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Fat Loss for Intermediates
Stepping up to the Next Level

by Tom Venuto - author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle

If you've been training for at least three months and now you're ready to kick it into high gear and start learning more about training and nutrition so you can get better and faster results, then this article is for you. If you're currently not working out at all and you'd like to know the best way to get started, refer to part one in this series: Fat Loss For Beginners - 8 Tips to Get Started. If you've been training for years and consider yourself "advanced," then the third installment in this series will be for you. But don't skip this one - you might learn something new you missed along the way.


Ok, so you just got started on a program of walking or light cardio and some basic lifting, maybe some dumbbell work, nothing fancy. You feel better, you've lost a few pounds, you have more energy and you're confident that you're getting healthier.

But you want more:

You want the results to come faster. You want to look in the mirror and really SEE the difference. You want other people to see the difference too. You want more than "a little tone." Maybe you want a nice hard chiseled six-pack with a small waist, or maybe streamlined, muscular thighs. Arms like Linda Hamilton perhaps? Shoulders like Carl "Apollo Creed" Weathers? A Brad Pitt "Fight Club" body maybe? Nothing too crazy - not a miss fitness Olympia body or the massive bulk of a Mr. Universe - but definitely better than average.

Well, if you're prepared to STEP UP to the next level and pay the price necessary to reach the next rung on the ladder, here's how you do it….

The answer is very, very simple. As you leave the novice stage behind, it's time to start WORKING HARDER. That's it! Were you expecting something more esoteric? Some secret Bulgarian periodization program and thermogenic - anabolic supplement stack? Sorry, but the secret is that there is no secret. A great body all boils down to outright effort and hard work. Not counting the genetic freaks who seem to have been born with muscles and zero fat, there's one thing that all people with great bodies have in common: they all work HARD, HARD, HARD!

If you want to ascend beyond the lowly beginner level you simply have to push yourself harder. And that means DIS-COMFORT. When you're pushing yourself out of the comfort zone, it hurts. Frankly, sometimes it sucks! But outside the comfort zone is where you grow. Staying inside the comfort zone will only maintain you at best but usually it sends you plummeting into a downward spiral. Most people retreat back into the confines of their comfort zone the minute the effort gets difficult. The comfort zone is a very dangerous place because if you slide back into the comfort zone even once, then it starts becoming a habit.

First, it's stopping just a few minutes short on your cardio or coasting on level 5 when you could be doing level 7. Then you start blowing off workouts completely. Pretty soon, you're sliding back in other areas of your life; you slide back from making those sales calls; you slide back from spending quality time with your family, you slide back from saving money and watching your finances. You become.... A BACKSLIDER!

You can either be a backslider or you can be an ACHIEVER but you can't be both and you can't "hang out" in between - it's one or the other. Although you might think you're safe just "maintaining" in the comfort zone, unbeknownst to you, you are always in motion in either a forward or a backward direction. There's no such thing as standing still; ask any physicist - everything in the universe is always in motion...vibrating... pulsating... growing or dying.

The ACHIEVER is the person who is aware that to "stand still inside the comfort zone" is akin to dying, so he or she is ALWAYS MOVING FORWARD. The only way to move forward is with hard work and effort in the direction of a specific goal.


Once you begin getting a taste of what real hard training is like, it often becomes tempting to succumb to the error of looking for the "easy way." An electrode on your abs, a "fat-melting" cream, a pill, a drink mix, a drug - anything and everything except sweat and hard work. But shortcuts will always fail you in the long run.

You are setting yourself up for so much trouble if you give in to the lure of the quick fix. You see, it's all about the Law of Sowing and Reaping. This great law of life states that your rewards can only come back to you in direct proportion to what you put in. Everything has its price and that price must be paid in advance.

If you were a farmer, how ridiculous would it be for you to skip the planting of the seeds in the spring and then go out in the fields looking for a harvest in the fall? How ridiculous would it be to stand in front of a wood burning stove and say, Okay stove, give me some heat and then I'll put in some wood?

But isn't it the same thing when you take a pill or attach some electrodes to your stomach, or smear some cream on your thighs and expect to lose the flab without exercise or eating right? Even if you've made the decision to avoid gimmicks, in today's marketplace, how do you know what's a gimmick and what's legit? After all, these marketing people are smart - they know how to play on your emotions and make gimmicks sound scientific. Don't feel bad; judging by the e-mails I get every day, most other people don't know the difference either. Nearly all of these e-mails include this sentence: Does "IT" work?

Here's how to tell if "IT" is a gimmick or not: If it makes getting in phenomenal shape sound easy and effortless, then it's a gimmick. If it addresses the symptom but not the cause - it's a gimmick. If your gut feeling says it sounds too good to be true - it's a gimmick. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.... it's a duck! Do yourself a favor and stop looking for a quick ride to the top. The elevator to success is out of order - you're going to have to take the stairs.


