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Performance Based Fat Loss

Written by Geoff Neupert Topics: Fitness

GN-post-extreme-5-2-12Guest Post by Geoff Neupert, CSCS, Master SFG

I have never bought into the popular fitness myth that you shouldn’t train to get stronger in order to lose fat. If strength is the foundation for every physical quality, and it is (according to Russian sports scientist Dr. L. Matveev, the “father of periodization”), then why wouldn’t you train for strength to lose fat?

As strange as this concept may sound, if we simply open our eyes and look at the world of athletics, we’ll discover the answer.

Have you ever noticed that some of the world’s greatest athletes are also the strongest and the leanest?

Take middleweight Olympic Weightlifters, sprinters, and gymnasts for example. They’re all super-lean, and super-strong. Do you think there’s a correlation?

I’m here to tell you there is. I’m also here to tell you that 90% of what the fitness industry teaches about fat loss, although mildly effective, is dead wrong.

You don’t need to do high-rep sets to “burn calories” or jump around like a crazy man doing the latest “Met-Con” WOD to get lean and more importantly, strong. The two – being lean and being strong – should and do go hand-in-hand.

Sure, you probably can’t train multiple times per day like a weightlifter, a sprinter or a gymnast, but you can still train like one of them, or more importantly, all of them, and carve yourself the body you’ve always wanted. Combine that with a little tactical nutrition, and in no time at all you’ll look like you are carved out of granite.

Three Principles Of Performance Based Fat Loss

When we look at the three groups we mentioned earlier – weightlifters, sprinters, and gymnasts – they all have something in common besides training for performance:

They train in such a way to access their Type 2b/2x muscle fibers. This is important because these are the largest, strongest, most powerful muscle fibers in your body. Here’s why that’s important for fat loss: They also use the most energy per contraction. So the more you can contract these, the more energy you burn. And burning energy is the main name of the game for fat loss.

Principle 1: Train Heavy (Or Generate Maximal Tension)

Here’s what else you need to know about the Type 2b/2x fibers that pertains to fat loss: There are two ways to use them – train heavy (or generate maximal tension) and train explosively. That’s it.

When you train heavy, you produce high levels of force. This requires a lot of energy in the form of stored glucose. You ever do a heavy 5×5 on the squat? I’m talking around 80% of your max? If you have, you know that your heart rate is elevated and you’ll be left breathless. Why? You’re using A LOT of energy.

Or maybe you’ve done a set of ring dips and jumped down only to find your heart rate elevated. Why? Because you had to generate a lot of tension in order to maintain your position without collapsing – much more so than on a set of parallel bars.

This is one of the reasons why middleweight Olympic lifters, middleweight powerlifters, and gymnasts are so lean. High-tension training requires a lot of energy.

And as a former college strength and conditioning coach, I can tell you that some of the leanest athletes eat like garbage. So it’s not exactly based on what you put in your mouth – intelligent training has more to do with you results than you’d think.

Principle 2: Train / Move Explosively

Have you ever sprinted 100 meters? Or done a heavy triple on the power clean and jerk? Or maybe even gone out into a field and tossed a medicine ball around?

As short lived as those events were, if you did them the way you were supposed to – as explosively as possible, you were left [somewhat] winded.


Because explosive lifting requires a lot of energy!

That’s why sprinters and Olympic lifters are so lean. They are performing lots of maximal contractions with their Type 2b/2x fibers and as we already saw, that requires a lot of energy.

The other reason they’re really lean is we now know that explosive training increases glucose sensitivity, which means, your body can tolerate sugar – carbs, better than it can with regular forms of training. And what that means is you can actually eat more carbs than you would on one of those normal “no/low carb high-rep fat loss circuit routines.” And that’s good news because more carbs means you can produce more force, which means you use more energy and you burn more calories… See where this is going?

