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Lose Fat, Stay Strong

by John Romaniello | 03/07/11

Tags:
Fat Loss Training

Here's what you need to know...


1.

Training with light weights while on a fat-loss diet makes you really
good at lifting light and pretty awful at lifting heavy. That's unacceptable.
2.
Heavy training, even while in a caloric deficit, is vastly superior for
holding on to lean body mass.
3.
Unless you want to end your diet as a weak (albeit lean) little man,
then you must include some heavy strength training in your plan.

Old School Bulk 'n Cuts


Bodybuilding-style bulking and cutting periods both have drawbacks.
With bulking periods, you tend to put on a fair amount of fat as you seek
to gain muscle size.

With cutting periods, you run the risk of losing lean body mass in your
quest to reduce body fat. This is bad for a number of reasons. It sets you
up for a series of two-steps-forward, one-step-back situations. It's
painfully frustrating, and it also compromises progress in the long run.
Remember, your lean body mass is one of the main things that
determines your metabolic rate. Sacrificing LBM to get lean is
counterproductive because you certainly won't stay lean for very long
especially once you go back to trying to gain mass.
At best, if you're able to hang on to your mass, there will be the problem
of losing strength. Now, if you're lean, you'll be placed in the unenviable
position of trying to play catch-up with your strength levels for a few
weeks. That's another unacceptable tradeoff.

The New Way


We seem to be getting away from the old bulk-and-cut practices of
bodybuilding. That's a good thing. Instead, we should always be trying to
achieve consistent body recomposition and lean gains.
Make no mistake: it's possible to stay lean while gaining mass. Similarly,
with intelligent programming, it's possible to maintain and even gain
strength and muscle while losing fat.

Go Heavy, Get Lean


Successful competitive bodybuilders already know this. To maintain
muscle mass while dieting down into the single digits, you gotta train
heavy.

In fact (drug use aside), one of the main things these guys do in the final
stages of contest prep is train with heavy weight, which, coincidentally,
also increases both neurogenic and myogenic muscle tone a
necessary weapon on a competition stage.
When I first started incorporating heavy strength training into my fat loss
programs, I used a 5x5 protocol because this is what many bodybuilders
used. It worked. My clients lost fat and maintained lean body mass with
relative ease. However, it always nagged at me that this method wasn't
creating a solution, just addressing a problem.
Here's the deal: every training session should be used to make you
better, not just prevent you from getting worse. The 5x5 protocol was
fine, but I knew there was an even better way to keep the lean mass
while accelerating fat loss.
Strength circuits were the solution.

The Set-Up
Strength circuits take three or four exercises and set them up into
circuits. Circuit training, done correctly, is one of the most effective
weightlifting methodologies there is when fat loss is the goal, and
strength circuits are no different.
You'll move from one exercise to another with minimal rest in between,
and then repeat as necessary. However, there's a twist here that makes
this type of training a lot more interesting.
A traditional set-up would have you doing a predetermined number of
sets, with each of those having a predetermined number of reps. We've

seen that for decades. It works, but it's not perfect. (Chad Waterbury
came up with a better plan of action, and you'll see his influence below.)
The goal of performing strength circuits is to help build muscle and shred
fat while gaining strength, and part of that is going to be neurological.
Instead of just "lifting" the weights, I want you to focus on lifting
explosively, and perfectly.
Each rep should be performed in the most explosive way possible. This
helps to create greater stimulation for your nervous system, which will
allow for the greatest recruitment of muscle fibers.
In order to make this effective, and in order to ensure that each set is
challenging and stimulating without draining you, we're going to
disregard traditional set and rep schemes. Rather than focus on a
conventionally structured workout of sets and reps, the focus is only on
the total number of reps.
If this sounds a bit familiar, it should. Strength circuits draw inspiration
from both Chad Waterbury and Christian Thibaudeau. To quote Chad,
"Focus on the reps and let the sets take care of themselves."
What you'll do here is rotate through the chosen exercises until you've
completed the desired number of reps.
Let's break it down.

Workout Set-Up
Each workout will consist of two circuits, each comprised of 3-4
exercises. Between these two circuits will be something called the
dynamic interrupt, which is a metabolic enhancement circuit (more on
that below).

First, let's talk about how to create individual strength circuits, as well as
a complete workout.

Exercise Selection
This method is best suited to using big, compound, multi-joint
movements. This is especially true for the first circuit. For the second
circuit, if you'd like to throw in one isolation movement, that's fine.

Individual Workouts
Every workout will ideally have one of each:

Hip/hamstring dominant leg exercise


Quad dominant leg exercise
Horizontal pushing movement
Horizontal pulling movement
Vertical pulling movement
Vertical pushing movement

Individual Circuits
Each circuit should have at least one lower body movement, at least one
upper-body pulling movement, and at least one upper-body pressing
movement. As long as those three are covered, you can be creative as
to which movement planes you work in what order.

The Details
Let's say that you've chosen to set up a circuit with dumbbell push
presses, bentover rows, front squats, and weighted pull-ups.
You'd first perform as many reps as you could on the dumbbell push
press. After that, perform as many bentover rows as you can. Then
perform as many front squats as you can. Finally, you'd perform as many
weighted pull-ups as possible.
You simply cycle through the exercises until you've completed all of the
prescribed reps, regardless of how many sets it takes.

