Training for fat loss is often associated with high-intensity metabolic training. More specifically a lot of intensifiers such as drop-sets, super-sets, giant-sets, low-rest periods, higher repetitions and lighter weights. In other words, lactic acid training.
While metabolic training can be useful for fat loss, it is absolutely not necessary to train like this. The most important factor for losing fat is being in a caloric deficit, and some other things need to be in place as well.
However, there are certain great benefits to increase the speed of your fat loss with lactic acid training. And we are going to explore these benefits in this article. But it is important to remember that your training and nutrition need to be synchronized for this to work properly. Moreover, that your deficit is not too low, but where it should be.
What Is Lactic Acid?
Before we dive deeply into the benefits of lactic acid training, let us explore what actually happens in the body when we produce lactic acid. You might know it as “the burn” in your muscles. We will not go complete geek-mode, and only explain this in basic terms.
Lactate production happens when we are contracting our muscles, and they do not get enough oxygen for the mitochondria in their cells. Here it is important to understand that not all types of muscular contractions will produce lactate.
Thus, it is vital to understand workout programming and what kind of stimuli produces lactate.
When lactate is produced it is not just a useless waste product. Quite the opposite. It can actually be used by the liver for the Cori cycle. This is a process where the liver will convert lactate into glucose, which again can be used by your muscles for energy.
Effects on Fat Loss
How does this have anything to do with fat loss? Very simple. It costs energy for your body to produce this glucose, resulting in a further deficit. More specifically, it costs your body 4 adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to convert lactate into glucose. ATP is your body’s energy currency.
Therefore, we are using ATP for our muscular contractions during training, as well as for converting lactate into glucose for energy. Consequently, the more lactate you produce, the harder your liver will work, and the more energy you will burn through.
Meaning, you can burn more calories during lactic acid training than the energy required for the work itself, or the muscular contractions. Because your workout program increased lactic acid production. Which is a great benefit of lactic acid training for fat loss.
Furthermore, lactic acid training allows us to train more frequently when programmed properly. The reason being, a metabolic program that is designed well, will minimize mechanical damage and neurological stress. These take a long time for the body to recover from.
When we train for hypertrophy, we want mechanical damage in a lot of instances. For fat loss however, this is not necessary. Our goal when losing fat is to get that metabolic effect, get out, recover, and get back in as soon as possible.
This highlights the importance of a well-designed workout program. The exercise selection, repetitions, rest periods and tempo need to be on point for maximal effect.
Lactic Acid Training Exercises, Tempo and Reps
A properly designed metabolic program will train the whole body within 1-2 days. This is so we can reap the benefits of training often and produce as much lactic acid as possible. Therefore, we will train the whole or half of the body within a workout.
Again, our goal is not to completely exhaust each individual muscle, rather exhaust the body as a whole from a conditioning standpoint.
The exercise selection for lactic acid training will be exercises that train our muscles in the mid or shortened range. This is because exercises that predominantly train muscles in their lengthened range will cause more mechanical damage, which is not our goal.
The rep ranges will vary depending on if you are training for local or systemic effect. For the local effect, we can get away with lower rep ranges. For the systemic effect, we usually want to be in the 8-12 rep range.
There will be almost none to maybe 30 second rest periods, depending on how you program it. Yes, you will definitely be finito by the end of the workout, which is the point.
By training a big part of the body within the same workout not only means we can get the effects mentioned above, but also nutrient partitioning.
Nutrient partitioning means that the body prefers to take up and store glucose in the glycogen stores, instead of fat. This happens when the body needs rapid energy, such as it does in metabolic workouts. Because fat takes much longer to oxidize, and simply is not as effective as glucose.
Nutrient partitioning is stimulated when we create tension in our muscles. Which obviously happens in a lot of different types of training, not only lactic acid training.
Therefore, a high training frequency can help your body to transport more glucose into your muscle cells and store it as glycogen. As a result, make it less likely to be stored as fat when you have an excess of glucose, and rather be used for energy. This can also help people that struggle with regulating blood sugar, such as diabetics.
Lactic Acid Training Methods
When we train for the metabolic or lactic acid effect, there are two main types. These are local and systemic metabolic effects. Both methods work great for fat loss and can give us the benefits we mentioned above. The differences lay in the types of failure we feel, and the adaptations our body makes to the conditions.
Systemically focused workout will lead to maybe what you guessed; being out of breath! At the end of the workout you will be exhausted and gasping for air, if you have done it properly. Not very fatigued in one specific muscle, but your body will be very tired overall.
This training is great for improving cardiovascularity and endurance.
You might feel a little bit of a pump and some lactic acid production in your muscles. But nowhere near as much as with the local type, as this is not our goal.
On the other hand, we have the local metabolic effect. These workouts will definitely give you crazy pumps and make your muscles burn. This style of training is amazing for improving the rate at which you recover in-between sets for each muscle.
Differently from the systemic workouts, you will probably not feel as exhausted at all. This is because our goal is not to cause cardiovascular stress with local metabolically focused workouts. You might even feel pretty energetic and alert after you have finished your workout.
Both systemic and local workouts are great for both fat loss and de-loading from different types of stimuli. They have their own benefits and use-cases. Therefore it is important that you periodize and program intelligently. And adjust your nutrition and workout plan according to your body and goals.
Local Metabolic Workout Example
Below we have provided a local metabolic workout which you can try out. This workout is from a 2 day split, and is focused on one half of the body. On the second day, you would train the other half.
As you get better, you can change the reps sets to 8 x 8, 30s rest, and 6 x 6, 40s rest.
This workout should give you ridiculous pumps and a ton of lactic acid if you are doing it properly. Try to use the same weight for all sets, and go to failure at the last 1-2 sets.
Biceps / Medial Delts / Lats / Hamstrings / Rear Delts
A1) Low Pulley Biceps Curl 5 x 10, 20s rest
B1) Low Cable Lateral Raise 5 x 10, 20s rest
C1) Neutral Grip Pulldown 5 x 10, 20s rest
D1) Seated Leg Curl 5 x 10, 20s rest
E1) Rear Delt Rows 5 x 10, 20s rest
Systemic Metabolic Workout Example
This workout however, is more systemically taxing. You will not feel as much of a pump. But at the last few supersets of DB Presses and Hack Squats, you will be finito!
Again, try to choose a weight at the first set which will have you fail at the last set. It can be a little challenging at first, but you will get the hang of it.
Delts / Triceps / Calves / Chest / Quads
A1) Prone Incline DB Y-Raises 3 x 8-10, 0s rest
A2) Incline DB Anterior Shoulder Press 3 x 8-10, 30s rest
A3) Triceps Press-downs 3 x 8-10, 0s rest
A4) Seated Calf Raises 3 x 8-10, 30s rest
B1) Incline DB Chest Press 5 x 8-10, 0s rest
B2) Hack Squats 5 x 8-10, 30s rest
Lactic acid training can be very effective for fat loss. Of course, it can be used for other goals such as de-loading from strength workouts or improving recovery between sets. However, when programming metabolic workouts properly, they have some amazing benefits for fat loss goals. These include the Cori cycle for increased energy used and nutrient partitioning. Most importantly, program your workouts and nutrition plans individually for your long-term goals. This will ensure you keep progressing and stay away from plateaus.
Thank you for reading our article!
– Terry Asher