Reduce Calories and Reduce Unnecessary Time Spent Working Out

August 12, 2009

If you reduce calories consumed you can get the same fat loss results with less time spent exercising. Eating 2,000 calories more per week than you need and then doing cardio 5 times per week to burn those 2,000 calories leads you to a net fat loss of nothing. A lot of people ask me how many times per week they should workout. My answer is that it depends upon how many excess calories per week they plan on eating. I enjoy exercise, but it is just a small part of my life. I used to train 4-5 times per week, but now I am more likely to get in 3 sessions per week. The key is that I have reduced calories to get just as good of results with less visits to my gym.

reduce calories

[By simply “eating less” and staying active day to day, you can reduce the amount of official workouts per week. Although it sounds simple, many people eat too much and then burn off those excess calories with many unnecessary hours in the gym.]

Getting Great Results With Just 3 Short Workouts Per Week

I decided that this summer I was going to deliberately back off on working out and only go into the gym 3 days per week. No matter what I wouldn’t put in more than 3 days (even if I only made it into the gym 2 days the previous week). So most of the weeks I did get in 3 workouts, but a few times I only managed 2 times per week. My physique is about as sharp as it normally is with much less time and effort. Gotta like that!

I Backed Off On Calories to Make Up For Less Time In the Gym

I knew I didn’t have to go crazy and drastically reduce calories…I simply ate slightly smaller portions a lot of the time. Obviously I still had the occasional big meal, but I did my best to simply eat “a little less”. To be honest it was pretty easy. Exercise can increase the appetite, and since I was exercising less…I craved less food. I didn’t count calories, but just followed my instincts of eating a little less. Like many of the readers of this site, I do Intermittent Fasting twice a week as well.

3 Weeks Into Summer I Broke My 3 Day Rule…

One of the weeks I decided to workout 4 days per week (old habits die hard). My reasoning was it would make me “extra sharp” for the following week when good weather was suppose to hit. I also reduced my calories a little more. What happened was I felt fatigued and grumpy and my girlfriend noticed that my face and body “somehow looked different”…and not in a good way. I knew it was because that I was slightly overtrained and carb-depleted. Although this is a quick way to drop those last few pounds, the price isn’t worth it to me anymore. I did a quick adjustment and dropped my workouts down to 2 days the following week and ate a bit more that week as well. Quickly back to normal.

Spent a Lot More Time Swimming, Walking, and Skimboarding

One of my goals is to spend much more time being active outside. Luckily for me the weather in Seattle this summer has been outstanding. One of the days it hit 104 and we went swimming in the cold Puget Sound at 8PM. Another thing I am trying to do is walk to places in the city that are near my apartment instead of driving. I still need to improve in this area, but I’m getting better. I used to think walking was for people who weren’t fit enough for a “real workout”, but I’ve changed my tune. Here is a post I did on that subject: Why Walking is Necessary for Good Health – Even If You Are Extremely Fit and Lean

Easily Drop a Workout if You Just Slightly Reduce Calories

You don’t have to cut back much as far as average daily calories to equal what a workout would burn. Honestly, just 100-200 calories less per day would do the trick. If you combine this with walking more often and increasing recreational activities, you will achieve the same effect with one less trip to the gym. I actually believe you would be healthier in the long run as well. Eat a little less and walk a little more. Pretty simple and it works.

Circumstances That Require More Workouts Per Week

My advice is to put in a little more effort in the beginning to quickly reach your fat loss goals, but then figure out the minimum “gym-time” it requires for you to maintain that physique. Certain things like getting ready for a movie role, training for a triathlon, or training for a power lifting competition…will require more time in the gym. The main thing is that these should be exceptions to day-to-day life. At some point I am also going to outline a 3 week routine that will help you get “vacation ready”, if you want to reach really low body fat levels.

It Also Doesn’t Hurt to Train a Little More In the Beginning

There is something to be said for building a base of strength your first 1-3 years of training. In this case, it would be fine to train 4-5 days per week. The key is to back off once you have hit your ideal size. From that point forward it will be about getting leaner and stronger without having to live in the gym. A few strategic workouts per week can do the trick…especially if you walk a lot and stay active when you are not training.

