I recently came across an article on Livestrong.com titled 23 Secrets From The World’s Best Trainers. Any time I see something like this, I am immediately suspicious and have seen far too many “experts” claim to have the secret sauce recipe for getting fit.

Also be aware that the “best” trainers in the world are completely subjective and if you look at 10 similar articles, you will find many of the world’s “best” trainers are different from the others.

After reading it though, I realized that these were far from secrets, but did offer up some good, solid, advice. I chose my 6 favorite ones and share my thoughts on each below.

6 “Secrets” From The World’s Top Trainers

1) Forget about the fat burning zone.

This came from Juan Carlos Santana, the founder of The Institute of Human Performance, who is a highly reputable strength coach and someone I know to be a legit source.

He says: “Stop worrying about the exact percentage of fat you burn during exercise (i.e. staying in the ‘fat burning’ zone), and instead focus on the total calories burned from fat (which include the calories you burn after an intense strength session). To burn more fat over a 24-hour period (and not to mention, get in great shape), go as hard as you can, as long as you can.”

My take: Over the years, I have had a ton of clients ask me about the fat burning zone; what it is, where theirs was, and if they needed to be in it. My answer is always the same, “don’t worry about it.”

Traditional fitness wisdom has told us that the fat burning zone is when we are working at a heart rate of between 60% and 75% of our maximum. And while there is some truth in this; the body does actually burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities, working at a higher intensity (HIIT) burns far more calories in total. And when you burn more calories, you burn more fat.

So focus on higher intensity cardiovascular exercise even if the time frame is shorter.

2) Pump more iron.

This tip is from Marta Montenegro, an exercise physiologist and adjunct professor of exercise and sports sciences at Florida International University.

She says: “One of the best tips I can give to anyone who wants to change the shape of their body is to lift weights. Specifically, lift heavy weights and perform multi-joint exercises such as deadlifts, squats, and push presses. If your goal is to look toned and lose belly fat, combine 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio and 20 minutes of strength training for your workout — you’ll be finished in just 40 minutes and be in the best shape of your life.”

My take: I couldn’t agree more. Building lean muscle tissue is the best way to burn fat, increase metabolism, and get the physique you know you want.

Women and men alike will benefit from progressive strength training, so don’t think throwing around heavy weight is just for dudes. If you think that doing endless amounts of cardio is the fastest way to get into shape, you are mistaken. Lifting heavy (for you) weights is the best way to change your body, period.

3) Make an emotional connection.

This is from Linda LaRue, RN MEd, ATC, creator of the Core Transformer workout program.

She says: “Most people don’t truly enjoy exercise, but studies show that when you connect with something you like — whether it’s a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, fitness video, or piece of equipment- you make a positive emotional connection and are significantly more inclined to stick with that exercise routine. Find a way to create a positive emotional connection

[to your workouts] to stay engaged and wanting to come back again and again.”

My take: Working out, for the most part, sucks. I personally love it, but I am in the minority. Most people will look at it as a task that needs to be checked off each day in order to reach their fitness goals. If you hate (or mildly dislike) exercise, don’t feel bad because there are millions of others in the same boat.

For me though, it’s emotional in a sense that I feel incredibly confident when I am in great shape and that’s extremely important to me. For you it may be going to your 20 year high school reunion and looking great. Whatever it is, you need to find an emotional connection to your exercise program.

Doing reps and sets just to do them is not only fucking boring, but a complete waste of your time. Find your “why” and you’ll see far better results.

4) Work more muscles in less time.

Tip from Tamal Dodge, an international yoga instructor and star of the “Element Yoga” DVD.

She says: “When it comes to exercise selection, focus on compound moves, not isolation exercises. A compound movement is something that engages every muscle in your body — such as pull-ups, pushups, or planks- whereas isolation exercises focus only on one muscle group. Compound movements will make you stronger, more explosive, and more toned than anything else.”

My take: I’ve always been a fan of using compound movements in my exercise program. Why? Because they work more muscle groups and do so in less time.

Which do you think will get you in better shape more quickly, 3 sets of bicep curls or 3 sets of pullups? How about 3 sets of hamstring curls or 3 sets of kettlebell deadlifts? You know the answer I know, so why are you still wasting time doing these isolation exercises?

Yes, it looks cool when you are curling 60 pound dumbbells, but that’s about the extent of it. Most of the guys doing that can’t even do 3 pullups. If your goal is to become as fit as possible in as little time as possible (duh!) then spend your time doing exercises that will get you there.

Here are a few great compound exercises:

  1. Squats
  2. Deadlifts
  3. Pushups
  4. Chest press
  5. Lunges
  6. Step ups
  7. Dips
  8. Rows

5) You can’t out-train a bad diet.

Shared by Suzanne Bowen, owner of Barre Amped in Nashville.

She says: “I am always amazed at how people sabotage all their incredible efforts in the gym by overeating junk and under-eating nutrient-rich foods. If you commit to a diet of clean food -mainly all colors of plants, lean quality proteins, good healthy fats, and grains like quinoa and amaranth — and limit processed food, fast food, sugar, super starchy grains, and trans fats, you can see tremendous results in your body.”

My take: This is one of my favorite sayings because it a hard truth. You can train your ass off 7 days a week but if your eating sucks, your results will be significantly less than they would be if you were eating quality foods (in the right amounts).

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% of your results will come from what you eat every day. That’s pretty huge! I often tell my clients that if they aren’t willing to change their diets, they will be wasting their money if they hire me. It’s that important.

6) Kick up the intensity.

From Amy Dixon, an exercise physiologist in Los Angeles and star of “Breathless Body 2: The Edge” DVD.

She says: “A lot of people put the time into their workouts but completely fail when it comes to their intensity. Bottom line: If it doesn’t feel hard, it isn’t. Learning this drastically changed my fitness level and my ability to coach my students to new levels.”

My take: How many times have you worked out and simply performed the number of sets and reps you thought you should? If you follow a traditional 3 sets of 10 protocol, you stop at a set number regardless of how close you are to fatigue. Intensity is critical in building a better physique, getting leaner, and becoming healthier. You MUST, MUST challenge yourself each and every workout.

It doesn’t matter if you are brand new to fitness or in horrible shape, it’s all about pushing yourself to your limits. Don’t try to keep up with the guy next to you in the gym or try to follow some CrossFit WOD you found online. It’s only about how much you can do.

There Are No Secrets

Getting into shape doesn’t have to be confusing or even difficult. It’s about making smart choices, being committed, and having a willingness to work your ass off to get it. There is 1,000 times more information available than you’ll ever need and a vast majority of it is only intended to sell you shit.

I don’t know it all; far from it, but I am here to help so please reach out any time for any reason.

So what is the best piece of fitness advice you have ever received?

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