Here’s the next installment of my interview with CB…
Craig Ballantyne: Now, I know you don’t specialize in fat loss, per se, but over the 15 plus years of training people, what have you noticed and what lessons have you learned from training athletes that might help average people and some of my readers lose fat more efficiently?
Jason Ferruggia: Athletes that train intelligently always seem to be able to get down to single digit body fat fairly easily. Then you have the average guy going to the gym struggling and he’s always stuck at 20 or 18 percent body fat.
He’s doing the same things and making the same mistakes a lot of average gym goers make…
He’s on the treadmill, the stair climber, the elliptical. As you know, cardio is very ineffective for most people. A lot of power athletes, a field athlete like a football player, for example, can’t afford to do traditional cardio or steady state aerobic activity because that will pretty much destroy his fast twitch muscle fibers and make him slower and less explosive.
They really don’t even have that option, first of all.
They’re forced to just stick with high intensity training methods like plyos, sprints, agility training, and things like that. So, they’re doing that kind of stuff and they’re getting way leaner than the guy who is sitting on the bike for 40 minutes a day. That should tell you something right there. That kind of stuff, the latter, is not that effective.
So, like I said earlier, I have everyone train like an athlete. We only do high intensity stuff because that’s really where the results are at. You’re going to get the fastest results with the high intensity stuff.
You can also do low intensity stuff as a recovery method on off days. It’s that in between, middle ground stuff that really sucks for most people. That’s where you get the elevated cortisol and the muscle loss.
As I’ve said a million times, sprinting is the most effective form of fat loss training there is. But it’s hard work. Most people would rather sit on a bike or even do a bunch of bodyweight and kettlebell circuits for an hour straight long before they would ever dream of going out to the track or sprinting up a hill. It’s their loss. I’m not gonna hold anyone’s hand and walk them to the nearest hill.
Even in my own gym, for example, I tell people to sprint all the time. How many of them do so? Very few. What’s sad is that some of the guys in their twenties have ignored my advice for months or years while two guys who are 47 have regularly started hill sprinting and another guy who’s 37 and just started with us a few months back is already out on the hill. Every generation seems to be getting weaker and weaker, but again- another story for another day.
Another great way to lose fat and improve your conditioning is to just play yourself into shape. People who stay active and have lots of physical hobbies like surfing, rock climbing, pick up basketball, beach volleyball or whatever, are always in pretty good shape and they don’t think of it as exercise. It’s not tedious. It’s just you’re out there having fun like you used to do as a kid. So grab a ball of some sort and start playing.
Craig Ballantyne: The last time we spoke you were talking about how you moved to almost everyone to more of a three day per week training program…
Why don’t you tell us a little about why that is?
Jason Ferruggia: I love to train, so I could train seven days a week if over training wasn’t an option. However, not everyone has the luxury of training whenever and as often as they want. Most guys are lucky if they can get in three workouts per week. Some get four, but its rare that the average guy will train more than four times per week. Nor should he. Well, let me clarify that. He shouldn’t strength train more than four times per week. You can always add in some other conditioning work or sprints and things like that.
I do know a lot of guys like to train four days a week better than three, if they have the choice. So I experimented for the last couple of years with a lot of guys I coach at the gym and online to see what would get the better results, four days or three days. We went back and forth for a while just trying a lot of different things. I was kind of set in my ways with a system that I had been using for years, because it gets outstanding results. But I said, “Let me try some different things here and see what’s what.” Just to be sure, ya know?
On the four day split what I often found was that if you’re going to do four days you really have to limit it to three hard days. I feel like it always ends up becoming three and a half days with a fourth easier day on a Saturday. This has to be kind of a down day where you’re just doing glute ham raises, some neck and grip, some calves and abs, something like that.
Four, hard big workouts per week is A LOT mentally and physically for most people to get up for. And it’s hard to recover from.
So, if you have a big bench press day, a squat day, a military press day, and a dead lift day, that’s four big workouts in a week with assistance exercises. I find that’s a lot for people to handle. You can do it for about two or three weeks, but then I do find that people start to burn out. For me it’s usually only two weeks. It depends how strong you are, you’ll burn out faster the stronger you are.
Also, another problem with the four days was that people weren’t always making it to every workout. People have real jobs, a busy schedule, family commitments and a life. So with four days per week people weren’t always able to get there. Three days just seemed to be more practical for the majority of people.
Four days just wasn’t realistic for a lot of people and the motivation wasn’t always there also. People coming three days were always excited to be there. Sometimes with four days people start to get overexposed and not as motivated by that fourth day. I like people to be motivated every time they’re in the gym.
It’s always nice to have a day off between high intensity workouts as well, not just for your muscles but for your nervous system, your mind and your joints. That way you’re always fresh mentally and physically, and you get that with three days. That’s why we ended up sticking with three days and it’s always what I seem to go back to.
Three days always has seemed to get the best results for the majority of people I’ve trained. Four days is only beneficial when you have outstanding recovery ability, a lot of time, low stress levels; and even then I still think that fourth day should be an easier day with less demanding exercises. If you do that you can get away with it. But for most people, if they only have the time, they should opt to get outside and sprint on that fourth day as it will give you a lot better results in the end.
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