The simple (and complex) answer is that there is no “best way” to lose fat. Each client will respond differently to a training program. However, there are some principles fitness professionals can apply when designing their clients’ programs.
Whether or not your clients will get bigger muscles (hypertrophy) depends on three basic factors: genetics, gender and training intensity. Genetics is mostly manifested as muscle fiber type; people with predominantly fast-twitch fibers acquire larger muscles more easily than people with predominantly slow-twitch fibers.
Genetics also plays a role in whether or not your clients can obtain a flat stomach or a “six-pack” look to their abdominals. Having said that, two types of exercise can help: strength training and cardiovascular exercise. The abdominals are just like any other muscle group: For their definition to become visible, they must grow larger and the fat that lies over them must decrease.
It depends on the client’s goals. Many personal trainers think that performing strength training before cardiovascular exercise will augment the amount of fat used during the cardio workout because the strength training will deplete the muscles’ store of carbohydrates (glycogen).
Your clients do not need dietary supplements unless they have a documented vitamin deficiency or they do not eat a balanced diet. Using supplements as an alternative to a sound diet can lead to serious deficits in the consumption of other nutrients (Benardot et al. 2001).
Target heart rate—the heart rate range used to determine the desired intensity of an activity—will differ depending on the goal of the workout. You can calculate target heart rate using a percentage of your client’s heart rate maximum (HRmax), which can be predicted by subtracting your client’s age from 220, or by measuring your client’s heart rate while he or she performs a maximum exercise test.
Ignoring the effect of gravity in creating resistance during all movements, free weights (dumbbells) keep the resistance on the muscle constant throughout the joint’s range of motion (ROM), while weight machines use variable resistance, with the resistance changing throughout the ROM.
Soreness results from high force production when an exercise is new or a load is greater than normal. Furthermore, eccentric muscle contractions (in which the muscle lengthens, as when lowering a weight) cause more soreness in the days following the workout than either isometric contractions (in which the muscle does not change length, as when holding a weight) or concentric contractions (in which the muscle shortens, as when lifting a weight).
One of the biggest exercise myths is that you can lose fat in an area of the body by strength training or exercising that specific body part. The truth is that “spot reducing” and “spot toning” do not work, because we cannot dictate from where our bodies will decide to oxidize fat, nor can we change fat into muscle.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), your clients should exercise 20 to 60 minutes, three to five days a week for health/fitness promotion (ACSM 1995). Exercising only three days a week may be enough for previously sedentary clients to improve their fitness, but it will take more exercise to see further improvements.