Fat Loss: The Be All, End All Formula – Part 2 of 4

Alright, let’s jump to it, shall we. In Part 1 I made it clear: MOVE, a lot; walk, pick stuff up, clean your car, get outta your chair, take the stairs, get your step count up to 10,000 per day. The more you move the less space you’ll take up on the planet.

Let’s go back to “the formula”:

(Adequate NEPA/NEAT) + (Adequate + Appropriate Muscle Training) + (Adequate vs Appropriate – Excessive Cardiovascular Training) + (De-stressing your life + Adequate Quality Sleep) + (Adequate but Appropriate Goal Based Nutrition) = FAT LOSS

Detail #2: (Adequate + Appropriate) Muscle Training

I’d like to tell you this is not going to be a complicated subject to cover. Here’s the thing: there are at least 100 different muscle training (including resistance and calisthenics) methods that can all produce the same results.

So which one is best for fat loss?

Well, the simple answer is: the one that you do consistently and is progressive (in factors such as intensity, density, strength increases and ability to recover) over time.

It would be bloody amazing to see Christian Thibaudeau, Scott Abel, Charles Poliquin, Craig Ballentyne, Hits Richards, Alwyn Cosgrove, Nick Tumminello, Dan John, Pauline Nordin, and Ben Pakulski in a 12’ x 12’ room and have them battle it out over what they believe to be the greatest fat loss training method.

I mean, seriously, if we could make this happen pay-per-view style half the industry would watch it go down!

You know what would happen…they’d agree to disagree and then they’d come up with a list of common principles across all the various methods that will work when applied with serious grit.

  1. Workout intensity: if 10 is running from a bear who has just finished eating your best friend and you’re next, anywhere less than a 6 is useless. Get off the friggin bench press and do more than a set every 3 minutes.
  2. The more muscles recruited during an exercise, the better for fat loss. Arguing that barbell cleans is not better than barbell biceps curls for fat loss would be a fool’s errand. This also doesn’t mean barbells rule. Unilateral, dumbbell and contra/ipsilateral exercises can be incredibly demanding. While I’m no Crossfit dude, look at their exercise selections: pretty much all compound (multi-joint) all the time!
  3. Workout density beats workout frequency any day! Should we workout every day? Maybe. But for fat loss, more often than not I’d say NO! Every second day is more than enough. What I mean by density is the amount of work you get done in the time you allot into your training. Spending 1 hour in a gym completing only 8 sets of 10 reps of squats will likely not produce the fat loss effect you desire. At least superset them with another exercise such as stability ball hamstring curls.
  4. Working the same muscle groups more than once a week is paramount. Dump the body part splits. The fact that Monday is still international chest day in most gyms is proof we’re not making progress in teaching people how best to lose fat. My first move with new clients is to get them off body part splits and into either upper/lower splits or at least upper push/upper pull/lower body splits or full body workouts.
  5. Scott Abel said it best:
    1. Form first, speed and/or range of motion usually second, load third (or sometimes second), complexity (and all of its factors) added when looking to increase/decrease intensity. Meaning, when performing the squat maybe load isn’t always the best option for increasing the intensity. Would squatting lower make it more difficult? Of course! Would slowing the eccentric and blasting up from the hole increase the intensity? Of course! Would narrowing the stance or changing parameters such as high bar vs low bar when you’re used to the opposite make a difference in difficulty? Most likely! So is progression of exercise all that difficult to always attain?  {{Don’t get me wrong, load is still important but there is no straight line from newb to a 500lb squat. Learn to play with the various factors of intensity and determine which is appropriate for that exercise, that moment, of that day.}}Form Is ShitEXACTLY! If 10 more pounds on the bar makes your form collapse, puts you at greater risk of injury and serves little purpose other than stroking your ego…you’re doing it wrong.
  6. Leaving wiggle room for the ability to recover seems to be the greatest mistake people first make when using muscle training as a method of fat loss. If you go into the gym, do a circuit of reverse lunges, push ups, pull ups, burpees, dumbbell clean and press, kettlebell swings and bike sprints and the next day you wake up so stiff you can’t put your shoes on; day 2 you’re walking like an elephant had its way with you and on day 3 you are calling your boss claiming you’re is such dire straights that getting outta bed is impossible and therefore you won’t be at work until next Tuesday – YOU WENT TOO HARD! Give yourself time to get up to gym-superstar status. The best workouts are the ones that at the moment you could hear yourself breathing aloud most of the time (oxygen debt) and that you find takes the muscles to significant in-set fatigue (not failure or form degradation) (force decrement). Those two factors along with progression in exercise (utilizing the factors played on in #5 above) are the keys I look for in session to know my clients are going to have a fat loss effect from their workout. But they should be recovered by day 3 so we can get back in the lab and cook up the next batch of sweaty t-shirts.

