5 Ways to Jack UP Your Fat Loss Program Results

12-week transformation contestQ: I’ve been on the same fat loss program for a while now and it’s not working. What should I do?

Answer:

Well, the answer’s easy. You can’t keep doing the same fat loss program (that isn’t working now) and suddenly expect it to magically start working again.

You have to change your program. That’s the first way to jack up your results from your workouts.

1) Change your workout program every 3-6 weeks.

The more advanced you are, the more often you can change your program. I personally change my program every 3-4 weeks. With beginners, I’ll use the same 3-day program for up to 6 weeks straight (with slight variations in the workouts to overcome montony).

Just don’t become one of those gym warriors who have been doing the same workout for going on 3 years straight. That’s a sure way to have the same body month in and month out.

If you want your body to change, your workouts have to change too.

Here are some more fat burning workout tips to make your fat burning routine harder, more effective, and even shorter.

2) Focus on burning carbohydrates in your program, not fat.

This is one of the secrets of Turbulence Training. By forgetting about the fat burning zone and focusing on short, burst high-intensity exercise, you will burn more carbohydrates during your workout.

Turbulence Training focuses on resistance training and interval training. intense fat burning workoutBoth of these use carbohydrate as the main source of energy. As a result, what you eat will go to replenish and repair your muscles.

I have no interest in you trying to train in your “target heart rate zone” for fat burning (aka – the fat burning zone).

If you want to get the most results in the least amount of time, focus on burning carbohydrates, not fat.

Click here for the hardcore “carb burning” TT workouts

3) Use supersets, tri-sets, or circuits to get your resistance training exercises done faster.

When I first started designing Turbulence Training workouts back in 1998-99, I was stuck on supersets, and my programs remained that way until 2006.

I didn’t think circuits were good enough, however, after conversations with Alwyn Cosgrove and Jay Ferruggia, I slowly, but surely, changed my mind and started experimenting with circuits again.

And now that not a day goes by that I don’t realize nutrition is the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th most important factor in fat loss, I’ve started finding more room for circuits in the TT programs.

Why?

Because they can help you get your workouts done even faster, and that, along with the fact that you, the TT readers, love circuit training, are two perfect reasons to put more circuits and tri-sets (and giant sets) into the TT programs.

I want you to get maximum results in minimum time while having fun, and circuit exercisecircuits are doing that in a big way for you. The most popular TT circuit program is the May 2008 “Big 5 Circuit Workout”.

Click here for the Big 5 “no rest for the wicked” fat loss workouts

4) Shorter intervals

Again, remember the #1 rule of fat loss workouts I talked about the other day…and that is you can NOT out-train a bad diet. Your fat loss diet is the most important aspect of your weight loss program.

So knowing that, knowing our diet is the absolute key to fat loss, we can now focus on simply making our workouts shorter and cutting them back to the bare essentials.

And I’d say cutting back on interval training might be the best place to start.

Most of my interval training programs used to last 20 minutes, but it’s possible we might need only half (or even LESS than half of that) to get the maximum contribution of exercise to our fat burning success…and we just let diet do the rest.

(That’s how important diet is…that we can cut our short workouts in half again and probably get the same results!)

Look for more and more shorter Turbulence Training interval training workouts from me in the future.

5) Hybrid Exercise Training

Okay, let me say it again. Diet is more important than exercise for fat loss. And my goal is just to make short, fun, fast, effective workouts.

So how can I do that? By combining the resistance and interval training portions into one…that way I can get a 45 minute workout down to a 15-20 minute workout (as you’ll see in my upcoming TT Depletion Workouts – June, 2009).

Hybrid exercises include Kettlebell and Dumbbell Swings & Snatches, Clean & Presses, Burpees, and other methods such as Bodyweight Circuit Training. bodyweight

A lot of those tips are about cutting workout time and letting your diet do all of the work. I’ll admit, that takes hard work with the diet, but on the other hand, there are lots of busy folks out there who will love the reduced training frequency and volume.