Note: Please send me your comments about how many times per week you like to workout. On Friday and Saturday I’m floating down a river on the other side of the mountains where I live, so there will be a delay in when they will show up. When I get back I will approve all the comments and answer any questions the following day.

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!"

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Yash August 15, 2009 at 12:29 am

The fork is mightier than the bar. I personally really liked that video that Brad Pilon and Craig Ballantyne did to show this with the treadmill and pizza. It takes 2 minutes to eat 600 calories and 2 hours to burn it off. Heck, it takes 0 minutes to NOT eat the extra calories in the first place, rather than take the time to eat it AND work it off later.

mickieb August 15, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Correction: Its not a Body Wave, its called Body Blade.

Norbi August 15, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Hey Rusty,

interesting article. Well I’m personally having the exact opposite ‘problem’… I want to speed up my progress with my martial arts training, which means that I’m burning a LOT of calories… practically for the past 2 weeks or so I was not even trying to lose weight, but I still did almost at the rate I used to (~2lbs/week). I guess I should eat even more…

Tim D August 16, 2009 at 7:53 am

Hey Rusty, I have been doing your low body fat percentage course after lifting and it works great. However, after a month or so I would like to up the intensity, right now I am at 10 minutes on the treadmill at max of 8.5 and 10 minutes on the step mill at level 10. So my question is, when I want to up my intensity should I add 2 minutes (duration) or should I up the speed to say level 12 (intensity) and stay at that 10 minutes you recommend in your course? I do follow it up with either a 20 minute walk on the treadmill or 20 minutes on the elliptical.

Alec @ A Calorie Calculator August 16, 2009 at 10:52 am

Well put,

I tend to think when you are looking mainly at weight loss, like your saying it primarily comes down to maintining a mild calorie deficit. Some people want to know things like can you reduce weight with no exercise. I guess theoretically, you could if you ate so little so as to still maintain the calorie deficit, but this would introduce all sorts of potential problems and would miss out on the health benifits of exercise generally.

I was initially quite suprised when I started looking at the calories in food and the calories typically burned by exercise as too just how many calories really are in the wrong sorts of foods. Doing what your suggesting here of reducing food to work out less seems quite achievable, but the opposite of attempting to compensate with completly letting yourself go with your diet by additional exercise, when you add the figures up, can be very hard to make work.

Studio Element Personal Training August 16, 2009 at 11:48 am

Nice post, but there are so many other benefits of the missed exercise that can be gained. Improved heart and lung function, reduced disease risk, etc, etc.

Elizabeth August 16, 2009 at 11:52 am

Hi Rusty,
Thanks for another great post! So, I first commented on your site about 6 weeks ago, and now I have a testimonial for you, and a question…I gained more than 20 pounds in the year after college, and have spent the last 3 years trying to lose it. Trainers and nutritionists kept telling me that I needed to keep my calories high enough to “support my exercise” so I was eating about 1800 calories/day and had stalled in my weight loss with about 8 pounds to go.

After finding your site, I changed the way I work out and the way I eat–for the past 6 weeks 5 days/week I do 25 minutes of HIIT followed by 35 minutes of steady state cardio, and lift 2 or 3 times/ week with low reps, high volume. And I’m now eating 1000-1200 calories/day. The first 3 weeks I saw no change in my weight (and was losing hope!), but the last couple weeks the weight has started to drop off and so has my body fat. Being measured with calipers, I went from 20.8 to 18.4% body fat (my goal for the summer was under 20, so I’m happy!).

Now, I’m 128 lbs, just 3 away from my goal (I’m female, 26 y/o, 5’8″)…my question: do you have any advice or previous posts about transitioning to maintenance? Since I’ve had to keep my calories pretty low and my exercise pretty high to lose the weight, I’m afraid of regaining weight when I try to start maintaining! Thanks!

