Let’s say you’re training someone who’s fat and weak but their goal is to get lean. They aren’t obese but they have 25-35 pounds to lose. Pretty much like every average American. Since fat loss is the goal you might be inclined to put them on a typical “fat loss workout.” This means that they would do a total body, circuit style workout, alternating upper, lower and full body exercises with moderately high reps (8-20) and minimal rest periods (0-60).
Sounds like a decent plan.
Except for the fact that they are too weak to get anything out of it. Their heart rate won’t get elevated anywhere near as high as it should and they’ll hardly break a sweat.
Why? Like I said, they’re too weak. When you’re too weak you can’t get much out of bodyweight exercises and the weights you lift are hardly heavy enough to do anything. Weak people can’t recruit anywhere near the same amount of muscle fibers that strong people can. Therefore the same number of sets and reps is nowhere near as taxing for them.
While it is completely counterintuitive, what this person needs to do is actually get strong first. They should actually be doing the same type of workout I would give the typical skinny hardgainer- low reps, a lower average number of sets and adequate rest periods. Then, when they get stronger you can put them back on the fat loss circuit style routine and they will actually get something out of it.
Many young trainers ask me why their 45 year old house wife clients are hardly sweating and are breathing normally during one of their bootcamp workouts that would kill mnost people, and they are bewildered about what to do with them. Well, that’s the reason, my friends. They’re too weak.
Like I’ve always said, getting strong is the most important thing.
Now, whether or not a 50 year old woman would want to do the same low volume “powerbuilding” type workout that I do is beyond me. But it’s pretty safe to assume she wouldn’t.
When this woman hires you to lose fat she’s expecting to get tortured and to be covered in vomit, sweat and blood by the end of the workout. That’s how most people think you lose fat. It’s not. You can lose fat by doing singles, running sprints and eating right. But most people don’t want to hear that. They need to do what they think they are supposed to do and they need to be entertained. So if you tell her she’s gonna train like Yates for the next 12 weeks it probably won’t go over too well and she’ll probably look for someone else to hire. It’s what she needs, but it’s not what she wants.
How do you work around this problem?
Simple- start each session with 10-20 minutes of strength work. Maybe just pick one exercise per day, and make it a big compound movement. Work up to a few heavy sets of squats and then move on to the circuit stuff for the next 20-30 minutes. You could even pick two heavy exercises like squats and military presses. However you do it, just be sure to get that strength work in. Follow it up with the killer conditioning style circuit and you get the best of both worlds.