After years of training myself and clients, I’ve discovered a better way to lose fat. Forget what you think you know about losing fat and pay attention. The best way to lose fat is to train for performance.

I know that sounds too simple, but that’s the point—it should be. Too many people make fat loss complicated by worrying about how many calories they burned while spending a mind-numbing 30 minutes on the elliptical. They worry about what percentage was from fat and how high their heart rate was. It’s time to simplify things and get great fat loss results in less time and in a more motivating way. It’s time to get excited about training and get some of the best results possible.

Training for performance for the sake of fat loss is applicable to men and women alike. In fact, there aren’t huge differences in how men and women should train in general, but that’s another article.

Acquiring fat loss through performance became very clear to me a couple of years ago. I was constantly training for fat loss and did every fat loss workout you can imagine. I did supersets, circuits, short rest periods, no rest periods, and anything else you can imagine. Most of my workouts consisted of circuits with high rep sets.

Here’s a quick example of a daily workout:

1) Barbell push press

2) Dumbbell row

3) Dumbbell Romanian deadlift

4) Zercher squat

I did those exercises with only 45 seconds rest in between for five sets of 12 repetitions each. For those of you who have done those exercises with intensity, you know how hard it is and how demanding it can be on you mentally and physically. I usually did three total body sessions per week like the ones listed above.

Needless to say, I got severely burned out and decided to make a change. I desperately needed motivation to get into the gym. So I started getting serious about increasing my strength. By having a positive goal (getting stronger), I actually began to get excited about training! My goal was driven by a positive motivator (strength) instead of a negative motivator (losing fat because I didn’t like how I looked). That is one of the main reasons this path was so successful for myself and my clients. We had a new mindset together.

Every time I went to the gym, I had a goal of lifting more weight or doing more reps than I had previously done. Instead of total body circuits with very low rest periods, I started training with upper/lower splits, and I trained four days per week.

Here’s an example of two workouts:

Lower body day

1) Sumo deadlift (main lift)—worked up to heavy triples

2) Romanian deadlift, 3 sets of 6–8 reps

3) Dumbbell reverse lunges, 3 sets of 8

4) Reverse crunches, 3 X 10–15

Upper body day

1) Bench press (main lift)—worked up to heavy triples

2a) Decline push-up, 3 sets with high reps

2b) Dumbbell row, 4 sets of 10 reps

3a) EZ bar skull crusher, 3 sets of 8–10 reps

3b) Face pulls, 4 sets of 10 reps

Each time I repeated a workout, I increased the weight. This allowed me to increase my performance and therefore get stronger.

As you can see, it’s a big change from what I typically did. Instead of only resting 30–45 seconds, I rested an average of 90–120 seconds between sets. Not only was this training fun, but it left me feeling refreshed and strong instead of exhausted and crawling out of the gym. Plus, it was great being able to focus on one main lift and go all out. The other exercises were simply there to provide balance to the training and help increase my main lifts. One more great benefit to focusing on one main lift each session—it was so motivating to set new personal records every week! If that doesn’t keep you motivated, I don’t know what will.

That training eventually led me to finally compete in my first push/pull meet this past April. I set the national record for my division in the Southern Powerlifting Federation with a 300-lb deadlift and 145-lb bench press at a body weight of 122 pounds.

My quest for strength has not only allowed me to build a strong, healthy, functional body, but I have never looked better aesthetically than I do right now. The most amazing part of this new journey was that I actually ended up losing fat without even trying.

Training for strength has numerous benefits—looking good is just a great side effect. By simply averting my attention from “training for fat loss” to “training for performance,” I had finally achieved the fat loss goals I desired and in a much more enjoyable and positive way. I actually looked forward to going to the gym.

So if you want to burn off some extra fat, keep this in mind—focus on training for performance (by getting stronger, faster, jumping higher, and more). Then supplement your training with some form of conditioning (“cardio”).

You can do many different methods and use numerous tools for conditioning. Some examples include Strongman lifts with a lighter weight (i.e. tire flips, farmer’s carries), sled drags, Prowler pushes, body weight circuits, jumping rope, and even just brisk walking (this is especially great when you use a weight vest). You can do these after your training or on off days. Keep things simple. Train to improve your performance, and you’ll be rewarded with a stronger, healthier, more functional, and leaner body. It’s time to achieve fat loss in a new way.

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