We know that a proper diet is one of the keys to fat loss, but it is only part of the equation. We want a smokin’ body to expose once we shed those layers of fat. When it comes to getting ripped, there are 2 keys: strength training and high intensity interval training. Low intensity, long duration cardio has numerous health benefits, but getting shredded isn’t one of them. Unfortunately, this is what I see the majority of people trying to shed fat doing. Long jogs/bike rides/walks just isn’t going to cut it. You have to work hard and get out of your comfort zone to get results.
To get the cover model body all of us truly desire, we gotta pack on some muscle. Strength training addresses this in two ways: 1) by burning calories while we exercise, and 2) by increasing our muscle mass – which naturally burns more calories throughout the day. Long duration cardio can actually have a negative effect on our muscle mass. The ultimate fat loss diet that focuses on high protein and fat consumption while minimizing carbohydrate consumption has the benefit of preserving all the muscle we’ll be building, and we need to follow this diet to maximize results.
When it comes to the actual methods for strength training, we have plenty of flexibility here, we just have to WORK HARD. We have to be working hard enough that our heart is pounding out of our chest, we’re ready to collapse on the floor when we’re done, and we can barely sit on the toilet the next day without falling over. The specific weight, rest, reps, and exercises aren’t nearly as important as making sure it’s kicking our ass. In true TurtleMode style, do what you enjoy and what’s most likely to actually get done. If this is heavy barbell work at low reps, do it. If this is a dumbbell DVD workout, do it. If this is pure bodyweight exercises in the hotel room, do it. Just do it and make it hard.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
What makes long duration cardio different from HIIT is how long we’re working versus rest. Long duration cardio is easy enough that we can do it for 30-60 minutes without stopping…which makes it boring as hell! HIIT is something we can only do for a few seconds to a minute max because we’re getting after it as hard as we can. Studies have shown that the average Joe can only max out for 7 seconds. Professional athletes can up that to 10 seconds. Our body is physically incapable of maxing out for durations any longer than this. But if you go 100% for those 7 seconds, trust me, it will whoop your ass. This typically manifests as a sprint across a field or down a track. If we dial it back a bit, we can sustain this for longer, maybe 30 seconds. This could manifest as sprinting across a pool or doing a set of plyometrics.
HIIT shares many of the same calorie burning benefits of strength training with the added cardiovascular benefits. HIIT has been shown to be more effective at burning fat than long duration, low intensity cardio…and it only takes a fraction of the time. 8 sprints, even with minutes of rest in between, is MUCH better for you than jogging for 30 minutes.
I split my workouts into two seasons. Winter and Summer. I’m a fan of workout DVDs, my favorite being P90x. I like Tony Horton, he’s less goober-ish than some of the other trainers on workout DVDs. But I have a similar sense of humor as Doc Horton, a bunch of people I know can’t stand him. Listen to Jim Rome describe one of his workouts, Plyo X.
But I also can’t do P90x every day, it’s just not enough variety for me, so I pick out the workouts I like and change it up in other places. I like to get in heavy barbell work during the Winter, but not year-round. I like to swim (sprints), but only in the winter when the local Rec Center isn’t crawling with kids on summer break. That works out perfect because in the summer I like to get outside and sprint in the sun.
So here’s my typical breakdown:
Saturday: P90x Chest and Back – lots of pushups and pullups. Do a few more reps each time. I like to follow the DVDs live because it keeps me honest on keeping my rest breaks short, but you can just print the worksheets off online and save a few bucks on buying the DVD.
Sunday: P90x Plyo – the mother. This workout kicks. my. ass. 60 minutes of HIIT plyometric work (jump training).
Monday: Yoga – I follow the 30 minute P90x3 routine (the P90x routine is 1.5 hours…jesus). Sometimes I just go free-form here too from stuff I find on YouTube. I’m not a fan of complete rest days to try to get some flexibility in on “off” days.
Tuesday: Heavy barbell work and swimming – My barbell work at the Rec Center weight room is 5 x 5 bench and squats. Lifting as much weight as I can for 5 reps with good form. I do this on about 2 minute intervals but will rest longer if I can’t get 5 reps on the set before. My swim workout will be a 100 yard warmup followed by 8-25 yard sprints on 2 minutes. Then a 100 yard cool down and a 20 minute sauna.
Wednesday: P90x Arms and Shoulders – gotta look good in a tank top. Try to follow the recommendations of 8-10 reps at as heavy weight as you can do. I use, and highly recommend, the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells for this one.
Thursday: Repeat of Tuesday, Heavy barbell work and swimming.
Friday: True rest day – Might do some light stretching. Also this is my yardwork day which can be a workout in itself.
Saturday: Same – P90x Chest and Back
Sunday: Same – P90x Plyo
Monday: Same – Yoga
Tuesday: Outside HIIT and heavy dumbbell work – the Rec Center is crawling with kids during the day now…so I avoid them. For my HIIT work, I do 8 sprints across the baseball field which takes about 10 seconds. I rest long enough to catch my breath so I can put in good effort on the next sprint, usually 1-2 minutes. For my heavy dumbbell work, I do a 5 supersets of 3 exercises: pullups, dumbbell bench, and dumbbell squat. I do 8 reps of each using weight heavy enough that I couldn’t do 11. For pullups, I just make sure each rep is quality – chest to the bar, squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top. To make it harder, just slow them down or do more. I’m pretty wasted after a superset so I’ll rest 3-5 minutes until I’m ready to give it my all again.
Wednesday: Same – P90x Arms and Shoulders.
Thursday: Repeat of Tuesday, Outside HIIT and heavy dumbbell work.
Friday: Same – rest/stretch/yard work
I’ve been sticking to this routine for two years and will mix it up from time to time. Sometimes I’ll do P90x3 or Body Beast DVD workouts, or just freestyle. When I’m on the road in a hotel room, I freestyle it in the hotel gym or up in my room using body weight exercises. I just try to go as hard as I can so that I’m exhausted by the end. That’s the key, the specific method isn’t as important as the intensity. But you gotta make it hurt…it’ll be worth it.