Spot fat reduction, hormones, and training strategy


Alright, I did some more research and I have some preliminary results. For sources and links, please see this post. For some first experience, see here and here.

Firstly a disclaimer – the reason that this is coming up now is that a gentleman called John “Roman” Romaniello is just publishing his new program, and there is some marketing buzz around this. I am not endorsing his program (I am not not endorsing this program either – I have no view on it), and I am not affiliated in any kind. Having said this, the ideas he is presenting are interesting.

Firstly, from what I can see his ideas are new, at least in the sense that there has not been a comprehensive package so far (or I looked at the wrong keywords in google – all relevant links I have found are in the other post).

So what are those ideas? In a nutshell, he says that hormonal considerations are important if you want to lose weight (and I believe that this is uncontroversial), especially if you want to lose the last 5-10 pounds, or you have hit a plateau, or you have certain problem areas. In particular for the latter, he has prepared a very good table (well, I did the table, but the information is his 🙂 )

Problem Area Problem Hormone Solution Hormone Training type
Love handles Insulin (sensitivity) IGF-1 Dynamic
Hips, but, thighs, man boobs Estrogen Testosterone Density
Belly / Stomach (visceral) Cortisol Growth Hormone Lactic Acid

For every problem area he identifies a problem hormone, a solution hormone, and a training pattern that causes the body to produce the solution hormone.

This is where in my view it gets interesting, regardless or not whether you feel you need to engage in fat reduction in certain problem areas, because it is good to know which exercises give you which hormonal effects, given how important hormones are in the overall scheme of things.

One thing to point out in particular for the weight loss community is that if you used to be fat in the past (are still are) chances are that your body is resistant to insulin (similar to, but less severa than a full Type 2 Diabetes). This insulin resistance might pose a problem at one point in the weight-loss process (eg cause a plateau) and in this case it might well be worth trying Roman’s Dynamic Training method to overcome that plateau.

Another use (for men) would be to engage in Density Training if the testosterone levels feel too low, but I won’t dwell more on this particular application here :-).

Now the one-million-dollar question – what are those training methods that are referred to in the table above? Well, Roman actually explains quite a bit of his theory in the video and in the phone interview. The following is my interpretation of what he is saying there. So please keep in mind that (a) I might be wrong, and (b) he might also be wrong. Anyway, here it is:

Firstly, it is important to watch out for signs of overtraining and act accordingly. Generally the workouts are designed to be finished in 40-45minutes (a bit quicker for really fit athletes) and it is important to keep it in this time-frame. There are 4-5 workouts per week.

Dynamic Training

That’s the one meant to counter insulin issues by producing IGF-1. It is produced by a training style that focuses on big movements, meaning those of the big muscles, or where many muscles are working together (“combination movements”, “complexes”). An example he gives are lunges with overhead presses. He also likes to put “cardio circuits” together where the same muscles are hit from different angle, eg a combination of left & right lunges, and good mornings, all of which heavily rely on the hamstrings. Overall reps are probably about 20-40 for one set.

Density Training

That’s the one meant to counter estrogen issues by producing testosteron. In two words, the workouts will be fast & heavy. That’s really the key point: exercise density is defined as work per unit of time, so density training is all about doing more work in less time. It hasn’t been explicitly said, but I’d assume those workouts are short and sharp, and afaik you dont really want to work out for more than 30min (after you are warm) if you want to work on your testosterone levels – afterwards those levels drop.

Roman has an interesting technique: first do some circuit for AMRAPs over a fixed time, eg 30s each for presses, lunges, rows, weighted crunches, counting the reps. Then increase weight by 10-20% and try to push out even more reps.

Lactic Acid Training

That’s the one meant to counter cortisol issues (stress!) by producing growth hormone. The assertion here is that lactic acid is produced on the concentric part of the movement, and reduced at the eccentrics. So the idea is to lower the weight quickly, and then raise it slowly, over 4-5 seconds. This is also higher rep stuff, I’d think it would be about 15-20 until the muscles really burn nicely (the infamous 20rep swap comes to mind). Weights are lower here, maybe 50-70% tops of the 1RM.

Strength Training

This is the classic 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps with PR weights. I would believe that the hormone impact is somewhere between the Dynamic and the Density training, depending especially on the rest between the sets. The main idea here is not the hormonal impact though, it is more seen as a supporting exercise for Lactic Acid Training, to counter its (slightly) catabolical effects, and to maintain strength in general.

Cardio Training

This is (mainly) discouraged in this system (I believe he suggests running once a week, for the athletic benefits). The argument is the same as when Mark Sisson talks about chronic cardio, in that it raises the cortisol levels and therefore causes stress to the body, without other hormonal benefits, and that it is ultimately catabolic, ie destroying muscle mass.

12 thoughts on “Spot fat reduction, hormones, and training strategy

  1. Pingback: "Spot fat reduction" by targeting a hormonal response ?!? | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

  2. Very cool – thanks for the additional insights! Will def. be reading up more on this. Do they say anything about hormonal differences between the genders in relation to hormone-specific training?

  3. Nah, supposedly it is all hunky-dory and the body will take care of it itself, including the testosterone training for women. No differentiation in the program, other than of course that everyone chooses his or her own suitable weights.

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