Q: My gym is often crowded, and it’s tough to do supersets. Any ideas on how to get in a good workout without supersets? My primary focus right now is fat loss.

A training method called hybrids should fill your needs and provide a nice change of pace.

One of the key advocates of doing hybrids, which is not a new idea, is Al Vermeil, one of the best strength coaches on the planet. Vermeil is the only strength coach who has won rings for the Super Bowl (with the San Francisco 49ers) and the NBA Championships Chicago Bulls). He would often use hybrids with his new NBA draft prospects to develop a solid conditioning base.

A hybrid exercise is a combination of several movements in a single repetition. The clean and jerk is an example of a hybrid exercise, as it combines the following exercises in this sequence: deadlift, upright row, reverse curl, front squat, and jerk (which itself combines a quarter front squat, military press, and split squat). That’s a lot of bang for your buck. Here are some benefi ts of hybrids:


■ work a large number of muscle groups in a single exercise

■ accomplish a great amount of work in a short time

■ can be used to train many athletic qualities (such as coordination, power, or muscular endurance)

■ can be performed in a single location

■ add variety to your workout to prevent boredom

■ can be performed with just one piece of equipment

If your primary goal is fat loss, these exercises will produce a lot of lactate; high lactate levels will stimulate the production of growth hormone, which, in turn, will accelerate fat loss.

The number of hybrid exercises is limited only by your imagination. For example, after performing a front squat, you could immediately follow it with a push press; or you could follow a good morning with a back squat. Either of these hybrid exercises could be performed with barbells or dumbbells. You can also expand this concept to hybrid sets.

Also known as complexes, hybrid sets were popular as a conditioning method in Europe. Using this method, Romanian strength coach Istvan Javorek has trained many medal winners in Olympic sports, professional athletes in the NBA, MLB, and NPSL, and several world-record holders in track and field.

With hybrid sets, you perform one set of an exercise and immediately follow it with one or more sets. Let’s say you want to trash your shoulders. You could combine four exercises, starting with the hardest and ending with the easiest, such that the difficulty of each exercise is constant. Start with 10 reps in lateral raise, and then do 10 reps in the front raise, 10 reps in the military press, and 10 reps of upright rows (or bentover rows). For the legs you could do 10 reps of lunges or split squats followed by 10 back squats.

I’m not suggesting you make hybrids a staple of your training program, but for a change-of-pace workout that’ll really get the heart pumping, hybrid exercises really deliver.

I’ve heard it’s impossible to lose a large amount of fat without losing muscle. What’s your take on this?

On average provided an individual consumes enough protein and avoids nutrient deficiencies adult males could lose about 2.2 pounds (1kg) per week without compromising muscle mass. A research study presented in 2012 in Norway looked at the effects of calorie reduction in athletes involved in heavy weight training. One group reduced their energy intake by 500 calories a day, and a second group reduced their daily intake by 1,000 calories. Subjects in the group that reduced by just 500 calories were able to avoid muscle loss while signifi cantly improving their upper-body strength, lower-body strength, and vertical jump height. The 1,000-calorie group didn’t improve their vertical-jump performance at all, and experienced signifi cantly less improvements in upper-body and lower-body strength. It took the 500-calorie group three weeks longer to lose the same amount of weight as the group that reduced intake by 1,000 calories, but their athletic performance improved signifi cantly.

If you’re trying to lose weight and build muscle, I recommend you take branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). Creatine supplementation has also been beneficial.

Are Smith machine squats as good as free-weight squats?

Short answer: No! The free-weight barbell squat activates the quads much more than a Smith machine squat does, and does the same with other major musclegroups. Research published in 2012 showed greater muscle activation from free-weight squats compared with Smith squats by 26% in the biceps femoris, 34% in the gastrocnemius, and 49% in the vastus medialis when using an 8 RM load. The abdominal muscles are also more engaged in the free squat