Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lose Your Love Handles

By John Romaniello

When it comes to losing fat, we’ve all experienced the dreaded plateau. You work hard and make good progress in the beginning, and then you hit a wall. Things are slow going from there, and you make on-and-off progress.

Why? Why isn’t fat loss a linear process?

When you get to the final stages of leanness, it’s not enough to just keep doing the same things you’re doing; it’s not enough to reduce calories and exercise more.

You’ve probably also noticed that when you hit a plateau, fat loss doesn’t just slow down all over; it begins to reveal other things. When you’ve lost the first several pounds — whether that means 20, 50 or even 100 pounds — you’ve lost the "easy" fat. As your fat loss slows, you’ll notice that you’re holding fat in some areas more than others. In fact, you may be holding all of your fat in one or two specific areas.

We tend to call these “trouble areas.” These vary from person to person, but generally, men will deal with trouble areas in the love handles and belly, while women will have them in the hips and thighs.

Why do we have these trouble areas and how do we fix them?

This has to do with your hormones. At the later stages, fat loss is not just about calories in vs. calories out. It’s not just about energy debt or cardio or even (to a lesser extent) diet, although all of those things do factor in quite a bit, obviously. Really, it’s about your hormonal environment and the way that affects fat storage and, thereby, fat loss.

When your fat loss has stalled and you’re trying to break through that wall, or when you’re trying to rid yourself of those last stubborn 5-10 pounds, it’s a hormonal battle.

Far and away, the most common incarnation of this issue in mean is sagging love handles.

My own battle, and that of many of my male clients, revolves around love handles and lower back fat. When I’m dieting or getting ready for a photoshoot, it can take me several weeks to get rid of the fat in this one area, even when I’m very lean everywhere else.
As mentioned above, the reason many men, myself included, tend to store fat is due to the effects of hormones on fat storage. The hormone responsible for love handles is insulin.

The degree to which you are able to process and respond to glucose (sugar) levels in your body is called "insulin sensitivity." The higher this is, the easier and more efficiently your body uses carbohydrates for energy and the less likely you are to store carbs as fat.

If you’re insulin resistant, on the other hand, you don’t deal well with carbs. And anything other than a low-carb diet pretty much means you’re going to be storing more fat overall, specifically in the love handles. If you’re insulin resistant and you still eat a lot of carbs, then your glucose clearance from the heavy carb load is going to be compromised and hormonal receptor sites in your love handles and lower back are going to be overloaded.

The good news is that insulin resistance (and the resulting cascade of regional fat) can be mitigated with certain types of diet and training.


You can see in gyms across the world the rampant use of “site specific” spot training. This is a futile attempt to thrash the last bits of fat from the edges of your body and does little to help you understand why nothing has worked up to that point.

My friends, the time for side bends and ab-twister machines is over. In fact, it should never have ever begun.

The reality is that these “spot-reducing” exercises often carry an abysmal level of total-body taxation. That is, they are incredibly easy and contribute very little to improving your insulin sensitivity.

Sure, you may drop a bead of sweat and cringe at the burn through your midsection, but the reality is you are probably wasting your time.

Big, dynamic multi-joint movements strung together in a specific way will provide the results you crave and rid you of those horrible handles of love. By doing this, we play into the power that hormones have on the body and use them as weapons.

One hormone in particular plays a major role.

Insulin Resistance vs. IGF-1

Insulin resistance can be combated very nicely by a hormone called IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor 1.

Producing extra IGF-1 through training will help you improve your insulin sensitivity and rid yourself of love handles and lower back fat.

We know that insulin resistance is very common, particularly in people who were previously overweight. So, if you have lost some fat and you’re now struggling to lose a bit more (and that fat happens to be in your love handles), I’m willing to bet you’re suffering from some degree of insulin resistance and an inability to efficiently clear glucose from your system.

In order to get rid of that fat, you need to do fat-burning workouts (obviously) and increase your insulin sensitivity to the greatest degree that you can. As a result, you need to employ metabolic resistant training (MRT).

MRT is the overarching theory that dictates how I design fat-loss training programs; it consists of using fast-paced, multi-joint movements to train the body to move more efficiently.

Because this style of training is extremely expensive in terms of energy (caloric) demand, MRT is excellent as a general fat-loss modality. However, perhaps more important is the fact that it's also an incredible way to produce IGF-1.

The Method

Using a combination of explosive exercises, speed drills and numerous varietals of traditional methods, train in a way that increases your agility, dexterity, and mobility.
Nearly all of your training sessions should be heavily dependent on variations of the best fat-loss exercises, which are compound, dynamic exercises that move your body through space.

My personal favorites are the lunge, overhead press, single-leg squat and bodyweight pulling. These exercises serve as the foundation for your fat-burning mission and can be built upon to provide variety to a number of different training protocols.

When setting up a workout, using a noncompeting order — like alternating lower body exercises with upper body exercises — is also a powerful variable. The extreme flow of blood from one side of the body to the next causes a great deal of systemic disturbance. Your heart is practically cracking your rib cage while it pounds to move enough blood from point A to point B.

Combine this with minimal rest, moderately high repetitions and adequate loads, and you've got one of the most effective fat-loss protocols known to man. As an added bonus, your cardiovascular efficiency will enjoy a nice boost.

Here’s a quick workout using the above concepts:

A1) Bulgarian split squat — 10 reps per leg
A2) Inverted row — 12 reps
A3) Push-up — 15 reps
A5) Reverse lunges — 8 reps per leg
A6) Pull-up — 6 reps
A7) Overhead press — 12 reps
A8) Plank — 60 seconds

Perform A1-A8 in a circuit fashion, moving form one exercise to the next with little to no rest. Perform a total of 6 rounds, resting 60-90 seconds between rounds.

Even though you’re only doing one abdominal exercise (the plank) and none for the actual area where you store your love-handle fat, this workout is far better for increasing insulin sensitivity — and therefore reducing love handles — than any workout with a bunch of side bends and twists.

Without the use of any spot-reducing movements, your love handles will melt before your eyes. However, a warning: This type of training takes effort — a ton of it.

If you’re not one to tolerate hard work, possess mental toughness or have a burning desire to break past the final stages of fat loss, this may not be for you. Sadly, sitting or lying in a machine while flexing the spine will not get you where you need to go, but it is a heck of a lot easier.

So, if you're plagued by love-handular fatitude, do yourself a favor and start incorporating some dynamic work and MRT into your programming in order to up-regulate every fat-burning mechanism your body has to offer.

Seeking the “burn” in your abdominals is a false altar when it comes to the final stages of fat loss, particularly when dealing with love handles.
By performing big, taxing exercises, a different type of deficit is created. Instead of starving yourself, the deficit comes from an increased metabolic rate and systemic up-regulation. Hormonal function is maintained, sanity restored and stubborn fat storage combated.

Armed with this knowledge, design yourself a program that combines each of the variables mentioned above. Stay committed to the mission, and in a few weeks' time, those love handles may not be such an impossible issue after all.


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