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(An excerpt from Alwyn Cosgroves Newsletter Dec 16 2008)
I’m a huge believer in using the “alternating set” system when training in the gym. For time management reasons, I tend to do exercise one for a set, rest 60 seconds or so, do exercise two for a set, rest 60 seconds or so, and continue. This allows me to increase work density while still getting “true” rest.

In other words, I perform a set of squats, rest 60 seconds, perform a set of push-ups, rest 60 seconds, and repeat. So in effect, I’ve almost tripled the rest period between squat sets (60 seconds plus the time taken for push-ups plus 60 seconds) as opposed to using a straight set system. And for fat loss training, it’s unparalleled.

However, the biggest problem or complaint I get from clients who use commercial facilities is that it’s really hard for them to tie up two pieces of gym equipment at peak hours. I have my own facility, but I realize this can be a real problem elsewhere. So I started experimenting with a few things–doing dumbbell lunges and push-ups for example or step-ups and dumbbell bench presses where I could use one set of dumbbells and one piece of equipment.

It was an okay compromise, but it started to somewhat limit my exercise selection. And to be honest, it still had the issue of people working in and possibly disrupting your rest periods.

So I went a step further. What if I created a fat loss or conditioning program based around one piece of equipment where you stayed in the same spot, using the same load for the entire duration. So I tried it. At first it was awkward, but after reading Istvan Javorek’s work and talking with über strength coach, Robert Dos Remedios, I started to implement different variations of combination lifting.

I just hoped that it would work as well as alternating sets for fat loss and conditioning or at least close enough that it wasn’t too much of a tradeoff. As it turns out, it worked better! In fact, it worked so well that it became a cornerstone of my conditioning programs with several athletes.

Part two
Part two of the evolution of our fat loss programs came shortly after. I have always recommended interval training as a superior form of fat loss over steady state cardio. Interval training is essentially periods of hard work alternated with easier periods of work using a cardio exercise.

The problem–running a mile doing intervals involves about 1500 repetitions. For someone looking to cut body fat, and hit total body weight training two to three times a week, that is a lot of extra volume and potential joint stress. So I started thinking. Interval training is similar to weight training in that it involves sets (and reps) followed by a rest period (albeit active). What if I used a lighter version of traditional strength training and created metabolic circuits?

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Timed sets

This is the simplest variation of metabolic work. Pick a load that is about 80% of your 10RM. Perform as many reps as possible at a constant tempo for a period of time (e.g. 60 seconds) and try to perform as many repetitions with as good form as possible. Rest for 15-30 seconds and perform another exercise.

Example #1

Barbell reverse lunge, left leg, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds
Barbell reverse lunge, right leg, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds
Barbell push press, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds

Repeat three times for a 12-minute routine.

Example #2

Kettlebell swings, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds
Push-ups/burpees, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds
Prowler push, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds

Repeat for five rounds for a 12-minute finisher.

Alwyn always has great info.

Get Strong! Stay Strong!

Chris

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Comments
  1. Dear Chris, I LOVE reading your blogs. What a terrific workout for everyone. Changing things up so that we aren’t just rats on a treadmill is SO important to staying inspired and MOVING forward. I wrote a great article on childhood obesity (http://www.bodyimagemastery.blogspot.com)and how imporant it is for EVERYONE in the family to simply get moving!

    I spent my childhood locked inside of obesity and after losing 100 pounds in my early twenties, I have been graced to embrace exercise ever since. As a Body Image Mentor, I now counsel others to create lives around healthy eating and movement — lives they can find inspiring and enjoy. Movement is far more than just caloric burn — it is fun, it is social, it is a path to true, lifelong health.

    Thanks for sharing the good stuff!

    Laura Fenamore, Body Image Mastery Mentor
    http://www.LauraFenamore.com

    Blog: http://www.BodyImageMastery.blogspot.com

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