The holiday season is stuffed like a stocking with mouth-watering food and temptations aplenty, but with the right tactics, you can bypass the usual winter bulge and use this time to supercharge your size and strength gains. Strongman Colton Leonard has your back with these smart tips to help you stay on track and gain significant strength!

Implement Smart Flexible Dieting

"During the holidays, it seems like calories are everywhere," says Leonard. "Holiday cookies at work, Grandma's famous pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving dinners overflowing with six different side dishes and four different desserts, hot chocolate tempting you nightly—there's no shortage of opportunities to eat."



In the midst of all this binge-worthy food, Colton stresses that you need to keep a cool head: "The most important element going into the holiday season for any athlete is a solid diet."

November and December can quickly turn the edifice of your perfect diet into rubble, so the key to surviving is to disregard rigidity and adopt flexibility—a la flexible dieting.

"Flexible dieting takes into account your total caloric and macronutrient needs for the day, and gives you the freedom to choose what foods these macros come from," explains Colton. "It gives you the freedom to enjoy some of Grandma's pumpkin pie without breaking your diet so long as you stay within your macronutrient targets."

Leonard states that it's important not to use flexible dieting as an excuse to shovel heaps of pie into your mouth, but to apply a bit of common sense. Opt for 90 percent of your food to be nutritious choices that give your body the right nutrients and energy to be at its best, and leave 10 percent open for treats.

"Using this strategy, you can enjoy the holidays without completely breaking your calorie bank over and over again," Leonard says.

Once you've laid the foundation of a flexible diet, you can start tinkering with your total daily calorie intake. Instead of constantly struggling against the abundance of holiday fuel, you might even bump up your calorie intake and harness the holidays for size and strength! Think of the extra calories as delicious morsels that accelerate recovery and promote worthwhile strength gains.

Set Firm Goals

If you want to ensure progress after you've defined your diet, set some specific and measurable goals. Not merely, "I want a big bench press," but more concrete targets like, "I want to bench 225 pounds by January 3."



"Basic human nature tells us that, when we have tangible goals laid out in front of us, we are more likely to achieve them," says Colton. "Over the holiday season, choose a smart, achievable goal within a particular timeframe. This will keep you more motivated and active in the gym."

Leonard believes that the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to establish performance vs. physique goals, change up your training routine, and introduce a strength-focused program, especially if it's not something you're accustomed to.

If you want to really put your body through the wringer, try his hardcore "Holiday Strong" program on for size. This is what Colton prefers to follow over the winter months to prepare him for the upcoming spring season.

Day 1: Squat/Deadlift Day
1
Barbell Squat
Max-Effort Squat Variation
4 sets, 5, 3, 3, 1-2 reps (working up to max weight)
2
Barbell Deadlift
Speed Deadlift Variation
5 sets, 2-3 reps (use 40-50% of max weight)
3
Glute Ham Raise
3 sets, 12-15 reps
4
Superset
Seated Leg Curl
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Leg Extensions
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Day 2: Active Recovery
1
Running, Treadmill
Steady-State Cardio
1 set, 30 mins
2
Hamstring-SMR
Foam Rollilng/Stretching
1 set, 5 mins
Day 3: Press Day
1
Push Press
Max-Effort Push Press
4 sets, 5, 3, 3, 1-2 reps (working up to max weight)
2
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
Speed Bench Press
5 sets, 2-3 reps
3
Butterfly
Machine Fly
4 sets, 10 reps
4
Dips - Chest Version
4 sets, to failure (to failure)
5
Triceps Pushdown
4 sets, 12-15 reps
Day 4: Back/Biceps
Note: Extras: Add 1-2 additional exercises you want to do, such as lateral raises, rear delt flyes, more biceps work, or calves training at the end of the workout.
1
Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown
4 sets, 8-12 reps
2
Seated Cable Rows
4 sets, 8-12 reps
3
Dumbbell Incline Row
Chest-Supported Row
3 sets, 8-12 reps
4
Hammer Curls
4 sets, 12-15 reps
5
Preacher Curl
3 sets, 12-15 reps
Day 6: Strongman Work
Note: On Saturdays, Colton typically performs several strongman exercises in the morning. If you don't have access to strongman equipment, this is a great opportunity to incorporate more functional training into your workout routine with things like sandbags, tires, and sleds.
1
Farmer's Walk
Farmer's Carry. 4 runs of 80-100 feet.
4 sets, 80-100 ft
2
Atlas Stones
4 runs of 3-5 stone loads.
4 sets, 3-5 reps
3
Sandbag Load
Sandbag Carry. 3 runs with a 200-300-pound bag for 50 feet.
3 sets, 50 ft (use 200-300 pound bag, if possible)

Special Holiday Workout

If the above program isn't enough, Leonard also likes to devise workouts specifically for big meal days like Christmas and Thanksgiving. To make the most of these holidays, he suggests getting in an intense group workout.

"We get a big group of friends together and find some way to get a workout in on the days of those big feasts," he explains. "This can be hard to do with most gyms being closed on holidays, but fortunately for us, we have enough personal equipment to get a good garage training session in."

Of course, not everyone has this luxury. Whether you're traveling or don't have access to any equipment, you can try this effective bodyweight workout or any of these within the Bodybuilding.com archives.

If you do have access to a gym, below is one of Colton's favorite Christmas day leg workouts:



Christmas Day Legs
1
Leg Press
5 sets, 25 reps
2
Seated Leg Curl
4 sets, 25 reps
3
Bodyweight Walking Lunge
Step Lunges
3 sets, 25 reps
4
Leg Extensions
2 sets, 25 reps
5
Barbell Squat
1 set, 25 reps

Crush a celebratory holiday workout and the strength program above, and you can be sure any extra calories you ingest will get put to good use.

Once the holidays are over, don't forget to review your achievements over the last year and set some new goals for the year ahead.

"It's important to review progress, setbacks, and achievements to continuously make improvements and get closer to your long-term goal," Leonard says. "And of course, never forget to give thanks for your health and athletic achievements to date. Health is a blessing!"

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About the Author

Shannon Clark

Shannon Clark

Shannon Clark is a freelance health and fitness writer located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

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