Don’t have time every single day to go to the gym? You don’t have to. You can create your own training schedule with just 4 days a week and still see results (source).
Follow these 6 easy steps to designing your own four day mega fat burning workout.
Step One: Compound the Fat Burn
Create an exercise circuit that revolves around compound exercises that work a number of muscle groups together, such as squats, deadlifts and barbell rows. Why compound movements? An exercise like squats engages a number of muscles at once – thighs, glutes, calves, abs and lower back, just to name a few (source). This means that it burns more calories and increases your workout intensity over a shorter period of time. On the other hand, exercises that involve only one muscle group, such as barbell curls, don’t require as much energy.
Step Two: Go Heavy
A lot of people make the mistake of using very light weights for 15 reps or more, with the thought that more reps will help burn calories and body fat. It won’t (source). Muscle tissue burns fat – and the best way to build muscle is to use sets of 8 – 12 reps. The weight should be heavy enough that you’re challenged to finish the set.
Step Three: Keep It Short
You don’t need two hours in the gym every day to achieve your dream body. About 30 minutes of focused weight room exercise is all you need, coupled with 20 minutes of cardio. Rest for only as long as it takes to move between exercises in the middle of circuits. Stay focused on the task at hand and work intensely.
Step Four: Get a Minimum of Four Workouts a Week
To lose fat, you’re going to have to put forth a little effort. Two weight training and two cardio workouts a week is the minimum, three is closer to ideal. If circuit training is your thing, then you’ll have to create two upper body and two lower body circuits. Include three exercises per week.
Step Five: Use Intervals for Cardio
You can get an incredible cardio workout in 20 minutes by harnessing the power of intervals. Sprint for 20 seconds every minute. Simply watch the timer and between 30 seconds and 50 seconds of every minute, crank up the machine to a sprint. For the remaining time within each minute, jog at a slower pace.
Step Six: Evaluate Your Progress Regularly
After six weeks on your self designed program, stop and evaluate your progress. If positive changes to your body weren’t taking place, stop and rethink your strategy. Don’t settle for zero progress. Change it up within the parameters outlined above and dig in for another six weeks.
Sample Four Day Workout Program
We’ve provided a sample complete four day workout program to show you how you can bring the six steps above together. We suggest that you follow this program for six weeks and then use it as the basis for putting together your own routines going forward.
Our sample four-day program involves two days of weight training and another two days of cardio workouts. The weight training will involve performing circuits of three exercises. Do upper body circuits one day, lower body another. If you want to work out three days a week, go back to the upper body on your next training day and continue the pattern. Run through each circuit two or three times, performing 8 – 12 reps of each exercise per circuit.
Sample Circuit Routine
Upper Body Circuit A
Hold a barbell in an overhand grip while standing with feet shoulder width apart. Hold the bar at shoulder level so that it runs across your clavicle. Keep your core tight and maintain a neutral spine.
Push the bar straight overhead, without using body momentum. The force should come from the deltoids. Slowly lower and repeat.
Lie on a bench and grasp a barbell with an overhand grip a little wider than shoulder width. Hold the bar above your sternum at arms length.
Bring the bar directly down until it lightly touches your torso. Then, keeping your elbows in at your sides, push the bar back up to the starting position, concentrating on contracting the chest. Bring your shoulder blades together as you do the movement.
Close Grip Bench Press
Lie on a bench and hold a bar above your chest at full arm’s length. Your hands should be close together, with thumbs almost touching. Lower the bar to your sternum and then push through the triceps to return to the stat position.
Upper Body Circuit B
Bent Over Barbell Row
Stand, holding a barbell with an overhand grip, at a little wider than shoulder width. Hold the bar at arm’s length. Bending at the knees and hips, lower your torso until it is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Maintain a neutral spine and allow the bar to hang straight down from your shoulders.
Pull the bar up to your rib cage, by raising the elbows and squeezing the shoulder blades together. Slowly lower to the start position.
Seated Cable Row
Sit in front of a low pulley machine with your knees slightly bent and feet braced. Grab the bar with an overhand grip. Sit up right with a neutral spine and your chest up.
Pull the bar to your rib cage. Do not move the position of your upper body throughout the movement. Rather, feel the power of the pull coming from your latissimus muscles in the upper back. Slowly lower and return.
Grasp a pull-up bar with an overhand grip that is slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hang completely at arm’s length. This is the position you must return to at the completion of each repetition. Cross your ankles over one another.
Pull your chest up to the bar by bending the elbows and pulling your upper arms down while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Come up until the top of your chest just touches the bar. Now, lower your body back to the start position.
