This interview covers Turbulence Training for Fat Loss in-depth. Craig Ballantyne, the author of Turbulence Training, was recently interviewed by strength coach, Jason Ferrugia. Here is some advanced fat loss information.
JF: First of all Craig, I'd like to thank you for agreeing to do this interview. To introduce yourself to our readers could you tell us a little about your background?
I'm a strength coach (CSCS) in Toronto and I write for Men's Health, Oxygen, and Maximum Fitness magazines. I have worked extensively with young athletes and I train 3 of the players on Canada's National Rugby team.
I've also developed my own training system that has been featured in the magazines, and I call it Turbulence Training. The goal is to get maximum results in minimum time, no matter what the goal (mass, fat loss, or athleticism).
Turbulence Training (TT) uses a combination of the basic, most effective lifts, structured in time-saving supersets, as well as interval training. It's based on research, but I'm not going to claim that it's any magic secret or rocket science. It is simply about getting things done quickly in a logical order. It's amazing how complex some trainers have made training when it is generally such a simple process to achieve your goals.
Men and women looking to lose fat love it because it fits their often hectic schedules. Three 45-minute strength & interval sessions for fat loss are a lot easier to fit in rather than five 1-hour cardio sessions. And the bodyweight workouts I have, you can get done in the time it usually takes you to get to the gym and back.
JF: Your Turbulence Training system is one of the most effective training systems I have ever seen. Could you briefly describe the thought process that went into creating Turbulence Training and what makes it so effective and time efficient?
In grad school, when I had no time to train, I had to find a way to get results, fast.
That's what almost everyone wants and needs these days, and it doesn't matter if they want to gain muscle or lose fat. I was working 15-16 hours in the lab but still trying to get in my workouts. I realized that I couldn't do marathon sessions, but I wasn't about to sacrifice muscle or get fat.
Fortunately, the results of my training studies along with my review of some other research studies, confirmed my experiences that high-intensity training was the way to go. Use only squats, deadlifts, presses, split squats, rows, and similar exercises to get the maximum results in minimum time.
By training with multiple sets of low reps (6-8), and using intervals, you apply the most metabolic turbulence to the muscles. That burns a ton of fat and calories in the workout, and after. That is the key. Light weight, high reps, and slow-steady cardio don't cause you to keep burning a lot of calories after the workout. And this approach also helps you do the next to impossible; gain lean mass while losing fat.
Another important component of TT is variety. I change the workouts frequently, every 3-4 weeks. That means rotating the exercises, putting in new variations (you can still create an endless number of workouts with variations on the basic lifts, as well as the advanced bodyweight exercises).
That's the nuts and bolts of my Turbulence Training philosophy.
JF: I know you are a big fan of interval training. What are your favorite methods of interval training?
Sprinting is the best method, without a doubt. So whether it's running intervals on the track, uphill sprints, or treadmill running, that's clearly the most effective method. Moving your own bodyweight over a distance is the true definition of work, and that can be done at a high intensity.
Strongman methods are also top-notch. Pushing the truck, pulling the sled, flipping the tire, these are all great ways to do your interval training.
A little word of caution here though, as both sprinting and strongman training methods can be very intense, so you do need to warm-up more than adequately. Don't just jump into sprinting outside or you could strain a muscle. And be conservative with the volume. If you haven't done truck pushing intervals in 6 months, or ever, don't do 5 or 6 of them because you'll be puking your guts out. That being said, both of these methods are great because you are doing a lot of work in a short amount of time.
My next two favorite methods are bodyweight training and cycling. Both can be done with less need for an extensive warm-up, but both will really help you slash the fat.
I've been on a big bodyweight kick over the past year and it includes some very tough bodyweight interval circuits. It's great "real-world" conditioning for athletes, and everyday people. The bodyweight workouts and circuits can be humbling, but build "everyday" strength.
I'm also partial to stationary cycling. Because you are cycling against a resistance you can do a lot of work. Doing a lot of high-intensity work means burning a lot of energy during the training the session and after (what I call putting your body into Turbulence). Just be careful with overuse injuries on the bike…as being in that hunched position can be rough on the low-back and can tighten up the psoas and rectus femoris muscles.
Rowing is okay for interval training. And simple walking at faster speeds or inclines is perfect for beginners. Remember that interval training is relative. What is an interval for me might not be an interval for you, or for Lance Armstrong.
Elliptical training machines are useless for intervals. These things are one of the biggest wastes of space in commercial gyms today.
