What’s the best way to train for fat loss

What’s the best way to train for fat loss?

Understanding the best way to train for fat burn is essential to maximize your results, save time and achieve the body you want. So what is the best way for you to train for fat loss? Should you be training for hours in the gym slogging away at the cardiovascular machines, hitting the resistance and strength training or should you be going all out for 20mins of high intensity interval training?

Depending on which articles you read it can be very easy to sold on just one of these concepts, but are you really training smart and are you missing out on benefits of other training methods?

Cardio Training

Traditional cardiovascular training has fallen out of favour these days with the hours spent slogging away at the cross trainer or exercise bike in decline. Steady cardiovascular training is good at burning fat, build endurance and improve the health of your heart and lungs. This can be a good way of burning the calories to deliver the deficit needed to help you lose weight.

This type of training however is not the most efficient way of burning these calories and it can become very time consuming if your only progression is to add another 5mins to your routine each week. The muscle you will build will be relatively small compared with resistance training which means your ability to keep burning calories after you stop exercising is not ideal.

Who is it good for?

Many clients who come to me are either new or returning to exercise and as such do not have high levels of conditioning. Higher intensity training would be unsuitable both physically as well as mentally. These individuals need a steady conditioning phase first to help them gradually build up fitness and confidence before they progress to more demanding forms of training.

The same is also true for those returning from injury or those who may be very overweight. This gradual form of training will keep them injury free and enable them to become comfortable in the training environment as this is often the first major obstacle to be overcome. Steady training can also be ideal for active recovery days when you want to train more lightly and allow the muscles to recover and flush away any waste products from harder training days.

Resistance Training

Resistance training or strength training is having a resurgence right now in the fitness industry as more and more people are becoming aware of it ability to help burn fat and build a lean. This does not need to be “bulky muscle” for men or women, however this lean tissue will require additional calories for the body to sustain it. This means that your body can burn more calories at rest helping you to stay lean and make low calorie diets a thing of the past.

Strength training will also boost the metabolism following a session much higher than a steady cardiovascular workout. This means you will be burning more calories after you have stopped training.

Strength training is also important at helping maintain bone density which is otherwise lost as you age leading to conditions such as osteoporosis (brittle bones). Training under load is important as body weight exercises alone are not effective enough at placing the stress on the bones required to to make them stronger. Placing the body under load such as a squat with a bar or leg press against resistance will make the bones, tendons and ligaments stronger and more efficient. This will help you burn fat, build stronger bones and help prevent future injuries.

This type of training can be intimidating for both new and experienced exercises and for both men and women. This barrier is slowly coming down as strength training becomes more accessible away from the body building stereotypes.

Who is it good for?

The simple answer is everyone. We all want to look and feel our best, perform better at our chosen sport and be able to do our jobs without getting injured. Everyone should be looking to complete 3 or more strength training sessions per week depending on your goals. The type of training will vary depending on ability, injuries and goals.

I don’t however think that strength training should be the sole focus of a training plan for anyone, especially for weight loss as a certain amount of cardiovascular training is essential for a well-rounded level of fitness. I do however think that skipping the strength training will not only make weight loss much more challenging but it will also make it impossibly hard to maintain it without a highly restrictive lifestyle, such as the super low calorie diets that never work  long term (remember more lean muscle = higher calorie requirement).

This type of training can easily be done at home using body weight training and a few dumbbells or you can incorporate an exercise class such as body pump. It’s always advisable to work with a trainer either In-Home or at your local training facility to learn correct technique when starting out with your strength training program. This will help you to progress more quickly, stay injury free and build your confidence helping you stick to the program.

High Intensity Interval Training: HIIT

HIIT has been a popular trend in the industry for some time now and has built on recent studies into the benefits of training for less time but at a significantly higher intensity. Sessions last typically around 20mins following a warm up and require the participant to work to a near or maximum level of intensity. The theory is that your bodies post exercise oxygen requirement is significantly elevated for up to 48 hours after training. This “after-burn” means that your metabolism will be significantly elevated and your ability to burn more calories and fat at rest is increased.

These sessions can be done with little or no equipment making it extremely versatile and very accessible to people without much time of access training facilities. With as little as 20mins needed to fit in a fat burning session this could not be more time efficient and breaks the biggest barrier I hear of no Time.

For those who cannot safely work to the correct intensity, a lower intensity interval or steady training would be a better option. The level of soreness may also stop de-conditioned individuals from training later in the week and would therefore cancel out the benefits of the 20min HIIT session.

Who is it good for?

HIIT claims to be for everyone and studies are even making interesting findings with the elderly and post-op patients. The way HIIT is presented in most of the media however is very high impact and unsuitable for a big proportion of the typical types of clients that I meet. HIIT is for those who are injury free, have no medication that may affect exercise and those who are ready for a real challenge.

An example HIIT session would be 8 exercises performed to maximum ability for 30 seconds with 15-30 seconds rest between each exercise. Rest for 1 min after the final exercise and repeat for a 2-3 rounds. Exercises could include Press ups, Jumping jacks, burpees, jumping lunges, high knees or sprints for example.

HIIT can also be performed using more traditional cardiovascular equipment such as the treadmill, exercise bike or the cross trainer. You can also perform these sessions outside running or swimming for example. Any type of exercise that allows you to work very hard for a short burst works well.

Remember you need to work hard to make this count otherwise the “afterburn” and calorie consumption will not be enough to get you burning calories and fat in the way you expect, and the results will not follow.


Deciding What’s the best way to train for fat loss will depend on your current activity and fitness level, medication considerations and injuries. Taking all of these into account a blend of steady cardio and strength training for 6-8 weeks for a beginner will keep you safe, teach technique and build the confidence needed for Higher intensity training later on.

HIIT training too soon will not only lead to injury if sessions are incorrectly structured but it could also leave you very sore and less likely to train as often as you would, if using steady training. The end result here would be more calories burnt using steady cardiovascular training. Beginners should start with low impact HIIT training performed on an exercise bike or cross training to reduce the risk of injury.

Everyone needs to be strength training, beginners, HIIT exercisers, endurance athletes, footballers, office workers, everyone. Start with home based training if more time and cost efficient. A basic routine of 8-12 exercise that work the chest, back, shoulders, core and legs will deliver a quality full body workout that will build muscle, burn fat and deliver the toned body your looking for.

Always work with a professional to make sure you stay injury free, work to the correct intensity  and to build the confidence to be self-sufficient in the long run.

If you are already doing some strength training, have a reasonable level of fitness and are looking to step your training up to the next level then I would seriously consider including some HIIT training into you regime 2-3 times per week. This will add the challenge needed to keep you motivated, deliver rapid gains in your cardiovascular fitness and significantly increase the body’s ability to burn fat long after you finish training.

Ideally you should have a blend of strength, steady, HIIT and easy recovery sessions in your weekly training plan. The body needs different stimulus to adapt and so doing the same thing all the time will eventually work against you.

Keep it fresh, train smart and good luck.

Andy Strong
Fundamentally FIT Ltd

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