Lastly, you have to understand I am not poo-poo’ing strength training. I love picking stuff up and putting it down as much as the next guy. But I have to ask: if I could snap my fingers and give you 15lbs of fat loss or wiggle my nose and give you 10lbs of fresh new muscle, which would you take first? If you answered fat loss: go back and read points 1-6 and create a game plan for yourself.

One important factor to consider: Should you aim to Annihilate or Stimulate the muscles during training? I tend to fit my clients into one of two categories based on how their body responds to training. Me, I’m stimulation all the way.

If I get in the gym and tear it up, perform 3 dozen sets of 12-15 reps with very little rest by the 4th day I just hate my life. By the 3rd week my immune system is so destroyed I’m walking around with a Hazmat suit and still catching every virus floating around. AND if done for more than 5-6 weeks I start losing muscle and getting softer. But my buddy, he does this same workout routine: jacked, ripped, has insane energy and his ego at least doubles.

BUT, the inverse, say I do stimulation training such as Thibaudeau’s HP Mass (my favorite program) where it calls for you to train nearly every day, less than 45 minute workouts hitting ~8 sets x 3 reps overhead press, bench and dips 3 x/week, doing ~10 sets x 3 reps squats & deadlifts 3x/week and a bunch of accessory work (I opted for stupid things like parking lot lunges) well, I end up super lean but the scale keeps going up, my energy is unbearably high, and I can’t wait to get back in the gym. On top of that, I’m rarely sore but I’ve set all my personal records during this programming. Same buddy tries to keep up and he’s texting me choice 4 letter words daily and by the end of week one he’s skipping every second workout and by week 3 has completely given up.

Here’s the sort of results I see in 3-4 week periods with my clients, who like myself are stimulation-centric:

HP Mass Results - 3 weeks

It’s a lengthy process to figure out which of the two: Annihilation or Stimulation based training methods works best for YOUR body but when you do stick with it 80% of your year. Personally, I try to take 2 x 6 week periods in my year and try and brutalize myself with annihilation style training. It’s always worth it but I’m happy when it’s over. Most new clients I start them with more stimulation based training (less sets, lower reps, low rest period, groups of no more than 3 exercises) and slowly move them towards annihilation training (more sets, more reps, slower eccentric phases, sometimes taking the muscles to failure, nervous system challenges) and when they start calling to miss sessions or start looking ragged then I scale back towards stimulation. Somewhere in that scale is your happy place for both fat loss and muscle gain.

Detail #3(Adequate vs Appropriate – Excessive Cardiovascular Training) Cardiovascular Training – Part 1 of 2

Okay, this one is far more simple and I’ll get it over with quickly like most cardio should be – over with quickly. I’m not gonna lie. I HATE cardio. So I tend to get creative with ways of doing it. Look, if you like running, run. If you love watching tv while blasting away on the elliptical for 3 hours thinking it’ll make you skinny, I guess, sure, have fun.

But is it effective?

On the short term, small increases in cardio can have major effects on your body composition. Take a meathead and put him 3x/week on a stair climber for 30 mins for 4 weeks and he’ll drop serious fat. Make him do that forever and he’s not going to like what happens to his body.

The body adapts to everything. So, in my opinion use high volumes of cardio sparingly so they are effective when you do them. Anyone know of someone who runs/jogs >40 miles/week? I train quite a few of them. Are they ripped to the bone? Have they ever been? Not once. Not ever. In fact I can tell inside of one week when they’ve dropped their running volume as the body responds so poorly and starts packing on body fat. Another common theme: they rarely have significant muscle mass. Might be fit as hell but it’s like the façade of the muscle magazines, the cover models of runner’s magazines…no one really looks like that except a small handful of the “sport.”

It’s a terrible cycle to get into. I am dead set against running as a form of fat loss. It can work for some, if you love running. It won’t for most. In fact, it may backfire.

