Are You Training Correctly for Fat Loss?

A couple of weeks ago now Nick and I did an episode of The Mighty Cast on Training for Fat Loss. It was a whopper of a show, I guess with that subject matter it was always going to be.

Several times during the show I mentioned a t-nation article by Alwyn Cosgrove titled The Hierarchy of Fat Loss.

This excellent article was written 5 years ago and although there are a couple of things I would contend with, it is still an excellent resource.


I will state my Hierarchy here; but remember fat loss = kcals (aka calories) in < kcals out; this is the equation which has to be addressed if you are to lose fat; everything else is theory, some based on solid evidence, and some not so well founded.


1. Nutrition

We will cover this in a future episode of The Mighty Cast; all I will say for now is that Nick has a little something up his rather tight sleeve. Until then please read Nutritional Guidelines for Optimal Fat Loss.


2. Weight Training to Build Muscle

Here I am slightly torn; one can either choose what I call Bodybuilding style training (not on machines!), or Metabolic Conditioning (MetCon).Allow me to explain; if you are psychologically able to get your mind around the idea of Bodybuilding training even if your goal is fat loss then I would opt for that. And, let’s face it if you’re reading this then you probably don’t care what label the training you’re doing comes under so long as it works.But in most gyms people are so put off by the idea of Bodybuilding that training in a MetCon fashion is usually easier to sell. MetCon covers heavy circuits such as this programme:

Sample Programme 1 for Beginners Fat Loss

MetCon would also include complexes such as the Russian Bear, combinations of hard cardio and weight lifting exercises, and anything where resistance training is performed with little or no rest but still done in a progressive fashion.The bottom line is that your second priority is adding muscle because muscle is metabolically active; simply put, the more muscle you have the greater the amount of calories you burn.


3. Interval Training

As we discussed in the Podcast interval training is for everyone. One of the strings I have to my bow is that I’m qualified as a cardiac rehab instructor, and even with this population we use intervals.The general rule is the fitter one is the shorter, and thus more intense the intervals would be. A beginner might alternate walking on a treadmill at 5kph for 2 minutes on the flat with 2 minutes using the same speed but at a 4% incline. Whereas protocols such as Tabata training (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off) would only be done by those with a high skill in that movement, along with having good fitness levels.Please also bear in mind that Tabata training is unusual in that there is a work to rest ratio of 2:1. Usually work to rest ratios would be 1:1 for the unconditioned, up to 1:20 or more for power athletes.Although I really like intervals for fat loss please keep in mind that if you’re trying to perform all your work in an hour and a half session then after lifting intervals of any real intensity might not be possible. If someone told me to go and perform hill sprints on a bike after Squatting I’d laugh at them.


4. Hard Aerobic Training

Hard is defined as keeping the heart rate at or above 85% max for a sustained period of time; usually 20-30 minutes. This is not easy; I would actually argue that it’s tougher than intervals; and it’s definitely not something that can be done after hard weight lifting. If you one of the few who do your weight lifting and intervals, and you have some spare time then this could be of use to you.


5. Structured Aerobic Training

This would be any easy cardio performed after weight lifting. In this instance this is good, solid extra work; you’re still burning calories, and you’re giving your heart some love. This is also a realistic option following weight lifting.The problem arises when this is the only kind of exercise being performed when the expectation is Fat Loss. For most people this kind of training is a great adjunct to weight lifting but insufficient otherwise.



This is Non Exercise related Physical Activity. Stuff like walking the dogs, and playing with kids will fall into this section. NEPA is good for you but if you’re counting this as your exercise then you’re probably not serious about Fat Loss.

Be Mighty,