Just because you’re Paleo, you listen to my show, or you follow an iron-clad fat loss program doesn’t mean you’re immune to the absurd amount of bad exercise information out there…
One research study comes out saying that cardio is the only way to burn fat, another says that running makes you fat, then yet another comes out saying that the only way you’ll see your abs is to get your stomach stapled and buy a raspberry-ketone-green-coffee-acai-berry-super-cleanse potion. (Thanks Dr. Oz.)
Where does that leave most of us?
Well, I’m here to help. Fat loss is really just a metabolic process – influenced heavily by our hormones and nutrition – and it doesn’t have to be all that complicated.
When it comes to exercising, many different exercises will help you lose fat – and that’s the truth.
However, some exercises help you build an ideal physique, while others don’t. And not all will optimize your hormonal environment which, in the end, is what you really want.
Optimized hormones = effortless fat loss and lean muscle maintenance.
Here’s what you want to do:
- Decrease cortisol (stress hormone)
- Increase anabolic hormones
… yes, there’s another variable in this equation (something that very few people actually think about)… but I’ll leave that for a future post.
Fortunately, cortisol and anabolic hormones act in opposition to each other. If we train to optimize the latter, the former will naturally decrease.
And that keeps things simple.
So what’s the best way to optimize our anabolic hormones?
Two words: compound movements.
Studies have found that explosive full-body movements will simultaneously increase our anabolic hormones (growth hormone, testosterone, etc.) while decreasing circulating cortisol, lowering our body’s chronic stress response.
- Sprinter = full body explosive movements = ripped and muscular.
- Long distance runner = chronically-elevated cortisol = skinny-fat and weak.
So what are some compound movements you can be doing to improve your hormonal balance?
Here are my 5 favorites:
- Burpees: Yes, these hurt… but in that “oh so good” kind of way. Doing short rounds of burpees for 60 seconds will get your heart rate up in seconds and will give you an outstanding full-body explosive workout. Really work to explode as you jump into the air at the peak of the movement.
- Deadlifts: The deadlift engages not only your arms and back, but also your full core – front and back – along with many muscles in your legs and feet. Lifting heavy for low reps really challenges your entire body and is great for fat loss and, believe it or not, great abs.
- Power Cleans: Before doing these make sure you study up on the proper form – we don’t want any injuries. When done properly, cleans can be a single-movement workout all by themselves. You engage almost every muscle in your body – even your face – and you really work on explosive power in your arms and legs as you make the wrist transition before lifting overhead.
- Sprinting: It goes without saying that sprinting is an incredible workout. You don’t even have to sprint very far to get serious benefits: the results are a direct result of your effort. Go hard and you’ll start to look and feel great. You’ll get a well-proportioned look and keep lean, hard muscle in all the right places.
- Pull-ups: Believe it or not, pull-ups engage much of your body, including your core. And with correct form (straight legs) you even engage your legs. Pull-ups can be done fast or slow, high or low. If you get really good at them you can even venture into plyometric territory: try a clap pull-up or plyo pull-up. They’re an extremely efficient movement for building a great physique for both men and women.
Master these five exercises and you’ll never need anything else. I mean it.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Let’s optimize those hormones. 🙂
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What are your favorite fat-burning exercises? Drop a comment below to share with us!
S. Andrei Ostric says
Squats? Is there a reason you kept them off and include the power cleans and the dead lifts?
From my experience, a deadlift hits all the muscles that a squat will, and then some. The deadlift is more functional, in that pulling, tugging, and lifting is a lot more common in daily life than getting under something and pushing up with your shoulders. It is a lot easier to drop a bar than to get it off your shoulders if something goes wrong with the lift. And deadlifts do not require a squat rack. So, all things considered, deadlifts are superior to squats. Unless you are a shin model, and simply cannot have cuts/scrapes/scars on your shins. 🙂
Abel James says
Right on, Matt!
Abel James says
You got me! That’s number 6. 🙂
D. Friedman says
I’m not allowed to sprint or run anymore due to a hip replacement. What about sprints on an elliptical machine with HIT?
