How to lose fat and gain muscle the quickestBy Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: February 17, 2023
How to lose fat and gain muscle “fast”
People seek “near-magical diet and exercise routines,” which promise regimens with no effort, no hunger, and no muscle soreness. I can tell you right now that this triad also won’t produce weight loss. However, there is so much information “out there” that it’s often hard to choose how to attack this problem. So–get the facts regarding optimizing lipolysis (fat burning) and muscle mass creation. This has been studied and, for the most part- “figured out.” People who want to learn the science of how to lose fat and gain muscle efficiently can take the contents of this article and be successful.
It’s not just about calories in and calories out; something you have heard about for years, but now we know for sure: what you eat matters, and it’s not just about the calories you take in, and it’s not just about the calories you expend….it’s how you expend them. For example, something popularly called “the afterburn” is an additional energy expenditure after exercise. This happens due to “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.”
Here’s what has to happen after your workout. Your body needs to perform a variety of tasks to recover, including:
- Removal of lactic acid
- Repair of muscle fibers
- Replenishment of ATP in mitochondria
- Replenishment of oxygen
And this is just for starters. All of these metabolic processes require oxygen. Oxygen consumption, therefore, rises after exercise and requires energy. This means additional calories will be burned above the resting rate, giving us the afterburn effect. If you’ve heard of this, I bet you didn’t know that weight training will provide you with far more afterburn than “doing cardio.”
This phenomenon lasts up to three times as long as a weight training session as either low, medium, or high-intensity “cardio” or even strenuous HIIT. On top of this, as you work your large and small muscle groups, gradual muscle hypertrophy leads to longer-lasting metabolic increases. And according to the latest data, muscle cells communicate with fat cells during weight workouts to enhance the fat-burning process even more. I’m trying to make the point that you will lose fat and gain muscle the most efficiently with anti-inflammatory eating and an easy-to-do, quick weight training routine. Here’s the super-cool way that using your muscles helps you burn fat.
How Muscles talk to fat cells
Recent findings indicate that skeletal muscle secretes packets of substances called myokines that mediate some benefits of exercise. Those benefits include the growth of muscle fibers and the enhancement of lipolysis.
Adipose tissue is the body’s primary way of storing excess energy. It provides nutrition when an organism must go without food, such as during fasting or exercise. As a result, the metabolic role of adipose tissue is critical for determining whole-body metabolic outcomes. For example, Adipocyte (fat cell) lipolysis is driven by the brain chemicals norepinephrine and epinephrine, secreted during exercise. This then enhances insulin sensitivity, lean body mass, and thermogenesis-fat burning!
Now it’s (hopefully) clear that weight training not only gives you a longer metabolic burn than cardio training but also promotes lipolysis. So if you have thought that your time at the gym was best spent walking on the treadmill, you realize that you need to change things up. Now, it’s time to lay out the physiologic environment that best supports how to build muscle and lose fat the most efficiently. So here’s what we’ll cover.
- Get into an anti-inflammatory and anabolic state
- Measure and control leptin and insulin levels
- Balance basic hormones
- Use peptides to lose fat and gain muscle
- Pick the most effective and efficient weight workout regimen
Quell inflammation and Muscle Catabolism
The relationship between chronic inflammation and obesity has been studied extensively. It is known that inflammation plays a role in the development of obesity; however, the exact mechanisms behind this phenomenon are still being researched.
What exactly is inflammation?: When the body responds to an injury or infection, it initiates a complex set of processes collectively termed inflammation. The goal of inflammation is to eliminate the cause of the problem and initiate repair.
Inflammation is characterized by local redness, swelling, heat, and pain. These signs and symptoms will go away when healing begins; however, if the cause has not been eliminated or recovery has not started, they may last for some time.
Chronic inflammation is usually caused by something we can’t see, such as a splinter, but it’s still an inflammatory response. For example, if you keep prodding at the same spot, you’ll maintain high levels of inflammation, but you can’t feel the splinter or the poking because it’s silent. When inflammation becomes chronic, it can be “silent” and make you feel fatigued or contribute to many other health problems. We’ll discuss diet next, but first, let’s talk about other common causes of chronic inflammation.
