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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Resistance Training for Fat Loss: The Science and a Workout Template

GettyImages-1264433129Science News (August 9, 2021) reported a study released by the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and College of Health Sciences that adds to the growing evidence that resistance training has unique benefits for fat loss. As a longtime fitness trainer, I have known about the effectiveness of resistance training for fat loss and body composition from my experience with clients and my own personal health and fitness journey. However, it is interesting to see science finally start to catch up with the real world and offer up some details of human physiology and systems biology as evidence as to why resistance training is so effective.

The Science

This study showed that in mice and in humans, in response to mechanical loading, muscle cells release particles called extracellular vesicles. These extracellular vesicles instruct fat cells to enter fat-burning mode.

It has been understood for a while that extracellular vesicles played a role in selectively interacting with proteins, lipids, and RNA and more recently had a role in intercellular communications. This study adds to that understanding by showing how skeletal muscle communicates with other tissues.

According to McCarthy, “To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of how weight training initiates metabolic adaptations in fat tissue, which is crucial for determining whole-body metabolic outcomes. The ability of resistance exercise-induced extracellular vesicles to improve fat metabolism has significant clinical implications.”

What It Means for You: Resistance-based Training Is a Fat-loss Tool

Well, that was science-speak, but what does this mean to you? “Significant clinical implications” means that the research provides clinicians with findings that can be used in treating medically needed fat loss with resistance-based training along with diet and other forms of exercise, such as cardiovascular training. 

Fitness in the US Is Declining

Our culture is getting heavier, with a rising percentage of the population crossing over to obesity. Recent studies have shown that 88 percent of the adult American population is metabolically unfit, with expected conditions that include high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. And Covid showed us clearly that metabolic unfitness was associated with bad Covid experiences and poor outcomes, including death. (Oh, and by the way, American life expectancy has been trending down even before Covid.)

Whatever we are doing as a culture is not working for health and longevity. Changing these adverse conditions requires changes at the individual level because large parts of our social fabric (business, media, and special interests) are too wrapped up in greed and maintaining the status quo for their interests and not acting for the greater good. So it’s up to each individual to decide what is best for their own health regarding diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction. All four of these factors are all very important, but exercise and diet seem to get the most attention and are the places where most people start their journey of making life-quality changes.

Where Do You Begin Your Fat-loss Journey?

“Experts” are all over the media with supplements, books, and podcasts. The number of theories and opinions is staggering. Most seem reasonable on the surface, which adds to the confusion about what to choose and where to start.

Adding to the complexity, huge international corporations, through massive advertising campaigns, are marketing online workout programming to support a major purchase of their in home exercise equipment. They offer cardio equipment and digital-controlled strength machines—slick and attractive to someone sitting on the couch with pizza and a beer.

And your online fitness searches provide social media marketing the information they need to dump even more choices in your lap based on what you have been viewing online. Hmm…

Confusing? Overwhelming?

Let’s erase the messy whiteboard and create a simpler view of the objective.

Remember, I started this blog with a study that showed how resistance training sets the cells up for burning body fat. The purpose of sharing this study was to support the concept of resistance training as an effective method for fat loss and an approach you should consider seriously.

A Training Template for Fat Loss

The following is a straightforward template to serve as a starting point to begin your resistance training/fat-loss exploration.

The human body has six patterns of functional movement:

  1. The body sits down and stands back up. The knees and hips flex and extend. In the gym, we see this in various forms of squatting, lunging, and step-ups.
  2. The body hinges at the hip joints and bends down to pick up things using the largest and strongest muscle complex of the body, the glutes. In the gym, this could be deadlifting on one end of the spectrum to lying on your back on a mat, knees up and feet on the ground for doing hip thrusts. (Both the squat and deadlift techniques should be taught by a competent coach to speed the acquisition of proper skills and to avoid injuries).
  3. While standing, if you hold your arms out in front of your body, the arms would be horizontal  to the ground. This right angle to the spine position is called the horizontal plane. If you were doing a push-up facing the ground or lying on your back doing a chest press, the arms would still be at a right angle to the spine, thus on the horizontal plane. The arm movement on this plane would either be pushing away from the body (for example, the bench press) or pulling back toward the body (for example, the back row). There are numerous options to choose from for working on this plane.
  4. When the arms move in line with the spine, this is the vertical plane, and once again you are either pushing away (for example, the shoulder press) or pulling toward the body (for example, the lat pulldown or pull-up). The horizontal and vertical push/pulls cover the basic functional movement patterns of the upper body. When done standing, the core ties the lower- and upper-body segments into a functional unit for expressing strength and power.
  5. The core is an important component of the basic workout template. As indicated above, the core ties together the lower- and upper-body segments, but also serves to stabilize and protect the lumbar spine.
  6. A forgotten and often overlooked exercise that is key to a strong-functioning body is the carry. As simple as it sounds, you pick up something and carry it: moving weight for distance and/or time. This exercise brings together strength, balance, muscular endurance, and grip strength.

