There was a time not so long ago in the fitness industry when “cardio”, or aerobic training, was all the rage. When one of the first questions people at the gym would ask is “what type of cardio do you do?” Cardio was elevated to god-like supremacy by experts in the field as the ultimate way to lose belly fat and get the body you had always dreamed of. Aerobics classes at local YMCA’s were full of overweight people earnestly trying to lose weight while trying to follow an overly enthusiastic instructor in neon spandex gyrating at the front of the room.
Cardio’s close relative, the high carbohydrate diet, was often part of the formula as well. Unfortunately, what the industry didn’t realize at the time was that cardio training plus a high carbohydrate diet were a couple of the most ineffective paths to weight loss. It’s not to say it couldn’t be done, it was by many people. However, this trend completely, and incorrectly, ignored the role of weight training and muscle building as part of the weight loss equation. Had people been thinking and not simply following the latest trend, they would have incorporated both cardiovascular exercise and strength training into their weight loss programs, therefore setting themselves up for greater success.
Thankfully for all, recent times have demonstrated a shift towards more productive methods for losing weight. The pendulum seems to have finally shifted back towards the center as the fitness industry corrects itself for years of spreading half-truths and where the focus is rightfully back on losing weight with weight rather than avoiding it like the plague.
The Truth behind Weight Loss
At the time, who could have predicted that the truth about losing weight actually revolved around building muscle? Some might have, but the idea never gained traction and certainly wasn’t promoted widely. There are four simple truths that now favour weight training as the prime method for fat loss rather than strictly aerobic training:
1. Body fat is not metabolically active. During aerobic activity, if glucose is limited as an energy source, the body will burn body fat as its preferred source of energy. However, once the activity stops the body will no longer be in a fat-burning mode, so fat loss rapidly diminishes.
2. Muscle is very metabolically active. It requires a lot of energy during the day to maintain itself; its engine is always running, as it were. Logically then, this means that even while you’re not exercising your body will be a fat-burning machine, 24/7.
3. Points one and two are subject to a specific change in diet, namely a move towards a diet more focused on healthy fats, lean proteins and leafy green vegetables and a move away from an overabundance of carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, bread, etc.
4. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the king when it comes to fat loss. So much so that aerobic training can’t even compete. HIIT makes you work harder in a shorter period of time, that’s good for efficiency and great for fat loss.
These four points in conjunction form the basis for the design of more effective weight loss programs. The final factor for our purposes is the growth in popularity of the kettlebell.
The Kettlebell Advantage
Kettlebells are the Swiss Army knife of the strength training world. They are arguably the most versatile tool out there for building strength, muscular endurance and improving cardiovascular fitness. Four our purposes we’re going to outline how you can use kettlebells, in combination with the aforementioned change in diet, to produce some truly incredible physical results.
The Workout Routine
When it comes to workout routines I’ve always believed that simple is best. During my training I want to be able to focus on the effort I’m putting out and not worrying about all the other extemporaneous factors like counting time under tension or looking for a spotter. Thankfully, there’s one kettlebell exercise that, when made the main focus for your workout, will give you results like no other, enter the kettlebell swing.
The beauty of the swing is that it’s a very simple movement to learn and perform, yet works so many muscles at one time; glutes, hamstrings, hips, lats, abs, shoulders, pecs and grip. It’s your one-stop shop for losing weight fast. There are dozens of “how-to” videos on youtube.com, so I suggest you go there for directions on form. Below are a couple of good instructional Youtube links:
Regarding routines, again, it need not be complicated. I would suggest four days a weeks starting out; Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Each of those days perform 20 sets of 20 reps of the swing. Rest between a minute to two minutes between sets. If you’re using a kettlebell that’s approximately 70% of the max weight you can handle you’ll be breaking a pretty good sweat by the end of your workout. Do this for six weeks, back off the starches and carbohydrates, and I guarantee that the pounds will melt off. Good luck!