Principles of Fat Loss Exercise


Hi everyone,

I hope many of you have had a read of the post I wrote about raising your metabolism during exercise. If you haven't, I'd strongly urge you to read it before continuing what I am about to write here.

This post is going to give you a number of key principles that you should follow in every workout you do, or any exercise program you design or follow. If you follow every one of these principles, you will be on your way to burning the most fat in the fastest time. These are the principles my programming stands by, and if they didn't work, I wouldn't be able to pay my bills!

So firstly, as the other post explained, the first principle your exercise regime must focus on is:

1. Raise your metabolism!!!

You need to do this so that your body burns more calories in a day than it takes in. The amount of calories you burn DURING exercise is insignificant to a degree when you instead aim to boost your metabolism to burn a surplus of calories for the next several hours AFTER the workout.

To increase metabolism, you should eat small meals frequently, with high amounts of proteins, healthy fats and get as many carbs as possible from vegetables in every meal. The next step in raising your metabolism is by abiding by the following exercise principles...

2. ONLY use Total Body Exercises, or those that use MULTIPLE muscle groups at once.

This point is very valuable, and pains me when I walk into a gym and see the fitness trainer trying to help someone who is looking to lose 10lbs by showing them Bicep Curls, Tricep Kickbacks and crunches. These are single-joint exercises that focus on one muscle at a time, e.g. the Biceps, Tricep, and Front wall of the abdominals repsectively.

These exercises are USELESS for the purposes of fat loss. No fat loss program should ever include such exercises unless there is a very good reason to do so (such as rehabilitation, or if you are a bodybuilder!).

The reason they don't work is this: Muscles are metabolically active, they burn more calories the harder they work. Now, if you want to burn maximum calories in minimum time, then you want to get as many muscles working as possible. The MORE muscles you work, the MORE calories you will burn. Simple as that.

So instead, stick to total body exercises such as Squats, deadlifts, press ups, planks, burpees, rows etc. (If you want any info on any of these exercises just let me know).

To illustrate this point, imagine there were a pair of twins, exactly the same weight, same goal and I had one perform ONLY tricep kickbacks for 100 reps, 3 sessions a week for 2 months.

The other, I had perform ONLY chest presses / press ups for 100 reps, 3 sessions a week for 2 months.

Who do you think would have lost the most fat after the 2 months? Not just on thier arms, but ALL over? The one exericsing her arms, or the one exercising her arms, chest, shoulders, and core all in one go?

3. Focus on the BIGGEST muscle groups:

As we've established, the more muscles worked, the more energy your body must utilise to repair them. But also, the bigger muscles also burn more calories as they do more total work. So focus your exericses on the biggest muscles on your body which are the GLUTES. Everyone wants a nice firm arse and this will burn so many calories and get that whole backside area from your waist, your buttocks and down your thighs and hamstrings lean and firm.

The DEADLIFT will be your most important exericse as it hits all the above backside areas primarily, but also works 75% of the muscles in your whole body, making it technically the MOST efficent exercise for burning fat in one go. If you are unfamiliar with the Deadlift, search it now. Other exercises that have a similar effect are Step Ups and Squats.

4. Increase the Metabolic Cost of your entire workout.

Now that we can see that the Total Body Exercises are the most efficent at burning fat, it is important that your ENTIRE workout consists of these types of exercises. You must squeeze every second you get in the gym and use it efficiently, don't waste any time in there. Use the exercises that give you the most 'bang for your buck' as they say, and use them from start to finish. No bicep curls remember!!

5. Work in a repetition range that generates lactic acid.

This usually means sets of 8-12 reps, where you start feeling that burn of lactic acid. Lactic acid helps burn fat, so it is a good thing! Make sure that the weight you use is heavy enough so that if you can complete more than 13 repetitions, put it to the next weight up and try and get 8 reps again.

Note: Despite the bullsh!t that magazines and the media may throw at you about using light pink dummbells for 'toning', if you can lift something more than 15-20 times, it is NOT challenging your metabolism and will not burn fat. Well, it will burn fat, but it'll probably take you about 5 years longer to burn it. Go heavy with a load you can handle but pushes you, and feel the strength and confidence it will give you.

6. Do MORE work EVERY TIME you exercise:

This is maybe the biggest thing holding so many people back from achieving their goals, and I see it all too often at my gym every day.

Here's the problem I see:

A person comes to the gym and decides to jump on the treadmill. They find an intensity thats right for them, say Level 3, and go for 20 minutes, which just about pushes them. Okay, thats a good start.

But then.... The next day, they come back and do another 20 minutes at Level 3. They do it again the next day. and the next week, and the next month. And possibly next year, until they realise they havent lost any weight and give up, thinking that the gym is a waste of time.