There are numerous exercises to choose from to fill in the slots of the template: various reps and sets schemes, frequencies of sessions, recovery days and resistance sources depending on what best meets the needs of the individual, but having a structure to work with is critical for success, especially at the beginning.

You can certainly explore and experiment on your own, but I recommend that you take advantage of the trained professionals here at NIFS. There is a lot of knowledge and experience available to help you on your journey. We are here to assist you—just ask.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss workouts resistance functional movement fat loss resistance training

Testing Progress Toward Your Athletic Performance Goals

GettyImages-1067160268In a world where people want results in an instant and take drastic measures to achieve those results as fast as possible, developing strength, power and athleticism in a long-term aspect is often overlooked. For any fitness-related result or outcome, improvements take time. Fat loss, overall strength and/or power in any particular lift, speed, and agility are all seeds that needed to be watered for a while before noticeable and permanent changes are evident.

In an athletic realm, this leads to the importance of the “testing” process and the use of that process over the course of months, semesters, and years. As a young athlete or athlete fresh out of high school entering the college world of sports and strength and conditioning, this is how you monitor your success and validate that the training and improvements you are making are the things that are actually working. Numbers do not lie. If your times in specific agility drills or weights have increased in certain lifts, obviously you have made improvements. If those numbers have not changed or have decreased, you need to address methods of training or overall compliance/intensity with the program.

Below are five performance tests that measure multiple aspects of your overall athletic profile.

40-Yard Dash

The 40-yard dash, or “40,” is one of the most common drills we use to measure straight-line speed. Sure, many sports are played in a multidirectional way, but overall top speed is an important puzzle piece. Setting up and performing this drill is relatively simple; however, you may need two people to help with the timing.

First, set up two cones exactly 40 yards apart. From here, go to the starting line and sprint from start to finish. The clock or stopwatch should start on your very first movement from the starting line and stop when your body crosses the finish line.

5-10-5 Shuttle

The shuttle run is one of my personal favorites. It allows you to see an athlete’s explosiveness and change-of-direction skills. With lateral movements being so important in many sports, this gives you a good idea of where an athlete stands. To set up the 5-10-5 Shuttle, you need three cones spaced out evenly at 5 yards apart. The athlete starts at the middle cone with their hand on the ground. They run to the right or left cone and touch the ground (5 yards), across the whole setup and touch the ground (10 yards), and sprint through the middle cone (5 yards). Timing of this test starts when the athlete’s hand raises up from the ground and finishes when they cross the middle cone.

Vertical/Broad Jump

Jumping ability is another “power” aspect that translates very well into success on the field or court. The vertical jump test is generally performed with a Vertec, or a piece of equipment where you stand underneath and jump to touch as many of the rings overhead as you can. Other than obtaining the Vertec, the test is fairly simple. First, you want to measure your standing reach, or simply the height that you can reach with your arm outstretched overhead. As I mentioned before, you jump and hit as many of the rings on the Vertec as you can. When the maximal height has been reached, you subtract the standing reach number to get the vertical jump height.

Another great way to measure power would be with the standing broad jump. For this, all you need is a tape measure that is on the floor with a starting line for the athlete. To perform, the athlete starts behind the starting line and jumps out as far as possible and lands under control. The length of the broad jump is measured wherever the back of the athlete’s shoe lands.

Bench/Squat/Trap Bar Deadlift

In the preceding sections we looked at sprint and jump measurements, but we can’t leave out our strength numbers. Like the great Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell said, “Weak things break.” Truer words have never been spoken. Because of this, we want to measure those strength gains with every opportunity that we have. For me, my main three strength lifts that I measure are the bench press, the squat (front squat or back squat, depending on the athlete), and trap bar deadlift. These are three main staples in my programming and I always want to see if the way that I’m implementing them in workouts is yielding the best results.

These may look a little different for you. You may choose DB Bench Press, Pull-Ups, Farmer’s Carries, or something similar. My recommendation is to be sure that whatever you are testing are things that you are continually working on. It’s tough to test a back squat if you haven’t back squatted in 8–10 weeks.

Overall, the moral of the story is testing to see whether what you are doing is helping you achieve your goals is vital. Without testing you are just guessing. Remember, numbers do not lie!

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his blog was written by Alex Soller, Athletic Performance Coach and NIFS trainer. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: strength goals speed athletic performance fitness goals fitness assessment agility testing fat loss