Brute-Force Fat-Burning: Stay Strong While Getting Ripped!

Don't choose between a lean body and a strong body. This five-week program will help you burn enough fat to meet those body-composition goals and maintain your hard-earned strength!

"The man who chases two rabbits ends up losing them both."
— Anonymous

Though the origin of that saying can be traced back to Native American hunters, too often it applies today to modern lifters who train for concurrent and yet conflicting goals: maximizing size and minimizing body fat.

The majority of research—not to mention common sense—suggests that it's difficult to gain size while losing body fat simultaneously.

Optimum growth requires a caloric surplus, whereas fat burning requires a caloric deficit. Those seem mutually exclusive, right?

Not necessarily. By using your head as well as your body, you can catch both rabbits rather than coming up empty-handed. I'm here to show you how.

METABOLISM: THE GREAT EQUALIZER

While it may be difficult to gain size while cutting simultaneously, it's much easier to maintain body fat while increasing muscle mass. This, in turn, reduces the body fat percentage of total weight.

You can also maintain strength and even see increases while leaning out.

Contrary to what you may think, you can also maintain strength and even see increases while leaning out. Happily, increasing the amount of lean muscle you carry creates an uptick in resting metabolism, which works in your favor for improving body composition.

This can be done in a number of ways, but the approach you'll take with this program involves a thoughtful combination of heavy strength training and sweat-yielding metabolic conditioning circuits.

Here's how it all breaks down:

Going heavy

When trying to get as lean as possible, some lifters tend to throw the baby out with the bath water, swapping out their normally heavy sets for higher-rep work. This is a mistake! Strength in the big lifts involves more neural efficiency and excitation coupled with biomechanical alignment to lift heavy. Translation: more muscle gets used, more calories get burned.

Additionally, researchers from the Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education in Oslo found that a group of lifters using their six-rep max (6RM) bumped up their metabolism higher and for longer than a group of lifters training with 12-rep sets.

Heavy strength training can help improve muscle recruitment throughout the entire body. This makes each rep more beneficial by taxing the body's ability to use calories effectively to power the workouts. So abandoning heavy squats, benches, and deadlifts in order to get lean is misguided.

Metabolic training

A mainstay in any weight-loss program is some form of metabolic conditioning; that is, extended periods during which your heart rate is above the anaerobic threshold. Think of it like a quarter-mile drag racer versus a long-haul trucker. The dragster will burn through a lot more fuel in a very short period of time, while the long haul trucker will sip fuel over an extended period to reach his or her destination. Simply put, higher intensities are required to see optimal fat loss.

Higher intensities are required to see optimal fat loss.

This higher intensity also increases the neural efficiency of the brain, causing the muscles to contract harder to increase force production and work output. The repeated-bout component of metabolic conditioning helps improve nutrient delivery to the working muscles and speeds waste product removal—two events necessary to increase work capacity and power output.

Best of both worlds

A higher intensity (read: heavier) weight workout with a volume of 20-30 reps of max effort work, coupled with a metabolic conditioning component can cause insane fat-burning potential, while helping you maintain or even increase existing muscle mass and strength levels.

THE WORKOUT

Now that you understand how the various factors play into your goals, it's time to get to work. This workout will be composed of different-phased intensities and volumes through the week. The goal is to burn copious amounts of calories while maintaining a relatively high training intensity.

Barbell Squat

You'll rest between sets but no enough to fully recover. The total number of reps of heavy exercises will fall between 20 and 30, but the intensity and rest periods between each workout will be varied to work on max strength, heavy strength, or work capacity with a challenging resistance.

There's no such thing as a useless or throwaway rep in this program. Every rep counts! The weights will be challenging, but you'll never take them to failure. The goal is to train you to succeed, not to learn how to give up.

Because the workout intensity will be higher, intra-workout supplementation will be important. Branched-chain amino acids can help prevent excessive muscle breakdown. A sports drink can also help you to get you through the workout without crashing by keeping your blood-sugar level, while keeping your electrolyte balance stable.

THE SPLIT

Day Elements
  1. Squats, Metabolic Conditioning, Sled Push
  2. Bench Press, Metabolic Conditioning, Sprints
  3. Deadlift, Metabolic Conditioning, Rower
  4. Cleans, Metabolic Conditioning, Foam Roller
  5. Rest
  6. Rest
  7. Rest
Foam Roller
Notes

Begin each session with 10-15 minutes of dynamic work to increase heart rate and core body temperature. Mild cardio, light kettlebell work, or other mobility exercises are recommended. Repeat for three weeks, adding weight as needed while still maintaining strict rest intervals.

In Week 4, cut the volume in half and increase each rest interval by 15 seconds.

In Week 5, try to see what your new maxes are in each main lift, ensuring you don't go for more weight than you can use with solid technique.

Day 1
    Squats
  • Barbell Squat Barbell Squat Barbell Squat
    4 sets of 15, 10, 5, 2 reps

  • Pyramid up to a weight that challenges you to complete two reps. This is designed to help you up-regulate the nervous system for the heavy work ahead. Strive for a full range of motion on each rep, aiming to get your thighs parallel to the floor. Use a box if necessary.