So the NEW perfect, low-stress fat loss lifestyle might look something like this:

– 2 TT Depletion Workouts per week

– 5 days of staying active & doing more leisure time activities than you have in years since starting the “I gotta go to the gym 6 days per week” lifestyle

– 1-2 days of fasting

– 5 days of regular eating (no calorie couting) focusing on a diet based on fruits, vegetables, and raw nuts, and an emphasis on including more variety in your diet than ever (trying new foods and using herbs and spices in your cooking to focus on quality, not quantity)

A radically different approach than the 10+ hours per week peddled by the fitness and bodybuilding community over the past decade.

Well, that article went off on a little bit of a tangent, but I think it was valuable. Those are 5 ways to jack up the results of your fat loss program and start moving to a low-stress way of losing fat.

But what about you?

What advice do YOU have for other folks stuck at a fat loss plateau? Post your comment below.

I’ll be back with more ways to lose belly fat with less workout time than ever before,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS fat loss expert

Click here to find out when the TT Depletion Workouts are ready!

  • Mike G

    I think the way past a plateau is to confuse the body and do something completely different, especially for your diet. If you’ve been maintaining a diet of 2,300 cals a day for the last month or two then your body has most likely become used to it. To get around this, I’d up my calories on my workout days to about 3,000 cals (all clean food of course) and consume about 2,500 cals on my non-workout days. I would do this for a week, two weeks if needed. As for my workouts, I would change my workout. I may also look at the weights and reps I have been doing. If I have been doing 8-10 reps with a moderate weight, I may change to 4-6 reps with a heavier weight for a week or two just to throw something different at my body. Same goes for intervals, I may try lengthening or shorting the duration of my intervals. Of course I have always found that some rest and good healthy eating always helps get through the plateaus too!

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Awesome Mike, great stuff!

  • Laura

    This is a wonderful post, and a must-read for everyone who’s serious about getting in shape. It doesn’t matter how well designed a program is–sooner or later it’s going to stop working, and when that happens it’s time to move on.

    My own personal strategy is to try never to do the same workout twice. If, for example, I’m doing a Turbulence Training program that calls for a 1 minute rest between supersets, I might rest the entire minute during week 1, then on week 2 rest only 50 seconds while keeping my weight selection the same. Decreasing rest periods works especially well with workouts that involve mostly bodyweight exercises since the only other option for making those progressive is to add reps, which might not be desirable if you want a quick workout.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      I like that, great stuff Laura.

  • Jen

    “5 days of regular eating (no calorie couting) focusing on a diet based on fruits, vegetables, and raw nuts”

    Dear Craig,

    You say focus the diet on fruits, veggies and nuts. Sounds kinda vegan to me. Are you vegan? I wonder what kind of diet do you personally eat? Do you mind line out a typical day of eating?
    Thanks and keep those incredible good posts coming.
    Rgds
    Jen

  • Great post! You’ve pretty covered it all there Craig I think.

    But I’ll chime in… =)

    I’d have to agree with Laura here as well. Depending on your fitness levels…shorten up your rest periods if you feel rest periods may be too long. That’s a good suggestion.

    If you feel you’re getting bored with a specific exercise…spice it up with something different. If it’s push ups that you’ve been doing for ages – do a decline push up. Add variety or sub exercises that still target the same muscle groups – you may think it’s just a push exercise but actually doing it a little differently may cause even more muscle involvement due to the newer movement if you will.

    If you’re bored with sprint intervals…try different approaches like bw intervals (burpees), KB swings, Jump roping…even swimming. the body is so smart – doing one certain approach to interval training all the time – and the body will adapt. You got to keep the body guessing here and it’s almost guaranteed you will drop the fat (with proper nutrition of course).

