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Body Composition

Body composition is as simple as it sounds, it is the composition of your body in terms of a percentage weight or mass. So a body fat percentage of 10 would mean that 10 percent of total bodyweight is made up of fat. By determining body fat percentage you can also determine fat-free mass, which is the amount of bodyweight made up of tissues other than fat.

Body composition is a broad topic and can be trained in many ways. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the best methods for losing fat and gaining muscle. Quite often the focus is on overall weight with no regard for body composition.

It has been stated and standardised through mainstream fitness ideals that the best and even only way to lose fat is to perform endurance or continuous cardiovascular exercise. It’s understandable where this came from. Performing such training does indeed result in greater losses of total bodyweight. However this is not necessarily a good thing because some of the weight lost is almost guaranteed to be muscle mass or other fat free mass.

The following outlines our basic protocol for fat loss and muscle gain.

Fat Loss

Fat loss can be achieved in various ways, which is why it is often confusing. Any amount of training will result in a loss of fat to some degree, provided the nutritional intake supports an energy deficit. Just because any sort of physical activity can result in fat loss, it does not mean that any sort of training will suffice when fat loss is the primary goal.

During aerobic (continuous cardio) training the body accesses fat as its primary fuel source. This has led to the belief that it is the best way to reduce fat overall. It is true, however it’s not the whole story. Aerobic exercise burns less overall energy than harder and faster modalities, plus it has a significantly lower sustained caloric use after the exercise session ceases.

Anaerobic exercise is different in nature. Anaerobic is any exercise that cannot be sustained for any longer than a few minutes at the same level of output. That’s the most basic way of putting it. During an anaerobic session the body is required to call on reserves a lot faster because it goes into oxygen and fuel debt. This results in energy being taken from wherever it is most accessible. This results in the burning of excess carbohydrates first, then dipping into fat stores afterwards.

The benefit of this is that the recovery process is much longer and the body tries to repay the fuel and oxygen debt for up to 24 hours after the session. This results in a sustained higher metabolic rate.

Although it is argued on both sides, I promote both modes as effective in fat loss efforts. Quite often people go all or nothing and either do heaps of aerobic work or they do none and only do high intensity intervals. Whatever the primary focus of the individual happens to be is what will be our primary focus, however we do not neglect other aspects. Someone who likes sprinting and high intensity intervals or even a strength and power athlete will obviously need to have a primary training measure in place, otherwise results are generic and not fully developed. This results quite often in weak links and struggled training sessions.

The Unleashed Training recommendation is to take a broad approach if there are no specific performance goals. This means engaging in both modalities for fat loss. We recommend doing a predominance of high intensity, short training sessions as well as throwing in some endurance training in the form of density training. For those with specific performance goals it is recommended that you most often use the modality that is most applicable to you and your sport, which will result in fat loss when combined with a diet that promotes such.

Muscle Gain

Muscle gain is one of those topics that is debated among the ignorant. Bodybuilders regularly contribute to articles in magazines that promote all kinds of strange methods. This is taken as truth because after-all, they are bigger than everyone else in terms of muscle mass. What is not considered are a couple of things; the first is that ALL elite, professional bodybuilders are on steroids and other drugs to increase muscle mass. This is because such use is not regulated. Secondly, bodybuilders are purely aesthetic in nature, there is absolutely no functional development going on. The majority of bodybuilders have large muscles that are completely out of context with everything except posing.

As you probably know by now, Unleashed Training does not promote muscle gain for the sake of it. There are no physique transformations, bodybuilders, models etc. Well there are but the looks they achieve are a result of the development of real fitness, not simply the outside appearance of such.

Taking the above paragraph into account, it should be noted and emphasised that muscle gain in the way we refer to it is exclusively functional and contextual. This means that muscle only needs to be gained if it serves a functional purpose. In addition to that, the muscle gained needs to be gained in a functional/contextual manner, not just willy-nilly and generic. That is why we use only functional, athletic type movements.

The protocol for muscle gain we use is simply progressively increasing the load lifted on certain compound lifts over a given time. We also promote a particular repetition range of between 8-12 simply because anything less will not provide adequate muscular stimulation to promote growth and anything more will activate non-specific enzymes and hormones. Having said that, these other repetition ranges have a place in different contexts.

The movements primarily used by us to stimulate muscle growth are the major compound lifts, not including fast-moving, highly dynamic lifts. So this includes squats, deadlifts, bench-press, pull-ups, push-ups, bent-over row, overhead press etc. It excludes Olympic lifts, dynamic kettlebell movements, plyometrics etc. That’s not to say we don’t incorporate these other movements in different contexts.

Body Composition as a Fitness Component

Body composition does not fit into the normal fitness component category. The balance of your body’s tissues contributes to performance as well as health, but it does so indirectly. The percentage of body fat you possess will determine what you are capable of in given circumstances. A rock climber would be adversely effected by higher body fat levels, whereas a heavyweight weight-lifter would benefit due to the extra energy the body is able to call on for recovery purposes.

In terms of health it is obvious how body composition is important. So we won’t even get into a rant about it here.

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