How To Build A Workout Routine For Weight Loss
Knowing how to build a workout routine for weight loss starts with understanding how the body functions and responds to exercise. Learning basic principles of exercise science will help you create the best weight loss workout plan. In fact, working out as little as 30 minutes a day will be enough for fat loss goals.
The key things you need to build the best weight loss workout routine are knowing:
- What has to happen for the body to lose weight
- What are all the factors that can impact fat loss
- Basic principles in exercise program design
- Applications of these principles to a nutrition and fitness program
We’ll cover all of these so you can build a weight loss program like a personal trainer. Like all programs, you should always start with a comprehensive fitness assessment. This will ensure you have baseline metrics to track and you know how to create a personalized fitness program. Learn more about assessments and program design when you become an EMAC certified personal trainer.
What Needs To Happen For The Body To Lose Weight?
Although fat loss can sometimes seem complicated, it’s easy. To lose weight, one must expend more energy than they consume. This forces the body to use stored fat as fuel. Simply put, you can lose weight when you eat less than what you’re burning.
There are 3,500 calories in one pound of body fat. Therefore, the best weight loss plan is one with a negative caloric balance consistently. For example, if you burn 500 calories in your workout and you eat 500 calories less per day, this is a 1,000 calorie deficit. Over the course of a week, you will lose two pounds of body fat. It seems simple. But what are all the factors that affect caloric burn and how can YOU apply them to create an effective workout routine for weight loss.
Factors Impacting Calorie Burn
You can break down your daily caloric burn into three segments:
- Calories burned during exercise
There are two primary forms of exercise for weight loss. The first is cardio and the second is strength training. Cardio is any form of exercise that elevates the heart rate and breathing rate. You’re working harder, so you’re burning more calories. A strength training workout (aka resistance training) will also elevate the heart rate, however depending on the workout, it might not be as much as cardio.
- Calories burned after and a result of a workout (cardio or strength training)
After you finish a workout, your body will keep working harder to get it back to a normal resting state. Therefore, you’re not only burning calories during a workout, but after also. The name of this concept is EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). Research varies on the duration of EPOC but agrees that the higher the intensity of the cardio workout, the greater the duration and percentage lift in calorie burn. EPOC research summaries suggest EPOC can last for 15 minutes and up to 24 hours with an increase in caloric burn of almost 15%.
- Daily caloric burn external to a specific workout
There are ways other than traditional exercise to achieve fat loss goals. For example, simply parking farther away at the grocery store is one way you can increase your calorie deficit. Equally important to know, is the more body weight you’re carrying around, the more calories you’ll burn. If you’re losing body fat, this means your daily caloric burn will decline. However, if you can get muscle gain, you’re able to offset some of these changes. Muscle size is based on the number and size of the muscle fiber in the corresponding muscle group. However, it is hard to gain more than one to two pounds of muscle per month. Further, one pound of muscle will burn about 6 calories per hour. On the other hand, a pound of body fat will only burn about 2. That’s about 100 calories per day extra when you have an extra pound of lean muscle
Principles In Workout Design
You know what the body has to go through for weight loss. Now, you need to understand the principles of fitness program design before you can create a weight loss program. We’ll address three concepts professional personal trainers use to build weight loss programs.
The first principle is the general adaptation syndrome. When the body experiences something out of the norm it goes through an alarm stage. It recognizes there is a new stimulus. The second stage is resistance. This is where the body starts changing and making adaptations to deal with the change or new stimulus. When the stimulus goes on for too long or with too much intensity, it can cause the third stage, exhaustion. This is important because you have to give the body enough of a stimulus for it to make a change. For example, a beginner workout doesn’t have to be high intensity. Instead, if someone is completely new to exercise then basic body weight exercises will be enough to shake things up. It allows them to build up a resistance slowly. Then, over time, you induce more change like adding heavier weight to the exercise program. Again, slowly but enough to cause a change without injury.
The second personal training principle is the SAID principle. It stands for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (aka principle of specificity). All this means is your body will change exactly to what you’re asking it to change. It’s basic but people overlook it or overcomplicate it. If you want your resting heart rate to improve, get stronger, and go down, you need to do things that increase my heart rate and make it work harder. Similarly, if you want to build upper body strength, your resistance training should include these exercises. For weight loss, keep things simple. Your fitness program should include exercises that maximize calorie burn and minimize time.
How To Build A Workout Routine For Weight Loss
Let’s take a look at how the principles of exercise program design intersect with factors impacting a calorie deficit.
Burn More Calories During Exercise
You should be doing a combination of strength training and cardio exercise for your workout routine. Cardio will be the quickest and most effective way to burn the most amount of calories in the least amount of time. Therefore, follow these tips in your cardio workout:
- Keep your intensity (heart rate) moderately high. On a scale of 1 to 10, aim to be working at a 6 or 7 for a beginner workout. If you aren’t new to the cardio workout, aim for higher intensity levels near 8 and even 9, with short bouts of active recovery (30 – 60 seconds) between the harder intervals
- Aim for a total body cardio workout. This will help you get your heart rate higher.
- Get a heart rate monitor or activity tracker. You should know exactly what your heart rate is so you can make sure you’re placing enough demand on yourself during your workout.