And here is WHY this is a huge problem:

Your body is cunningly efficient at ADAPTING to the demands you put on it. It reacts in the opposite way to anything you do to it. ANYTHING. Just think:

You cut your hair. It grows back thicker.

You break a bone. It heals stronger.

You tear your muscles down with exercise. They grow back stronger and fitter.

Once you have jogged 20 minutes at Level 3 once or twice, you body has ADAPTED to it. So if it burned 300 calories the first time, then you become fitter and as a result you burn LESS calories to perform the same task. So the next time it may only burn 290 calories. Then 260 etc.

Now, considering that your nutrition intake is consistantly 2000 calories a day, if you exercise in this way you may end up taking in more calories and burning less with exericse, which could lead to you actually storing more fat!

The solution is to PROGRESS your exercise EVERY time you step into the gym, or your workout room at home.

It is always better to increase volume first (amount of reps, amount of time, distance) and THEN increase your intensity (weight, resistance level on cardio machines).

So if we are using weights, you want to be in the 8-12 range. If you can lift a weight 13 times, get the next highest weight and go back to 8 reps. The next week get 9 reps, then 10, up to 12. When you can get 13 reps with that weight, its time to increase it again.

With cardio, pick a level (say level 3) and if you can go for longer than 20 minutes, up it to Level 4 and go for 10 minutes. The next session aim for 12 minutes. Then 14, then 16 etc. Until you reach 20 again.

Repeating this process is vital. Remeber you MUST do more work than last time, if not, you have essentially WASTED your time in the gym as your body will have adapted and you will likely burn less calories than last time as you have become fitter.

7. Do your weights BEFORE cardio.

Another tradition that prevents you from relising your potential is this. You have 3 sources of energy to use during exercise:

Carbs, fats, then proteins. (Proteins are only broken down in extreme situations of prolonged exercise though, so we'll take that out of the equation).

Your body will use up its Carbs (sugars) first. Until your carb stores have been adequately depleted, you wont burn as much fat.

Now resistance training requires instant hard energy, so it will use up your carb stores. If you do this, THEN go to cardio afterwards, all you have left to burn is predominatly fat! Not to mention that if the resistance and cardio sessions are metabolic enough then you'll continue to burn fat via your metabolism throughout the day.

It is also important to do resistance training first because it will cause the most metabolic effects. Therefore, you want to give it all your energy whilst you are fresh and can give 100%.

It is also safer to lift weights with good form if you are fresh, rather than drain yourself with cardio and be fatigued before lifting heavy dumbbells.

So to recap quickly:


2. Only use COMPOUND exercises that involve the whole body

3. Work the biggest muscles in the body (Glutes, back, and chest areas)

4. Use these metabolic exercises throught the WHOLE session, every time.

5. Build Up lactic acid with reps of 8-12

6. Do MORE work every single time you exercise, even if it just means afew extra seconds here and there.

7. Resistance Exericse BEFORE Cardio. Always.

I know this post has gone on forever but I really want to get these points across to you guys as I know it will save you making the same mistakes as many do. Follow these principles and you will surely see a difference before long.

Thanks for reading guys, good luck

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Silver Member
hey just to let you know i am taking note of these posts, thanks



taking it 1 day at a time
S: 12st5.8lb C: 12st5.8lb G: 9st0lb BMI: 29.8 Loss: 0st0lb(0%)
Thanks for this. Will reread and inwardly digest this evening.


Gold Member
S: 20st3lb C: 15st3lb G: 10st10lb BMI: 35.4 Loss: 5st0lb(24.73%)
hey justin you seem like you know your stuff. what fartburning would you suggest for a VLCD. cheers if you can help?



JustForMe: How low-calorie are we talking here?

Basically I'd always recommend the same types of full-body exercises as listed above. The calorie intake during an exericse program is important because it will affect how well / how quickly you can recover from an exercise session.

Im no expert on VLCDs, as I typically recommend my clients to consume just under thier maintenance level of calories.

If you are getting under 1000 cals a day then you simply won't be able to exericse at a decent-enough intensity as you won't have the energy or the capacity to boost your metabolism.


Gold Member
S: 20st3lb C: 15st3lb G: 10st10lb BMI: 35.4 Loss: 5st0lb(24.73%)
im doing lipotrim so its about 425 kcals i think. i know we're allowed to do resisyance exercise i just dont have a clue what that is lol:eek:


Okay, I want to be sensitive about this as I believe a number of members here make use of VLCDs. Whilst VLCDs can reduce fat in the initial weeks, there comes a point where it will become counterproductive. VLCDs will result in you decreasing your lean body mass, as the body is not being fuelled well enough and must break down your muscle tissue for energy.

