Raise your hand if you want to be strong and confident in your body?

“Ooh, ooh!  Me!!!”

Ok, what exactly do you do at the gym to achieve that new you???!!!


If you’ve been struggling to figure out the most effective way to achieve some lasting changes in your body composition, today’s post is just for you!

While managing how energy goes into your body (nutrition, sleep, stress management) is important, today we will be focusing on the manner in which energy leaves your body (training) and how we can train more effectively to optimize fat burning.

Common Myths Around Fat Burning

There are a number of factors that influence how your body burns fat.  It is a complex process but is often oversimplified in three common myths.

Myth 1
The longer I train, the more fat I will burn.

Myth 2
The harder I train, the more fat I will burn

Myth 3
To burn fat, I can only do it while I exercise.

While fat is indeed burned while you exercise, and the length and intensity of your training sessions do play a role in the amount of fat burned, body fat decreases largely as a result of total energy expended in each session, not necessarily the duration or intensity alone.

So how can you maximize the amount of energy expended during each of your workouts?

Do the following:

  1.  Choose movements that are multi-joint.
    1. Movements that require many joints to move will require more muscular activation and subsequent energy expenditure.  For example, leg raises or leg presses train knee extension only.  Try squats with a kettlebell or a barbell instead.  This mainstay strength movement will not only train the legs, but the hips, glutes, core, and arms (when holding a kettlebell.)
  2. Keep the “time under tension” HIGH.
    1. Instead of lifting weights really fast, slow down!  For example, instead of doing a set of 10 pushups as fast as you can try slowing the descent back to the floor and / or pausing at the top.  The slow descent forces an eccentric contraction on the muscle (muscle is contracting while lengthening) and so requires more energy than just simply dropping back down to the floor.
  3. Modulate your expressions of “high intensity”.
    1. Intensity can refer not only to the speed at which you perform a movement, but also the amount of weight being lifted.  So for example, slamming a moderately weighted medball at a fast speed would be considered high intensity.  Lifting a really heavy bar off the floor, albeit very slowly, would also be considered high intensity.  Moving fast and lifting heavy recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers.  Even though these fiber types primarily rely on carbohydrate while training, a residual effect is that they continue to burn more calories hours after activity.  It’s during this time at rest where the body transitions towards burning more fat as the preferred fuel.
  4. Perform movements you might not be good at…sometimes.
    1. When we become good at an exercise, we tend to become super efficient at it i.e. we use less energy to produce the same patterns and power.  New and novel exercises throw our brains for a loop and so in order to keep the body safe, we recruit a lot of different muscles we might not have otherwise used.  This then requires…you guessed it…more energy.  Naturally, include more technically difficult movements occasionally.  After all, who wants to suck at doing something all of the time???
  5. Work smart, not hard.
    1. If total energy expended in each session was the only thing that mattered in a training program, every session would be very intense and very long.  However, that type of training is unsustainable.  Recovery is just as important to the process of body composition change.  Anyone can train hard for a day or a week, but what about a month, 6 months, a year?  High intensity activity must be balanced with low intensity activity in order to give the body the necessary time to build back energy stores, let muscle and connective tissues heal, and allow the nervous system to return to a “rest-digest” state of recovery.

By employing these five strategies, you’ll be on your way towards improving your body composition safely and over the long haul!