Ask The Pro Trainer: Is It Possible To Build Muscle While Burning Fat?

I'm a celebrity and VIP trainer, IFBB Men's Physique Pro, and fitness advocate. I'd like to help you reach your goals by answering your tough questions. Let's get fit!

Q
Is it possible to build muscle and burn fat at the same time, or do I need to pick one or the other?

Great question, one I hear all the time. So is it possible to add lean muscle mass while maintaining or even reducing your body fat percentage?

In a word, Yes.

Many in the fitness community see physique change as an either/or proposition: You're either bulking to gain size or cutting to lose body fat, and never the twain shall meet, as they say. Those same people assume that to bulk means to slow your workouts down, while focusing on increasing resistance; and to cut means to train faster and lighter, while doing a lot of steady-state cardio and reducing calories.

Instead of looking at fitness as two stages, bulking and cutting, look at fitness as one stage: maximum exertion regardless of your goal. Instead of challenging yourself in resistance or speed, challenge yourself in resistance and speed! No one has ever experienced poor results from working too hard, so it's time to increase the intensity.

For Exhibit A in what I'm saying, look at most of today's top athletes. These men and women are in fantastic shape. Do you think they are doing extensive steady-state cardio? Do you think they are restricting their diets to reduce their body fat? Absolutely not! These are real athletes who exert maximum effort while training, which leads to an accelerated metabolic rate and enhanced fat-burning metabolism.

No one has ever experienced poor results from working too hard, so it's time to increase the intensity.

By now everyone knows about high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but very few people apply this to weight training. Utilizing this mentality while weight training can and will boost your body's natural fat burning metabolism. At the same time, it can improve your strength and endurance. As long as you fuel your body with sufficient calories to grow, you'll build lean muscle mass while accelerating your metabolic rate.

In other words, to answer your question, you'll build muscle and burn fat.

This back workout offers an example of what I'm describing. Both the resistance and speed will challenge you. Between sets, rest only as long as needed to catch your breath.

Metabolic Back Workout
    Superset
  • Lying T-Bar Row Lying T-Bar Row T-Bar Row
    6 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8, 8, 8 reps

  • Increase weight with each set—yes even when the reps remain the same.

  • Scapular Retractions
    6 sets of 15 reps

  • Go heavy on these!

    Superset
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row
    4 sets of 15 reps

  • Increase 10 pounds with each set. Start heavy and go heavier—you can do this!

  • One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row Incline Bench One-Arm Dumbbell Row
    4 sets of 12 reps

  • Increasing weight with each set.

    Superset
  • Leverage Iso Row Leverage Iso Row Hammer Strength Low Rows
    4 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8 reps

  • Increase weight with each set.

  • Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown Neutral-Grip Lat Pulldown
    4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps

  • Increase weight with each set—go heavy!


  • Seated Cable Rows Seated Cable Rows Seated Cable Rows
    100 total reps

  • Select what for you is a moderate weight and perform 100 total reps, divided among as many sets as needed. You shouldn't be getting more than 15-20 reps per set before failure. If you complete more than 20 before failing, the weight is too light—so get serious!


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About The Author

Ryan Hughes was one of the first men to qualify as an IFBB Physique Pro. He works as a personal trainer and fitness model in New York City

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SYDCLAUDE

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SYDCLAUDE

I'm going to try this next time

Dec 26, 2013 6:58pm | report
 
steelchic

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steelchic

Thanks, Ryan!! I always hear people say you can't have it both ways. I appreciate you clarifying.

Dec 26, 2013 7:18pm | report
 
sebackers

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sebackers

Is it possible to actually gain fat and lose muscle at the same time then? People on the message boards only say you can do it if your new to working out , have good genetics , or take illegal supplements. I have always gained fat and lost muscle though whenever I workout and I don't have any of those 3.

Dec 26, 2013 8:06pm | report
 
michaelr575

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michaelr575

You should get back on your creatine then. Usually helps get rid of fat and increase libido by over 300%, Then you wont have that problem, right?

Dec 26, 2013 8:44pm | report
sebackers

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sebackers

i was told u needed to cycle creatine, so I only stay on for 2-3 days at a time. your body actually starts to need and rely on the creatine so u have to make it not think that it needs the creatine, I have found every 2-3days you need to come off. my teacher told me it can hurt your kidneys and be bad for eye sight which could explain why i have bad eye sight.

Dec 26, 2013 11:20pm | report
19addy

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19addy

dude..its creatine,,,not some steroid....no, it will not affect ur eyesight and wont mess up your kidneys if u r taking d recommended 5 grams a day...2-3 days....dats just illogical...nothng works dat fast....try a good quality creatine mono or creatine nitrate...its one of d safest and most effective supplements....u need to get ur facts right

Dec 27, 2013 9:11am | report
mauge1

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mauge1

I think he was being sarcastic, 19addy...

Dec 28, 2013 4:54pm | report
ajaxgladiator

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ajaxgladiator

Not very informative. It seems like he threw this together in little to no time.