This is a problem because your metabolism is a direct result of how much lean muscle tissue you have. The more you have, the more calories you burn day to day. So essentially VLCDs will slow your metabolism and stop you burning more calories.

Having said this, if you are determined to remain on the diet for the meantime, I would strongly recommend you STOP cardiovascular exercise and instead perform resistance exercise (free weights, kettlebells etc.).

Id recommend you initially try three sessions per week, but only 1-2 sets of 8-12 repetitions for no more than 10 exercises.

Here's why I recommend this:

As mentioned, on a VLCD your metabolism will start to slow down as lean muscle tissue cannot be maintained without an adequate supply of calories. Excessive cardio exercise will contribute to this process by putting too much volume on the body, causing a further decrease in lean muscle.

However, there are studies that have shown that even on a VLCD, some muscle tissue will be maintained as long there is some resistance exercise performed with it.

So again, I want to be sensitive about this subject as I know VLCDs are used by many people, but the bottom line is that VLCDs are essentially a short-term solution to a long-term problem. I wouldn't recommend using one for a prolonged period of time.


Gold Member
S: 20st3lb C: 15st3lb G: 10st10lb BMI: 35.4 Loss: 5st0lb(24.73%)
im only doing it for 6 - 8 weeks tops i know its not the long term solution. and i havent attempted cardio on the diet.

but ill take on board about the resistance and just do a little bit. i dont want long term side efffects


Justin, I do bodypump twice a week. Do you think that is sufficient in terms of resistance training? The only problem is that normally I am so exhausted afterwards, I can't manage any cardio!
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is Magdalicious
S: 17st6lb C: 14st1lb G: 12st7lb BMI: 29.1 Loss: 3st5lb(19.26%)
Hi Justin
This is very interesting stuff.
I'm on VLCD too and will be for another 4 weeks after which i will slowly start increasing my calorie intake.
I know that doing cardio is a big no no so from next week i'm planning to go back to the gym doing only weights.
My question is, can i use the weight machines ( i know you mentioned exercising the large groups of muscles to burn more fat) ?
If yes, which ones and in what order?
I can't seem to get the right advice in my gym. I find it really frustrating because every time i ask someone 'professional' about what i should do i get a different answer.
You however seem like you know your stuff and you make complete sense.
I'd appreciate your help.
Thank you.

P.S. Are you in the London area and aviable to personal train me by any chance? ;)


Full Member
S: 10st8lb C: 10st8lb G: 9st0lb BMI: 27.1 Loss: 0st0lb(0%)

Just wanted to say thank you for all the 'real' and sensible advice :D My husband weight trains in a dedicated gym, and has done tons of research in order to reach his goals, and therefore I have been privvy to a lot of the info. I think it's so good of you to come on here and share your knowledge. It seems a lot of members are also appreciative - so thank you :553:

I have a weights room at home with a bench and free weights. I have been off them for a few weeks due to a few mishaps, but am raring to go again Monday! I seem to have got my weights regime sorted, it's just the cardio I hate :sigh: We have a bike at home but I hate it sooo much!! I used to like walking briskly at an incline on the treadmill at the gym, and also the rower, but I left there as it was full of chavs on mobile phones and ladies in full make up going through the motions!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am considering joining the 'real' gym soon. ;)

I am seriously considering taking up running for my cardio. Am planning 3 x all over body workouts (Mon, Wed & Fri), how would a running program go with that - Tues, Thurs & Sat? I am thinking of starting with this (complete beginner!) Bupa running

P.S - what area of South Wales are you in? I'm in Newport!


Justin, I do bodypump twice a week. Do you think that is sufficient in terms of resistance training? The only problem is that normally I am so exhausted afterwards, I can't manage any cardio!

Beatle: It depends on how intense (how heavy in relation to what you can lift) the weights you use during the session are. But since the loads used in Body Pump are typically moderate to light, you're actually getting a cardio workout as well as resistance with the class (hence why you feel too drained to do MORE cardio afterwards!)

To ensure you get the full benefits of resistance training I would deidcate a couple of sessions per week to lifting at a higher intensity (meaning, with a load you could only lift between 8-12 times in one set). This is the best range for developing strength, and also getting that metabolic effect that will require your bodies to burn more calories to repair the muscles.

So, 2-3 sessions of resistance training and the body pump class would cover your resistance requirements.

My question is, can i use the weight machines ( i know you mentioned exercising the large groups of muscles to burn more fat) ?
If yes, which ones and in what order?

Magiclove: You can use the machines, but they will never cause you to burn as many calories as free weights, so I'd strongly recommend learning to use free weights, no matter what your level. I understand machines are often touted as being 'safer' than free weights, which in some cases may be true, but if the trainer at your gym is competent enough, he / she should be able to instruct you adequately and if you start with lighter loads there should be no problem.