    As far as weights go…mix that up, too – go light on some days, moderate on others and heavy on other days. Going too light for too long and not changing the resistance week in and week out isn’t a good thing. Even going too heavy all the time might stall progress too. Because either one – your body may not respond to the constant light weight used thus not creating any muscle tissue breakdown for growth or two going to heavy all the time may just lead you to injury and burn out…so there’s no point in going all out all the time on weight loads.

    Another tip – routinely change up routines periodically. If you’re goal is fat loss in 3 months – I wouldn’t change up to a mass building program after 30 days. Supersets and circuit training or a combination of both is a recipe for success in the gym.

    On the nutrition front, I also like your recommendation, Craig:
    ” 5 days of regular eating (no calorie couting) focusing on a diet based on fruits, vegetables, and raw nuts, and an emphasis on including more variety in your diet than ever (trying new foods and using herbs and spices in your cooking to focus on quality, not quantity)”

    I don’t calorie count either. If you know what you’re eating – you don’t need to count calories. You’ll know whether it’s beneficial or not by one thing alone: natural or processed.

    Introduce vegetables to your diet as best you can. I love boiled spinach, cabbage, carrots…and still am wanting to taste different veggies out there and there are many. One thing I really love eating more and more is brocolli!!! I used to hate that stuff.

  • Lima

    I’ve been exercising on and off for many years. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it harder to maintain my weight. It kept creeping up a pound a year. Doesn’t sound like much, but every time I hit a ten year, I also had added 10 pounds. So by 50, I was 150 & going up fast. I was determined to lower my weight and live a healthier life. I started at 161lbs, the same year my youngest brother got married. I was able to get back down to 151lbs after two years. This year I found your workout site and started using some of your supersets and circuits. After 3 months, I’m finally down to 140lbs. Because I’ve changed the exercise programs just about every week, I’ve not had a plateau problem until the last two weeks. I think because I’m close to my goal and because I’m stressed about my upcoming travel, I’v hit my plateau.
    I’m continuing to use your program, but am also watching my diet much more closely. I believe, as you do, that diet must be a part of the solution. So I’m being very careful about what I eat and am doing intervals twice a day instead of once a day, three times a week. In the beginning, I wasn’t doing intervals, but their addition helped move my weight downward. I was doing one interval for about 20 minutes, but now do two intervals of about 10 minutes each. So I haven’t actually added time to my workout, I’ve just divided it into two session on the same day. Though my weight hasn’t moved, my measurements show that something is happening. I expect that I will break my plateau probably this week. At least that’s my hope. To help with my stress, I’ve added 30 minutes of daily yoga for relaxation and stretching purposes.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Great stuff Lima!

  • Martin j

    Hey Craig,

    I like to pair one demanding total body exercise with a ‘cardio’ total body exercise. Here are some examples:

    Heavy KB swing x10 reps and 10 push ups
    Heavy Dead lift x5 reps and 10 burpies
    Heavy Front squat x10 reps and 10 light KB snatches

    5 sets of these ‘pairings’ take around 4-6 minutes, and if put between TT supersets they add a massive metabolic and cardio kick to your TT workouts.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Nice Work!

  • Great info as always Craig. One variation I really like to use to throw my body a curve from time to time is “ladder” sets. It can be done with just about any exercise, but here’s an example with bodyweight pull-ups. Start with just one pull-up, then step aside while your training partner does just one. If you’re working out alone, just allow the time it would take your imaginary partner to do the same reps you just did. Now do two pull-ups and step aside while your “partner” follows suit. Continue the same way until you hit five reps, then reverse back to four, three, two and one. When you’re finished, you will have done 25 pull-ups in your ladder set. If that’s too easy, work up to six or seven “rungs” in your ladder next workout.

    It’s a great way to mix up your workouts occasionally and challenge yourself with something new.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      That is a great idea, especially for folks looking to add reps!

  • Ralph

    I’ve found that what works best to beat a plateau is drinking copious amounts of hot water every day. This is a major factor in promoting weight loss, and you’ll realise after a day or two that it’s not difficult to substitute tea, coffee and sodas for hot water. I drink 6-8 cups a day, and benefit from what must be the cheapest diet available!