You'll probably complete the total prescribed reps for one of the
exercises before the others. That's fine. Just alternate the remaining
exercises back and forth.
Once you've completed all of the total reps for each exercise in the
circuit, move on to the next segment of the workout.

Total Training Volume


Instead of thinking about the sets, simply focus on a total number of
workout reps to gauge your volume. Ideally, a workout will have between
210 and 250 total reps.
If you're going over that, you're either using weight that's too light (and
therefore setting your total reps too high), or doing too many exercises.
As a rule of thumb, 250 total reps is the upper limit.

Parameters for Selecting Rep Goals


Selecting the total reps on an exercise is a personal thing. Some people
like to go very heavy on squats, so they'll adjust the reps to be lower. Or
perhaps you find that your chest generally responds better to higher
reps. You might set your total reps to allow for that, and therefore use
less weight.
The main thing is that your rep range for any given movement is
between 20-35. Any less and you simply aren't getting enough
stimulation; any more and you're going too light for this to be a "strength
circuit."

Parameters for Selecting Load

The idea is for this to be strength training; the weight must be heavy.
This requires us to have some guidelines for selecting a work-set weight
and knowing when to increase it.
The chart below will give you some guidelines for selecting a starting
weight based on how manytotal reps you've chosen for a given exercise
(not the set the exercise.)
Reps

Load

20

Begin with a weight you think you can lift 3-5 times. If you can complete 6 or
more reps on your first set, go a little heavier. If you can only complete 2 or
fewer reps on your first set, go lighter.

25

Begin with a weight you can lift 4-6 times. If you can get 6 or more reps your first
set, increase the weight. If you complete only 3 or fewer reps on your first set,
reduce the weight a little.

30

Begin with a weight you think you can lift 6-8 times. If you can get 9 or more
reps your first set, increase the weight. If you complete 4 reps or fewer on your
first set, reduce the weight.

35

Begin with a weight you can lift 7-9 times. If you can complete 10 reps or more
on your first set, increase the weight. If you can complete only 8 reps or fewer,
reduce the weight.

Enter the Dynamic Interrupt


The Dynamic Interrupt was originally intended as a way to increase
conditioning with athletes. The side effect? Rapid fat loss! I particularly
like dynamic interrupts for strength circuits.
After your last set of a prescribed circuit (i.e. when you've finished every
rep for every exercise), try the Dynamic Interrupt. It's a series of
bodyweight exercises that helps to increase heart rate and burn
additional fat by making the workout more metabolic.

The lower rep range of the strength training is offset by the activity of the
Dynamic Interrupt, and the fat-burning effect becomes even more
profound.
Exercises are done for as many reps as possible in a given timeframe.
The total work time of your Dynamic Interrupt should be 180 seconds or
less.

Exercise Selection for the Dynamic Interrupt


Exercises for the DI can really be anything from jumping rope to jumping
jacks to pushing a Prowler. The only real consideration is that you don't
want to choose exercises that will inhibit performance on the second
circuit.
For example, if you've selected the bench press as one of your exercises
on the second circuit, don't select 75 seconds of as many push-ups as
you can complete. Just choose movements that won't interfere with
what's to come.

Sample Workout
Try this workout and see your results and your strength increase
drastically.
Exercise

Type of Movement

Plane, Dominance

Sets

Reps

A1 Dumbbell Push Press

Upper Body Push

Vertical

Vary

30

A2 Bentover Barbell Row

Upper Body Pull

Horizontal

Vary

25

A3 Front Squat

Lower Body

Quad Dominant

Vary

35

A4 Weighted Pull-Up

Upper Body Pull

Vertical

Vary

20

Rest 15-30 seconds between exercises. When you finish your circuit, rest 45-60 seconds.
Cycle through until you complete all reps for all exercises. Then, without rest, proceed

immediately to the Dynamic Interrupt.

Dynamic Interrupt
Exercise

Reps

A1 Burpees

As many as possible in 75 seconds

A2 Mountain Climbers

As many as possible in 45 seconds

Perform burpees, then mountain climbers, with minimal rest in between. When you've
finished the mountain climbers, rest 2 minutes and proceed to circuit B.
Exercise

Type of Movement

Plane, Dominance

Sets

Reps

B1 Deadlift

Lower Body

Hip/Ham Dominant

Vary

20

B2 Low-Incline DB Bench
Press

Upper Body Push

Horizontal

Vary

35

B3 High Pull

Upper Body Pull

Vertical

Vary

30

B4 Alternating Barbell
Lunges

Lower Body

Quad Dominant

Vary 15/leg

Rest 15-30 seconds between exercises. When you finish your circuit, rest 45-60 seconds.
Cycle through until you complete all reps for all exercises.

Spend Calories, Save Mass


Lifting heavy weight requires a great deal of energy, so strength training
is generally calorically expensive. In addition, because we've set things
up in a circuit, the pace of the workout is much faster and fat loss
increases.
Try this method one day a week during your diet program and watch
your fat loss accelerate as you hold on to strength and mass!