Now that you've made some headway in the gym, you want to start honing in on the details, like dropping your body fat percentage. How hard could it be? How long will it realistically take to drop a percentage point of fat? How much does your training have to change? How rigorous does your dieting need to get? How should you format your training program? These are probably the questions running through your head. So, we're giving you peace of mind—and a plan. Joe Holder, a performance trainer at S10 gym (a studio that aims to get clients under 10% body fat with proven methods like weight training and nutrition protocols), Nike trainer/run coach, and founder of The Ocho System has outlined everything you need to know.
Before we dive into it, know that weight loss isn't some sound formula where subtracting calories and adding high-intensity work equals a fitter, trimmer body. That's the case most of the time, but it's not the full picture. Weight loss completely depends on your body type. "The only thing everyone should do as a first step is have a proper body composition taken," Holder says. A body composition analyzer, skin folds, and bioelectric impedance analysis can take care of that. There are even smart scales, like Withings Body Cardio, that can track your progress on a daily basis.
From there, you or your trainer can assess a series of questions, Holder says: Are you actually 'skinny fat' (meaning you don't have enough muscle mass?). Or is the muscle mass at an adequate level and you simply need to work on reducing body fat? Where exactly do you hold on to your fat, and does this give better insight into your metabolic processes? What are your other lifestyle factors that will influence your health and wellness goals?
Utilizing these data points, you can create an optimized formula. "These analytics will also shed light on how long of a process it will be," Holder says. "With a proper program, most people see a percentage drop in the first two weeks, especially if their body fat is high," he explains. "Individuals that already have a low body fat percentage will, of course, have a more difficult time doing so."
Quality of diet is the main catalyst to drop body fat. If you're beginning from square one, cutting out certain foods and supplementing with others gives you the fuel to make every workout your best. "Incorporate as many nutrient-dense foods (lean protein, vegetables, and low-sugar fruits) as possible, while cutting out added sugar and processed foods," Holder says. "Understand the difference between not being full and actually being hungry, and make sure you're consistently hydrated; research shows that increasing your water intake can help reduce your average caloric intake."
Movement is also key. As for the workouts, you want to increase the level of intense activity, but be sure not to overdo it. It takes your body quite some time to recover from certain workouts so you can't provide the same level of oxidative stress over and over again without over-taxing your system. The components needed for a quality fat loss program are:
1. Strength—"Increasing your base level of strength and using complex movements are key for proper fat loss, albeit slightly indirectly," Holder says. "You need to increase your work capacity for intense conditioning, another key aspect of fat-loss programs, and getting stronger will help you do this."
2. Hypertrophy - Adding muscle is key as this will help increase your base metabolic rate, meaning how much energy and fat you burn. "Contrary to popular belief, getting stronger and building muscle are not the same and you need to realize this to create your program accordingly," Holder explains.
3. Intense Conditioning - Break your comfort zone. "If you want to burn fat and increase your resting metabolism, you have to up the intensity," he says. That means training in ways you don't want to.
4. Outdoor Work - Don't limit your activities to the gym. Go for walks. Ride your bike. "The more movement you can include in your daily life, the better," Holder recommends.
5. Optimize Rest - "Use the proper rest during workouts to make sure you're working hard enough, but not too much that you compromise your full fat burning potential," Holder says.
6. Program Correctly - Prevent overtraining and, more importantly, "underrecovering." "You need to increase your workout amount and eat well if you want to drop fat, but schedule your workouts properly so each can be done to maximum potential," Holder stresses. "For example, you know a heavy strength workout will tax the nervous system heavily so it isn't wise to schedule a strength workout and sprint workout back to back, for most people."
Consider these fat-loss workouts. "They don't take much equipment and have been studied and utilized to help with fat reduction," Holder says. They’re short, but they’re definitely not sweet. Give yourself adequate rest between sessions; take 1-2 days before completing another unless your trainer knows your body, says you can handle more, and prescribes something different.
*Don't forget to properly warm up before each one!
1. Sprint Circuit
Directions: For 30 seconds, all out sprint. You can bike or run. It's an even better workout if you can do this on a hill. Take 3-4 minutes to recover. Repeat 6-10 times.
2. Barbell Complex
Directions: Perform the following bodyweight and barbell moves, taking 60 seconds to rest between rounds. Repeat 8 times.
8 Bent-over Row
8 Push Press
8 Lunges (each leg)
Expert tip:Set the weight accordingly for the max amount you can do properly for 8 reps of push press.
3. Cycling Sprint
Directions: Complete 8-second bike sprints, taking 12 seconds to recover between reps. Repeat for 20 minutes.
4. Prowler Workout
Directions: Get used to loving the prowler. "Not only does it work on the mechanics of running, but it's one of the best conditioning tools out there," Holder says.
Perform the following in sequence:
- 10 seconds x mountain climbers as fast as possible
- 40 yards x prowler sprint (using the high handles)
- 20 x pushups
- 1 minute x jump rope or air rope
Rest 90 seconds. Repeat for 10 rounds.
Expert tip: Form is the most important factor when you're using the high handles on the prowler. Drive your knees up to exaggerate your stride.
5. Hill Workout
Directions: Sprint through the following bouts. Begin by taking 90 seconds rest in between reps (so, 90 seconds in between each 5x40-yard sprint) and 2 minutes in between sets (so, 2 minutes once you've completed all 5x40 yard sprints). Eventually, reduce your rest to 90 and 60 seconds rest, respectively, as your conditioning improves.
6. "Deadmill" Sprint Workout
Directions: Place the treadmill on moderate incline position and either in "dynamic" mode or "off." Sprint for 15 seconds; take 45 seconds to recover. Repeat 10-15 times.
Eventually advance to a 1:2 work to rest ratio (so, 30 seconds on, 30 seconds to recover for example), Holder says.
7. "100s" Workout
Directions: Complete the sequence, then rest for 90 seconds. Repeat for 5 rounds, eventually working up to 10.
- 100 meter sprint or 15 seconds all-out high knees
*Rest 90 seconds*
- 10 x pullups (or pull-downs)
- 10 x pushups (weighted if possible)
- 10 x hanging ab raisers
- 10 x squats
- 10 x side lunges (each leg)
8. Assault Bike Sprint
Directions: Perform 6-second assault bike sprints, taking 30 seconds to recover between reps. Complete for 10 rounds. Rest for 4 minutes, and try to work up to 3 total sets of 10 reps.
Expert tip: "To promote further fatty acid utilization after these intense bouts, superset with 20-30 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity steady state cardio and mobility work," Holder says. "You want to use this opportunity to promote increased activity and caloric burn."