Article Rated:
Dec 27, 2013 2:43am | report
 
cmarti063

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cmarti063

I agree, terrible article. "Sure, cause look at elite athletes!" Because what works for them... And then post a workout that no arhlete would use. Cool. No science, no citations.

Dec 27, 2013 7:34am | report
paulski45

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paulski45

article doesn't address anything about diet???

Dec 27, 2013 5:13am | report
 
boo_fricken_who

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boo_fricken_who

Wait. What? Bust my *** and get enough calories and I'll build lean muscle AND burn fat? Lol

Dec 27, 2013 9:14am | report
 
ArceyoMinyin

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ArceyoMinyin

Yeah, I don't know who this guy is, but elite athletes work for years before they get to where they can train like they do. The average individual is going to get themselves injured trying to take this guys advice.

Dec 27, 2013 10:11am | report
 
TankMcRae

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TankMcRae

I mean, that's just around 20 sets (counting each superset as one set, and assuming you do five sets of the seated rows). Easy stuff, though the reps might be challenging for some people (for example, my back is primarily fast twitch fibers, so anything over 10-12 reps is brutal on my back workouts, but they're great for getting a wicked pump). High volume training is not that bad if you do it right. Higher rep sets just take practice, but when added with the low weight sets, you can get some crazy size, even naturally.
Intensity volume smart approach = Stimulation pump goal-oriented programming = Gains

Dec 27, 2013 1:50pm | report
fourdegrees

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fourdegrees

Articles like this are what is wrong with the fitness industry. This guy is not natty, so yes HE can gain muscle and loose fat. What works for him and every other top pro will not work for you.

Dec 27, 2013 11:06am | report
 
TankMcRae

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TankMcRae

There are diet tricks you can do as well, I incorporate IF, and I will honestly see marginal strength gains while I'm cutting because during my feasting windows I'm eating at a pace as if I'm bulking.

It's not as dramatic as when I'm actually bulking, but it is possible.

Dec 27, 2013 1:52pm | report
fourdegrees

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fourdegrees

Except this article dosent mention anything about diet at all. Instead it tells you to train harder and faster, to turn your lifting session into basically a hybrid HIIT workout. Sounds like crossfit to me...

The cut/bulk cycle is simple and effective for 100% of people. This article will cause countless people to spin their wheels...

Dec 27, 2013 8:07pm | report
Dace96

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Dace96

Couldn't agree more.

May 12, 2014 2:34pm | report
blue12727

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blue12727

That's what I am doing and it is working great for me

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Dec 27, 2013 1:09pm | report
 
Jhidber

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Jhidber

he forgot to mention that you need a professional nutritionist on hand to measure your macro nutrients and all around calorie intake. Get real this is a pipe dream its possible but so is winning the lottery and having insanely lucky genes like 'pro athletes' have. Far better to gain muscle while minimizing fat gain and cut while minimizing muscle loss.

Dec 27, 2013 1:18pm | report
 
TankMcRae

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TankMcRae

Or just incorporate IF, and train during the eating windows, (not that fasted training garbage that people promote), I've seen marginal strength gains while cutting in the past by using IF.

Dec 27, 2013 1:54pm | report
KeatingD

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KeatingD

I think, as with anything, it works for many, maybe not for all. Still found it reassuring, especially the bottom line.... Exertion = results....

Dec 27, 2013 5:46pm | report
 
DankDangles

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DankDangles

From what I've gathered, doing both is usually not an option for most people (non-fitness careers demand too much time for an effective program that does both).

I think for most beginners or amateur lifters, one should stick to one or the other. It's incredibly hard to dial in a diet that allows for both fat loss and lean mass gain. Have you ever tried to eat a surplus of calories on a completely clean diet AND throw in fat burning workouts? It's out of the question for most people (and believe me, most beginners fail at the simplest of goals to begin with).

In short, advanced or professional athletes can do both but it's difficulty makes it prohibitive to most others. You will see faster results by doing a bulking cutting cycle rather than fumbling aimlessly with an advanced dual-goal approach.

Dec 28, 2013 8:16am | report
 
wesleycneill

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wesleycneill

Terrible article. No science, no citation, no information on diet and no specific examples of real results.

Ladies and gents, I'd look elsewhere to settle this question.

Jan 2, 2014 6:07am | report
 
TylerTheTrainer

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TylerTheTrainer

Awesome article, I went from 125-155lbs in a year and stayed under 10% bodyfat.

Kill it in the gym, and have a good nutrition under your day and you will be fine !

Jan 7, 2014 12:16pm | report
 
ShynDaShu

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ShynDaShu

Even before I read this article, I've been doing a similar regiment and it works great. My big brother tells me I need to finish bulking before trying to lose weight, but I've increased my dumbbell curling from 35 to 55/60 in 2.5 months along with other muscle groups significant strenght and size increases while also dropping 20 lbs. This is definitely doable!

Apr 27, 2014 9:10pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 26 Comments

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