A good personal trainer is a problem solver.
Assess a client, identify their biggest limiting factor, and find the most effective way to remove that obstacle.
With fat loss, it is well established that some form of conditioning is necessary to optimize results. Yes, there are other critical components to address, but this blog focuses on the exercise aspect.
One can argue ad nauseam about the types of conditioning to perform and in what ratios. Big picture, a combination of lactic acid and aerobic work ultimately leads one towards results.
Many know the value of this form of exercise. However, nearly everyone has beaten this proverbial dead horse into a pile of indiscernible red mush and dust. Let me explain.
A common scenario
Someone begins on a fat loss journey by starting steady state aerobic work. They see initial results, but after a few weeks, their results plateau. What do they do? Logically, they add more aerobic work. They see a bit more results, though not nearly as much as they saw initially. What's the next step they take? Add in even more conditioning work.
I'm sure you can anticipate what comes next in this scenario. This fictitious individual sees further diminishing returns on their work. They continue to add more and more work, for less and less return.
In this profession, we have an acronym for people who find themselves in the above scenario: CAIS. Better known as Chubby Aerobics Instructor Syndrome, it is exemplified by the aerobics instructor who teaches several hours of aerobics classes daily, yet still possesses the physique of a melted candle.
One needs to ask themselves: how much training can you really do each day/week/month and is it worth dedicating a significant amount of time for marginal results? Consider the cliché adage of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. No one wants to be insane; they want a return on their efforts.
There is a better way
First, understand that the body ultimately ADAPTS to exercise. Present an exercise stimulus and the body upregulates processes that adapt to this stimulus, making it more efficient. With literally EVERY exercise program, the body eventually adapts to the training demand. As such, smart training involves a balance between providing consistency for adaptation and enough variety so that the body can adapt to a new stimulus. A workout is only good for the time you're adapting to it. If you're not adapting, you're not getting better.
How do we apply this to fat loss?
Quite simply, the biggest mistake I see in fat loss training is a lack of strength training. This mistake is perpetuated in women more so than in men, but it is definitely not mutually exclusive.
If you've reached a plateau in your fat loss, the smartest thing you can do is to begin strength training.
Take our example scenario above. Instead of adding hours upon hours of useless cardio, one could improve their strength over a period of weeks. When returning to the aerobic program, they would perform this aerobic work at a higher intensity, utilizing their newly built strength. They move faster, produce more metabolic byproducts that trigger the hormonal cascade for fat loss, getting a better fat loss workout in a shorter period of time.
If you've performed a mind-numbingly boring amount of cardio, with little result to show for it, I'd highly suggest committing to at least a 6-week strength based program - with 12 weeks being an even smarter choice. Focus on using repetitions in the 1-6 rep range with multiple sets. A good coach will help you set up an effective program.
I GOTTA SAY IT
Someone will invariably ask: "won't strength training cause me to bulk up and become Arnold Schwarzenegger overnight"? Such absurd thinking is like forgoing driving a car because you're afraid of becoming a Formula 1 race car driver. Don't expect to easily achieve world-class results in a short period of time. Any muscle you do add contributes to an improved metabolic rate that will help you burn more fat at rest. Win-win.
At the Elite Edge, proper strength work is the foundation of getting our clients great results with fat loss.
Quit beating your head against a brick wall and change the way you think about fat loss. There are smarter ways to reach your goals.