Lower Body Circuit A
Squats (Body Weight)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Maintain a slight arch in your lower back. Keep your core tight. Stretch both arms out in front of you at shoulder level. Push your hips back and squat down as far as you can. You should at least go down until your hamstrings are parallel to the floor.
Pause at the bottom position, the push yourself back to the start position. Keep your torso upright and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement. Keep your weight on your heels rather than your toes as you push up.
Barbell Hack Squat
Hold a barbell at arm’s length behind you back, with an overhand grip. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. Look up throughout the movement. Maintaining a neutral spine, lower your body down into a full squat. When your hamstrings are parallel to the floor, rise back to the start position.
Load a barbell and stand in front of it so that it rests against your shins. Bend at the hips to grab the bar with an overhand grip, placing your hands just beyond shoulder width. Keep your lower back slightly arched, in the neutral position. Straighten your arms.
Maintaining a neutral spine, pull the torso back up, thrusting your hips forward and rising with the barbell. Keep the bar close to your body as you come up.
Lower and repeat for the required number of reps.
Lower Body Circuit B
Load a squat rack with a barbell at shoulder level. Enter the rack and un-rack the bar so that it sits across your upper back. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Pull your shoulders back to allow the bar to rest comfortably across the shoulder blades.
Feet should be shoulder width apart and you should maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.
Keeping your torso as upright as possible, lower your body as deeply as you can. You should at least go down until your hamstrings are parallel to the floor. Pause for a moment in the bottom position and then drive through the heels to rise back up to a standing position.
Hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides and stand with feet shoulder width apart. Maintaining a tight core, take a big step forward on your right leg and lower your body so that the left knee almost touches the ground. Pause and then push back to the starting position.
Jumping Split Squats
Standing, feet together, and with hands on hips, bend your knees and jump up, landing with your right foot in front of you and your left foot behind. You’ll want to get as deep a bend in your knees as possible. Move immediately into a jump squat in the other leg. Repeat for the required number of reps without pausing.
Sample Cardio Routine
Here’s an example using the treadmill:
Do a 5 minute warm-up at a low speed of between 3 and 4 miles per hour. As you hit the 4:30 mark, start increasing the speed until it is at a challenging running speed for you when the timer reaches 5 minutes. Now sprint for 20 seconds, going as hard as you possibly can. As soon as 20 seconds is up, jump your feet to the side rails of the treadmill and rest for 10 seconds. Then immediately jump back on and sprint for another 20 seconds. Repeat this pattern until you have completed 8 sprints. Then bring the speed back down to between 3 and 4 miles per hour and finish with a 5 minute warm down.
You should perform HIIT training 3 times per week on alternate days. For the sake of variety, change up the apparatus you use each time.
One of the first things that you’ll notice when you walk into any gym is the number of treadmills and elliptical trainers in the place. You’ll see people strolling away on them, as if they were out for a Sunday walk in the park, while hardly breaking a sweat at all. What they are doing is known as steady state cardio. It is low intensity, long duration aerobic exercise that never lifts their heart rate above 65% of their maximum (to find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220).
Steady state cardio is not the most efficient use of your gym time.
It is not intense enough.
You’ve already learnt about the importance of training intensity and the same principle applies to cardio training. The best way to achieve it is with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT involves performing short bursts of hard and fast cardio followed by brief rest periods. The cycle is repeated a number of times.
HIIT has been the subject of many clinical studies. Here are the proven benefits:
It takes far less time to perform
You can perform HIIT without any equipment
HIIT increases your aerobic capacity more effectively than steady state cardio
HIIT increases your lactic threshold, meaning that it can better handle the build up of lactic acid in your muscles
HIIT improves insulin sensitivity, a key fat loss determinant
HIIT can boost testosterone and growth hormone levels to enhance muscle growth
HIIT burns more calories than steady state cardio
HIIT revs up your metabolism so you’re burning calories throughout the day
You can perform HIIT using virtually any type of cardio equipment. In the gym you can do it with . . .
- A treadmill
- A rowing machine
- A skipping rope
- Use HIIT training as your cardio mainstay 3 x per week
- Every six weeks switch your cardio to circuit training
- Use progressive resistance to increase the intensity of each succeeding workout
- Rest for 30 seconds between sets
- Use a 2 second up, 4 second down training tempo
- Change your workout program every six weeks
- Allow 48 hours between working a muscle group
- Ensure balanced development around joints
- Train from the center of your body out
- Train from the ground up
- Focus on compound, functional exercises
- Always keep your core tight and your back flat when holding a weight
- Always use a closed grip when grasping a bar
- Never use momentum to lift a weight
- Leave your ego at the door