In Part 1 of our interview with Master RKC, Geoff Neupert, we talked about why kettlebells feel heavier than the same size dumbbell or an equivalent weight on a barbell. We talked about how simple it really is to lose fat and why strength training is essential to fat loss.
Today in Part 2, Geoff breaks down the elements of his typical fat loss program, why a prototypical "gym program" is poisonous to fat loss – especially for women, and why "feeling the burn" isn’t always going to get you ripped.
KettlebellWorkouts.com Interview Series: Fat Loss Tips from Master RKC, Geoff Neupert – Part 2
Geoff: For any program, we want to emphasize quality over quantity, but it’s always the flip. I tend to write my strength training programs, all my programs no matter what they are, for the general population so it’s a cookie cutter three day a week program. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question. “What can I do on my off days?”
I’m like, just take the day off.
Chris: That’s why they’re called off days.
Geoff: “Well, what do you mean? Can’t I go out and do some more swings or go run, bike, or do some jump rope?” I say, “Let me ask you something. Let me flip this around. Why do think I only have you training three days a week and have you doing nothing the other four days a week?” That usually gets them to pause long enough to think about that.
For fat loss if you’re not getting eight hours of sleep a night don’t bother working out, in my opinion. We talked about dairy and inflammation, well if you’re not getting eight hours of sleep a night and giving your body the opportunity to regenerate and recover you’ve got all that inflammation anyway so that impedes your fat loss.
I think probably the two places to start are nutrition and recovery. Get your eight hours of sleep a night, dial in your nutrition. It’s not hard, focus on a nutritional plan that supports your metabolism instead of makes you neglect your body and neglect your mind and spirit. Then get your strength training program for fat loss dialed in.
There’s my general philosophy. Is that general enough?
Chris: That was great actually. What I’d like to do throughout the call is I want to touch on those three elements. Because primarily we’re talking about kettlebell training, let’s start out with a whole workout, all of it, a typical Geoff Neupert classic program for fat loss. Let’s dissect it and break it up into parts and into elements that you think are really important. What are some of the essential elements in one of your fat loss programs?
Geoff: Okay, that’s a great question. I want to just back it up a little to where I’m coming from. My two favorite sports are wrestling and Olympic weightlifting. If those aren’t you favorite sports or your listener’s favorite sports, I’m sorry. You’ll just have to learn to like them because they’re that awesome.
Seriously, when you think about the types of athletes that these two sports produce they’re generally very strong. I’m going to coin a term here and maybe call it explosive stamina. People don’t think that you have to have a lot of stamina to lift heavy weights one time, but you have to have a tremendous amount of stamina to be able to do that, that’s the weightlifter.
Then the wrestler is on the opposite end, he is exerting just enough force to overcome and manipulate and essential destroy, for lack of a better word, his opponent. So, you find a bunch of different qualities in those two athletes that pretty much sum up all of athletics.
My fat loss programs are based on my philosophies of training as a wrestler, training wrestlers as a strength coach, and training as a weightlifter. That being said, that’s the background, that’s where I’m coming from.
So, probably the number one hallmark of my balanced program is the emphasis on gaining strength. That’s probably the one motor quality that all others are built on, so in my opinion it makes sense that it should be a focus, if not the focus. Does that make sense?
Chris: It makes sense. Now, I’m going to play the typical female fitness client and ask you the question, and I want you to try to dispel this. If I’m trying to get strong am I going to get big and bulky?
Geoff: No, you will not. Next question.
That’s a great question. For women that’s a really important obstacle to overcome. The reality is women do have a great percentage of slow switch muscle fibers in relationship to their fast switch muscle fibers than men, so if a woman wants to get big and bulky she’s going to train at a higher volume, a higher times lifted per exercise training session with more repetitions. That’s going to pack the muscle on her.
If she wants to get lean, tight, and hard, she’s going to do exactly the opposite and I’m going to give you a very personal example here as soon as I’m done explaining this. So, she will lift very, very heavy weights or moderate weights very explosively for very low reps and a very low total volume. She’ll be accessing the muscles in her body, the Type 2B and Type 2A, primarily Type 2B.
Chris: Those are your fast switch muscles, yes?
Geoff: Your fast switch muscles, that’s right. What people fail to understand about those muscles are that they’re biggest and strongest muscle fibers in your body and therefore they require the most amount of energy, they use the most amount of energy. That’s why I always focus on strength work in my fat loss programs, because I’m trying to get your body or the body to burn energy.
Back to my example. My wife played volleyball in college. Before I was her strength coach my boss was her strength coach. My boss was a great speed enhancement guy, but he’s a terrible strength guy. So, he took my wife, who wasn’t even my girlfriend at the time, and one of her teammates. Her teammate, the poor girl, was already a little on the chunky side and short, she was like a defensive specialist.
My wife, who is 5’6” she was about 140 pounds at the time and she had a vertical jump of 29.5 inches.
She did some really crazy stuff after I got a hold of her. She’s just naturally talented. But, he said to them, “Here’s your off season training program. We’re going to lean you out, we’re going to get you cut up.”
What he had them do is total body training three to four times a week with three to four of around 15 to 20 reps. This is off season training, so the girls are training and they’re eating. What do you think happened to those two girls? On a workout designed to tone up a woman, because that’s the standard tone workout, right?
Chris: Absolutely. So I think I know what happened to her and her friend, but why don’t you let everyone know.
Geoff: My wife hulked up to 155 pounds. This other girl, I don’t know what she hulked up to, but she went from being short to looking like a fire hydrant, poor girl. Then my wife’s vertical jump dropped down to 26 inches.
Chris: So, she lost three inches on her vertical, gained 15 pounds on a "typical gym program"!?!