Josh August 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Hassan,
I’m not sure if you have heard of Ori Hoffmeklers “Warrior Diet?” or not, but his premise is to eat one large meal per day in the evening. I used this method and it worked well for me. In fact I had some Muslim friends in college and I remember them talking about Ramadan, when I mentioned this was how I ate everyday I got some strange looks to say the least!! I think the short answer is that yes you can lose some weight during Ramadan (provided you still keep overall calories in check) and reap the physical as well as the spiritual benefits. (I always feel spiritual during a fast, call me a hippy..lol) I would wait until evening to workout though as you stated that you cannot drink water during the day time. Good luck!

Hassan August 16, 2009 at 7:18 pm

thanks josh, i was thinking of breaking my fast 1st with some water, and then working out while sipping on water, and then eat something, would that be a good approach you reckon? im only going to stik with bodyweight circuits on this month and nothing overboard or i might faint lol…which i dont want.

admin August 16, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Note: I won’t be able to respond to every comment, but I’ll hit as many as possible. I read and appreciate every comment. Keep them coming!

Rahim,

I do better when I limit grains as well. I notice the biggest difference when I limit stuff made with white flower (which seems like 50% of the food in the grocery store).

Frank Z,

Performance in a specific sport is a different deal, so may require more work in the gym just like you mentioned.

Josh,

I think Eat Stop Eat is a big breakthrough as well. Thanks for pointing out that people can eat food choices from any popular diet and eat it in a way that still follows Eat Stop Eat. People who first hear ESE described, have a hard time wrapping their head around the idea. The biggest objection I get is that…”if you don’t eat every few hours, your metabolism will slow down”…it’s funny how obese people seem to be the ones who really cling to that “eat every couple hours” rule.

Abir,

I can’t really outline an entire schedule due to the high amount of traffic I get to my site. I have about 100+ comments to attempt to catchup with every other day. Type in “spring workout” into the search bar at the top right hand corner of my site. The first post that comes up outlines my spring workout routine. This is something to look at and adjust for your goals. It is a good basic strength training routine that works well.

Helder,

Most of us, including myself, could you a bit more playing in our lives. Good call buddy!

Avery,

You sound like you have a realistic and effective schedule that you can stick to long-term. Doing this for years really results in an impressive physique. There really is no substitute for “muscle maturity” when it comes to getting great definition.

Sam,

You will probably lose a decent amount of weight from avoiding things like squats and deadlifts…besides that, you should continue to do longer steady state cardio…this is the best way to lower overall body mass. You will lose a lot of fat and a bit of muscle (which is what you will need to do to lighten up). Both Kobe Bryant and David Beckham lightened up considerably 2-3 years ago, by backing off a bit on lifting and upping their cardio. This reduced muscle mass a bit while burning body fat, resulting in a lighter…more agile athlete. My advice is to keep the sessions brief when lifting and low reps with a low number of sets. Continue to hit the cardio and make sure the diet is in good order and you will be fine.

Kara,

The article emphasizes reducing official workouts in the gym, by being more active outside of the gym as well as walking more. Also…I am not suggesting that people can reduce their calories too low and still benefit. While the slowed metabolism thing can happen, it is vastly exaggerated by most of the media. Again…to be safe people shouldn’t go too low in calories…but most likely the majority of people don’t have that problem. My guess is that 95 out of 100 people weigh more than they would like because they eat too much, not because they have a slow metabolism from overdieting.

Jeffrey,

Keep doing what you are doing. It doesn’t seem excessive and you are getting outstanding results. I like the dipped cones from Dairy Queen!

Palidor,

You have the right idea! Take your time losing weight…even if it takes a while, all you have to do is get in shape once. Maintain this new body the rest of your life and you will be set. No need to ever have to get in shape again…it is easier and healthier to stay in shape all the time.

Jason G,

I always forget that you recently lost 60 pounds. That is outstanding. Sounds like you have a viscous routine…good idea to keep the activity to every other day. I like it that you alternate the weights with body weight only…that is the best of both worlds.

Aditya,

While you do workout 5-6 days per week…you are smart at keeping a few of the sessions pretty brief. You also sound like you are learning what works best for your body. If it makes you look and feel better and doesn’t take up too much of your time, it sounds like a great routine.