When you do resistance training, choose compound exercises. Compound exercises use more than one joint. This means your using more muscle and you’ll burn more calories. Also choose for total body exercises, or exercises that use large muscle groups. These are great choices for a weight loss workout routine:
- Squats- When you do squats correctly, you’ll burn a ton of extra calories. Plus you can do progressions like a jump squat or single leg squat to challenge yourself even more.
- Lunges- Just like the squat, if you know how to properly do a lunge, you’ll have plenty to choose from on a lower body day. You can do walking lunges, jump lunges, lateral lunges, curtsy lunges, and more.
- Pushups- Perfect a traditional push up. The chest is a large muscle group so it will help maximize your calorie burn. But, this exercise also engages your core, triceps, and lats. It’s a must for an upper body day. And, you can maximize it by doing it with a weighted vest, adding a resistance band, doing a power push up, or doing it with one arm or leg.
- Rows- A good cable row will help you activate large muscles of your upper and lower back. You’ll hit your lats, trapezius, and rear deltoids. You can also change it up with a resistance band or as a bent over dumbbell row.
Take Advantage Of The “After Burn”
Since you know how EPOC works, consider break up a longer workout into two shorter ones. Make sure the aerobic exercise intensity is high enough that it will take time for you to recover. If you burn 10% more calories for three hours after your workout, you that can mean you’ll burn an extra 100 calories a day breaking it up.
Make General Physical Activity And Lean Muscle Your Friend
Don’t make your gym workout the only way and time you are thinking about burning calories. Find time to stand and walk for a few minutes each hour. Park farther away, take more trips to put things away, and walk while you talk with friends. Depending on your size, this can be up to an additional 750 extra calories a day you’re burning.
If you’re able to get even one pound of muscle gain a month, that’s almost an extra pound of body fat per month you can lose. Building muscle is hard to do. And, if you don’t want to gain muscle, STILL DO RESISTANCE TRAINING. You should be doing resistance training two to three times per week. When you do weight training, your body breaks down the muscle tissue. Then, it takes 24 to 48 hours to put it back together. So, when you’re feeling sore, know that you’re at least burning more calories.
|Total Body Strength (30 min)||Rep||Equipment Needed: NONE|
|Pushups||10||Slightly inclined, full ROM, 2/2 tempo|
|Drop Squats||20||Focus on the deceleration, explode at the top|
|Body Weight Squats||20||Full ROM, 1/1 tempo|
|Plank Pikes||20||Hold forearm plank, round lower back lifting hips up then back to neutral, 2/2 tempo|
|Rest after 3 sets|
|Tricep Push ups||10||Toes, knees, or modified with hands elevated, 2/2 tempo|
|Hip Bridges||20||Single or double leg, 1/1 tempo|
|Speed Lunges Right||12||Stationary, as quickly as possible|
|Speed Lunges Left||12||Stationary, as quickly as possible|
|Rest after 3 sets|
|Plank Pushup||10 ea.||10 leading up right, 10 leading up left|
|Full Burpee||15||Modified if needed (knees for pushup or w/o jump)|
|Lateral Lunge Right||20||Full range of motion, reach for floor|
|Lateral Lunge Left||20||Full range of motion, reach for floor|
|Rest after 3 sets|
|Cobra w Shoulder Press||15||Lift in floor cobra, arms lift up and shoulders back, press arms overhead, return.|
|Mountain Climbers||As fast as possible for 30 seconds|
|Walking Lunges||2m||Alternating, weighted if possible|
|Forearm Plank||30s||Modified if needed|
|Type: Cardio||Equipment Needed: NONE|
|Client Type: ANY||Goal Type: Weight loss, general cardio|
|Burpees- Low Impact||30 sec||Step out at bottom (vs jump) and body weight squat (versus squat jump)|
|Alt. Stepping Lunges||30 sec||Right then left, no weight|
|Jacks||30 sec||Low impact for regression, full arm ROM for progression|
|Plank Hand Touches||30 sec||In push-up position, touch R hand to L and L hand to R.|
|Total: 8 minute circuit|
|Plank Jacks||30 sec||In hand or forearm plank position, hop both feet wide, then hop both feet back together|
|Body Weight Squats||60 sec||Perform quickly and without pausing|
|High Knees||60 sec||For progression, add arms. Regression, no impact.|
|Speed Skaters||30 sec||Regression without hop, progression jump farther and react faster|
|Total: 12 minute circuit|
|10 Squat Jumps/10 Body Weight Squats||2 min||10 leading up right, 10 leading up left|
|Boxer Shuffle||30 sec||Add arms or jump lunges to add intensity|
|Burpee Full ROM||30 sec|
|Side Plank Hold||30 sec||30 seconds each side for total 60 seconds|
|Total Circuit: 15 minutes|
|Horizontal Side Jumps||30 sec||Jump to the R side, jump to L side|
|Mountain Climbers||60 sec||As fast as possible for 30 seconds|
|Cobra to Shoulder Press||60 sec||Alternating, weighted if possible|
|Forearm Plank||30 sec||Modified if needed|
|Total Circuit: 12 minutes|