Gut hyperpermeability AKA “leaky gut”: Leaky gut syndrome is a problem caused by consuming a poor diet, taking pharmaceuticals (especially antibiotics), experiencing high cortisol levels (especially since the COVID pandemic), and exposure to mycotoxins. This syndrome can be treated with a gut-healing peptide such as BPC-157. However, it might take some time to recognize that you have no symptoms or minor symptoms such as gastrointestinal bloating or mild constipation. Since this is the root cause of all autoimmune diseases, it’s always wise to treat this problem, regardless of your condition.
Your weight: Obesity is associated with increased inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Individuals who are obese or overweight have higher levels of inflammatory blood markers than men and women of the same age who are not overweight or obese. According to numerous clinical studies, inflammatory markers decrease when men and women lose weight.
Excessive omega-6 intake: A diet high in omega-6 fats can cause an imbalance in the production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids, a vital part of the body’s inflammatory response. This can be a problem because when the body produces an excessive amount of inflammatory eicosanoids, it results in more chronic inflammation, which is linked to many serious health problems. The solution is to lower your intake of meat and dairy products—a diet rich in omega-6 fats—and increase your intake of foods rich in omega-3 fats. Doing so can balance your intake of these fatty acids and lower leptin levels.
Insufficient omega-3 intake: Conversely, omega-3 fats are the precursors for anti-inflammatory eicosanoids, which dampen inflammation. Good omega-3 status means adequate anti-inflammatory eicosanoids and blunts the inflammatory reaction to normal stimuli. It’s easy to get good blood levels: eat omega-3-rich fish such as salmon or sardines and take good omega-3 fish oil supplements. Let me mention that leptin also responds to flipping your Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio.
Lack of sleep: Disordered sleep causes elevated blood inflammatory markers in and of itself. Poor sleep is a chronic problem in the U.S., as many people go to bed too late, wake up too early, don’t get enough hours of sleep, or use electronics late at night to disrupt the sleep quality they do get. In addition, disordered sleep will raise leptin levels, which we’ll discuss further in this article.
Toxins: Heavy metals such as mercury and lead and biotoxins such as mycotoxins and Lyme toxins can cause chronic inflammation in the body.
Chronic stress: Elevated cortisol due to pain, injury, illness, or physical or emotional stress is an independent risk factor for weight gain via several mechanisms, including elevated leptin levels. But that’s not all, as the saying goes. High cortisol can damage your gut lining, your microbiome, and even the neurons in your brain!
It packs pounds preferentially on your belly, too! Note also that a chronically elevated cortisol level is catabolic, meaning it will cause you to lose muscle mass. Coming soon: a better, newer medical device that stimulates the vagus nerve to lower cortisol and inflammation and boost the immune system. We now have the truvaga vagal stimulation device, which is used for 2 minutes, 2x/day. It is by far the best device “out there” thus far. Use my patient discount code for $25 off. It’s just DrKim25.
Job one-Your Anti-Inflammatory Eating Plan
Limit or eliminate processed foods from your diet: Most processed foods contain “bad” carbohydrates, which are low in fiber and are broken down quickly in the body. Processed food is also typically high in calories, thus contributing to weight gain. In addition, processed foods often contain harmful toxins such as artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, and a long list of other unhealthy ingredients. These toxins can hinder your ability to lose body fat and even moreso-belly fat.
Avoid “fast foods” unless you eat from a salad bar, and bring your own healthy salad dressing.
Limit sugars, beans, and grains. Most of the research reveals that lectins are inflammatory, and (inflammation-causing high-lectin foods include grains (especially those containing gluten), beans, nightshade vegetables, and low-fat dairy. Nightshades are white potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers, for the most part. Your functional doctor should determine why you have excess weight-is it hormonal, inflammatory, due to insulin resistance, or high leptin? Different eating plans will either work or not, depending on the problem. Since a large percentage of seriously overweight individuals have elevated glucose issues, they would be considered “insulin resistant” and therefore do well on a keto diet. But let’s focus on the “leptin problem” for a moment.
Eating this way is the basis for the good-old Paleo Diet, but please go easy on the meat. Why? There are many reasons—but think about the omega-6 fatty acids we discussed above. It is essential to ask your functional doctor to determine precisely why you are carrying excess weight—is it hormonal, inflammatory, due to insulin resistance, or high leptin? Or is it a combination of a few issues, including others not named here?
Different eating plans should be prescribed depending on the cause of the weight gain. For example, since a large percentage of overweight individuals have diabetes or what is popularly called pre-diabetes, they would be considered “insulin resistant” and do well on a keto diet plan. They also would do well on an anti-inflammatory diet or a frank A.I.P. diet(usually reserved for those with autoimmune issues such as IBD).
