Tag Archives: HIIT

Training Finishers for Fat Loss and Muscle Gain

Want to boost fat loss, improve your conditioning, build some extra muscle, and increase your mental toughness, all in less than 20 minutes?

Adding training finishers to the end of your workouts is an extremely effective way to do all of the above.

Most of the time Primal finishers take the form of either high-intensity cardio, a hard hitting bodyweight circuit, or a strength movement with a conditioning component built around improving mental toughness.

Since finishers are meant to be high-intensity, you only need to do them a few times a week and are not meant to be done after every training session. Doing finishers too often will jeopardize your recovery times and strain your central nervous system (CNS), and if you are working your ass off during the main components of your training sessions, they just aren’t necessary all of the time. Keep your finishers to 20 minutes in duration or less.

battle rope finishers

High-Intensity Cardio Finishers

Primal conditioning philosophy centers around high-intensity cardio and using finishers in this fashion is a perfect opportunity to burn some extra fat. High-intensity cardio burns more fat calories in a shorter period of time than steady state cardio like jogging or the stair climber, and it will have a long lasting metabolic effect, boosting fat loss for up to 24 hours after you have left the gym.

Here are some examples of high-intensity cardio finishers:

  1. Battle Rope Finisher: 3-4 rounds of battle rope for intervals of 30 seconds to 90 seconds or more. Non-stop movement of the ropes switching between rope slams (single and double arm variations), rope jumping jacks, and shoulder rotations. Rest 1-2 minutes between rounds.
  2. Hill Sprints: This is the most classic and effective fat burning cardio you can do. 5 – 10 sprints with 1-2 minutes rest in between rounds will do the trick. Your rest period includes time spent walking back down the hill.
  3. Sled and Prowler Work: Weighted sled pulls and sprints, and loaded prowler pushes make for brutal conditioning finishers. Pulls/pushes for 50 feet or more with short breaks in between movements work best.

Bodyweight Circuits

Bodyweight circuits are one of my favorite finishers to not only boost fat loss, but also build muscle and throw in some extra volume to my training sessions. You can do circuits with light resistance as well, but if you worked hard enough during the core of your training session it probably isn’t necessary. Bodyweight yields a good training effect while minimizing wear and tear on your body that increases recovery times. Using a circuit that recruits the entire body will boost the effectiveness of the finisher.

An example would be:

1a) Pushups x 10
1b) Recline Rows x 10
1c) Jump Squats x 10

Perform each exercise consecutively without rest in between. Completing all 3 constitutes one round. Rest 30 seconds to 2 minutes after each round. Perform 3-5 rounds.

Strength and Mental Toughness Finishers

These are my favorite finishers to use. I like leaving the gym knowing I gave it everything I had and really testing yourself at the end of a training session is a sure-fire way to end on a high note. The strength component of this finisher should involve heavy weight but with a movement that has little risk for technical error or injury. With this in mind, I often turn to heavy farmers carries or carrying odd objects like kegs, sandbags, or stones.

You will get a strength, muscle building, conditioning, and mental toughness training effect with this kind of finisher. I also like combining this type of finisher with high-intensity cardio as a form of contrast training.

A couple examples of this type of finisher would look like:

  1. Kettlebell farmers carries for 150 feet.
  2. Heavy object carries for 150 feet in a variety of positions (zercher, shouldered, cleaned, overhead). Keep in mind risk for technical error and increasing the difficulty with different positions since you are already fatigued from your entire training session.
  3. Farmers carries for 50 – 150 feet followed immediately by a hill sprint.

farmers carry finishers

Wrapping Up

  • Finishers are a great way to boost fat loss, improve conditioning, increase muscle mass, and build mental toughness.
  • The best finishers can be high-intensity cardio, bodyweight circuits, and strength and mental toughness movements.
  • Do not perform finishers after every training session because they can jeopardize your recovery times and increase CNS fatigue.

— Tank

Primal Nutrition: The Carbs at Night Myth

When I explain to people how I eat, and how I would recommend them to eat, I always get the same response.

“But Tank, doesn’t eating a lot of carbs at night make you fat?”

This cements the fact that fitness and diet myths are deep rooted and it makes my job as a strength coach even more important to help spread some truth.

Calories at night are not bad. Carbs at night are not bad. Eating this way will not make you fat.

But you will get fat by over-eating your carb and caloric needs throughout the course of the entire day.

Stuffing your face all day and then piling a huge dinner on top of that ups your chances of overshooting your caloric needs and packing on the pounds.

This is where it’s important to look at your diet as a whole (24 hour cycle) as opposed to meal by meal.