Geoff: Yes, she lost three and a half inches off her vertical and gained 15 pounds. Now, she was pretty muscular and kind of hulked out, but that was exactly the opposite of what she was trying to do.
Then I became the strength coach the following season and we got it off of both of them. Most of it off the other girl, got it all off of my wife and got her vertical jump back. We did sets of, ready for this, sets of two reps.
Chris: And that’s as close to maximal weight as I guess that would be safe for an athlete of her caliber, right?
Geoff: Yes. I’ll give you the exact program. So, if you guys want to write this down on the call, this worked great.
I was helped, of course, by my weightlifting coach at the time, brilliant man named Alfonso Durran who lives in west New Jersey. I credit 99 percent of my success as a professional in this industry to his downloading all his knowledge to my brain every Saturday for four or five years.
It was two exercises a day, one upper body and one lower body. So, like a squat and an upper body. Then the next workout was a dead lift and an upper body. It was 70 to 90 percent of one rep max and it was two to 10 sets of two reps.
Chris: How much rest in between each set?
Geoff: As much as they needed.
Chris: As much as they need, so full recovery so that you can get as close to 100 percent recovery and lift those weights with perfect form and full explosion.
Geoff: Yes. Actually, I think I’m missing a component too, but we’ll leave it at that. So, it was 70 percent for 10 sets of two and then we would add either two and a half or five percent every training session, so over the course of six weeks they were up to 90 percent for two or three sets of two reps and all their power came back and they dropped off the excess weight.
Chris: For the people that are listening right now, they may think that we went off on a tangent there, but to stress the point that Geoff is trying to make is that he had his girlfriend at the time who was a very lean volleyball player who ended up bulking up on a typical “gym program” had her lean lifting explosively with close to maximal weight for only two repetitions.
So, what a lot of people would consider maybe like a high strength program that would get them big and bulky, he was able to get her back down and lean and functional and performing incredibly by using almost maximal weight, so lifting relatively heavy for two reps per exercise, lots of sets.
Geoff: That’s exactly right. That was only twice a week and of course she was doing some other conditioning work, but she was doing other conditioning work after that other program too, the coach would make her and the other girl do bike sprints afterwards or run the stairs afterwards.
They were still working their conditioning at the same time, so you could argue, “Well, you just added conditioning.” No, the conditioning was already there.
Chris: Right. So, the only variable you were changing was the strength work.
Geoff: That’s exactly right.
Chris: Point taken. Okay. Hopefully that will dispel a lot of the myths for women about, “I’m going to get big and bulky if I lift to maximal weight or if I exert that much effort.” Hopefully that story will dispel that myth for good and now you can go onto the call listening with a clear conscience knowing that you are not going to end up looking like Hulk Hogan or his daughter, you get the point.
So, the strength element is one of the essential elements of a fat loss program. What else is there, Geoff?
Geoff: Then it’s all about creating work. The beautiful thing if I’m using kettlebells I get to lift people heavy, so that’s in relation to what they can do fast. Remember, wrestling and weightlifting are my two sports, I also dabbled a little bit in power lifting.
Middle weight power lifters are also incredibly muscular and incredibly lean, so you can work both sides.
Let’s back this up. When I talk about strength I’m talking about force and the development of force. Force is a measure of work. If you we can get you to work harder then you’re going to burn more energy. We can all agree on that?
So, if you’re looking at the equation for generating force, force is equal to mass times acceleration. Mass is moving a heavy object, acceleration is moving an object quickly.
We were talking about my wife and her volleyball days and lifting heavy objects. Let’s look at the other end, and this is where the kettlebell is such a beautiful tool because you have exercises like swings and jerks for advanced lifters, snatches for intermediate lifters, clean and jerks for advanced lifters. But, you have this fast ballistic explosive component that enables you to do more work.
I always try to include something heavy and then something fast and explosive in there. That would be the second thing then, heavy and fast. Then the third thing that we like to argue about amongst ourselves is this idea of producing enough work to generate EPOC, the after burn effect, excess post exercise oxygen consumption or your body’s ability to burn more calories after exercise than during. That’s preferable, so a lot of us end up doing somewhere between 15 and 20 reps on some other exercises.
That’s pretty cool, but I prefer some of the lower reps and I prefer to manage my fatigue, because the problem with doing 15 or 20 reps is your fatigue levels go way up. When your fatigue goes up, a lot of people don’t talk about this, when your body gets fatigued and you accumulate fatigue, especially when training for fat loss, you product lactic acid. That’s that tight feeling you get, kind of like that pump or that burning sensation in your muscle.
The problem with that, as you know and people on this call know, is you can no longer produce force in that state. So, if you can’t produce force then you can’t do as much work and if you can’t do as much work then you can’t burn off as much energy.
So, what I’m always trying to do is manage how much work I can do at any given time. I’m trying to maximize work output while minimizing fatigue. That’s the third component in my fat loss programs.
Chris: And again that’s emphasizing quality.
Geoff: Yes, emphasizing quality. Here’s the interesting thing. What do you think you’re going to have better quality reps on, cleaner reps with better movement quality? Hopefully we’ll get into that concept a little later.
Do you think that you’re going to have better movement quality with something that you can do five times or something that you can do 20 times?
The more complex the movement the lower number of reps you should do. The more simple the movement the higher number of reps you can do.
It’s a simple motor task versus a complex. I hope we’re not getting over your listener’s head, I’m trying not to be scientific, but I just want to point out that I place a lot of thought into these programs for very specific reasons.
Stay tuned for Part 3 where Geoff and I discuss why you need to move properly to be able to lose fat optimally and how to build slabs of rock hard muscle using only kettlebells.