Meanwhile, this popular eating plan would hinder weight loss in someone with a high leptin level. Since non-functional doctors and many non-medical people are familiar with the association between insulin, glucose, and weight gain, let’s focus on what typically is not checked or treated correctly, if at all: leptin issues.
Why is Leptin so Important?
Leptin and its receptors are essential regulators of body weight and energy homeostasis. Decreasing leptin’s tissue sensitivity leads to metabolic disorders, including obesity. Mechanisms underlying the development of leptin resistance include gene mutations that encode leptin and its receptors, proteins involved in the self-regulation of leptin synthesis, and even factors that alter blood-brain barrier permeability.
Leptin resistance is a complex pathophysiological phenomenon with multiple “lines of attack” for potential treatment; understanding this process is essential because it is the leading driver of fat gain in humans.
What is Leptin?
Leptin is a peptide (short-protein) hormone that was initially discovered to be secreted solely by fat cells. However, its importance has since been recognized in other body areas, including the kidneys, placenta, and salivary glands. It is crucial to understand that leptin levels increase exponentially, not linearly, with fat mass, so it is essential to know how much fat mass you have. Leptin receptors are found in the highest concentrations in the brain: specifically in the hypothalamus and hippocampus.
In some clinical studies, chronically-elevated leptin levels are associated with overeating, obesity, and, as mentioned above, metabolic diseases, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.
The exact ways leptin works are unknown, but the leading theory involves leptin release post-meal, penetration of the blood-brain barrier, and satiety signaling in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then signals to our brains when we have had enough food and no longer need to continue eating. As a result, caloric burning can continue at a regular rate.
Leptin resistance occurs when the hormone leptin, which regulates appetite and energy expenditure, no longer works to suppress appetite or increase metabolism in fat cells. As a result, tissues become resistant to even high levels of leptin: a similar phenomenon to insulin resistance with (obviously) different hormonal pathways and treatments involved. Since the concept of insulin resistance is reasonably well known, we’ll focus on the leptin issue that most people are unaware of.
Clinical studies have shown that obese people usually have high leptin levels, hormones fat cells produce. One reason is that leptin production is proportional to the size of the fat cells.
When leptin levels are slightly raised, it suppresses the appetite and increases energy expenditure (i.e., burning calories), but when levels get too high, it has the opposite effect. Many researchers feel that this is why most obese people exhibit leptin resistance— they have a decreased response to leptin and therefore exhibit increased appetite and reduced energy expenditure.
Leptin levels can be measured, and researchers have proposed various theories about why people become resistant to the weight-loss hormone. One possibility is that leptin enters the brain less effectively, and leptin receptors decrease. Yet, another is that a person’s body has developed an overactive negative feedback loop due to chronic high leptin levels. Whatever the cause, we now have some excellent ways to combat this problem and assist with weight loss. If you have been told you have high leptin levels, here is exactly what you need to do to lower them. Let’s start by discussing your hormones.
Hormones to Optimize Body Composition
A hormonal imbalance is a disruption of the body’s endocrine system. The endocrine system produces hormones, chemical messengers that travel through the bloodstream and affect every cell in the body. Hormonal imbalances can cause many symptoms, such as weight gain or loss, hair loss, fatigue, or anxiety. So it’s no wonder people are confused when they try to self-diagnose!
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers that transport information from the brain to target tissues and organs. The target tissues and organs secrete hormones in response to the initial hormone, which eventually affects target cells.
Next, the cells send their messengers back to the brain to regulate how much message the brain needs to continue or not continue sending. The body contains about 60 trillion cells that must communicate for hormone-based functions to occur. For these functions to be balanced, everything must work together, just as a symphony orchestra’s members must coordinate their actions.
Hormones enter cells through receptor sites, which can be considered akin to a key unlocking a door. Once inside, hormone molecules control the body’s growth, development, and mental and physical functions throughout life.
As we age, the hormones that keep us healthy begin to decline. As a result, hormonal balance is lost, leading to various unwanted symptoms, disorders, and diseases. In other words, the hormonal symphony plays out of tune and out of cadence. Despite the plethora of hormones in our bodies, those that control whether or not we lose fat and gain muscle are progesterone, human growth hormone (HGH), testosterone, and estrogen. In both men and women, testosterone promotes protein anabolism which is the use of protein to build muscle, skin, or bone; it also mitigates against protein catabolism or breakdown.