Primal Man vs Modern Man

Not eating a lot of carbs at night goes completely against Primal instincts and history, and is the complete opposite of our psyche and social patterns.

primal diet

Primal man under-ate throughout the course of the day because he was too busy grazing, hunting, fetching water, running from saber tooth tigers, and hustling his ass off to survive. After he returned home at night, he’d lounge around and feast on his daily conquests replenishing his glycogen stores from a hard day’s work, and sleep deeply with a full stomach. That nightly feast fueled him for the following day’s activity.

Fast forward to modern society. Our DNA has barely changed from Primal man. Our lives are somewhat different as far as our activity and exertion levels, but our routines and instincts are not. Most of us work during the day (albeit it sitting on our asses much more, which is another reason to not eat big during the day). At some point, we lift heavy weights and train. After work, current norms call for happy hours, social dinners, and family feasts where eating big is a natural occurrence. Our natural psychology makes kicking back and eating big at night appealing.

How I Recommend Eating

So why go against the grain of what our minds, bodies, and social patterns tell us? Is there a better way to approach our daily eating routines?

Of course there is.

First off, I’m a huge fan of intermittent fasting and under-eating during the day. And despite the potential backlash I get from the community, I’m not a big breakfast fan either. That’s a whole other story, but if you want the low-down on that, check it out here: Is Breakfast Really That Important?

Fasting allows you to burn body fat at a much higher rate naturally, and minimizes the amount of time you need to spend doing cardio. Under-eating during the day keeps your energy levels up and makes you much more productive.

(Besides, as I alluded to earlier, unless you work a manual labor job, you simply don’t need a lot of caloric intake during the day. An no, you will not go catabolic if you don’t eat every few hours. That’s another myth perpetuated by the fitness/supplement industry).

Then after a day of work and intense training, your body will be in a glycogen depleted state in the evening.

Enter the nightly feast.

Because you under-eat during the day, your body will be primed for calories and carbs, causing carbs to be much more likely stored as glycogen rather than fat. Eating big following the day’s activity will also promote recovery, muscle repair, and help put you in an enhanced anabolic state for growth.

Coinciding with our natural instincts, eating big at night will also promote deeper sleep, critical for protecting your nervous and hormonal systems. And by refueling your glycogen stores in the evening, you will be fueled for upwards of 12 hours, which will carry you well into the next day.

** Because you under-eat during the day, it is critical that you make up your caloric deficit at night and eat enough to put yourself in a caloric surplus if you are trying to gain weight **

Plus, you’ll probably be far happier eating this way and I can almost guarantee that this will be more conducive to your lifestyle and social schedule.

This is precisely how I eat, and how a lot of my clients eat as well. I’ve never strayed above 15% body fat eating this way, and if I need to gain weight, I just up my caloric intake for the day (I gained 20 pounds in 2 months this past summer maintaining this lifestyle to prep for a Strongman competition).

The Bottom Line

Look at your diet as a whole.

Eating carbs at night and increasing the caloric content of your nightly meals is just a way of shifting your eating patterns (which will align much more closely with your psyche, Primal instincts, social schedule, and your goals of fat loss and muscle growth).

This way of eating has been documented by countless studies, and I’ve been eating this way for years. Everyone I’ve ever converted to this style of eating is amazed at how quickly they see results, not only in their body, but in their mindset as well.

Don’t let the “carbs at night” myth mess with your lifestyle. In fact, eat big at night and start reaping the rewards.

— Tank

How Intermittent Fasting Gets You Shredded

If you follow my diet advice, you know I’m a big advocate of intermittent fasting.  I sort of stumbled into this lifestyle because I have never been a big breakfast eater.

Despite all of the rah-rah cheerleading and publications you read telling you that breakfast is the most important meal ofShredded Girl 3 the day, it just simply isn’t true.  Does breakfast have its benefits?  Sure.  But it’s not going to make the difference between you making gains or going catabolic.  For the low-down, check this out:

Is Breakfast Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

Traditional fasting can be anywhere between 12-72 hours.  With my diet, I don’t consume much of anything from 9pm until noon the following day.

My intermittent fasting lasts about 12-15 hours.  They are geared towards using my natural metabolic functioning to maximize fat loss, allowing me to still eat big and gain muscle mass, but eliminate the need for a lot of high-intensity cardio.

So how does intermittent fasting kick your fat burning ability into overdrive?

#1: Increases Fat Burning Hormones

One of the main reasons that intermittent fasting is effective is that it uses your natural hormonal cycles to help burn fat.

Growth hormone is the most important fat burning hormone in your body and fasting actually promotes growth hormone production.  Fasting also decreases your insulin levels, which ensures that you burn body fat instead of storing it.

This is part of the reason that skipping breakfast is beneficial.  Your insulin levels are at one of their lowest levels upon waking, meaning your body is in prime fat burning mode.  By eating, you are killing this advantage.  But if you don’t “break-fast”, you ensure that you keep your insulin levels low and prolong your natural fat burning state.