Should we be doing cardio? Do I even have to ask that? Your heart is a pretty important muscle, yes? Your lungs are pretty important too? Are both of those more important than the size of your delts? Yea, I think so. No one dies of tricep attacks. But nearly half of all men die of heart attacks.

So what’s effective for fat loss: the cardio you’re willing to do that gives a nice little bump in your heart rate for a relatively short period of time and that you don’t let your body adapt to overly well over time.

I laid out 15 examples here: https://adriancrowe.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/15-different-cardio-styles/

Pick 1 from each category and perform a total of 2-3 cardio sessions/week. But don’t overdo it. Save the 4-6 week cardio volume increases for the two times a year it counts. Summer and well, post-December holidays.

Should you do cardio before or after weights? Ideally, they’d be 6-8 hours apart. But the debate lives on, I believe with most of the evidence pointing to doing cardio after when you’re looking for fat loss. Suppversity has covered this subject best HERE, HERE and HERE.

In my opinion the most effective forms of cardio are: Max-OT style HIIT (check the blog link of 15 different cardio styles, this one is #2), Hill Sprints or Sled Training (so basically I’m always favoring High Intensity Interval Training if you haven’t noticed):

Sorinex Root Hog Sled

I think Rob King has done the best job of advocating the benefits of sled training recently HERE and HERE. If your gym doesn’t have a sled, Rob has some great suggestions HERE or you can pick up a Spud Carpet Sled (works on rubber too) and be the envy of you gym. Personally, I feel the Sorinex Root Hog sled is top in market. Works excellent for muscle building! I may marry mine.

Now, aside from performing relatively short bursts (15-30 mins) of cardio a few times a week, is it possible to program your weight training to be highly effective for fat loss? Could I take the 6 principles in the muscle training category and apply them into one neat little package?

The answer is yes, and it has been my most effective fat loss training template ever! I’ve tested it over literally hundreds of trainees, used on myself countless time, used as a template for our conditioning style classes and works tremendously well for training partners & spouses even if you are good at different stuff (eg. She loves lunges, hates push ups; you love push ups but hate lunges).


I call it the Elimination Circuit. But let me save that for Cardio – Part 2 in the next installment of this series. Any further questions on the details above or if you have training related questions in terms of fat loss feel free to post a comment below.



BTW, you can now find me on:

Instagram @adriancroweathletictraining

Facebook page at Adrian Crowe Athletic Training “The Crowe’s Nest”

YouTube www.youtube.com/acathletictraining

or email me directly at adrian@adriancrowe.com

8 comments on “Fat Loss: The Be All, End All Formula – Part 2 of 4

  1. John says:

    Really happy you are throwing up some blog posts again. Keep the good stuff coming man!

    • Adrian Crowe says:

      I appreciate that John!! I put a lot into them so I find it tough to take the time to put big ones out like this but will work on getting some better frequency. Thanks for tuning in! And I’m always open to requests if you have a topic you’d like covered.

      • John says:

        Once you’ve completed your fat loss series I’d be very interested to hear your interpretation of Thib’s HP Mass system. I hadn’t heard of it until this article (honestly I find some of the old T-nation stuff hard to filter through with the MAG-10 this and Anaconda that rhetoric) but I went through the 4-5 articles and it seems like an interesting challenge in terms of the number of days per week. (I’m a 3-4 kind of guy)

      • Adrian Crowe says:

        Perhaps a better way to cover that subject matter is to simply share a conversation I had recently about a person who saw that I had done Thibs 6 Weeks to Superhero (star complexes) program and was currently doing it himself and asked my opinion of it. I discuss HP Mass there and I will say this on top of it: HP Mass is the most effective method for strength emphasized size gains I’ve ever utilized, especially if you’re a stimulation centric body type that responds to stimulation vs annihilation styles of training. I use it a great deal in my programming for my clients (even if that’s only twice a week I see them, I make adjustments based on the premise). Here was that email conversation:

        “The long and short of it is: Thibaudeau is my favored coach to utilize programs from. I’ve use pretty much all of his over the years from OVT to I, Bodybuilder to Mechanical Drop Sets to HP Mass to the 6 Weeks to Superhero program you’re on (only one I’ve not used of his is his layer system but that’s because it has not presented in full yet)

        That said, the Superhero one was my least favorite. For me it did not do what it was designed to (body recomposition). I did 4 weeks of the program as intended (minus some minor exercise selection tweaks which were shown in the video) but ditched it because within the first 10 days I had gained 8lbs on the scale (I do body comp measurements only every 6 months but didn’t for this program; purely went on scale weight and photos), 10 days later I was down 12lbs on the scale (a now total -4lbs). In the first 10 days (about 5 workouts) my upper body exploded with fullness (water, muscle glycogen, etc) but here’s the killer: by the start of the third week my legs were shrinking at a very disheartening pace.