Next, let’s discuss a total of three peptides that are useful for building muscle mass via two different mechanisms. The first mechanism is via stimulating the anterior pituitary gland to release more growth hormone (G.H.), which is no longer used by most functional medicine practitioners due to excessive mTOR pathway stimulation, creating a risk for triggering diseases such as cancer. We now safely stimulate the anterior pituitary gland to release more G.H. by administering a precise combination of two peptides: Ipamorelin and CJC-1295.
Both Ipamorelin and CJC-1295 are long-chain amino acid peptide hormones that are promising Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH) analogs. When used together, CJC-1295 and Ipamorelin stimulate the secretion of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and can provide a steady increase of HGH with minimal effect on cortisol and prolactin levels. This means increased protein synthesis, thus simultaneously promoting muscular growth and fat loss. The benefits are not limited to fat loss and muscle mass gain, either! Here is what often occurs.
- Increased lean body mass
- Increased collagen production
- Increased endurance
- Increased bone density
- Improved lipolysis
- Improved/deeper sleep quality
- Increased energy via mitochondrial boosting pathways-stay tuned here for a discussion of MOTS-c!
- Improved cellular repair
- Accelerated injury recovery
- Improved immune system function
For weight loss to occur, an individual must have balanced levels of estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, a reasonable amount of human growth hormone (HGH), and low-ish cortisol. We measure HGH indirectly via a by-product made in the liver called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1). The following peptide to be discussed increases muscle mass by acting on the small actin and myosin motor subunits, causing them to increase in number rather than via enlargement, as seen with testosterone, HGH, or HGH-stimulating peptides.
What is IGF1-LR3?
IGF-1 LR3 is a modified version of insulin-like growth factor-1, containing three additional arginine amino acids to its sequence. The full name of the peptide is insulin-like growth factor-1 long arginine 3. All IGF-1 derivatives play prominent roles in cell division, cell proliferation, and cell-to-cell communication; however, they differ slightly in their effects on the body. Though it has similar effects, IGF-1 LR3 does not adhere to IGF-binding proteins as firmly as IGF-1; this results in it remaining in the bloodstream 120 times longer than IGF-1. This prolonged half-life is due to structural changes in the protein itself, causing it to become resistant to degradation by proteases (enzymes that break down proteins).
Like insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), insulin-like growth factor 1-like receptor 3 (IGF1-LR3) is a potent stimulus for cell division and proliferation. Its primary beneficial effects are on tissues like muscle and bone.
Again, note that IGF-1 LR3 does not promote cell enlargement (hypertrophy) but promotes cell division and proliferation (hyperplasia). So, for example, in muscle tissue, IGF-1 LR3 does not cause muscle cells to get larger, but it does increase the total number of muscle cells.
IGF1-LR3 indirectly increases fat metabolism by binding to the insulin receptor and the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R). This action results in increased glucose uptake from the blood by muscle, nerve, and liver cells. This decrease in blood sugar levels triggers adipose tissue and the liver to break down glycogen and triglycerides. The result is a net decrease in adipose tissue.
Therefore, this little-known peptide can perform dual functions when looking to lose fat and gain muscle. Next, let’s discuss peptides that directly assist with fat loss. But first, let’s cover the two peptides in vogue. They are both new diabetic medications also being used for fat loss.
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) are hormones involved in blood sugar regulation. Two new peptide medications have been released which use one or both of these mechanisms of action. The first one released was Semaglutide (Ozempic), and diabetics lost weight during clinical studies, explaining why this drug was immediately re-purposed.
Semaglutide is an analog of glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) as an FDA-approved treatment method for improving glycemic control in patients with Type 2 diabetes. It increases insulin secretion, which is good for diabetes. At higher doses, it can act on centers in the brain and help suppress appetite. In addition, Semaglutide has successfully lowered blood pressure and promoted weight loss when used with lifestyle changes and a reduced-calorie diet.
Some studies show that Semaglutide can reduce appetite, improve control of eating and food cravings, and improve glycemic control. However, some people taking this drug have reported nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Including the peptide BPC-157 and Pyridoxine (B6) in injectable or troche (lozenge) formulations help decrease nausea. Compounded peptides have been found to work even better! I have seen that my patients do better with lower dosing and near-daily use.
