The Myth of "Fat Loss" or "Running Specific" Programs

For this week's post, I wanted to focus on a question that comes up every now and then in training: is there such thing as a "running specific" or "fat loss" program?

Now, before I answer, allow me to rant:

Party trick? Sure.  But training wise, it makes about as much sense as setting your face on fire.

Party trick? Sure.  But training wise, it makes about as much sense as setting your face on fire.

One of the worst things about the fitness industry is the jargon that's used on an everyday basis.  Terms like "muscle confusion" do nothing but make you confused (not to mention, it doesn't exist). "Sport-specific" is just another name for "human specific."   And "functional?"  Well, I'm not sure what that means anymore, especially when Bosu balls are involved.

So, before you heed the advice of these fitness charlatans, let me say this: 90% of the time, it's all marketing.  

With that said, I do want to say that "running" and "fat loss" programs actually do exist, but on one condition:

You need to already be strong.

By no means do I think that everyone should be doing the same exercises.  That's when other factors such as mobility, stability, injury history, logistics, and training age all come into play.  But, when it comes to training for certain qualities or goals in the gym, just getting stronger is going to be more productive than anything else.

Why? I like to use Mike Boyle's bucket analogy: let's say you have 3 buckets (one for mobility, one for cardio/conditioning, and one for strength).  Whenever I meet someone, I'm trying to assess what buckets have water, and what buckets need to be filled.  Most often, the bucket for strength is almost dry as a bone.

Why does looking at this picture make me thirsty?

Why does looking at this picture make me thirsty?

If that's the case, then it makes no sense to pile weight on a "running specific" exercise like a single leg squat, if someone can hardly do a goblet squat.  On the "fat loss" side, why would I run someone into the ground (literally), if they don't have the strength to pick themselves back up?  Like other areas of life, the unsexy side of training is where you're going to see the majority of your results.

How can you determine if you've filled your strength bucket?  I'm a big fan of the following numbers:

Deadlift: Men - 2x bodyweight / Women - 1.5x bodyweight

Squat: Men - Front Squat Bodyweight for 5 / Women - Front Squat 0.75x bodyweight for 5

Push:  Men - Bench Pressing Bodyweight for 10 / Women - Bench Pressing 100 lbs for 5

Pull: Men - 5 Pullups / Women - 1 pullup

If you're meeting or exceeding the numbers above, well then, you're strong!  Heck, you can even break out a few dance moves like this little guy:

Furthermore, when someone is able to hit the numbers above, I have no problem changing around their exercises or even decreasing the focus on weight training....I know, you're shocked!  Why? If you're able to hit all of the numbers above, then strength is NOT your problem.

For what it's worth, I've also noticed that there's also a bit of a spillover effect when it comes to getting strong, where the other two buckets tend to get filled as well.  Once you're stronger, you tend to fix yourself from the occasional aches, pains, and mobility problems.  And, when you can lift heavier things, your work capacity goes up as well (lugging around 50 lbs isn't a problem when you can pick 300 off the floor).

It's true that a rising tide lifts all boats, even if you're training for something specific.  And in this case, the tide can safely be called Strength.