Not surprisingly, I strongly believe that workouts designed by a professional, and based on physical screenings and assessments, are the gold standard when it comes to getting fit. But, I’m also a realist and I know that most of my readers may be going to a gym and “winging it” with a workout from their past, or using a workout they found in a magazine or online.

So, today I’ll throw my hat into the ring for those who might be “winging it.” In fact, I’ll go one step further and give you some tools to design your own workouts that will give you results. That’s right, get ready for the secret I’ve been waiting to drop on you…it’s the secret formula for my most effective and time-saving workout strategy. And I call it “Brad’s Big 4.”

Brad’s “Big 4” Declassified
Before you get too excited, I’ll confess that my secret sauce is not really a secret. It’s more of a system that I use to stimulate the most muscle, and to burn a lot of calories using the fewest exercises possible—just 4 to be exact. As with many of the important lessons we learn in life, it’s just as important to know why we do something as how to do it. So let’s look at the foundation of the “Big 4” which is what we call Metabolic Resistance Training.

Despite many years of research and education, there is still a misconception among many people that you need to do “cardio” if you want to burn calories or fat. And indeed, thirty minutes on the treadmill will burn some calories. But, research has shown that this type of activity is at the bottom of our Hierarchy of Fat Loss. Most important in burning calories and fat is supportive nutrition, followed by resistance training. These two are the priorities if we want to be lean, toned, and look great.

The Time Crunch
Think back to last week when we talked about how I work out when I am pressed for time. Like you, my time is limited my workouts need to accomplish my goals quickly, otherwise, I won’t work out at all. Well, that goal is at the center of the “Big 4,” too. Let’s see how that connects using this simple diagram of a person showing the four main quadrants of the body and appropriate exercise for each. (I know I’m no artist, so I won’t quit my day job 😉)

  1. Upper/mid-back and posterior shoulders. Vertical and horizontal rowing variations.
  2. Chest and anterior shoulders. Vertical and horizontal pressing variations.
  3. Knee dominant. This classification is under debate in the fitness world, but to keep it simple, I mean exercises that require you to bend the knee to a more substantial degree. Think squat, lunge, and step up variations.
  4. Hip dominant. Glutes and hamstring exercises like deadlift and bridging variations.

The idea is during exercise, the body has to supply energy and oxygen to the muscles that are performing work. The breakdown of materials to supply energy (i.e. calories), and also to replenish depleted stores also takes energy. This chain of processes—energy use, energy supply and energy replenishment— is what can generally be referred to as metabolism. The subject of metabolism is highly complex, varies greatly by individual, and relies on many variables, but this is still a great place to start. So let’s get back to our diagram…

The basic principle is that during a workout session you do one exercise that focuses on each quadrant of the body, in a circuit arrangement. In this way, you are allowing one muscle group to perform the majority of the work, while the others rest. And these exercises are ordered or arranged according to a non-competing order of muscle groups.

“Wait, I read through all of that, and that’s all you got?!”

You may have heard of these concepts before and that’s because they aren’t new. Bodybuilders have been performing chest/back workouts and (if you take the quadrant concept deeper) bicep/tricep workouts for decades. These are called supersets, and those listed are examples of what is termed agonist/antagonist supersets. These types of workouts are great for growing muscle…if you have a lot of time at your disposal. But while many bodybuilders can spend 90 minutes a day in the gym, and maybe even fit in two workouts a day, I know most of us don’t have time for that.

But you’ll have to come back next week to find out the rest of my “Big 4” workout. So, sorry to leave you hanging, but I’ll be back soon…

–Coach Brad

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