Tirzepatide (Monjaro)is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. Tirzepatide is given by weekly subcutaneous injection.
This peptide activates both the GLP-1 and GIP receptors, as well as the glucagon receptor. It’s an analog of gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP), a human hormone that stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas. This activation leads to improved blood sugar control due to its original purpose of stimulating insulin production. However, the weight loss by study participants was effective and rather remarkable. Here’s why.
Research indicates that Tirzepatide can reduce appetite, control overeating, reduce cravings for food and improve glycemic control. Side effects of this medication may include nausea, diarrhea, and even vomiting. However, the inclusion of other peptides and vitamins in conjunction with a modified dosing schedule seems to reduce the potential for nausea due to this effective weight-loss medication.
If you’re one of many people who cannot stand the thought of any nausea whatsoever, you might want to look for a lipolytic peptide which can be given as a small injection or a troche (lozenge).
AOD9604 (Advanced Obesity Drug) is a synthetic peptide fragment that comprises a modified 15 amino acid region of G.H. with a tyrosine component to help stabilize the molecule. It was initially developed to find an anti-obesity drug that had the fat-burning effects of human growth hormone (HGH) without the muscle-building effect. AOD9604 aided weight reduction in rodent models of obesity and was initially developed for treating obesity in humans. Here are some of its finest features.
- Prompts fat release from obese fat cells
- Boosts the body’s metabolism
- Promotes lipolysis without affecting blood sugar or tissue growth
- Prevents lipogenesis (fat accumulation)
And now that you have the tools to find the eating plan, hormones, and peptides you need, what about the most effective and efficient weight training workout to help you lose fat and gain muscle? Before we get into that, let me remind you of some odds ‘n ends you should already know about.
Exercise snacks are short bouts of any exercise, and it all adds up, so read up on this, and yes, I’ll eventually write about it. I’ve written about timed eating intervals, and although the data is a little muddied lately, the bulk of the data shows that health is improved and fat is shed when you confine your food and beverage intake to time-restricted eating.
Your weight workout to lose fat and gain muscle
I’ll discuss the tried-and-true workout many of us “fitness fanatics” have been using for years and years. So here’s the basis for my abbreviated workout.
What’s Super Slow?
Super slow training is a weight training protocol invented by exercise enthusiast Ken Hutchins in 1982. Ken was working (loosely) with Dr. Vincent Bocchicchio on a strength protocol that would be safe for women with osteoporosis. The result of the osteoporosis study was the beginning of a new resistance training technique known as super slow strength training.
As most of you know, in a “standard and accepted” Nautilus training protocol, 8-12 repetitions for a particular body part are performed. Each repetition represents a two-second concentric action (muscle contracting), a one-second pause, and then a four-second eccentric (muscle lengthening) action. The time for the set is about a minute or slightly more.
Super Slow Steps
The super slow protocol is made up of 4-6 repetitions. There is a 10-second concentric phase and a slowly and deliberately done four-second eccentric phase. One advantage of super slow training is it involves less momentum, resulting in a more evenly applied muscle force throughout concentric and eccentric movements. And then there are all the recent studies informing us that muscle growth occurs primarily due to the eccentric parts of repetitions.
A disadvantage of this training is that it is known to be both tedious and challenging. One reason for this is that the weights are much heavier, and the final repetition is “to fatigue.” To clarify, you cannot budge the weight for the last rep you do, and you “feel the burn.”
There is good, quality research on the efficacy of the super slow protocol. Two out of three comprehensive studies show more significant strength gains for those using heavier weights with longer eccentric and concentric contraction times.
In all studies, the “control group” performed one set of exercises, while the super slow group also used one set, but “to failure.” Studies have not looked at multi-set versus the one-set super slow, but “regular single set” results in 75% of the gains with a 50% reduction of injuries, according to most studies.
Is this Going to be a Modified Super Slow workout?
Yes! But first, let me give you a little background so you know this is relatively scientific. I used to own fitness centers and created the medical model used by many hospital-affiliated health clubs. In addition, I advised the most prominent global fitness consulting firm (CMS) regarding putting in wellness programs, efficient strengthening programs in their fitness centers, and much more. I had many employees and a staff of well-trained and eager personal trainers who were willing guinea pigs at each fitness center.