Principle 3: Manage Fatigue

Here’s something else most great athletes do: They manage their fatigue levels. They’re not training to race the clock like one of the ever-popular girl-named WOD’s. No, they actually rest between sets. That’s because fatigue is like the plague to your fast-twitch muscle fibers – when they’re tired, they don’t contract.

So when you take that set to or past failure, you’re not using the Type 2b/2x’s – they checked out somewhere around rep number 5 or 6 and now you’re using your Type 2a’s and even your slow-twitch Type 1’s. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you’re not using maximum amounts of energy and you’re not going to get a lot stronger doing that.

Furthermore, you’ll also decrease your recovery ability, which means you won’t be able to train as frequently and you’ll be sore too. (Soreness is a sign of muscle damage and interferes with glucose uptake and utilization by your muscles, which means you decrease your force output and therefore you energy/caloric expenditure.)

Putting The Principles To Work

A couple of the questions you’ll most likely have is, how do I put this together and do you really know what you’re saying is true?

Before I tell you how, I want to share a quick story with you.

When I was 23, I was training for an Olympic lifting meet to qualify me for the National Championships. I was between weight classes, which were at the time were 200.2lbs and 218lbs. I was weighing in at 210lbs. I didn’t want to give away the 8 pounds, so I decided to drop the 10. Since this was a last minute decision, I only had 3 weeks to do it. I went to see a chiro who specialized in bodybuilding nutrition and he set me up on a diet, but wasn’t willing to guarantee any results because I had such a short time frame and wasn’t willing to use bodybuilding methods to lose the fat – aka – cardio. My bodyfat that day was 10.5%.

The next week I went in and got measured up. My bodyweight has dropped to 203lbs and my bodyfat had dropped to 3.3%!


By simply using a 6-day-a-week peaking program based on the principles I just shared with you.

After spending the better part of a decade recovering from multiple injuries (which make you fat) I tested these principles out again, and at age 39 ended up sub-10% bodyfat after 28 days of training. (See the picture on the right.)

These principles will work for you too.

Here’s how you might set up a program:

Day 1: Explosive dominant

  • Med ball tosses
  • Jumps
  • Olympic lifts
  • Sets: 5-10
  • Reps: 1-5 (higher for med ball tosses and jumps, lower for Olympic lifts)
  • Rest: Around 60-90 seconds

Day 2: Force dominant

  • Upper body gymnastic training
  • Lower body barbell training
  • Sets: 3-6
  • Reps: 3-6
  • Rest: Can do straight sets or super sets (my preference); between 1-2 minutes

Day 4: Explosive dominant

  • Jumps
  • Olympic lifts
  • Sprints
  • Sets: 5-10
  • Reps: 1-5 on the jumps and lifts: 30-60 yards on the sprints
  • Rest: Around 60-90 seconds

Day 5: Force dominant

  • Lower body single leg bodyweight training
  • Upper body barbell training
  • Sets: 3-6
  • Reps: 3-6
  • Rest: Can do straight sets or super sets (my preference); between 1-2 minutes

Rest on days 3, 6, and 7.

Remember to use maximum force on each and every rep – be explosive! And when your speed slows down, stop, regardless of how many reps you’ve done. That’s your Type 2b/2x fibers checking out. Rest and then move on to the next exercise if your super-setting.

Eating For Performance Based Leanness

Eating of course, is part of this equation. However, since you not training multiple times per day like an athlete, there’s really no need to eat more than two or three times per day. Keep your nutrition simple and hormonally correct – use something like the Renegade Diet.

Train For Performance And Win The Fat Loss Battle

When you finally understand that getting lean is the natural result of performance-based training, you’ll win your war on fat loss. You’ll no longer be confused or swayed by what you read on the newsstands while waiting to check out at the grocery store. You’ll train to unleash your inner athlete. You may not win any gold medals, but worst-case scenario is you get stronger, leaner, and attract more attention from your newfound confidence either at work or from the opposite sex (or both). How is that a bad thing?

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