How to Get Stronger Than Ever While Burning Body Fat

March 19, 2008

I have found a way to lift heavier weights while burning more body fat than normal in the same workout. This method will extend the fat burning window in your workout, without necessarily working out longer. I kind of stumbled upon this method on accident quite a few years ago, and now I use it to get extra lean while increasing my muscle density simultaneously. I have never read about this method, nor have I seen anyone else in the gym doing this. I don’t think I’m the only person who does this, but this certainly isn’t a mainstream personal training tip at all.

bruce lee's ripped 6 pack abs
[Bruce Lee is the definition of strength-to-weight ratio. This man could do some amazing physical feats. A true bad-ass for sure!]

A Strange Phenomenon I Discovered On Accident…

About 9 years ago, I really started to hit cardio hard. I really decided to increase the performance of my cardio and take it to the next level. I began hard intervals on various cardio machines and came up with an Interval Training Workout that has suited me well over the years. I would do a variation of this cardio workout after every session of lifting and I was quickly getting slim, lean and defined. The problem was that I was drenched with sweat and my heart was still racing. It felt weird to leave the gym in that state.

One Day I Went Back to Lifting After My Cardio Session

I decided to do flat bench dumbbell presses again (I did them earlier in my workout). I was completely warmed up from doing them, plus my body felt warm and loose from the cardio…so I went straight for a heavy set of 3. I figured I was worn out from the cardio, so I grabbed a pair of 80 pound dumbbells which I would do sets of 5 with back then. When I did the set, they felt lighter than ever! I figured they would have felt heavier! I went on to grab 90 pound dumbells…they felt totally light! I went up to 100 pounders and they felt heavy, but I did a set of 5 pretty easily. This was actually a personal best for me at the time, which is nuts since I expended so much energy from interval training!

I Was So Excited I Decided to Try Dumbbell Rows

Due to my log arms, I’m terrible at pressing exercises and strong at pulling exercises. I can do super slow sets of dumbbell rows with 100+ pounds no problem. Pressing that same weight is a challenge for me. Back to my story…so I grabbed 100 pound dumbbells and did a set of 5 reps. That felt easy…110 pound dumbbells for 5…easy! 120 pound dumbbells…tough, but I got up a strict 5 reps. Yes…another personal best.

What the Heck Was Happening Here?

This really didn’t seem logical at all to me. I should have had a tougher time doing these lifts after HIIT, not an easier time! I was drenched with sweat and breathing hard. How on earth was I setting personal bests in these lifts. It was crazy!

The Next Day I Tried Doing Cardio First, Then Lift…

So the next day I did a similar cardio workout first and then hit the weights. The weird thing is that the weights felt heavier than ever! I felt weak and couldn’t lift even close to the same weights as I normally did. This wasn’t too surprising, since I have tried cardio before lifting in the past and I had a similar experience. I was wondering if the day before was a fluke, or if I was just stronger that day for some reason.

After a Few Weeks, I Figured It Out

What I discovered was that strength training before my cardio workout basically “awakened” the neural pathways to the muscles (remember, strength training is all about sending strong nerve impulses from your brain to muscles). After I did my typical 3-5 rep strength training routine, I would hit cardio hard for 25-45 minutes. During that time, my body temperature would increase and all my muscles and joints would loosen up. When I went back to perform those same lifts, the nerve pathways were already primed from the earlier lifting…but now my body was “warmed up” beyond belief, the joints moved better, etc. The same amount of nerve impulse to the muscle resulted in more efficient contractions.

Lifting Heavy Never Felt So Good

I am always careful to lift slow and deliberately when lifting. Many days I lift light, but contract the muscles hard to mimic the contraction I get when lifting heavy. This is a way to gain strength without lifting heavy all the time. There are other days when I do enjoy lifting heavier weights. Doing my heaviest sets after cardio is a great way to lift heavy without worrying about pulling something. The sets I do after cardio always feel smooth and easy. The weight just glides nicely.

Lifting Weights Widens the “Calorie Burning Window”

What you will notice when lifting after cardio, is that your heart rate will stay at a decent rate. Even if you are just lifting low reps and resting quite a bit in between, your body will be in fat burning mode. You are doing two things at once…burning fat and increasing muscle definition by getting stronger without getting bigger. This is like the “Perfect Storm” of getting in amazing condition…I think I’ll call it that!