  • If one is truly experiencing a plateau… inspite of sticking to a nutritional plan, resistance and interval training and yet had minimal results in one’s body composition in a period of 4-6 weeks…

    I would recommend:
    – to increase the challenge in one’s resistance training by either progressing the exercise ( kneeling push-ups to plank style push-ups)or by changing weights used to a heavier one and doing less reps.
    – decrease the rest periods time and increase intensity in interval trainings
    – increase diet with more proteins and “good” fats. The body after getting use to the demands of the physical training is no longer getting enough nutrients for the body to recover and to build muscle. Instead of getting its energy from stored fat, it gets it from the muscle resulting to muscle loss.

  • firstly let me say that these are all very good suggestions, and all ones that will work so long as they facilitate a negative energy balance. My advice is more in keeping with one’s interpretation of “the plateau” in the context of how the human body funtions.

    The nature of the human body in terms of structure and function is to maintain a balance in the midst of ever changing circumstances, actions and environment. These adaptations can be either good or bad in terms of health, and in the context of body weight, can present in the form of either weight gain or weight loss. Consider the goal of anybody who has lost weight and then wants to maintain it: Are they not merely wanting a plateau in a weight/physique zone that they are happy with?

    When one considers it like this, plateaus should be viewed as “indicators or markers” that inevitably dot the path to weight balance or maintenance. Weight maintenance should be considered the “ultimate plateua”, and the plataeus along the way as “signals” that the body needs to be presented with something new to which it needs to adapt. In weight loss this means re-establishing a negative energy balance and could take the form of adjustments in either nutrition, physical activity or both, the details of which should be determined on an individual basis. My intention with this advice is to establish a different way of interpretting what has become for too many, a reason to quit! Successful weight loss takes both time and adjustments, and this way of interpretting plateaus will go a long way in helping you stay the course and reach your ultimate weight goals!

  • Concetta27

    It has taken me a long time to finally take this advice. Eat more healthy fats. I have included almonds and walnuts with good results. I agree with the other commentors that your body settles into a pattern easily. Mixing up your diet, whether it be eating more or less carbs, more protein or fasting can have great results. Keep it clean and healthy and you will see changes.

  • Jose Sanchez

    When I hit a plateau…I like to take a break for a week. Enjoy nice daily 40-60 minute walks. Also the body needs to rest and recover. Sometimes when we hit a plateau in the gym or in life, we need to take a breather. Then, I would jump on a calorie staggering health plan and
    a high and low rep exercise program.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      That is a great idea! In fact, I’m giving you and “Aunt Tara” the prize for best answer! Totally different thinking. Congrats, I’ll email you a link to download your prize workout!

      craig

  • Hi Craig.

    Thanks for another awesome post!

    I found the following things work best for me when I feel like I’ve reached a fat-loss plateau:

    1. Have a cheat day. I eat pretty “clean” all week long. No dieting. No calorie counting. I just eat small, healthy meals and snacks consisting of organic fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. However, every Sunday is my cheat day. I’ll make a big breakfast for the family (homemade waffles, eggs, bacon, etc.), eat a lite lunch, and then have whatever I want for dinner. Nothing is off-limits…cheeseburger with fries, pizza, chicken wings and a few beers. I don’t go overboard, but I don’t worry about what I eat. For some reason, this cheating seems to help my diet rather than hurt it. I have read anecdotal evidence in various magazines supporting this same claim, but I don’t recall any scientific evidence. Have you ever read any?

    2. Rather than exercise once per day, I’ll break-up my routine into 3 very short/very intense sessions. I’ll do one immediately upon waking, another right before lunch, and the last one right before dinner. I’ve found I can get an effective workout completed in 3 minutes, a good workout in 6 minutes, a great workout in 9 minutes, or a killer workout in just 12 minutes. When I can do 3 12-minute sessions in a day, my fat-burning really gets kicked into high gear.

