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Kenneth is the founder and head coach of One with the Water, a nonprofit swim school that offers need-based scholarships to children with special needs, adults, low-income families, and service-disabled Veterans. He is a certified US Paralympic Disabilities Swim Coach and a strength and conditioning coach.
It’s the conundrum the average gym goer struggles with on a regular basis. How do I burn fat faster? What kind of workout or exercise will melt the calories away? The simple truth is, strength training is the number one way to increase metabolism and burn more fat. Increasing muscle mass is the ticket to losing fat. Metabolically speaking, muscle tissue burns calories by using the energy produced through contraction - i.e., strength training, using barbells, specifically.
Barbell strength training provides you with the most efficient way to gain strength, lose fat, and increase your conditioning. For beginners using Starting Strength, the method I coach, with just three exercises, you can work the body’s most muscle mass at one time per exercise, using your body as the beautiful system it was created to be, and effectively burning fat in the process.
1. The squat: A compound exercise involving the bar resting parallel to the ground on your shoulders while squatting down to a set point, then rising from the squat position. The parallel back squat trains the erector spinae muscle groups, as well as the gluteal region, the hamstrings and the quadriceps. The only squat method we use and recommend is the technique outlined in the Starting Strength method.
2. Press/Bench Press: The bench press, another compound exercise, trains the pectoral muscles as the primary mover, but uses the triceps and deltoids as secondary muscles. The exercise as we teach it merely utilizes the bar, a flat bench, and barbell weights. No expensive gym equipment and no complicated machines.
3. The Deadlift. Commonly referred to as the king of weightlifting, this exercise involves lifting the loaded bar off the ground, rising to a standing position with the bar at hip level, then lowering it to the ground. It targets the largest group of muscles, including the gluteus maximus, all major muscles in your legs, your lower back (Erector Spinae), your neck, (the Trapezius muscles), and both your rectus abdominus and your obliques. To avoid injury, it is imperative that you train the exercise correctly, and for that, once again, we use the Starting Strength method.
Cardio is secondary to strength training for fat loss, but a tool nonetheless. Now, I may be biased, but our preferred cardio method is swimming. Because water is so much denser than air, swimming provides a full-body resistance workout, building lean muscle and burning calories. Swimming for an hour at a medium intensity or higher burns anywhere from 600-900+ calories, depending on your weight.
Additionally, swimming is kinder to your body than other traditional forms of cardio, especially your joints, with the bonus of supporting your overall cardiovascular and mental health. In fact, there is scientific evidence that swimming and other aerobic activities specifically help lessen the systemic inflammation that leads to heart disease. And, swimming can help reduce stress and alleviate symptoms of depression. It’s proven that aerobic exercise relieves depression and decreases stress thanks to the rush of endorphins and other mood-lifting chemicals in the brain. Alongside the brain boost, swimming incorporates the same alternating stretches and regular breathing patterns of many yoga and other relaxation practices, creating a calming, meditative experience.