As far as timing goes, there is no one best interval length for fat loss. I use everything from 20 seconds to 3 minutes for the length of the work interval. For the shorter sprints, I use 60-90 seconds rest, and for the longer aerobic intervals (i.e. 2-3 minutes) you would rest an equal amount of time as the work interval lasted. These are excellent not only for fat burning but for improving sport-specific conditioning.
One thing that has never made sense to me is the Tabata protocol for intervals (and if you don't know what it is, don't worry about it). The rest intervals are too short to allow high quality work…and that's what Turbulence Training is all about – quality over quantity.
JF: Why is interval training so much more effective than regular steady state cardio?
Many reasons. But specfically, we choose quality over quantity.
- It's at least 200% more efficient, if not more. You can get the same or better fitness and fat loss improvements in half the time.
- It builds real-world fitness. How many times each week do you do a 20-second stair climb? Compare that to how many times you run 30 minutes continuously (not including training)? The fact is life activities are short bursts of intensity, not long, slow bouts of continuous activity. The same can be said for most sports. So it quickly becomes clear which training method is better.
- Intervals build anaerobic and aerobic fitness. Cardio builds only aerobic fitness.
- Intervals build sport-specific fitness. Put a typical marathon runner on the basketball court and he'll get beaten every time because he doesn't have sport-specific fitness.
- The health benefits of interval training are the same as you get from traditional cardio training. But again, the workouts are shorter.
JF: You favor a rep scheme that is lower than most typical fat loss programs. Could you explain why this is?
When you diet, you have to give your muscles a powerful stimulus to grow or maintain their current size. If you train with light weight and high reps, you don't stimulate muscle growth and you don't hit as many muscle fibers. The result will be a loss in muscle mass.
So in the TT workouts, we work in the 6-8 rep range for the first two supersets. The third and final superset of the workouts will often use 10-12 reps in order to stress all the metabolic processes in the muscle. That means the most "turbulence" and the most calories burned in and out of the training session.
JF: How much time does some one need to dedicate to training each week to achieve a great physique?
Fortunately not as much as most people think. You can do really well with 3 hours of structured training. However, you have to live the fat loss lifestyle for 167.5 hours per week (allowing 30 minutes per week for a "cheat" meal).
If you pick efficient lifts (like squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows), you don't need to lift more than 1-2 hours per week for fat loss. And you can get great interval training results in three 20-minute sessions. Then you just have to concentrate on your nutrition. Plan ahead, shop correctly, and prepare your meals in advance.
For mass, cut out the intervals, do 4 sessions of 45 minutes per week, and you're set. Spend the rest of the time concentrating on your muscle-building nutrition.
JF: What are the two or three biggest mistakes most people make in their quest to lose bodyfat?
Following politically-correct workouts and nutrition programs. By that I mean, slow-cardio marathon sessions followed by light weight, high rep weight training. Fortunately, there are a lot of great Internet sites giving good info for men, and even the magazines are catching on and giving good programs.
Unfortunately, women still get terrible fitness advice (one of the recommendations that upsets me the most is the suggestion to lift soup cans or water bottles – like that is going to help any woman under the age of 75).
As far as nutrition goes, the politically-correct recommendations still include a lot of carbohydrates, and generally these articles don't even recommend the right carbohydrates. If you want to lose fat fast, get carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables first. These should be eaten at every meal. Cereal bars, rice cakes, and juices have no place on any weight loss program, if you want the weight lost to be fat.
JF: There's six weeks left until the fourth of July; in that time how big of a difference can some one make in their physique?
CB: If someone knows what they are doing, or trains with someone that knows what they are doing, they can make incredible changes. Just look at bodybuilders. Look at the difference they make in 6 weeks. But again, they aren't following politically correct recommendations. Don't get me wrong though, just because you aren't doing the politically-correct weight watchers diet doesn't mean that you are doing anything unhealthy.
So in my opinion, both beginners and advanced physiques can make dramatic changes in their bodies in only 6 weeks. Overweight guys that eat like crap can probably lose 20-30 pounds of fat if they turn things around dramatically. And any guy that is around 15-18% body fat can develop an incredible set of abs and hit single-digit body fat in only 6 weeks.
JF: Where can people read more about you and your training methods? Do you have any new projects, etc.?
I have lot's of big projects coming up, Jay. And I could go on forever about this stuff, so if your readers have questions, feel free to contact me through my site.
I keep on adding programs to my member's section and I'll be focusing on more hardcore fat loss workouts, muscle-building programs, and my bodyweight training pet projects. Seems like the hardcore fat loss programs are in greatest demand, so I'm working on those right now.
So all that, and I plan to continue taking Turbulence Training to the masses to help people get more results in less time.