How would you like to learn a way to DOUBLE YOUR FAT LOSS in the next seven days? I know, I know - sounds like a gimmick, right? Well, it's not! It's really quite simple. To burn more fat you have to burn more calories. Most beginners start off with three days a week of cardio training. Usually they see some results initially because their bodies aren't accustomed to exercise and any increase in activity above no activity will always produce some results.

More often than not, the results begin to slow down a bit within a few months of training. Then they scratch their heads and wonder why it's not working anymore. This is why: Because three days a week is for beginners, and you're no longer a beginner. If you want twice as much fat loss and you want it twice as fast, double your cardio.

Suppose you burn 400 calories per workout for three workouts per week. That's a total of 1200 calories per week burned. If you doubled that to six days per week at 400 calories per workout, you would burn 2400 calories. YOU JUST DOUBLED YOUR FAT LOSS EVERY WEEK! That was a real no-brainer, wasn't it?


While we're on the subject of burning more calories, what would happen if, in addition to increasing your cardio from three to six days per week, you increased the intensity so that you are burning 600 calories per workout? With six workouts at 600 calories per workout you're up to 3600 calories per week. HOLY ABDOMINALS BATMAN, YOU JUST TRIPLED YOUR FAT LOSS! Yes it's that simple and the solution was right there in front of you all along. By the way, this kind of frequent cardio is how I reach 3 - 4% body fat for competitions: MINIMIUM six days per week of HARD cardio, 45 minutes per session.


After the initial novelty of starting a workout program wears off, one problem nearly everyone runs into is lack of motivation. I can personally confirm this just by the membership attrition (drop out) statistics in my health club. 50% of all people who join a health club quit in the first three months. Here's how you can prevent becoming a statistic….

Always be on the lookout for something to motivate and inspire you - anything! Go see a movie, watch a video, read a book or article. Hire a coach or personal trainer. Get a training partner. Think about your goals and write them out repeatedly. Pick a role model of someone you want to look like. Attend a competition. Enter a competition. Hang out with people who motivate you. Ditch the people who don't support you (I'm not kidding - get out of unsupportive relationships fast!) The list of motivational methods is endless.

Some people ask me, "why bother" with all that positive thinking, goal setting and motivational stuff? They insist that "motivation" doesn't last. I always tell them they're right! Motivation doesn't last - but neither does bathing and you do that every day, don't you? Every day you must ask yourself, "What can I do, find, listen to or watch to get inspired today?" Then follow through.
I recently watched a movie called Without Limits, which is the story of Steven Prefontaine, the runner. Even though I'm a bodybuilder and not a runner, that movie got me so motivated I ran to the gym and blasted out a leg workout like never before, smashing through several PR's (personal records). I also have the videos of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics narrated by Bud Greenspan. If watching Michael Johnson win his races and accept his gold medals doesn't motivate you, then nothing will.

For the bodybuilders, here's an old motivational stand-by. Watch (or re-watch) Pumping Iron. One of the absolute best ways to get motivated is to spend time in serious thought about what you want to accomplish and then write it down, which leads us to the next subject...


If you ever feel unmotivated and you want to get over it, just take a look at your goal list. What? You don't carry a frequently updated, written goal list around with you? Well, I guess we know why you're not motivated don't we?

Goal setting is not an event - it is an ongoing process. When you move up the ladder to intermediate status, the modest goals of a beginner are a thing of the past. "I am walking for 30 minutes three days every week" is a great beginning, but now it's time to move out of the minor leagues.

Goals are the fuel in the fire of motivation. Goals get you out of bed early and into the gym in the morning. Goals keep you on the treadmill for forty-five minutes when you feel like stopping at thirty. In a set of ten reps, goals are what make you push for that eleventh and twelfth rep.

Goals are so much more powerful than you can imagine. Read any book on the subconscious mind, such as "Psycho Cybernetics" by Maxwell Maltz or "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind" by Dr. Joseph Murphy and you'll begin to understand why goals are so important. If you don't have goals...and if you don't have a new set of them every few months, then you're not ready to move up to the next level. And one last thing - a goal is not a goal if it's not in writing - its only a wish (as in wishy-washy).


A full body routine performed three days per week is probably the best way for a beginner to start weight training. However, this routine gets old fast. Within months or even weeks, you will outgrow it and you'll need to add exercises.

The problem is, the more exercises you add, the longer your workouts will become. If your workouts are too long, you begin to reach a point of diminishing returns, and ultimately, the excessive duration has a negative effect. The solution is a split routine. A split routine means that instead of doing all your exercises in one session, you "SPLIT" your body in half and train one half on DAY ONE and the second half on DAY TWO….

