Getting into shape quickly and efficiently means giving your body a reason to change. This is one of the reasons traditional forms of cardio such as jogging – or yogging - or if you get the Anchor Man reference – have such limited effectiveness; they just cease to present enough of a challenge once your body has made the initial structural and metabolic adaptations.
It’s a sobering fact to realise your body’s adaptive mechanisms are in place for survival not aesthetics, it will always re-model itself to make things easier, not harder. If you’re still performing several 5k runs a week at around the same pace and wondering why you’re looking worse and not better, that’s the reason. It's not age or some vague idea about "metabolic slowdown" it's that your body has no reason to alter itself beyond its current demands.
Of course if you enjoy running by all means continue but if you’re more interested in fat loss and physique development there are infinitely better ways to get the job done. Primarily this involves providing your body with fresh training stimulus to force physical changes to take place. Being an energy costly process means you’ll get a solid 2-4 weeks of rapid progress before you need to once again change the stimulus.
In part, this also explains why people fall in love with particular training modalities be they jogging, Hot Yoga or keg tossing. Improvement always comes quickly in the beginning whilst the stimulus is fresh. That initial positive experience is incredibly powerful psychologically and convinces most people they've uncovered the Holy Grail of fat loss and conditioning. Unfortunately, once the body has adapted making further progress in terms of physique development slows to a crawl. Sometimes a backwards crawl.
Throwing some regular planned chaos into your routine is one of the best methods for making continuous improvements in body composition. If you're ready for some cruel and unusual punishment to send fat loss and conditioning into high gear have a go at the following challenging conditioning options.
TIMED WALKING LUNGES
If you’re a woman wanting to make some significant improvements in the appearance of her glutes and thighs let me introduce you to timed walking lunges. Of course both genders can use them for a double hit of fat loss and leg development but females will particularly enjoy the benefits. They are a significantly better alternative to jogging for physique athletes in that they actually stimulate the sexiest muscles in the lower body with almost minimal jarring.
I first came across these bad boys through a pic of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson taking a not so leisurely lunge his farm. Later I encountered a number of high-level female bikini and figure athletes who regularly used them in various stages of their contest prep. I began playing around with them and was both sold and humbled.
To perform timed walking lunges all you really need is some open space and a timer. A football oval or running track will suffice; sand and uneven terrain will add yet another dimension of intensity. Set your timer for 15 minutes if you’re a beginner or just want to try them out. Best results will come from between 30-45 minutes of continuous lunging, 60 minutes if you’re an absolute masochist.
Don’t rush the lunging movement, take your time and focus on a full range of motion. Longer steps will engage the glutes and hamstrings more whilst shorter steps will target the quads. You can also play around with some crossover and lateral step variations but it’s not completely necessary. Never sacrifice perfect form and attempt to keep lunging for the allocated time. If you persevere you’ll thank me for the results but most likely curse me whilst doing them.
JUMP ROPE AND EXPLOSIVE BURPEES
This is a session I reserve for when I’m short on time but feel like I need a solid conditioning challenge. Usually I regret that decision halfway through. All that’s required is a jump rope and some space, making it ideal for home or travel.
There’s no need to perform elaborate skipping movements; the basic two feet close together hop is all that’s required. Essentially you’ll perform between 1-3 minutes of moderate paced skipping interspersed with 10-15 burpees, the more explosive the better. You should be attempting to perform everything back to back with little to no rest. Think of the burpees as a high intensity sprint and the skipping as “recovery”. Yes, I’m being ironic. Begin with 5 sets and advance to as many as 10.
Beginner - 1 minute skipping + 10 burpees
Intermediate - 2 minutes skipping + 12 burpees
Advanced – 3 minutes skipping + 12-15 burpees
In case you’ve never performed a burpee, perform them as rapidly as you’re able to in good form like this
CONTROLLED FATIGUE TRAINING
Controlled Fatigue Training (CFT) is the brain child of Ori Hofmekler, author of the Warrior Diet. Flipping the normal training session on it’s head, you perform 10-20 minutes of hard intervals immediately followed by a heavy weights session. Emphasis being on “heavy” – you want to train your body to recruit fast twitch muscle fibres in a fatigued state to elicit the appropriate adaptation. Whilst fantastic for conditioning MMA athletes and boxers, it’s even better at torching through a fat. Great if you want to look like a combat athlete without actually getting punched in the face.
If you are going to use CFT at all I feel it’s important to mention this is not primarily aimed at developing strength. You’ll experience a remarkable increase in conditioning and fat loss but don’t expect to be setting personal bests in the bench press. The other thing worth mentioning is go easy on the frequency – twice per week is plenty,
Basic CFT Example
Interval session – 15 minutes on the Spin Bike 20 seconds hard/40 seconds easy
Chin ups or weighted chin ups 4 sets x 4-6 reps
Front squat 4 sets x 4-6 reps
Push press 4 sets x 4-6 reps
Ab wheel roll out 5 sets x max reps
TIMED WEIGHTED CARRIES
If timed walking lunges are for the girls, weighted carries are for the guys. Not only will they shred fat fast but they can also add some serious muscle to your upper body.
You can apply weighted carries to a variety of odd implements and positions from weighted vests, sandbags, a wheelbarrow brimming with bricks or an overweight relative on your back. The most accessible thing to use is a couple of heavy dumbbells held at the sides. You can add further challenge by positioning the weights overhead or gripped at chest level. Both of which will significantly challenge the core and shoulder girdle.
Canadian strength coach, Christian Thibaudeau suggests maximum fat loss can be achieved by performing weighted carries for 2 minutes on with 1 minute rest. For those looking to add muscle whilst losing fat, select a heavier weight and use a 1 minute on, 1 minute off work to rest ratio. Another alternative is to carry for total distance, such as 1-1.5km. Stop as often as you need to to travel that distance and record the time. Each ensuing week aim to either go further or complete that distance faster.
If you need more specific training and nutrition advice to get in the best shape possible email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.