A lot of you are going to just want to improve your health, burn some fat and feel a bit stronger. In that case, you can start seeing amazing benefits just simply by using the SSE workout we looked at at the start of this book. As you progress though, you may want to make this more challenging for yourself and spend a bit more than 10 minutes in the morning to build some real strength and burn some real fat!
Burning Fat With Bodyweight Training
People who want to burn fat and lose weight will often mistakenly assume that they can’t really achieve that using weights or bodyweight training. This is why you’ll find that the majority of weight loss programs tend to revolve around cardio and aerobic exercises such as running, cycling or skipping rope.
Don’t get me wrong – this is an effective way to burn fat.
It’s just that bodyweight training is better. Trust me!
There are many reasons for this. The first is that bodyweight training when performed in the right way actually involves more energy than running. That’s because you can use all of your limbs. Try performing burpees for 30 seconds and then see how you feel! It’s just as energetic as running and you’re burning just as many calories. And contracting at the same time only makes this even more insanely tough – this is what’s known as ‘resistance cardio’ and it’s one of the very best ways to burn fat quickly.
At the same time, performing things like burpees is also using a lot of muscle. You’ll be using all your leg muscles, your triceps, your pecs, your shoulders… and when you do this, you trigger the release of growth hormone and testosterone. These are anabolic hormones that cause you to build muscle and burn more fat.
And what’s more, is that simply having more muscle will also help you to burn more fat. If you have big biceps and pecs then your body needs to fuel them and that means that you’ll burn through lots more calories even while you’re sleeping!
There’s also the fact that toning muscle at the same time as burning fat leads to a much better physique. A lot of people want to get rid of cellulite for instance. Guess what? The best way to get rid of cellulite is not to burn fat but rather to build muscle underneath and thereby tone up the flesh and make everything look smoother.
Toning muscle also gives you all the proportions you want. If you’re a woman, then type in ‘girls who squat’ at Google Images. You’ll see that women who squat are famous for having great buttocks. You can do the exact same thing with tuck jumps but you’ll be burning more fat at the same time!
So how do you put this into practice? Fortunately, it’s pretty easy.
This time we do want to focus on whole body workouts. Doing that will enable us to burn more calories and to trigger the release of more hormones at once. And we’re not going to be fatiguing the muscles to the same degree, so there’s no reason we can’t train the same area a few times in a row.
Circuits lend themselves perfectly to this and now all you’re going to do is to make sure that you perform each ‘station’ with high intensity. That means that you’re going to pump out as many repetitions as you can and move straight from one station to the next. Time yourself and try to beat your ‘high score’ each time you do the workout.
You can also throw in a few cardio moves and then just make sure that the last station gives you a decent amount of time to rest and recover before you start again.
Here’s what an example might look like:
30 seconds pull ups
30 seconds clapping push ups
30 seconds tricep dips
30 seconds tuck jumps
30 seconds chin ups
30 seconds jumping lunges
30 seconds incline push ups
30 seconds rest
Then just repeat this 5 times for a 20 minute workout! You can replace the moves for things that are harder/easier depending on your ability, just make sure that you are going full throttle (assuming you’re in good health of course) and that you hit each muscle group in the body.
You can use this workout 3-5 times a week and you’ll find that’s more than enough to really start toning up.
And if you’re looking for something a little more guided that will talk you through the movements, you can always try something like The Insanity Workout. They’re actually very good.
I wouldn’t though. Why? Because you can get tons of free videos on YouTube and free apps that do the exact same thing.
HIIT and Tabata
Think the circuit above is too easy? Then let’s up the ante a little…
HIIT stands for ‘High Intensity Interval Training’ and is a very popular form of training right now for people looking to lose weight. The basic idea of this kind of training is that you are alternating between periods of extreme exertion and gentle recovery.
So for example, you might sprint for 30 seconds and then jog for 2 minutes and repeat. This works because it allows you to switch between aerobic and anaerobic training. Aerobic training means that you are running at a speed that allows you to burn fat stores by breathing in more oxygen and circulating it. This occurs when you exert yourself at 70% of your maximum heartrate.
Conversely, anaerobic training occurs when you train at 90% of your maximum heartrate. At this point, you are exercises far too quickly in order to burn fat and so you burn sugar in the blood instead. When you do this, it means that you use up all that available sugar and from that point onward your body can only use fat stores. It also means that you carry on burning fat throughout the rest of the day as you have lower blood sugar.
There’s more to this as well. HIIT allows you to exert yourself more in a shorter timeframe, thereby making the form of exercise much more practical and meaning that you’re more likely to squeeze it into a busy schedule and get much more benefit from it.
Of course this can be applied to bodyweight training – which is already more effective than just cardio (it’s ‘resistance cardio’) and which also triggers an anabolic response. This is the perfect storm for weight loss.
And it need only take you four minutes a day…
The Tabata protocol is one of the best techniques available for utilizing HIIT and it takes just four minutes.
The idea is simple:
30 seconds of exercise
30 seconds of rest
And you repeat this eight times.
Sounds easy but it’s absolutely brutal by the end as long as you’re training with full intensity. Good examples of things you can do include tuck jumps, press ups, pull ups (this is not easy at all though) or clapping push ups.
As you progress, you can also use the Tabata protocol in conjunction with ‘active recovery’. That means that instead of resting for thirty seconds, you’re now going to hold plank or do sit ups – some form of ‘light’ bodyweight training.
Don’t try this until you’ve been doing SSE for a while or regular circuits. When you first try it, only do it for 2 minutes.
This is HARD as nails. But it really does get results.
Training for Strength
If all you’re really interested in is improving your strength, then you don’t need to do Tabata and you might not want to do intense workouts that trigger maximum hypertrophy either.
In this case, what you can focus on instead is ‘progressions’. This means progressing from a relatively easy exercise, all the way up to a much harder one.
You can use full body for this and you might start with a basic workout that lets you hit each body part a few times:
Press Ups – 3 x Failure
Pull Ups – 3 x Failure
Plank – 1 Minute
Sit Ups – 3 x Failure
Decline Press Ups – 3 x Failure
Tuck Jumps – 3 x 1 Minute
Bodyweight Squats – 3 x 20
Calf Raises – 3 x 20
Perform this three times a week.
Then, once you start being able do these lots of times, you can begin to increase the challenge. Instead of doing press ups, you may start doing clapping press ups – or rocking press ups (you’ll find descriptions of these later). Likewise, you might try to progress from decline press ups to handstand push ups with your feet against the wall.
Maybe you move from plank to ‘faux planche’.
Then you perform this next step up until you can do all of those things very easily. And from there you make the next step up to something even harder. Now you might do planche, you might do regular handstand push ups and you might start doing clapping press ups behind your back.
Training for Health
Finally, you can also use bodyweight training as the perfect tool for improving your overall health. In this case, you can keep your workouts fairly easy. Stick with ‘full body’ routines but don’t worry so much about the progression. Instead, make it a part of your routine and at the same time, try to build in some light stretching and perhaps even some quiet meditation.
For overall health what’s really important is just that you move and that you actually use your body. Many of us aren’t capable of performing a full squat movement with our heels flat on the floor and this is indicative of severe flexibility issues. Try getting around that problem by performing body weight squats and going all the way to the ground. Likewise, try to add in some cardio moves like tuck jumps to get the heart beating.
Go at your own pace. At this point, you’ve learned how many of these moves are affecting your body. So all that’s left to do is to find the goals you want to shoot for and to gently introduce the right training into your routine.