#2: Increases Fat Burning Enzymes

Your hormones need the help of fat burning enzymes to get their job done.  Intermittent fasting will boost the activity of two of the most important fat burning enzymes in your body. Adipose tissue Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL) is responsible for allowing your fat cells to release fat so it can be burned as energy.  Muscle tissue Lipoprotein Lipase (LPL) is responsible for allowing your muscle cells to take up fat so it can be burnt as a fuel.  By having elevated levels of both of these during intermittent fasting, you are naturally optimizing your ability to burn fat.

#3: Burn More Calories

Intermittent fasting increases your metabolism and adrenaline levels causing you to burn more calories during your fast.  The more calories you burn, obviously the more fat you will burn. Plus, you will see a boost in your energy levels that will fuel your productivity throughout the day.  Most people are surprised at this, but just think for a second about how you feel after a big meal.  I bet you feel like sh*t and need a nap…

#4. Burn Fat Instead of Sugar

Your body naturally burns carbs first and then fat.  Any extra food that your body can’t burn in the few hours after you eat gets stored as body fat.  But when you fast your body has no choice but to burn stored body fat because your blood sugar levels are depleted.  By the end of an intermittent fasting period your body is burning way more fat than it would eating every couple of hours.

Serge Nubret Intermittent Fasting
Serge Nubret is one of the best examples of how intermittent fasting can help you burn fat and still allow you to build muscle. He often ate only 1-2 meals a day.

Alright Primal Nation.  Go “starve” yourself for a few hours.  I promise you won’t go catabolic, and you may just burn some fat in the process.  I’d take that over slaving away on a damn stair climber any day…

Evolve!!

— Tank

Cardio For Getting Shredded

It kills me every time I walk into a gym and see 50% of the real estate covered in cardio machines.cardio

People churning away, reading magazines on a stationary bike, watching tv on the elliptical, chatting with their friends on the treadmill.  They are totally crushing the ‘fat burn program’ on that $3,000 heap of metal. They will be doing that for hours multiple times a week.

The problem is that there are far better ways to get shredded in much shorter amounts of time…

Steady State Cardio and the Fat Burn Zone Confusion

First, let’s clear up a misconception.  Word on the street is that you burn more fat during low intensity steady state cardio, such as walking or jogging.  Totally false.

While your body does burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities (50% of calories from fat) versus higher intensities (35% of calories from fat), at higher intensities you burn far more calories overall, ultimately leading to more fat calories (in a much shorter amount of time).

Confusing?  Let me put it this way.  If I walk on the treadmill for an hour and burn 250 calories, I may have burned about 125 calories from fat.  But let’s say I train Primal style and run several sets of hill sprints, followed by a high intensity finisher.  In about 20 minutes, I could burn 500-600 calories, with 210 calories from fat.  One-third of the time and far more fat burn…

Pretty eye opening right?

Get off the treadmill, crank up the intensity, and do work!

cardio

So what exactly do you do?

You have a number of options.

Hill Sprints or Sprint Intervals

Sprint hill.  Jog back down.  Repeat.

Sprint intervals are the same concept.  Sprint 20 seconds, rest for 20.  As you get better, increase the duration of the sprint and decrease your rest time.

Sled or Prowler Work

Load up the sled or prowler, strap yourself in and get to work.  Pull or push for distance.

Lately, I have been loading up a prowler with about 60% of my bodyweight and sprinting 40’s while pushing it. About 4 sprints with this is enough and a great finisher to heavy weight lifting.

MetCon (Metabolic Conditioning)

MetCon is really just a fancy word for interval training.  It is a short duration, fast paced workout designed to kick your metabolism into high gear and turn you into a fat burning machine for long after you have left the gym.  Under the MetCon realm, there are a number of options:

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

  1. You could lump hill sprints and sprint intervals into this, but when I think of HIIT, I use it with weights and different exercises.
  2. Weight circuits, where you pick 5 or so exercises, and perform them all consecutively for specified reps, with no rest in between.  That is one set.  Do several sets.
  3. Intervals, where you pick one exercise (say bodyweight squats), perform for a timed duration, then rest, and repeat is another.  Plyos work well here too.

Random Guidelines for High Intensity Training

women's cardio

  • Coupled with a 4 day a week weight lifting routine, 2 sessions a week should be enough.  Anything more and you are jeopardizing your recovery times.
  • Sessions should last roughly 20 minutes or so.  Anything more is overkill.
  • This is not meant for everyone.  If you cannot perform high intensity training initially, start with steady state cardio until you are capable.
  • High intensity is not an excuse for poor form.  Form trumps all.
  • Train outside when possible.
  • Metabolism is a function of muscle mass.  The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism is, and the more effective your training will be.

All the best!!

— Tank