David,

I agree with life being too short. I always wish I could go back and change the fact that I spent so much time in the gym during college. I still had a blast, but would have had even more time to make great friends and socialize. I’ve learned from my mistake…these days, if something fun comes up…I will skip my workout and make it up at later time. Missing a workout has almost zero impact on your physique…especially if you eat well.

Marc,

We’ve been having Florida heat on this opposite corner of the US. I know you are having a blast down there this summer. Although the weather is nice there year-round…right? True about everyone eating too much. Finding realistic and comfortable ways to eat less, is the key to weight loss.

TonyKim,

So you are hitting the gym 3 times per week…and then staying active the rest of the time. This is ideal. I think we were meant to be active to a certain extent every day. We just don’t need to hit the gym every day. Good response to Kara. I get what she is saying, but the slowed metabolism deal from dieting too hard is rare compared to people who simply just eat too much.

DonkeyLips,

Since you are 24, you will have better capacity for more intense exercise throughout the week. As long as you enjoy it and still have plenty of time for fun…it sounds like you have a great plan (plus I know you hit Happy Hour in the Seattle area). I stay around 8% body fat most of the time as well. Getting to 5-6% just takes a little tweak for 3-6 weeks. I don’t even worry about getting that low anymore, but I’ve done so dozens of times…so I will teach you guys how to do that in that vacation report. Girls can use this report to slim down as well…hopefully they don’t aim for 6% body fat, because that looks bad on women! I love hearing about your results. You are doing the perfect workout for the look you are after. Keep it up!

Casey,

I can’t do much of that gymnastic stuff. I am built with long legs and arms and have a brutally tough time with things like handstand pushups.

David,

What a great start. I wish I would have began training when I was 15-16. You should aim for the lean Cam Gigandet look. Work the next couple years to get six pack abs and pay attention to the funky styles and you will do well in grabbing girls attention. Those high school years are a blast. Work at getting in good shape, but leave plenty of time for fun. As far as protein shakes go…they can’t hurt, but you certainly don’t need them. If I was in your position, I would focus on increasing strength without adding body fat. Over time you will “fill out”…and have nice abs the whole time. Also…if you stay lean, your face looks better (more angular and handsome…instead of pudgy and rounded).

Cameron,

I give different advice to different people and typically leave a lot of room for people to come up with their own ideal workout. Most of the posts are about workout principles and not about exact workouts. Anyway, for you…4 days a week would be fine. As a 16 year old, it will be tough to get the same definition that Brad Pitt had in Fight Club. He was in his 30’s at the time with a lot of workout experience. Over time muscles gain “muscle maturity”…which means over the years of being flexed in a workout…they show better definition. What you should do is work 1/2 your body in one workout…1/2 of your body in another workout and do each of these twice for a total of 4 days per week. Get really strong at chinups, dips, military presses, rows, etc. My quick advice is to do 5 sets of 5 for two different exercises per body part. Get stronger in these lifts over time without adding body fat. You will be on the right path.

Jonz,

It is tough for me to give you an absolute answer here, because I don’t know how many calories you have been eating as well as meal timing. If you are dropping muscle and fat simultaneously, then you are losing muscle. The way to combat this is to maintain your strength when lifting. It isn’t about doing a lot of lifting, just make sure you use relatively heavy resistance for a few sets. This was shown to conserve muscle mass in a study where people only ate 800 calories per day (not suggesting you eat that little).

Josh,

My calorie intake on non-fasting days can vary quite a bit. I aim for 3 medium size meals most of the time, but some days one of the meals will be exceptionally big. My best estimate is around 2,000-2,500 (body weight is 190). The fasting days it is closer to 800-1,200. Once per week is probably 4,000+.

LG,

Eating food with grandparents is completely worth blowing your diet. I never pass up the opportunity to eat grandma’s cooking! My grandma has passed away, but my girlfriend’s grandma is alive and well. We eat some of her amazing cooking about once per month. Glad you took time to spend with your grandparents!