  • Barbell Squat Barbell Squat Barbell Squat
    10 sets of 2 reps

  • Use a weight that is approximately 85% of the two-rep weight you arrived at previously. Complete your two reps at the top of each minute for 10 minutes.

    Metabolic Conditioning
    Move from exercise to exercise without rest, going through the entire circuit 5 times total. Rest no more than 75 seconds between sets.

  • Pushups Pushups Pushups
    10 reps
  • Chin-Up Chin-Up Chin-Up
    10 reps

  • If chin-ups are too challenging, or for greater variety from week to week, substitute the inverted row.

  • Dumbbell Rear Lunge Dumbbell Rear Lunge Dumbbell Rear Lunge
    5 reps, per side
  • Barbell Glute Bridge Barbell Glute Bridge Barbell Glute Bridge
    10 reps
  • Sled Push
  • Sled Push Sled Push Sled Push
    Perform 3 all-out sets of 20 yards using a challenging resistance. Rest 60 sec or less in between sets.

  • If your gym doesn't have a sled, perform 10 minutes of continuous, high-level work on a stair climber.

Day 2
    Bench Press
  • Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
    4 sets of 15, 10, 5, 2 reps

  • Pyramid up to a weight that challenges you to complete two reps. This is designed to help you up-regulate the nervous system for the heavy work ahead. Ensure your shoulders are set properly, deep under your ribs and squeezed together. Use dumbbells if they are more comfortable or alternate between workouts for variety.

  • Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
    10 sets of 1 rep

  • Use a weight that is approximately 90% of the two-rep weight you arrived at previously. Superset with two reps of chin-ups or inverted rows each set, resting no longer than 75 seconds after each superset.
    superset with
  • Chin-Up Chin-Up Chin-Up
    10 sets of 2 reps

  • Metabolic Conditioning
    Move from exercise to exercise without rest, going through the entire circuit 5 times total. Rest no more than 75 seconds between sets.

  • Floor Glute-Ham Raise Floor Glute-Ham Raise Floor Glute-Ham Raise
    6 reps
  • Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg Raise
    10 reps
  • Freehand Jump Squat Freehand Jump Squat Freehand Jump Squat
    15 reps
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row
    8 reps, per side

  • Perform these using a 3-0-3 tempo. This calls for a 3-second eccentric, or negative, contraction, a 0-pause, then an immediate 3-second concentric, or positive, contraction.

    Sprint
  • Jogging-Treadmill Jogging-Treadmill Jogging-Treadmill
    Perform 5, 50-yard sprints at 90% max speed on a track or treadmill. Rest 90 seconds between sprints.
Day 3
    Deadlift
  • Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift
    4 sets of 15, 10, 5, 2 reps

  • Choose between a sumo and conventional deadlift or alternate them week to week for variety. In either case, focus on driving with your hips rather than your back. Make it a horizontal drive —bringing your hips forward—instead of a strictly vertical drive.

  • Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift
    5 sets of 5 reps

  • Use a weight that is approximately 80% of the two-rep weight you arrived at previously.

    Metabolic Conditioning
    Move from exercise to exercise without rest, going through the entire circuit 5 times total. Rest no more than 75 seconds between sets.

  • Goblet Squat Goblet Squat Goblet Squat
    15 reps
  • Dumbbell One-Arm Shoulder Press Dumbbell One-Arm Shoulder Press Dumbbell One-Arm Shoulder Press
    5 reps, per side
  • Barbell Curl Barbell Curl Barbell Curl
    10 reps
  • Dumbbell Bench Press Dumbbell Bench Press Dumbbell Bench Press
    10 reps
  • Rower
  • Rowing, Stationary Rowing, Stationary Rowing, Stationary
    Perform eight 500-meter sprints at 85-100% of your maximum intensity. Rest 75 seconds or less in between sets.

  • Keep track of your total sprint time and try to come within three seconds on the subsequent sets.
Day 4
  • Clean Pull Clean Pull Clean Pull
    8 sets of 3 reps
  • Clean Pull Clean Pull Clean Pull
    8 sets of 3 reps

  • The goal of these isn't the total amount of weight lifted, especially if you're a novice with the lift. Instead, try to focus on using a lighter weight and generating massive speed from the hip extension and shoulder shrug, with rapid hip, knee, and ankle extension, generating as much power into the floor as possible moving into the catch.

    Make sure you catch the bar on the shoulders and not on your throat. If you can deadlift 315 pounds or more, use 135 on the clean. If you deadlift less, use 95. If you've never done these before, start with an empty bar or a broomstick and focus on speed of the movement and getting under it for the catch. Add weight when you feel comfortable.

    Metabolic Conditioning
    Move from exercise to exercise without rest, going through the entire circuit 5 times total. Rest no more than 75 seconds between sets.

  • Band Pull Apart Band Pull Apart Band Pull Apart
    20 reps
  • Plank Plank Plank
    10 reps
  • Kettlebell One-Legged Deadlift Kettlebell One-Legged Deadlift One-Legged Deadlift
    8 reps, per side
  • Triceps Pushdown Triceps Pushdown Triceps Pushdown
    10 reps
  • Foam Roller
  • xxxnamexxx xxxnamexxx Foam Roll
    End both the workout and the week by foam-rolling your major muscle groups for 10-15 minutes total.

  • Be sure to focus on your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and hips as well as your entire back.