Here's WHY machines will never comapre to free weights when it comes to fat loss:

Lets use two examples of exercises, one person uses a Leg Press, the other performs a free weight squat (with barbell or dumbbells). Both exercises are essentially the same motion. But here's the difference in terms of calorie burning:

In the leg Press, you are fully balanced in the seat, allowing just your legs to move independent of the rest of your body, so your quads and hips are doing all the work.

In the free-standing squat, you are less balanced as you are standing up, and holding a weight that is not part of a machine, but will drop if you let it. Now, all the muscles in your core must work to stabilise you and keep your balance. Also, if you are holding the dummbells to your sides, your arms and shoulders also get a workout.

Also, in the Leg Press you were pushing the load horizontally, but the squat challenges you to lift the weight UP, against gravity, making it again that little more challenging to your body.

So in effect, you could say that the Leg Press is a 'Quad exercise', but the Squat is a 'Total Body exercise'.

Some of these are only small differences, but of course, every little helps...

Whats important here is that you remember what I said before about needing to use as MANY muscles as possible, not just during the workout, but during EVERY exercise. Your gym time is precious, make every second count.

P.S. Are you in the London area and aviable to personal train me by any chance?
I'm afraid Im writing from South Wales:(.But I will try to help here as much as I can.

I am seriously considering taking up running for my cardio. Am planning 3 x all over body workouts (Mon, Wed & Fri), how would a running program go with that - Tues, Thurs & Sat? I am thinking of starting with this (complete beginner!) Bupa running

Capirossi: Yes you're spot on, your cardio would be most beneficial on seperate days from resistance. That way, you'll have more energy available to make the most of every exercise session. Three Total Body workouts Mon, Wed and Fri is also an excellent template. I'd also recommend adding 15-20 minutes of low intensity activity after each resistance workout. If you follow the guidelines I wrote in the original post, your full obdy resistance exercise should take no longer than 45 minutes. Add another 15 mins light walking, biking or even an extra set of each resistance exericise with a light weight.

I recommend this because after a full body resistance workout, a lot of free fatty acids are released into the body, which mobilize fat ready to be burned. Take advantage of this post-workout condition to just burn a few extra calories and take your total time to just over an hour. it also serves a good cool down period.

Im originally from Merthyr Tydfil, but I work between PontyPridd and Caerphilly.


Full Member
S: 10st8lb C: 10st8lb G: 9st0lb BMI: 27.1 Loss: 0st0lb(0%)
Thanks Justin, very helpful - as usual ;). Looking forward to getting back into the swing of things tomorrow, and will add 15-20 mins of moderate cycling at the end. Thanks again :D


is Magdalicious
S: 17st6lb C: 14st1lb G: 12st7lb BMI: 29.1 Loss: 3st5lb(19.26%)
Oh you're so sweet J! Thank you!
I am quite happy doing free weights but i just don't know what exercises and how heavy to go.
The instructors in my gym are useless so any help from you is very much appreciated!
Thank you very much for your help and motivation!


Justin - thanks. I lift fairly heavy weights in the class (for a woman!) but I guess the fact that I can lift them for 3-4 minutes for each track means that I need to do some heavier weights as well.

Thank you again - it is always helpful to have someone comment on your exercise regime


S: 17st1lb C: 16st5lb G: 11st6lb BMI: 34.8 Loss: 0st10lb(4.18%)
this is really good info but I have a question:

I have my own bike machine at home now and I usually do 10 minutes on it before I go through a set of weight lifting. I do this 3 times.

I was wondering is it better to do all my weights first then do 30 mins of cardio or do what I'm doing now but just do my 10 mins on the bike when I've finished doing my weights? And repeat this twice?


"Weights before cardio. Always."

'Always' being the key word. I am usually quite a 'Never say never' person, but in this case I really can't think of a great reason to perform any cardiovascular work on a machine before resistance exercises (Except for perhaps the rower, which can serve to warm up a few muscle groups with some light resistance).

What exactly are you doing on the bike? Intervals? High or low intensity?


S: 17st1lb C: 16st5lb G: 11st6lb BMI: 34.8 Loss: 0st10lb(4.18%)
I usually do 10 mins on the bike on the highest level and as fast as I can go. I do this usually before I start weight lifting then go back to it when I have finished my weights and do it all again. Every night I do 30 mins on the bike.

Last night though I done my bike after I finished all my weight lifting but instead of doing 3 set of 10 mins, I done 2 sets of 15 mins. Would that make a difference or is it just the same?


The only way you can possibly tell if there's a difference is if you are recording and quantifying your results in some way (you ARE keeping an exercise recording log, right??? :p )

Before I go on though, can I ask what variables you can record on your bike? (Such as time, distance, rpm etc) Or is it a non-electronic spin bike?