Coach Caleb’s Corner
– Lean Strength – Why should you prioritize strength training even when fat loss is your goal?
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Any practitioner of combat sports or powerlifting will be familiar with the concept of weight classes, the stress associated with “making weight,” and the pursuit of being as strong as possible for one’s size. It’s all part of the game. Outside of these sporting pursuits, the idea of being stronger without being bigger, might not sound unfamiliar to those who simply are trying to lose unwanted body fat as well! Being as strong as you can be for your size, or being able to increase strength without increasing size is one of those topics I hear so often misunderstood in the mainstream fitness world. With our upcoming Drop 2 Sizes Challenge, this topic has been coming up again lately and the importance of training strength for fat loss might be worth a little attention.
Members of our gym have grown quite accustomed to a particular “style” of training. Although it might seem a bit like a signature “Breakthrough” thing, the concepts we use have been tested and implemented at high levels of performance by our mentors who work with professional athletes, fighters, and military personnel. Like the pros, our trainees at all levels are exposed to a variety of full-body exercises that prioritize certain movement patterns, based on data collected through the Functional Movement Screen and various assessments which serve to maintain safety and target weak links in the body’s physical performance. These exercises are often presented in a circuit format, with an emphasis on building strength skills first and then blasting the body with high intensity interval rounds later on. This type of training is now referred to in the fitness industry as “metabolic resistance training.” One of our mentors, the great Alwyn Cosgrove, sums up what that means quite well: “Full body workouts in a superset, tri-set, or circuit format with non-competing exercises to create the biggest metabolic demand.”
Why is it that we prioritize strength skills first? Programs designed to build the “skill of strength” work to develop the central nervous system with low volume, high frequency drills while the trainee is as fresh as possible. The lifter does not work to muscle failure because the focus remains the “practice” of lifting the weight. As such, strength is built without adding size. As most of us humans only know how to access about 20-30% of our muscle potential, we can achieve some impressive results by training the nervous system to simply unlock more of that hidden power. This type of training became very popular with law enforcement, and military personnel at first, but the appeal quickly became obvious to plenty of everyday people who would prefer to gain strength without gaining weight.
Why metabolic resistance training? Research has shown that with minimal time investment, we can obtain the biggest bang for our training buck by avoiding the old-school steady-state cardio sessions and prioritizing the metabolic resistance sessions. The bulk of our calorie burning hours are usually spent outside of the gym (resting metabolic rate). Our resting metabolic rate is largely determined by how much muscle we’re carrying and how much “strength skill” it has. As such, activities that promote muscle development (strength training) will cause that braun to work harder and elevate our metabolic rate, even when we’re at rest! Therefore, if you’ve got only a few hours a week to train, you’re best bet is to spend those hours prioritizing this strength stuff, and then finishing yourself off with those nasty high intensity invterals we love so much because they burn more calories than steady state work and elevate metabolism significantly more than other forms of cardio training!
What other reasons are there for training this way? It’s very fun and rewarding! The joy I feel as a coach when I see a trainee perform a feat of strength that they could only dream about doing a few months earlier is only eclipsed by the awesome feeling they have themselves! It’s just plain fun to get stronger, and I can’t think of too many situations in life where being stronger is a problem. On top of all that, it helps us stay as lean as possible; looking good in (and out) of our new clothes. Not a bad thing either!