Fat Loss Q n A with Craig Ballantyne

Today I am including several excellent questions that I recently received from TT members about fat loss and about Turbulence Training.


Question: Please tell us about the history of Turbulence Training and your time in the fitness industry?

Answer: Like most folks in the fitness industry, I played a lot of sports when I was younger. That led to weight training. From there, I realized I wanted to be a strength coach in professional sports.  I went to school for Kinesiology, which then led to a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology.

Along the way, I studied what made a good NHL Strength Coach (they had Master’s Degrees and were Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists – CSCS).  I also started training athletes, along with men and women for fat loss. Then I started working with Men’s Health in 2000. I invented Turbulence Training in 1999, and finally put it online in 2001.

The rest is history. Each year I run three Turbulence Training Transformation Contests. I kicked off the 10th TT contest  this month.

Question: So the first thing we have in common is that long slow boring cardio does not work, can you please explain this?

Answer: Research shows that you can get the same or better fat loss results in less exercise time with interval training when compared to long, slow, boring cardio.  For those reasons, the Turbulence Training programs use interval training and resistance training to sculpt the body, not cardio.

Client question #1: How many hours do I really need to work out in a week to lose body fat?

Answer: Diet is the key to fat loss. Even if someone didn’t exercise at all, they could lose fat simply by improving their diet. So the specific answer to your question is ZERO hours.  Of course, you need exercise to maintain lean mass and to get stronger, fitter, and sexier. That said, it takes much less than three hours per week to achieve a great body. 

Client Question #2: Can you explain what interval training is, and what’s the best type to do?

Answer: Interval training is simply periods of harder-than-normal exercise followed by periods of recovery. This is done for 3-10 “intervals” after a warm up and followed by a cool down.  Everyone can do interval training for fat burning. Even beginners.

For beginners that usually exercise for 30 minutes at 3.5 mph on the treadmill, their interval workout would be to go for 1 minute at 3.8mph and then recover for 2 minutes at 3.0 mph. That’s it. Repeat 6 times.

Interval training doesn’t have to be sprinting for your life. It just needs to start off harder than normal…and progress from there.  In a gym setting, I prefer clients use a stationary bike because it is simple, has a low risk of injury, and was the method used in many interval training research studies.

You can also run hill sprints, use kettlebell swings, do shuttle runs, swim (if you’re a skilled swimmer), or a variety of other activities for interval training.

Client Question #3: I have been told you have to lift heavy weights to build muscle. Is this true or can bodyweight exercises be suffice?

Answer: Bodyweight exercises can be used to build muscle, although lifting weights is simpler, because in order to stimulate muscle growth with bodyweight exercises, you need more co-ordination to do more difficult movements (such as 1-leg squats and advanced pushups).

To build muscle, you just need the right volume and intensity of resistance exercise. That might come from pullups or pulldowns, generally as long as your muscles work close to fatigue in the 8-12 repetition range.  If you are doing sets of 50 squats or pushups, you aren’t likely to get a lot of muscle building return on your time investment.

Client Question #4: How much rest should I be taking during my workout if I want to lose fat?

Answer: The truth is that it doesn’t matter if you rest just a little, or if you rest a lot in your fat loss program. The only factor is how long you want to spend in the gym.  You can rest very little and get great fat loss results, or you can rest a lot and get great fat loss results. It’s up to you, but be conservative.

In the Turbulence Training programs, I have designed the workouts to be finished in under 45 minutes (including both resistance training and interval training), and therefore the rest periods are short.

Client Question #5: Can I target fat from a specific area like my thighs? What is your favorite exercise to lose fat?

Answer: Not that I know of. In most cases, your belly fat will be the first to go.  Interval training is the best method to lose fat. Biking and the treadmills are great, but kettlebell swings or snatches add more resistance to the fat burning process and help maintain more upper body muscle.

Client Question #6: What is your opinion of low carb diets?

Answer: I believe that a lot of diets work for fat loss, and that every person simply needs to experiment to find the right diet that works for them. For some people, low carb diets work well and are easy to stick to. However, they are not for everyone.

Client Question #7: When should I include supersets into my workout?

Answer: Supersets should be used in almost every workout. The only exceptions that I can think of are specific power lifting or athlete training when strength and power are desired and more rest is needed.

Client Question #8: How many sets should I be doing per workout to lose weight?

Answer: You could use as little as 1-2 resistance training exercises done for 2-3 sets per exercise to maintain lean mass. Combine that with interval training and the right diet, and you’ll lose a lot of belly fat. In my Turbulence Training workouts, I generally recommend choosing 4-6 exercises per workout that allow you to train all the major muscle groups. Do 2-3 sets of each exercise.

Client Question #9: What the best way to get a six pack?

Answer: First and foremost, lose the belly fat with diet, interval training, and resistance training, in that order. In addition, use 1-2 torso exercises (like planks, side planks, stability ball rollouts) per workout three times per week. It’s that simple.