How To Accelerate Fat Loss by Breaking Out of Your Set/Rep Plan

by Josh Hillis on January 18, 2013

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Breaking out of Standard RKC Sets and Reps for Fat Loss

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The RKC is a school of strength – and the programs we most often use put us into sets and reps that maximize…  wait for it…  strength.

While the maxim that just getting stronger and eating right will get you an amazing body still holds true, there are times when you will want to put your fat loss goal front and center.  And in those times, it’s worth some small sacrifices in potential strength gains in the quest for the body you want.

For the folks that feel like strength-is-awesome and fat-loss-is-stupid out there, keep in mind that many of your clients are coming for fat loss.  Kettlebell and bodyweight workouts are awesome for fat loss, and we can optimize the process by putting fat loss first.  And we can better serve our clients, by letting their goal be our goal, instead of pushing what we think is cool onto them.

Lets Take a Look at Popular RKC Strength Programs

Step Cycle: Ideal minimalist strength program

  • Work with a weight until it’s mastered, then move up to the next weight.
  • Works well with bodyweight skills.
  • Works well with a minimal number of kettlebells (and how most people started with RKC kettlebells back in the early 2000’s)
  • Efficiency is built in the 3-5 reps/3-5 sets range

Wave Cycle: Ideal for building strength in the long term

  • Weight is ramped up two steps up and one step back or three steps up and two steps back – repeated.
  • Standard barbell strength cycle
  • Efficiency is built in the 3-5 reps/3-5 sets range

Block Cycle: Ideal for staying efficient and strong at two different qualities of strength

  • Works well with kettlebells, barbells, bodyweight
  • Two week blocks, alternated often enough to stay efficient at both.
  • One of the two blocks builds efficiency in the 3-5 reps/3-5 sets range, and the other block builds some other quality (usually the other end of the spectrum 15-20 reps)

What all of these have in common is that they build and maintain efficiency and strength in the 3-5 rep, 3-5 sets range.  As much as I love me some 3-5 rule workouts, fat loss goal folks don’t need to be all spendin’ their whole life there.

Break Out and Accelerate Fat Loss

For fat loss, we want to deliberately do workouts we aren’t efficient at, on a regular basis.

“Regular Basis” is an important distinction – we actually want to build strength and efficiency in a set/rep plan, and then change on a planned and regular interval.  This is significantly more effective than doing workouts that are constantly varied or even totally random.

Randomness and “muscle confusion” are in vogue for fat loss, to the detriment of the fat loss industry.  At best, constant variation is good marketing, at worst, it shows massive ignorance on the part of the trainer.  In fact, every time I hear someone say “muscle confusion” or “I love my trainer ’cause we do totally different workouts all the time!” I want to smack the trainer all up-side the head.  I love variety as much as the next guy, but sometimes I just want to be all like, “Y’all do results much?”

Intelligent fat loss should be built on a long term plan that includes building one quality in one set/rep range, and then changing to another quality in another set/rep range that you aren’t currently efficient at.  While this is a slow boat to superhuman strength, it’s a speedboat to fat loss.

Set/Rep Ranges and Strength Qualities

  • 1-5 reps: Low Rep/Heavy Weight – Strength
  • 6-10 reps: Medium-Low Reps/Medium-Heavy Weight – Strength/Endurance
  • 10-15 reps: Medium-High Reps/Medium-Light Weight – Endurance/Strength
  • 15-20 reps: High Rep/Low Weight – Endurance

Again, we aren’t really interested in the athletic qualities we’re building, except that we need to consistently go from one end of the spectrum to the other.

It takes 4-6 weeks to build efficiency in a set/rep range.  That means that – for fat loss – we want to switch the set/rep scheme every 4-6 weeks – No sooner, and no later.

And while it can be popular to change “everything” every 4-6 weeks, it’s unnecessary.  You can keep the movements and the equipment exactly the same, and cycle just the sets/reps, and get all the fat loss results you want.

As a rule: Change the sets/reps for results.  Change the equipment or the movements only when you get bored with them.

The Josh Hillis Four Month Fat Loss Cycle:

Here is what an effective cycle of fat loss set/rep programs looks like over four months:

  • Month 1: 3×15
  • Month 2: 5×5
  • Month 3: 2×20
  • Month 4: 4×8

It’s pretty sexy, isn’t it?

Fat loss workout programming really is just as simple as going from one end of the spectrum to the other, consistently.

In general, the number of sets is inversely proportional to the number of reps.

What an actual workout could look like:

Supersets:

  • A1: Convict Conditioning Pushup Progression 3×15
  • A2: Heavy Kettlebell Swings 3×15
  • B1: Convict Conditioning Pullup Regression 3×15
  • B2: Goblet Squat or Two Kettlebell Front Squat 3×15

With 1 min rest between each superset, and then 3 minutes rest between A and B.

Giant Sets

  • A1: Convict Conditioning Pullup Regression 3×15
  • A2: Goblet Squat or Two Kettlebell Front Squat 3×15
  • A3: Convict Conditioning Pushup Progression 3×15
  • A4: Heavy Kettlebell Swings 3×15
  • With 3-5 minutes rest between each giant set.

Timed Density Circuits

How many rounds in 20 minutes, rest often as needed to maintain perfect form:

  • A1: Kettlebell Bent Over Rows x15L+15R
  • A2: Convict Conditioning Pushup Progression x15
  • A3: Heavy Kettlebell Swings x15

Fat Loss, Your Workouts, and Your Food

I can’t help closing out a fat loss article without mentioning food.  As always, your food is the foundation.  Your scale weight is entirely going to be a function of your quantity of food.  Your leanness, on the other hand, is going to be a function of your workouts and your quality of food.

Ultimately, with workouts, we are looking to effect your leanness at a given bodyweight.  Use your workouts to change your shape, change your muscle to fat ratio, and add lean, firm, tight sexiness to your body.

With the four month set/rep workout cycle above, and the right food, you can have the lean sexy body you’ve always wanted.

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Josh Hillis: RKC, NASM-CPT/PES/CES, Z-MRS/MIS, www.21daykettlebell.com.  Over the last 8 years as a personal trainer, Josh has worked with every kind of fat loss client, but he is a specialist in helping fit women lose the last 5-10 pounds of stubborn fat.   He’s been quoted by The Los Angeles Times, The Denver Post, he’s been in USA Today, and was a featured expert for Experience Life! Magazine.  Josh has written six books on fat loss and kettlebell training, created an audio program on fat loss nutrition for On Target Publications, and contributed a chapter “Fighter Workouts for Fat Loss” to The RKC Book of Strength and Conditioning for DragonDoor Publications.  Josh holds beginner and advanced fat loss nutrition workshops on a monthly basis at several kettlebell gyms in Colorado.  Josh is the creator and writer for www.LoseStubbornFat.com, which has over 32,000 subscribers in over 200 countries world-wide.

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  • Ben

    “Do ya’ll do results much” made me lmao… Thanks Josh

  • i am 66 years of age fairly active what kettle bell exersizes would suit me i have a 16 10 and 7.5 k/bells thanks terry

  • Doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. Kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, and bodyweight basics are the most efficient methods to fat loss. Strength-endurance routines burn the most Calories. At the age of 56, these types of routines have kept me very lean, while those frequenting the aerobic machines continue to struggle. Thanks for the circuit workout variations. I aim to utilize these for my female athletes.

  • Aj

    I have never used anything other then Kenneth Jay’s Viking Warrior program. There simply isn’t any need for thought, variation or anything else (at least for myself and those that I know who use it).

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