They each knew that if they could offer their clients an effective and, equally important, time-efficient way to work out, they would spend less time per client, and clients would spend less money. As a result, this would allow them to train two clients at a time and schedule 2 each 1/2 hour rather than one each hour. They were more than eager; they were begging for this. Do you know what else? So were their clients. That is possibly one of the reasons you are reading this- you, too, are sick of spending more time than you need in the gym. Right?
I had 30 (10/10/10) of my intelligent, savvy, and in-shape personal trainers use one of three protocols for 12 weeks. We controlled for weight and diet and took alcohol out of the equation. So, naturally, no one was a smoker. No one was on any pharmaceuticals or had any illnesses, either.
They all begrudgingly agreed to forego weight training for an entire month before starting this experiment. So then, we followed body fat, biceps circumference, and total weight lifted at the end compared to the beginning. Here is what we compared.
Groups A, B, & C
Group A did the standard three sets per body part and spent the longest time in the gym. Group B did a “bone-crushing” classic super slow workout. We’ll get to Group C in a minute.
Due to the heavy weight and slow concentric phase, I was so sore each time I tried a standard super slow workout; it almost hurt to breathe the next day, and I’m a jock! No matter how efficient, that type of extreme workout was not “in the cards” for my mostly 45+ fitness center population. Not even for those ten super sore personal trainers, either!
These Group B personal trainers were in the gym for shorter workouts but only needed two per week due to the muscle damage and repair we see with super slow workouts. So yes, twice a week would be an advantage. But again, it’s grueling during the workouts. Not to mention, you are sore as heck until the next activity. My elite trainers all found this to be true.
Group C did “my workout,” which I had been experimenting with for a couple of years, in conjunction with the famed Tasso Kiriakes, a well-known super slow expert.
Groups A and B had similar results. However, they had complaints.
Group A wanted less time in the gym, and group B said the workouts and after-effects were “killing them.” In addition, they felt that their clients would never “go for it.”
Group C was happy about their time in the gym and had the same amount of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) as with “regular training.” Further, they had about 80% of the results of the other two groups but lost body fat just as fast! No one had any injuries, either. After observing my clientele doing “my workout” for 20+ years, I honestly feel this is more effective and much less injury-producing than a traditional workout. And yes, it’s how I train, twice weekly.
Just 18 minutes, 2x a week!
First, you need to warm up, but who says it must be at the gym? To make this all go smoothly, you will need to see the row in the parking lot that is a good 3 minutes away from the gym’s front door. Your warm-up will be a brisk walk from your car to the gym and if there’s a check-in line, keep stepping in place.
So, that’s 3 of the above minutes. You now have a workout that is not more than 11 intense minutes. Get familiar with your training, as 25 seconds are allowed between sets to travel and set weights. The extra five seconds usually go to the exercise. It’s cool once you get the hang of it all, and it works. So, here are tips to get ready.
You’ll need to locate all your equipment, with backup equipment, in case your “next step” machine is occupied. This can be a frustrating workout if you go during crowded times, so keep that in mind.
Due to set-up time and stability, most exercises will be with machines, not dumbbells. This is a solo workout. If you have a workout buddy, you can swap out and do this routine together, but there will be no waiting for 2 minutes while the buddy does their workout. That is unless you want to more than double your time in the gym, which is not the aim of this article. If you are not familiar with gym equipment and don’t know what a one-rep max is, I suggest you enlist the help of a personal trainer for 1-3 sessions.
In a “normal” workout, you use an amount of weight that you can lift for 12 repetitions. On the 12th rep, the feeling is like, “OK, I’m done,” but it isn’t to the point where you have pain, and the muscle is fatigued. So you are working at about 70% of your one rep max. To calculate that, here is a one-rep max calculator. This same calculator can be used to see what weight you would use for a super slow routine, which you do at about 90% of a one-rep max (ouch!).
Use the calculator if you are currently on a “regular regimen” to see what 80% of your one rep max would be-that’s what you use for my (now your) workout. You are using more weight because I’m asking you to do fewer reps. Note: Inhale and exhale properly when lifting, especially when doing exercises, as I will describe where your contractions are longer than in a traditional workout.
Most gyms have the following equipment: a lat pull down, a chest press, an incline, and decline chest press, a leg press or a squat machine, a posterior delt machine, a lateral delt machine, a calf raise machine, a biceps, and triceps machine, “innies and outies” meaning inner and outer thighs machines and a glute kickback machine. They also have abdominal crunch machines, but I prefer that you use perfect form and “crunch away.”
