Fat Burning: A Different Approach No more cardio? Well, not quite—but if you train with weights correctly, you won’t need to visit that boring treadmill quite as often to keep your abs sharp. And I’m not talking about interval cardio, although the weight-training method I’ve been preaching has an HIIT feel to it. That’s the F4X method, (featured in Old School New Body) which is moderate-weight, high-fatigue training with short rests between sets. It burns more fat and pumps up your muscles like crazy too. Here’s the drill: You take a weight with which you can get 15 reps, but you only do 10; rest 30 seconds, then do it again—and so on for four sets. On the fourth set, you go to failure, and if you get 10 reps, you increase the weight on the exercise at your next workout. Notice how those sets are like intervals with short breaks between—you can even pace between sets to burn extra calories, but there’s more. Fat-burning pathway 1: While that training style does great things for muscle growth, via myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic expansion, you also get loads of muscle burn. That lactic acid pooling has a spiking effect on your growth hormone output—and GH is a potent fat burner. Fire up muscle burning to get your GH churning. (GH also amplifies other anabolic hormones, so it effects both muscle and rippedness.) Fat-burning pathway 2: If you do the reps correctly on every set, you’ll also get myofibrillar trauma. The myofibrils are the force-generating strands in muscle fibers. By “damaging” them with slower, controlled negative strokes, you force the need for extra energy during recovery. In other words, your body runs hotter while you’re out of the gym as it revs to repair the microtears. To attain that extra fat-burning trauma, use one-second positives and three-second negatives on all 10 reps of all four sets. On a bench press that’s one second up and three seconds down. It’s the slow lowering that will produce the metabolic momentum after your workout. (That rep speed will also give you 40 seconds of tension time on every set, an ideal hypertrophic TUT.)
Fat-burning pathway 3: Now if you really want to get some blubber-busting microtrauma, try your last set of a F4X sequence in X-centric style. That’s one-second positives and six-second negatives. You may have to reduce the weight, but it will be worth it. Try for eight of those, 56 seconds of tension time, and you should feel the results the next day. Your muscles will be aching, but it’s a good indication that fat is baking. F4X for a GH surge, slower negatives for fat-burning micro trauma and X-centric for even more time under tension and fat extinction. It all adds up to faster leanness with less meanness— because you’ll need less cardio. Prepare for acid-etched abs! Yes!! Even as you age this system works, in fact it is the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth. When you first started working out, you probably hated it. Soreness hurts! But as you progressed, you no doubt embraced it—most of us consider it a signal that we’ve done our diligence and stimulated plenty of muscle growth. But is that true? The fact is, there are no studies connecting muscle soreness to hypertrophy. Okay, don’t stop reading yet; you will get some good stuff from being a bit sore–and you’ll probably even want to strive for it. But first you need to know what causes muscle soreness. It’s believed that the pain is caused by microtrauma in muscle fibers—and it’s primarily triggered by the negative, or eccentric, stroke of an exercise—like when you lower a bench press, squat or curl rep. Once your body repairs those microtears, it follows that the muscle should grow larger; however, that trauma is in the myofibrils, the force-generating actin and myosin strands in the fiber. Those strands grab onto and pull across one another to cause muscular contraction. When you control the negative stroke of a rep, there is friction as those strands drag across each other in an attempt to slow movement speed to prevent injury—and that dragging, it’s believed, is what inflicts the microtrauma.
That’s a simplification, but you get the idea. So it appears that some growth can occur after muscle soreness is repaired, but it’s in the myofibrils. More and more research is beginning to show that those force-generating strands do not contribute the majority of muscle size; serious mass comes via sarcoplasmic expansion. That’s the “energy fluid” in the fibers that’s filled with glycogen (from carbs), ATP, calcium, noncontractile proteins, etc. So if soreness is an indication of only small amounts of muscle growth, why strive for it? Well, even small amounts of growth contribute to overall mass. Most of us want every fraction we can scrape up. But the real reason to seek some soreness is to burn more fat. When the myofibrils are damaged by emphasizing the eccentric, the body attempts to repair them as quickly as possible. That repair process takes energy, a lot of which comes from bodyfat. The process usually takes many days, so your metabolism is stoked to a higher level for 48 hours or more, helping you get leaner faster. (Note: High-intensity interval training, like sprints alternated with slow jogs, damages muscle fibers during the intense intervals, the sprints, which is why HIIT burns more fat in the long run than steady-state cardio where no muscle damage occurs.) Do you need heavy negative-only sets to get that extra bit of size and metabolic momentum? That’s one way, but negative-accentuated, or X-centric, sets may be a better, safer way. For an X-centric set you take a somewhat lighter poundage than your 10RM and raise the weight in one second and lower it in six. That one-second-positive/six-second-negative cadence does some great things, starting with myofibrillar trauma for some soreness. While you’re coping with that extra post workout muscle pain, remember that it can build the myofibrils and that it’s stoking your metabolism during the repair process for more fat burning. The second BIG advantage is sarcoplasmic expansion. At seven seconds per rep and eight reps per set, you get almost an entire minute of tension time (seven times eight is 56 seconds). A TUT of 50 to 60 seconds is something most bodybuilders never get—which is a shame because that’s
optimal stress for an anabolic cascade and this is the perfect way to train as you age. I call it Old School New Body! You can do an X-centric set after your heavy pyramid—if you’re into heavy training. In other words, use it as a backoff set. If you’re more into moderate-poundage, high-fatigue mass building, as I am with the F4X method featured in the Old School New Body method, you can use X-centric as the last set of the sequence. Reduce the weight and do a one-up-six-down cadence. You’ll get sore, build some extra size and—bonus—burn for fat. How great is that? Stay tuned, train smart and be Built for Life. Steve Holman Editor in Chief Iron Man Magazine and co-creator of the Old School New Body program