you have. It's not a huge difference, but a noticeable amount. If you lose muscle while dieting, your metabolism will slow more quickly. (which is often a problem for long-term dieters who don't lift)
- Improved Posture- People get rounded shoulders and "bad backs" as a result of sitting all day, leading to muscle imbalances. Proper weight lifting can help balance and strengthen these muscles, so you stand straighter and experience less back pain.
- Increased Strength and Stability - Do you know what the number one cause of death in elderly women is? Falling. Having more muscle (and strength) increasing your balance and ability to move around while reducing your risk of falling or injuring yourself.
And if you want the majority, if not all of the weight you do lose to come from fat, lifting is a must.
Losing WEIGHT is 80% diet and 20% exercise, but if you want most of that weight to come from FAT, exercising–specifically using resistance training–becomes a much more significant part of the equation.
Now, how you lift weights is just as important as actually doing it.
If you are going to the gym and lifting the same light weights every day for weeks on end, your progress will quickly plateau.
There are hundreds of solid workout plans available online, but it's important that you find one that focuses on these major factors:
- Increasing Strength Overtime (known as "progressive overload" and is crucial for building muscle)
- Compound Movements (Squats, Bench Press, Pull-Ups, Back Rows, etc.)
- Adequate Recovery (so that you can continually get stronger without burnout)
(The author is Mike Matthews who runs the site MuscleforLife.com. He's one of my favorite fitness writers and bloggers.)
I also like The New Rules of Lifting Weights For Women.... if you are, of course, a woman :D. (also around $10)
If you want to get started now, and for free, then you can follow the workout plan I have laid out in my Fitness Start-Up Plan.
Step Two: Incorporate Low-Intensity Cardio
If your goal is to improve your cardiovascular health, then cardio is fantastic. But when it comes to losing weight, cardio usually sucks.
Unfortunately, folks looking to drop fat are still frolicking to the gym and running their brains out because they think it's a necessity to see weight loss results.
The problem, though, is that this excessive cardio quickly creates more stress in their lives which leads to less willpower against food cravings, being less activity throughout the day and having less motivation to workout with weights.
So for most people, diet and strength training is enough.
However, incorporating some low-intensity steady state cardio can be a fantastic way to burn more calories without causing the adverse effects that come with jogging and excessive cardio.
My favorite kind of low-intensity cardio is walking.
Walking is great because it doesn’t adversely effect your lifting performance and it’s not physically or mentally taxing.
The one issue with walking is, to burn a noticeable amount of calories (~500), you'll need to walk for 60-75 minutes.
Not good considering most people tend to get bored after about 30 minutes of monotonous walking. (and I don't blame them)
But walking can be a meditative and mental-boosting activity if you use it correctly!
Here are some tips I've used to make walking more enjoyable and productive:
- Tip #1 - Listen to a podcast, audiobook, or guided meditation - you’ll lose fat AND grow your brain.
- Tip #2 - Make important phone calls. Walking doesn’t require a high heart rate, so you should be able to keep a decent conversation.
- Tip #3 - Use my walking “hack” to make walking long distances easier.
Here’s a video of me explaining it:
Once I started using my walks to learn and get stuff done, my evening stroll became one of my favorite parts of the day!
I recommend you start out with at least one, 3o-60 minute walk a week, but you can walk as many as 3-5 times a week if you want to.
Just listen to your body and figure out what works best for you. It's hard to overdo it with walking.
Step Three: Incorporate More “Accidental” Movement
How often are you active during the day OTHER than working out?
If you're like most people, the answer is probably a big, fat ZERO.
While you may spend 2 hours a day working out and doing cardio, It's likely that you're spending the other 10 hours sitting at work, on the bleachers at your kid's soccer game, or lounging on the couch chilling out.
Some people can get away with this inactivity because their bodies are better at upregulating a metabolic process known as N.E.A.T.
NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, and it basically refers to all types of activity that aren't planned exercise.
NEAT is highly variable based on genetics. In fact, This is why some people can eat whatever they want and not gain weight while others get fat by simply looking at a donut.
It’s not that their body magically absorbs the food differently, rather, their bodies respond to the extra calories by increasing subconscious movement like twitching, tapping, standing up and down, adjusting, etc.
But just because you may not have "skinny" genetics, you can still improve your metabolism by making a few daily changes. Here are some of the things I do to help increase my NEAT and activity throughout the day:
1. Use a Standing Desk - standing burns more calories than sitting. You don't have to go out and buy a fancy standing desk either–I stack a few books and stand at the kitchen bar in my home.
I've noticed positive improvements in my posture, energy levels, and caloric burn since doing it.
2. Take Hourly Walks - If you don't have access to a standing desk, no worries. One way to counter the negative effects of sitting is to get up every 45-60 minutes and move around.
I try going for a 10-20 minute walk 2-3 times a day. (this alone could help you burn an extra 300-400 calories)
3. Aim for 10k Steps a Day - If you have a fitness tracker (or cell phone that keeps track of steps), try to get 10k steps a day. It can serve "accountability" that you're getting a solid amount of daily activity.
Exercise Has Its Place in Losing Weight
While exercise isn't the only component of weight loss, it can have its place alongside a proper nutrition plan.
Plus, using the right types of exercise (such as weightlifting) can help you retain and even build lean muscle while dropping fat.
It's like killing two chubby birds with one dumbbell...
If you found this article useful, could you do me a fav and share it?
Let's help spread the word to the cardio zombies out there. 😉
Oh, and before you go, be sure to grab your free copy of my Fitness Start Up Plan. In it, you'll learn the basics of exercise and nutrition so you can start leaning down, burning fat, and accomplish your fitness goals.