L.A. Fitness and Planet Fitness have all of these machines. In addition, you can use dumbbells for lateral delts, biceps, and triceps if you don’t need to travel three minutes across the gym. Otherwise, you can add that time to your workout.
Regarding technique, you get 1 minute for one set and 30 seconds between exercises. Those five spare minutes include time for fumbling with weight stack pins and finding the free weights you need. The point of this whole workout is to “keep moving” while alternating upper and lower body parts so you don’t fatigue out 1/2 of your body.
You want a heart rate “up” (about 60-65%-max of 220-your age), but you do not want to get winded as this is not a real circuit workout that reduces your intra-work-out strength and overall outcome.
The Basic Workout
Warm up with your 3-minute brisk walk into the gym. Be dressed and ready to rock and roll. Hang your keys on the rack and get to the lat pull-down machine. Know your routine so well that you can substitute muscle groups if you see that a machine is occupied.
If you get stuck, drop and do abs. Unless you are experimenting, know your weights before you start so you are not “fumbling.” If you are experimenting the first few times, that is fine. However, be aware it will take you longer than when you are on a roll with this.
So, you will start with either a large upper body group or a large lower body group- your choice. Then, you will alternate upper and lower body exercises. You will work from large to small muscle groups. When you are familiar with “your routine,” switch it up.
The substitutions you are given here are to replace the stated exercise with another one to use in rotation with the original movement as you watch your body and “see what’s needed.” As an example, men generally need more calf work than women. I like to work my inner thighs, which most men don’t want to work, but most women do. The same goes for the glutes. Here’s the basic workout below with suggested rotations and substitutions.
Concentric and Eccentric Contractions
If you already weight train, you’re likely used to doing 2-sec concentric contractions (curling up the biceps). Next, a 1-second pause follows. Then, you spend 4 seconds lowering the bar or dumbbell (eccentric contractions).
I would like you to take 2 seconds up (concentric) and 5 seconds down. Most of the muscular hypertrophy that occurs from weight training has been discovered to be due mainly to the eccentric phase of the exercises.
Count in your head to ensure you are doing this correctly until it comes naturally. By rep 5,6,7 or 8 (eight is the absolute end, not twelve), you should only be able to lift the weight with great effort. This routine is not to total failure but to near failure. Here’s the sequence if you’re starting with your upper body, which is the choice for most of us.
Leg press or a squat machine: Don’t squat past a 90-degree angle with your knees. If you are a runner or have any signs of arthritis in your knees, don’t even go down to 90 degrees.
Chest press: Alternate workouts can substitute an incline or decline press. Watch your body symmetry and adjust accordingly.
Leg extensions: This is another range-limit option if you have knee issues.
Posterior delts: Most of these machines also work other small muscles on the posterior rotator cuff, so this is an early small muscle group to beat the fatigue.
Hamstring curls: Range limit as needed.
Back extension: This is a large muscle, but due to heavier than usual weights sometimes being problematic for backs, I do NOT want you lifting this at an 80% one rep max. Use your standard 70% on this and go to 12 reps on this one muscle group.
Calf raises or Biceps or “Your Choice”
Biceps or “Your Choice”: Your last exercise (other than abs) is the biceps unless you want to add the “your choice” exercise here. If you do that, you can either tack on a minute or leave out one of the above exercises. What’s a minute, anyway? You may want to add inner or outer thighs (can alternate) or the glute machine if you’re a female. You likely want to add more upper body if you are a male. Also, if you want to add, let’s say, incline presses, you need to work them in when we’re doing large muscles. Does everyone get it? And men-please work your calves. This is a Fitness Industry inside joke, wink, wink.
Abdominals: Don’t do the seated crunch, and don’t try to use the one where you hang and pull up your knees-almost everyone who uses that ends up working their psoas muscles, not their abdominals. This is one exercise where you need to put a hand on your belly and feel the area you are working. I am a fan of the “well-done crunch.” Work up to 100. If you do crunches correctly, they work!
You’ll notice the fat loss and a more “cut” appearance within about a month if you stick to this workout faithfully while adjusting your eating plan, and so on.
You now have the tools needed to lose fat and gain muscle. The right food, the proper workout, along with the right hormones and peptides will all work in combination to get you to your fitness goals. Research to watch includes manipulating the microbiome to favor bacterial species that produce metabolites to aid in weight loss and more!
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