By John L. Boos, L.M.T., N.S.C.A., C.P.T.
Other names for this article could be “Turn on those Fat Burning Enzymes”, “Trigger off the After Exercise Fat Burn”, “Build Muscle, Burn Fat”, or “Stop Majoring in the Minors.” I could go on with the catchy titles, but there is no point. If you are considering exercising as a fat burning approach, keep reading. If you are exercising but not much is happening, continue reading. If you are doing resistance training and nothing much has changed, despite all the strength training, then you must pay attention. To get right to the point, if you want to burn off that fat, you should strength train heavy. You can’t get simpler than that.
However, this in no way means you should run off to the gym, grab the 50-pound dumbbells or a heavy barbell, and attempt to exercise with it. The word “heavy” can mean different things to different people. I’ve trained women who would perform 12 reps of an exercise and her comment would be, “That was too heavy”. I would do the same with a man and the comment would be, “I could do more. That wasn’t heavy enough”. The truth was they were both wrong, it was just about right for each one. Women are too easy on themselves and men are too hard on themselves (usually an ego issue). As for women who strength train, too many fear the possibility of building too much muscle. This is a fear unsupported by sports and medical chemical physiology. The fact is that women do not have near enough testosterone to do this. Don’t be misled by the over-muscled women that you sometimes see. They are heavily chemically enhanced and are off the page of anything normal (mentally and physically). Also, most women are not brought up to adequately understand this modality of exercise. As for most men, they think that because they have a lot of testosterone and played rough and tough when they were young boys that they know what they are doing. Many of these men, after a bit of time in the gym, have a number of injuries and little results for their self-proclaimed gym smarts.
Let me get to a scientific fact in exercise science that is not explained or mentioned enough. In order for a muscle to lift any given weight, it needs to excite a given number of muscle fibers. In order to lift a greater weight, it needs to excite a greater number of fibers. Muscle fibers do not half-contract to lift lighter weight or contract harder to lift heavier weight. They are either turned on or not turned on. This is called the “all or none principle of muscle contraction”. So the more weight you lift, the more muscle fibers you excite. The more muscle fibers you excite, the more energy it requires. The more energy it requires, the more calories and fat you use up. The added bonus to the increased workload is the greater amount of survival hormones (growth hormone) realized to burn fat long term. The proper approach to weight training is somewhat individual to body type, age, and other factors. This writing is meant to stimulate the desire to learn more and understand what is real and just wishful thinking.
So back to the facts, the best muscle tone and fat reduction comes from heavy strength training. A good coach or trainer will be necessary to point out the most effective methods if you truly want to get through the maze of false claims and confusion. Women should be taught to work harder and men much smarter. Please don’t misread me on this. Lifting weights heavy enough to produce real and positive results on muscle tone (or muscle building, if you are a man), is not the one and only best thing to do to rid the butt, thighs and belly of fat stores. IT IS NOT! But as far as exercising know-how, it is the one major factor that I see and know of. The fact is that it is so misunderstood by so many novice people, especially people that aren’t making any progress. In a nutshell, the words HEAVY TRAINING are words of interpretation. With the ladies, it is the fear of the unknown or low expectations, a gray zone. With men, it’s all black and white numbers or overreaching and trying to prove something to themselves or others. Yet to others, it is just admitting that they don’t know and want to learn. These few people are the smarter ones.
The objective of this writing is to bring to the open the one missing link or answer to most of the failing workouts taking place. With little doubt, I can say it is one of the major factors. Other factors can be not understanding the correct utilization of the principles of obtaining the results, such as frequency, volume, mode and varying intensity adjustments.
The bottom line is that your exercise sessions should be performed with the effort and effect to trigger the release of growth hormone and other factors that put the body in a long-term place. Little long-term results come from too much short-term effort. This type of training not only brings great potential, but great personal responsibility towards other behaviors, such as food quality choices and timing, as well as other supplemental activities. A good experienced coach or trainer should be capable of assessing the situation and helping in putting this in a clear understanding way. If you don’t understand why you are doing what you are doing, you will stay where you are. Once you finally get it, you will have learned something of great value that has been so misunderstood far too long.