What is the single, best fat burning exercise there is?
I recently had lunch with a friend of mine, fellow fitness enthusiast John Romaniello. For those of you that don’t know him, John is the author of a very successful advanced fat loss program called Final Phase Fat Loss. John was a chubby teen, but turned himself into a highly successful fitness model as well as a personal trainer for many very successful NYC models. I don’t get to talk to John often, so when I do I always pick his brain a bit.
Because John’s expertise is in fat loss (particularly stubborn fat loss), I was curious what he felt is the single best exercise for fat loss. I honestly didn’t expect much of an answer as it’s kind of a loaded question, but I was surprised when he emphatically answered and then backed it up with reasoning. The truth is, his actual answer was something I’d known from my own experiences but I’d never really put the whole picture together before. Today, I’d like to put it all together for you.
There’s something called dynamic training that is used by many of the most successful fat loss coaches in the world. Usually if some Hollywood star needs to lose weight and tone up for a role in a hurry, it’s some form of dynamic training that’s prescribed. The reason? Dynamic training works. So why haven’t you seen it recommended everywhere? The reason is simply that it’s not an easy sell. Dynamic training works better than almost anything you can do, but it’s hard work. People don’t buy programs that promise hard work. People buy books and programs that promise 8-minute abs even if you spend the other 23 hours and 52 minutes of the day sitting on your butt eating delicious cake.
John is a master of dynamic training (or what he calls dynamism), which is one of the reasons why his program has been so successful. It’s the principles behind dynamic training that also have a lot to do with why this single exercise is so effective at burning fat. Before I get to that though, I want to tell you a little bit about dynamic training; then we can talk about this exercise and why it is so important in your arsenal against stubborn fat.
Dynamic training is all about fast-paced, compound movements that build balance, athleticism, power, and speed. They are big, energy expensive movements that involve as many muscles as possible, and your workouts are often set up in circuits that alternate exercises based on body part. For instance, you may do a leg exercise, immediately follow it with a shoulder exercise, and then finish up by going straight into an exercise for your back. As you can see, dynamism calls for very little rest between movements.
The idea in these circuits is to rotate through your fresh muscle while keeping your major energy systems working non-stop. This not only burns more calories, but it does amazing things for your body’s efficiency—which means everything works better while weight loss and exercise become easier. In other words, your conditioning goes way up.
To sum up: the idea behind dynamic training is to utilize fast-paced, full-body, controlled movements. These moves require balance, momentum, awareness, and strength, and are highly taxing to all major systems.
Which brings us back to John’s answer to when I asked what single exercise identifies with all these principles and more?
The lunge is one of the most complex movements the body can do, yet is very simple for most people.
It’s heavy. It’s dynamic. It’s expansive. A front lunge requires your entire body to move forward, catch your weight balanced, stop your own momentum, and then use your largest muscle groups to drive you back to starting position. All lunges (and especially reverse lunges) require balance and complete awareness of your body.
A lot of people love squats and dead lifts, and these moves are great. They are very important, especially if you’re trying to really pack on the muscle. With squats and dead lifts however, your feet stay locked in place—you never even lift them off the ground. Your entire body stays locked in place except your hips and knees. With a lunge, everything has to move: you take your entire body off balance before pushing off to get back in position. You stretch yourself out and decentralize your force. You can add weights or twists or presses, making it a very cardio intensive move. You can do front lunges, side lunges, reverse lunges, walking lunges, rotating lunges, weighted lunges, etc. The variety is basically endless.
Plus it’s not just a great fat-burning exercise. It is also a top muscle-building exercise, which makes it one exercise that no one should leave out of their arsenal. I would try to include some variation of this exercise in each and every fat loss workout I do.
A few pointers about the lunge:
1. If you don’t do a lunge correctly with proper form, they can damage your knees which can lead to serious injury. Make sure your knees are strong enough to handle this. See your doctor.
2. Lunges put all the emphasis on movement and balance. Go as fast as you can with good form, but go as slow as you need to in order to maintain that good form.
3. If you’re not holding weights, try bringing your hands up in front of you as if you were in fighting stance, with elbows in and arms totally vertical and parallel to one another. It helps you find your balance.
4. Keep your core and glutes tight for better balance and a straighter spine
5. When you lunge forward, you want “mid-foot balance.” This means you don’t land on your toes or heels, but your mid-foot. Another way to look at it would be your whole foot coming down at once without forward momentum. Imagine your foot coming down on ice so that it has to drop straight down and not be moving forward, or it will slip out from under you.
6. If you’re doing reverse lunges, at least 70% of your body weight should remain on your front leg. Your back leg should have feather weight on it.
7. With reverse lunges it is also vitally important that you keep your body straight. If you need to turn to look at your positioning, make sure your body is stabilized first.
8. When pushing up, push through your heel to activate your glutes. Your glutes should be doing more work than your quads, and way more than your calves.
9. As with squats, your toes shouldn’t go past your front knee on the lunge. This includes your front leg when doing reverse lunges.
10. Check with your doctor before performing this or any other exercise or routine.
If you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle and you’re not using this exercise, you’re likely not getting the results you could be. The lunge is the one powerhouse movement that can bring real change to your routine.
Until next time,
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