Putting theory into practice

By Raymond Onyango

Last week we established some facts about weight loss; one untruth that we laid to rest, is the myth that you can somehow melt away fat from your body by using pills, diets or even exercise. We went back to our high school physics and the laws of energy which state that energy cannot be destroyed only converted, and we looked briefly into the processes that help you use up fat energy including workload, rate of breathing and body temperature.

Today we will take all of these complex sounding theories and break them down into a simple exercise format that any one of you readers out there can perform even in the comfort of their own home – a format known as circuit training. Circuit training is a form of body conditioning exercise that combines strength training and high intensity aerobics in a fast flowing format that allows for very little rest if any, between exercise stations.

As far as exercise goes, nothing will get you to loose more weight in a shorter time than circuit training and here is why. Remember our holy trinity of weight loss – workload, rate of breathing and body temperature? Well, circuit training is one of the only forms of exercise that maximizes all of these three factors in a sustainable way. Lets look at this a little more closely;


Circuit training is hard – not because you are lifting much weight, but because you are making use of a loophole in the design of the human body to make your heart beat much quicker. Have you ever wondered why you tend to feel sleepy after a heavy meal? Well this is because, your body has only a limited amount of blood (about 5 liters in an adult) but this is often not enough to power all of the body’s activities all of the time. So the body runs a blood-rationing program, where after a heavy meal, blood is shunted from the brain and the rest of the body to the digestive system, causing you to feel sleepy and tired at the same time.

This same process is at work during Circuit training, when you do a set of squats, your body shunts enormous amounts of blood into the leg muscles to sustain the increased workload and then when you turn around and do a set of push ups, you body has to send blood back to the upper body again. This alternation between upper, lower and core body exercises is what gives your cardiovascular system such a kick in the butt and makes circuit training one of the most effective all round forms of exercise and weight loss.

Rate of breathing

The rate of breathing naturally increases with an increase in your workload, but unlike jogging or weight training alone, circuit training packs a particularly spirited punch in the weight loss department and for good reason. In a traditional workout, you would warm up in the cardio room, do your sets on the strength machines leisurely and then maybe cool down later on a cardio machine. Often this will take you an eternity and get you little success.

Circuit training is the exercise equivalent of multi tasking, in the sense that it is actually a cardiovascular, strength, core and flexibility workout all wrapped into one.  This is where that fat goes – it goes into powering your legs when you do that set of squats.  Into powering your cardiovascular system in order to get the huge amounts of blood, oxygen, carbon dioxide in and our of working muscles often at different extremities of the body and plenty of it is also lost in the heat generated and lost by your body though sweating  – which is something people tend to do a lot of during circuit training.

Body temperature

Talking of sweating  – the idea behind a circuit training workout is to keep the sweat taps turned on permanently for the entire duration of the workout.  To do this successfully you have to be smart about your approach to pacing yourself. One tool you could work with is the talk test. If you are really working at the right intensity you would not be able to hold a conversation with the fellow next to you, but you should still be able to answer to your name when called. Somewhere between those two extremes is the body’s most efficient fat burning zone and that is the place where a well designed circuit will keep you for longest time possible.

As we learned last week, the human body operates at just about 20% thermal efficiency, meaning that for every 100 calories you burn only about 20 of them go into performing the actual exercise, as many as 30 of them may be lost in heat and the remaining 50 in metabolic processes including increased rate of respiration.

Working up a sweat and building muscle tone are the two things that will get you to loose weight the quickest, and circuit training is the one form of exercise that delivers both of these in bucket loads. Get on the Internet and learn about circuit training or otherwise talk to your fitness instructor about designing a circuit type program for you, you body will never be the same again!

Have a fat burning week will you!