Trap Bar Deadlifts are a great compromise between squats and deadlifts! My favorite workout is is to load up my trapbar and my barbell, and I do single reps of trapbar deads and standing press until I get to the weight I want for my work set. Maybe 5-6 singles of each to work up, with minimal rest. I then start with the standing press and do one all out set until I can’t do another rep with perfect form, drop the bar and immediately start the trap bar deads, again to the point where I can’t do another perfect rep. This workout takes around 10 minutes tops and I’ll be sore from head to toe for 2-3 days. Once a week is all it takes!
Abel James says
Good stuff for sure!
*Sigh* Skinny 115# lady here. Pull-ups and power cleans??? C’mom throw me a bone here. I’m stuck with just 3???
Emily Dewey says
Just because you are a smaller person should not stop you from doing these exercises! Modifications can be made for EVERYONE. Pull-ups with rubber-band assists are a great place to start. Power cleans can start with a PVC pipe to get the movement down and then progress to a heavier bar as you get it down. Give it a try 🙂 – Emily, FBM Team
First I can’t do a pull-up what can I do to help build strength to one day to be able to do a pull-up (even if just one)?
Second I have no place to do pull-ups other then the park next to the gym, winter is coming (just call me a Stark). My place has no doors I can use one of the pull-up bars on. My gym is just a small community gym. What can be done to simulate a pull-up? Maybe going along with the first question.
Third My gym is really small. Most of the equipment is machines. They have some dumbbells, would doing dead lift and power cleans with dumbbells work?
Emily Dewey says
For pull-ups, investing in athletic over-sized rubber-bands that can be looped around the bar are your best bet. You put your foot in the bottom and it gives you a bit of help on the way up/down! Different thickness determines how much “help” you get. The park is a great place to do this, absolutely. I’d put in a request to your community gym for a pull-up bar. They may just listen! You can also purchase one for your own home and install it above a door. Good luck! – Emily, FBM Team
Mike Minuto says
I’ve seen you reference incorporating sprints. I’m not a distance runner but average about 3 5-7 mike runs a week. Can you give me an example of how you incorporated sprints into a 5 mile run when you switched from marathoning
Emily Dewey says
Generally sprints are done as a stand-alone workout. Not necessarily within a several-mile run. Once or twice a week you could do a Tabata set of sprints (20s sprint, 10s rest for 8 reps, 2min rest, repeat). Awesome workout, especially if you’re short on time! – Emily, FBM team
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hi there can you tell me how many times a week I should do the above workout. Sets and reps
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Zach H says
I weigh 390 lbs. I am trying to lose some fat. I work security for a few places, but with the amount of walking I do, it seems I am at a standstill with loseing weight. Would these exercises be possible for someone of my stature? If so any tips too boost my experience?
Great advice, but it would be helpful to get an idea of how many reps/minutes to do each one of these, and how often per week. I believe I could figure out the deadlifts and powercleans by looking at the Starting Strength program from Ripetoe, but I could use some advice on the others. I’m also thinking of cancelling my gym membership if I can do this stuff at home, but the powercleans seem to be something that would be tougher to do at home without building some sort of platform to drop the weights on. Heavy weights aren’t going to do my garage or basement floors any favors over time. Any suggestions here? Are there alternative options? Thanks.
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hello guys i have been doin HIIT and strength trainning for a long…I was a obese now Iam in perfect shape after a year I wana be ripped freak but cannt see further progress .I still have fats to cover my abs and veins…help me out
Adrian Kellogg says
Most people don’t think about optimizing hormones for fat loss. They only focus on what burns calories. So it’s great that you emphasized on the hormonal impact of these exercises, and not just their calorie burning power.
Robert H says
I agree with pull-ups. You are pulling up your bodyweight, and the less weight you have, the better you will be, right? So, by doing pull-ups you’re telling your body to shed that fat (of course, combined with a slight calorie deficit).