Sunday, June 17, 2012

Using cardio and weights to trim the gut

A friend asked me a general fitness question about trimming down and looking/feeling better. Here is the first part of my response...

As we all know, the key to losing fat and getting in better shape is a combination of diet and exercise. A lot of people like to assign percentages to the importance of the two. So, its 50% exercise / 50% diet. Or, its 20% exercise / 80% diet. Or, its... Oh, screw it. In reality, its 100% diet / 100% exercise. But, what does that mean? Do you have to be 100% perfect with both? Well, no, of course not.

Lately, I've been telling everyone that you don't have to be perfect at anything to make real significant progress, but you do have to be good at everything. You could go nuts in the gym then eat crap and see limited results. You could eat perfectly as you weigh down your couch and not get very far, too. I'd also throw in stress/sleep into that too, by the way. You could eat great, exercise every day, and let outside stress keep you up at night and you'll get nowhere.

So, let's first hit the exercise side. There are two things that you have to understand right off the bat: (1) muscle is built specifically and (2) fat is burned generally. What that tells us is that if you want to make those muscles between the rib cage and hips (core muscles) stronger, you have to train them specifically. At the same time, if you want to get rid of the fat that is sitting on top of those core muscles, you burn that fat generally throughout the whole body. That's a long-winded way of saying that core-specific exercises aren't going to use fat laying on top of the core muscles. 

The best way to burn fat (and get your body to burn that fat even when you aren't exercising) are to (1) pack more muscle on the body - and plenty of it and (2) to do more intense cardio training - working up to intense interval training. To add muscle - and plenty of it - go for those exercises that use really big muscle groups. Think squats, leg presses, deadlifts, and lunges for the legs. Think pushups, pull-ups, and rows for the arms. Those types of exercises hit the big muscle groups (and just for good measure also hit the smaller ones too). Sets should push those big muscles to within 2 or 3 repetitions of their failure point and should be tiring as well. 

In a future post, I’ll talk about getting started with interval training. I promise it won’t be as tough as some descriptions out there make it look. I’ll work you up to it slowly.