Here is an Outline Of The Perfect Storm Workout

  • Do 2/3 of your normal lifting routine before cardio
  • Perform Interval Training or tough Steady State Cardio for 25-45 minutes
  • Pick two Lifts total and Do 4-5 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Make sure the lifts are similar or the same as a lift you did before cardio
  • Don’t rush your sets, you will still burn fat with longer rest periods
  • A Great Way to Develop Lagging Body Parts

    You can use this method to quickly develop weak body parts. Let’s say you are doing chest and back on the same day. You would do your brief strength training routine, hit cardio, and then maybe concentrate on just doing two more lifts for chest instead of one for chest and one for back. You can be flexible here. The one thing you don’t want to do is try to do 4-5 more exercises, as it loses its effectiveness. Just focus your efforts on two, maybe three lifts max.

    Note: I found a site called The Positivity Blog, which talks about Bruce Lee’s philosophies on life. Great Post! The guy who puts this blog together is a really good writer.
    Bruce Lee’s Top 7 Fundamentals for Getting Your Life in Shape

    Important Message: Although this site has received 25+ million visitors, I am starting from scratch and abandoning it. This site is dated and old school looking, terrible to read on mobile, etc.

    It's like a Ford Pinto compared to my new site...which is like a Ferrari. Click the link to head over to my new site.

    Starting Over...R.I.P. Fitness Black Book!

    Thanks for reading all these years!


    ----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

    { 14 comments… read them below or add one }

    Sandy March 27, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Yea it was awesome! I love working out! I really think that’s what it is based on my symptoms. I found a few stretches to do before running (I will lay off the running for a little while) and do the bike and elliptical. Any information you can find out will be helpful, thanks.

    Sandy March 29, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Hey Rusty!
    I guess I dont have shin splints. I did HIIT last night and did it today (30 mins plus 10 mins steady state jogging). I stretched a bunch and made sure I warmed up first. Im sooo glad. I thought it was going to ruin my workout program.

    admin March 30, 2008 at 9:38 pm


    That is good news. Sometimes your body will just get sore or have pains when you are first adapting to a new way of training.


    Erica March 31, 2008 at 11:45 am

    What exercise (strength training and cardio) would you recommend for tonning down my thighs? Again, I have until May 3rd to try to look somewhat decent in a 2 pc. I usually follow a low carb diet, but what is your definition of low carb. Atkins suggests under 20 carbs a day for the 1st two weeks. What do you think? How do you feel about swimming?

    admin April 1, 2008 at 2:21 am


    My female friends who look amazing in swimsuits all run on the treadmill like crazy. These are girls in the 30-35 age group range and most of them have better bodies than girls in their early 20’s.

    Slim thighs…treadmill intervals for 20 minutes followed by steady cardio for 20 minutes on an elliptical or stairmaster type machine. Stay away from exercise bikes for a while, until your leg get slim. Exercise bikes are great, but they can “pump” up the quads a bit, which will give your legs extra size. Once you are slim they are a good for toning, but don’t so them when you are trying to rreduce your leg size.

    As far as carbs go…here is my big tip. Eat as few carbs as practical leading up to your workout and eat the majority of your daily carbs after your workout. Try to eat 75% of your daily carbs during a 2-3 hour window after your workout. You will get the most out of your cardio and the carbs you do eat after your workout will mainly get used to refuel your depleted muscles.

    The amount of carbs you do decide to eat will depend upon how much fat you have to lose and how long you have dieted. You need to take breaks every now and them while on a low carb diet. I personally think that 20 grams of carbs per day is pretty low…don’t torture yourself!


    Sawyer April 1, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Hey Rusty,

    I really enjoy your site, it has cued me into a lot of great new fitness tips.