Adding more exercises allows you to:

1) Work each muscle more thoroughly and more deeply into the fibers

2) Work the entire muscle group; for example, front deltoid, side deltoid AND rear deltoid

3) Concentrate on each muscle more instead of spreading your attention out

4) Apply more energy and effort to each body part instead of holding back and conserving energy for the last few muscles

Here's a sample 2 day split:

Day one: Chest, shoulders, triceps, Abdominals

Day two: Thighs, Back, Biceps, calves,

And here's how it would fit into the week if you're training four days per week and hitting each muscle twice per week:

Mon: Chest, Shoulder, Triceps, Abs

Tues: Thighs, Back, Biceps, calves

Wed: Off (or just cardio)

Thu: Chest, Shoulder, Triceps, Abs

Fri: Thighs, Back, Biceps, calves

Sat: Off (or just cardio)

Sun: Off: Total rest day

Here's one important tip when you're designing your own split routines: CHANGE YOUR EXERCISES FREQUENTLY! This will help alleviate boredom and prevent your muscles from "adapting" to the routine (Changing routines every 4 to 12 weeks is called the "muscle confusion" principle.)


Does your workout still consist of walking around the block, and/or doing the Billy blanks Tae Bo video or the Richard Simmons Sweating to the Oldies video in your living room in front of the TV?

If so, then don't worry, I'm not going to make fun of you - actually I want to congratulate you for doing more than 95% of the lazy world population - you got started! However, if you're reading this, you've expressed interest in moving up to the next level, so it's time to put those 2nd grade workouts back on the shelf and move up to something with a little more "punch" (pardon the pun).

First, I'm going to repeat my advice from part one of this series: Join a health club! Since you'll be adding new exercises, a good health club will put an almost infinite number of exercise choices at your fingertips. Many people are scared to join a gym "until they get in shape." Now that's really putting the cart before the horse isn't it? If you're in this category, let me put you at ease…

You'd be amazed how supportive the environment is in a good health club. I've been in the health club industry for 14 years and I've never heard a member or employee of any club I've worked in make fun of a beginner or someone out of shape. (Personally, I NEVER make fun of the beginners or intermediates. I like to make fun of the blunders made by the "big-ego, know it all experts," but "gym blunders" will have to be the subject of another article.)

I've seen people who were very overweight in our club and the attitude of the staff and members is usually one of "Good for you! Is there any way I can help?" In fact, you're more likely to get a derogatory comment from someone on the street than you are in a health club. You owe it to yourself to put yourself in a positive, supportive, caring environment and there's no better place than a health club.

It also helps to realize that everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone was "out of shape" when they started. We're all in the same boat in the beginning and intermediate learning stages. If you choose not to join a club, that's fine too, but you'd be well advised to invest in a few additional pieces of equipment beyond the bare basics.

Let's assume you own a bench and a set of dumbbells. The next additions to your home gym should be a barbell set, a set of squat racks and a cable-pulley apparatus with a high and a low pulley. By owning these pieces equipment, you've just opened up a whole new world of exercise options for yourself such as:

Barbell squats, barbell lunges, barbell rows, barbell bench press, barbell shoulder press, barbell curls, barbell tricep extensions, wide grip lat pulldowns, close grip lat pulldowns, low cable rows, triceps pushdowns and cable curls.

By the way, why so much talk about weights? Isn't fat loss mostly nutrition and cardio? Yep, that's true. However, I'm emphasizing weight training because it plays a bigger role in fat loss than most people realize. If you're busy aerobicizing and dieting without hitting the weights, you're much more likely to lose muscle along with the fat. And when the muscle goes, your metabolism begins to go down the tubes too.


I know you're just a budding "intermediate" now, but would you like to know how to rapidly blast through the intermediate stage, into the advanced stage and then ultimately go even beyond the advanced stage and become an expert? If so, here's how: Read one hour a day, five days a week, about training, nutrition, and personal achievement. In three years you will be an expert.

Suppose you only read 30 minutes a day, but you do it every day as a discipline. That's one book per week, 52 books per year, 520 books in ten years. Think about the level of knowledge you'll achieve. I personally read two or three hours a day, I have 1700 books in my library and several hundred audio and video programs. I'll miss an hour of sleep before I'll miss an hour of reading. People always ask me how I learned so much about bodybuilding and nutrition. Now you know.

Here are some good places to start: Get a good book about motivation and psychology. Here's one of the best: "Maximum Achievement" By Brian Tracy. Also, get a good cassette program about motivation so you can listen in your car and while you do your cardio. What? You listen to music? Thought so. Most beginners do. Highly effective people and achievers always double up and do two things at once whenever possible. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Learn while you get lean! Here's a suggestion: pick up Jim Rohn's audio program "The Art of Exceptional Living."

Next month, the conclusion to the Fat Loss From Beginner to Advanced Success Series. I'm going to reveal a few of my competition-level training and nutrition secrets that I usually only share with my protégés so stay tuned.

This article originally appeared in the March 2002 issue of Tom Venuto's Bodybuilding and Fitness Secrets (BFS) Newsletter. If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive others like it for free every month, you can subscribe to BFS here:

Author Tom Venuto

Tom Venuto is a bodybuilder, gym owner, freelance writer, success coach and author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle" (BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World's Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has written over 150 articles and has been featured in IRONMAN magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise. Tom's inspiring and informative articles on bodybuilding, weight loss and motivation are featured regularly on dozens of websites worldwide. For information on Tom's "Burn The Fat" e-book, click here.

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