        Now, there is a back story there. I had just come off of this program: http://www.t-nation.com/training/8-week-quad-and-hamstring-assault
        I had gained very significant size utilizing that program but any lifter knows gains just created must be maintained if they’re gonna stick. Quite simply the low rep training of the Superhero program couldn’t hold onto my new leg size. By week 4 I had lost nearly all the gains I had in the previous 8 weeks doing Ben Bruno’s leg spec program. So I said F it to the superhero program and designed my own program (which I rarely do).

        It took me 5 weeks to get my legs back up to their fullness.

        Now, it wasn’t a total waste. The bench and overhead press portions of the superhero program blew my upper body up and I gained rapid strength in the lifts! I just have to admit to myself that high load, low rep training doesn’t build size in the lower half of me (except glutes). I need all the terrible pump, lactic acid, metabolic damage stuff like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF7BJE91UE8 to force them to grow despite 185 bodyweight with 330 back squat and 450 conventional dead. Could get “strong” but not big in the lower half.

        I wouldn’t recommend Superhero to anyone. I own my own gym and I had to hog 3 squat racks to make it work well. One could attempt it in a commercial gym but wow, workouts would take forever making all the changes. Also, my low back took a pounding as the workouts were so taxing I really couldn’t do more than 1 back/abs day on top of the program to correct my pelvic tilt which was being worsened with all the squats/deads/overhead press variations.

        Last thing to note, as a trainer I work 10-15hr days plus 2 x 8 hour days on my weekend. I rarely sit. I take upwards of 15-20,000 steps in my day, I don’t get a lot of time to out-eat a program such as Superhero. It wasn’t the fit for me. One thing too is I do believe the programs all work better on the Plasma stack Biotest sells. Plasma, Mag-10, ElitePro Minerals and Indigo are pretty incredible supps when used with these intense programs. Without them, with my crazy work days I’d not be able to survive these programs.

        Here’s my breakdown of the Thib programs (in no order):
        1) I, Bodybuilder: best intro to his style and great strength builder, some size, no body fat reduction. http://www.t-nation.com/workouts/i-bodybuilder

        2) HP Mass: My favored, by far! Best body comp changes, best strength gains, best size gains if you can eat enough to handle the 6-7 days of training. http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/look_like_a_bodybuilder_perform_like_an_athlete & http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/highperformance_mass_lower_body_pressing&cr=

        3) Mechanical Drop Sets: I think every dude should do this program for 12 weeks. I learned more about training from that style than any other I’ve ever used. I now incorporate mechanical drop sets into all of my workout programs I write myself and use them a lot on programs I write for clients. If you google “adrian crowe mechanical drop sets” you’ll get tons of video & info but you have to buy the program from http://www.muscledrivethru.com/product.php?171&aff=5

        4) Optimized Volume Training: Again, I think every dude should do this program. Great size builder, especially to break a plateau. A crazy person would tell you to do this on the GOMAD diet and blow up (yes in a lot of fat too but once you cut it down you’ll be much bigger and stronger overall). http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/optimized_volume_training

        So again, I can’t fault Thibs Superhero program, it just simply wasn’t a good fit for me at the time I did it. And low rep leg programs I shall never do again. I will endeavor to do the upper body portion of Superhero in the future. In fact I may run a split of it mixed with Ben Bruno’s leg program to look something like this: Bench Star Complex day, Workout A – Legs, Overhead Star Complex day, Back day, Workout B – Legs, Abs/accessory, off/hill sprints as a split.”

        I hope that covers your question John, feel free to email me at Adrian@adriancrowe.com if you have further questions like this that an email vs a blog makes more sense. Cheers!

  2. […] sense without having already invested your time into reading or perhaps even re-reading Part 1 and Part 2 of this […]

  3. […] Part 2 – Muscle Training, Cardio Training Part 1/2 […]

  4. […] the next installment I’ll explain muscle training (stimulation vs annihilation, free weights vs machines, how to […]

  5. […] This should NEVER be your first line of fat loss defense! […]

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