    Currently I am following the Warrior Diet, supplemented with a lot of green tea. I found this article the day after I accidently stumbled upon this principle myself; I was lifting biceps and chest and did 30 minutes of cardio and then decided to to do some chin-up/dip ladders and it was amazing.
    Anyways I see you talking a lot about overtraining and how you shouldn’t be sore afterwards. Personally I have never felt the effects of what most consider “overtraining.”
    I workout 7 days a week for at least 45 minutes a workout, on average I get in at least 2 workouts a day spliting my workouts up into cardio/muscle and harder cardio. I was just wondering what your thoughts were on that…..maybe I’m a freak of nature? B)
    The soreness thing I get as a personal preference, I know I hate to feel like I can’t move because I’m so sore; but I do like to feel some burn in my muscles. When I do weight work I tend to alternate between weights and bodyweight routines, and the one thing I have really come to notice is that I can’t really get a good burn in my biceps without using weights and isolating them or doing at least over 50 chins (I try and work in at least 30 chinups a day alternating grip styles when I can). Any thoughts? Also what are your thoughts on bodyweight routines? I am a huge fan because I do Parkour so I need to be sure that my body will be strong, stable, balanced and flexible throught a large range of motions.


    admin April 2, 2008 at 9:43 pm


    Some people can handle a much higher load of training without overtraining…you sound like one of those people. You can most likely continue to workout every day if you have the time and energy…no worries. I do like body weight routines a lot, but I like to supplement them with weights. I think it is easier to add heavier and heavier weights with weight lifting than it is to add weights to your body to make bodyweight exercises tougher. So a mix of both would be my suggestion.


    KK April 3, 2008 at 3:13 am

    Hey rusty. I’ve done just about 3 months of trying to gain mass and I guess I’ve come quite a ways. It’s not a significant gain but I have a feeling that I’m gaining in the chest area and I think it’s muscle too.. Anyways, I really am just more excited to start the leaning process and maybe just continue the leaning process but with weight training of course. I used to do interval training before and I did it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. However, I didn’t supplement that with weight training at all so that is probably the reason why I look a bit bony as opposed to lean. My biggest question is, can you develop muscle in some areas while you’re on a calorie deficit and lots of cardio ? I’m sure these two things are bad if you want to gain a significant amount of mass but I’m more interested in getting lean. I never had a visible six pack but I would love to achieve that someday (hopefully soon).

    So what do you think? I’ve done my first 3 month gaining phase. Should I just go into the leaning phase from here on out? Or should I cycle gaining and losing a bit more.

    admin April 3, 2008 at 4:44 pm


    At this point I would recommend getting stronger as you get leaner. You will gain a small amount of functional muscle that will become more defined as the weeks go by. Honestly…as long as you gain strength while getting lean, you will wind up looking outstanding.


    Richard Nick July 21, 2008 at 5:13 am

    The above mentioned workouts r similar to Craig Ballantyne’s
    Turbulence training ……but for one difference that the interval
    cardio sessions are done right after a 20-30 mins of weight
    training. Is there any difference between swapping cardio and
    weight training and doing cardio right after the weight training?
    Which method will produce high RMR?

    mokwls July 28, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Hi Rusty,

    When you mention to do 60min of cardio for 21 straight days, does this include also adding HIIT to it as well? Would you do 21 straight days of HIIT and steady state cardio for 60min?


    MarkFu July 31, 2008 at 12:39 pm


    What are your thoughts on this variation? I would start doing light to medium snatches and cleans and then do the 20 minutes of cardio as you describe and when finished, lift heavy doing Oly supplemental lifts like front or back squats, deadlifts or heavy kettlebell swings or snatches.
    I already do the lifting part of the workout. The introduction of the HIIT would be the addition.

    Lucas January 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Hey Rusty.
    I really enjoyed reading this.. Untill christmas i used to run around 30-40 kilometers every week. Besides that i did alot of other cardio rutines, all stuff i needed my feet for. Then i injured my foot, and cant use it till late spring/early summer. That really made a negative impact on my cardio. Do you have a good way to do cardio without using your foot?? Is much needed
    Hope u can help

    Greg July 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Rusty,I really enjoy your website,im learning a lot.Ive worked out before with little results and am asking if you would give me some workout advice?I want to lose bodyfat and weight,im 5’9″tall and weigh 250lbs.i was wanting to know what workouts to start with and follow with.Im bulky in my upper body with skinny legs.I want to trim down and muscle up to have that healthy lean,muscular look.Should i follow your plan of phase work,sarcoplasmic hypertrophy to hybrid muscle growth to myofibrillar hypeertrophy,or try something different,im really confused from imformation overload from reading muscle mags.I believe in what you are saying though,it makes alot of sense to me.Id really appreciate your help!Thanks,Greg.

    Leave a Comment

    Previous post:

    Next post: