Basic Guidelines for Fat Loss: Exercise

Basic Guidelines for Fat Loss Part 2: Exercise

In Basic Guidelines for Fat Loss Part 1 I explained how to eat to lose fat. In this article I explain how to exercise for fat loss.

Increasing Calorie Expenditure – Exercise and Metabolic Rate

As I mentioned in Part 1, exercise or increased activity alone is highly overrated for fat loss. Few activities burn enough calories to be worth performing for that purpose alone, and unless you are restricting your calorie intake it will most likely increase with your activity level due to increased appetite. You should choose your physical recreational activities based on what you enjoy but do not expect them to have a significant effect on fat loss.

The most important benefit exercise can provide to someone trying to lose fat is not the increase in calories burned during workouts, but the maintenance or increase in muscle mass and metabolic rate. This can only effectively be accomplished with resistance training. Most steady-state activities such as aerobics, running, cycling, swimming, etc. do not burn a significant amount of calories per hour, are ineffective for maintaining muscle mass, and can even cause a loss of muscle if performed too long or too often. Additionally, resistance training can provide all of the cardiovascular benefits traditionally associated with these activities (11), so they are unnecessary for any fitness or health related purpose.

The effects of resistance training on muscular strength and hypertrophy are specific to the muscles worked. Performing an exercise for the muscles of the legs will do little to stimulate growth in or maintain the muscles of the arms, and vice versa. Because of this, exercises should be performed for all muscle groups as frequently as individual recovery ability allows to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. For most people, two or three full-body workouts per week is an effective approach. (12, 13) Those with below average exercise tolerance or recovery ability or advanced trainees working at a much higher than average level of intensity may get better results training less frequently or following a split routine to reduce individual workout volume. As trainees become more advanced and train with higher levels of intensity and greater loads, workout volume and frequency may need to be reduced.

Scott Before and After

General Workout Guidelines

Workouts should include one or two exercises per muscle group, performed in order of largest to smallest muscle groups. While a variety of set and repetition ranges can be effective only one set is necessary if performed intensely enough, and at least a moderate repetition range ensures enough time under tension for all the fibers in the targeted muscles to be thoroughly fatigued and for effective metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning. As a starting point, use a weight for each exercise that allows you to perform at least six but not more than ten good repetitions using a slow and controlled speed of movement, without any bouncing or jerking (lifting in about three to four seconds, holding for a second or two, and lowering in about three to four seconds). When you can perform ten or more repetitions of an exercise in strict form increase the weight slightly the next time you perform the exercise.

The following are examples of basic full-body routines I use as a starting point with most new male and female clients:

Basic Full-Body Free Weight Workout

  1. Squat
  2. Chin-Up
  3. Bench Press
  4. Bent-Over Row
  5. Standing Press
  6. Stiff-Leg Deadlift
  7. Weighted Crunch
  8. One-Leg Heel Raise
  9. Isometric Neck Flexion
  10. Isometric Neck Extension

Basic Full-Body Machine Workout

  1. Leg Press
  2. Pulldown
  3. Chest Press
  4. Compound Row
  5. Shoulder Press
  6. Back Extension
  7. Abdominal Flexion
  8. Calf Raise
  9. Isometric Neck Flexion
  10. Isometric Neck Extension

For more free weight and machine workout examples and detailed guidelines for performance read High Intensity Workouts.

If you do not have access to free weights or exercise machines an effective full-body routine can be performed with nothing but a doorway pull-up bar or suspension trainer and empty floor space:

Basic Full-Body Bodyweight Workout

  1. Squat
  2. Chin-up (using doorway pull-up bar or suspension trainer)
  3. Push-up
  4. Inverted Row (using sturdy table or suspension trainer)
  5. Pike Push-up
  6. Hip Raise or Prone Trunk Extension
  7. Crunch
  8. Heel Raise
  9. Isometric Neck Flexion
  10. Isometric Neck Extension

For more bodyweight workout examples and detailed guidelines for performance read Project Kratos: Bodyweight High Intensity Training,

Keeping Track

Just as it is important to measure and record your daily food intake to ensure you consume an appropriate amount of calories, it is important to record exercise performance to evaluate progress over time. If your workout performance begins to decline and there are no other obvious causes such as inadequate sleep or illness, it may be an indication your calorie intake is too low and needs to be increased slightly.

In a workout journal or on a chart or spreadsheet record the date of each workout and the exercises in order of performance. Record equipment settings for consistency between workouts. Record the amount of weight used and the number of repetitions completed in strict form or the time under load for each exercise. Sloppy or incomplete repetitions should not be recorded. While even a sloppy repetition may provide some exercise benefit, it should not be counted so the resistance used for that exercise is not increased prematurely.

Hard Work + Consistency + Time = Results

Regardless of your current condition, you can significantly reduce your body fat and dramatically improve on your body’s shape and appearance by following these basic guidelines. It will not be easy. It will require discipline at the table, hard work in the gym, and a lot of patience. However, if you persevere and are consistent with your diet and your workouts your results will be worth it.


11. Maisch B, Baum E, Grimm W. Die Auswirkungen dynamischen Krafttrainings nach dem Nautilus-Prinzip auf kardiozirkulatorische Parameter und Ausdauerleistungsfähigkeit (The effects of resistance training according to the Nautilus principles on cardiocirculatory parameters and endurance). Angenommen vom Fachbereich Humanmedizin der Philipps-Universität Marburg am 11. Dezember 2003

12. Carpinelli RN, Otto RM, Winett RA. A Critical Analysis of the ACSM Position Stand on Resistance Training: Insufficient Evidence to Support Recommended Training Protocols. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online 2004;7(3):1-60

13. Smith D, Bruce-Low, S. Strength Training Methods and The Work of Arthur Jones. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online 2004;7(6): 52-68

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