    3. Put down the weights and do bodyweight/sprint interval instead. I used to do a lot of “heavy” lifting when I younger…bench presses, deadlifts, squats, etc. As long as my nutrition was good, I was able to maintain a nice physique. As I got older (married with kids), I started doing fewer gym workouts and more at-home programs. Now after nearly 25 years of experience, I found the most efficient and effective workouts for me consist of bodyweight exercises combined with sprinting (can be done indoors or outdoors). Now I can do very short bursts of high-intensity exercise which help me to burn fat and save time!

    I hope you find these ideas useful!

    Wishing you health and happiness,

    Pete
    http://www.TheHealthyMinute.com

  • Just wanted to piggy-back on the article regarding the importance of diet. In the past when I’ve decided to “get back in shape again”, I would do the traditional – go to the gym and ease back into it for a week – then kill it and deal with the soreness – then try to get “big” by lifting heavy and eating ‘whatever’ along with lots and lots of protein.
    I’m 40 now. Different tactic. I’ve read Craig’s books and have decided the first thing I need to do is to change my eating habits before I do anything else. Although I have drawn out a plan for the workouts (that’s the easy part), I realize my diet needs to be secure before I start anything else. I don’t want to start working out and eating ‘whatever’ when my body reacts by craving more calories. I’ve lost 14lbs in the past 6 weeks just by following Craig’s diet suggestions alone! This by itself is enough to motivate me to stay on track!
    Thank you Craig for all the suggestions and keep up the great work!

  • Aunt Tara

    My remedy is to do something COMPLETELY different for an entire week. Instead of going to the gym, doing circuit training, intervals etc.., I spend a week doing nothing but Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. It ‘rests’ the body and the mind. I try to fit in a full body massage or a reflexology session as well. I don’t worry about diet this week either. I drink plenty of water (including hot water, which gets the system moving) and just focus on healthy foods, but don’t worry about calorie counting. I find that when I go back to my training, I’m refreshed (mind & body), energized and focused, which equals increased muscle responsiveness and moves me past the plateau!!

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Nice!

    • Craig Ballantyne

      That is a great idea! In fact, I’m giving you and Jose the prize for best answer! Totally different thinking. Congrats, I’ll email you a link to download your prize workout!

      Craig

  • I can’t wait for the depletion routines! My summer is always nuts and I love getting out on the bike. If the routines are 2x per week, that will leave me with a ton of time to bike!

  • Adam

    In addition to taking a week off when I am hitting my peaks, I use that as an opportunity to lay around inside and take advantage of our technologies, play video games, and watch movies. Technology is my reward after a heavy 3-4 month diet/lifting regime. Go ahead, eat a big bowl of air popped popcorn and wish you were T-1000 in Terminator 2. Call over your friends for a night of Wii tennis, you’d be surprised at how crazily you can get into it with that game! (I’m sweating after 10 minutes when doing it with friends and really getting into it). Put on a Jedi cape and watch the entire Star Wars trilogy from AM to PM!

  • Jeremy Dubay

    Great post!

    I guess the biggest thing to do is take a day and re-evaluate whatever diet you’ve been following. Hopefully you have been writing it down. If not, remember all the bad things you have eaten, or maybe the things you thought were good, but aren’t necessarily that great (i.e. canned vegetable soup loaded with sodium).

    I often would rely on exercise to lose weight, and that eventually stops. If you haven’t been following a specific diet plan, pick one like ESE. You should start seeing positive results again.

  • Juliet

    Interval training is the core to my program- but instead of just stretching at the end; I’ve added some basic yoga routines. And on my off-days, I’ve incorporated dance exercises (the ballet sort). Both encourage limberness and elasticity which has gotten me past the plateau. Another big help is to watch your nutrition: eat enough to support your lifestyle but you have to have a deficit between consumption and burn in order to lose weight. Avoid caffiene and consume most of your carbs later in the day, when it’s okay if they make you sleepy, and you’ll have more energy during the day.