Baz,

I like to go “old school” with my fiber consumption. Eat a fuji apple before a high calorie meal, or going out to eat. It has fiber as well as pectin. Drink a glass or two of water with the apple and the pectin expands in the water and fills your stomach. The apple is 60-80 calories, but you will eat much less than normal and be less tempted by high calorie food. For forearm post…type “grip” into my search bar on the site. Click the first post that comes up (the one with the cool black car).

mickieb,

Yeah…going into my 40’s gives me a little better perspective. I’m just trying to let the guys and girls who are in the 20’s and 30’s that life isn’t meant to be spent in a gym. Workout quickly a few times per week, eat well, look amazing, and have fun! I workout harder in winter as well…mainly because I’m not as active day to day as I am in the summer. I don’t know much about the body wave, but I like the power wheel. I actually have a cheap little ab wheel in my kitchen that I will use a few times per week to just take a break away from the computer. Mine doesn’t have the foot attachment, but I’ve used those. They are great. It is basically like rolling in to a plank position. The river float was awesome…30 people and everyone made it out alive!

Michael,

You can add muscle to 1-2 body parts while losing fat for sure. Just do more sets and reps on that particular muscle group. When working the muscle group for mass, do 5 sets of 5…but compress the rest intervals down a bit. Do a total of 15 sets for the muscle group, but do it while trying to fatigue the muscle a bit. Each set builds upon the previous set…rest has to be reduced for this to happen. You will get a bit of a pump, but nothing crazy. Since you are sticking to heavier weight and still lower reps, you will build solid mass instead of fluffy “pumped up” rounded muscles. Reduce down to 6-8 sets for all the other muscle groups while you are specializing for these body parts.

Shaun,

Good point. Also, people can always add a day back if they feel they aren’t getting great results.

***I will come back tomorrow and try to catch up on comments on this post***

Back to it!

Pablo,

Thanks for continuing to read all of this time. I really appreciate it!

Josh,

I would disagree with you about Americans not getting enough calories. As far as eating many meals per day or very few, current research shows very little difference in the amount of weight gained or lost. I certainly agree that we need exercise, but maybe not quite as much as mainstream fitness publications would suggest.

SethP,

Sounds like you are in great shape. As far as reaching your strength goals…I reached my peak at about the age of 35. I hit many of my goals and then backed off quite a bit on weight to focus on longevity. You should be able to hit those with time. My guess is that your squat and deadlift strength will come quickly and your bench could take a while.

sangita,

I had a blast floating down the river. It was such a huge mass of rafts that is looked like a small island floating down the river. Thanks for the compliments, by the way.

leftfield,

You have a good mindset when it comes to eating…I like that. Also, like you said, if someone is experienced and is over 30 they can easily get away with working out less while still looking good. The key is to put in the few years of hard work to get in great shape. It is so easy to maintain if you never let yourself get out of shape.

Yavor,

You are a misbehaving…looking at topless babes doesn’t count as a workout! I did Power to the People quite a few years ago for about 6 months. I love Pavel’s philosophy on strength, muscle tone, etc. I just like to use his principles but with a wider variety of lifting. He also isn’t a fan of any type of cardio and I like a mix of interval type cardio with body weight circuits for fat loss. He really had a big influence on the way I train today. I need access to a chinup bar near my apartment. Is yours at your house or nearby?

Hassan,

The toughest thing about Ramadan is the water fasting. I just think it is risky to train hard if you aren’t properly hydrated. Is there anyway you can get up really early and do a bodyweight circuit 3 times per week and then eat and drink some water right after? If that is possible, you could diet strictly and lose a lot of body fat in a month. If you can’t do that, you can still drop bodyfat from diet alone. Keep that evening meal lighter than normal when possible to accomplish this.

Denise,

I am guessing that you would be in just as good of shape if you followed that exact program you did in your 30’s. Since your workouts were somewhat long it would make sense that 2 workouts per week would do the trick. Thanks for the compliment on my site. It is a blast to get to connect with so many people.

Yash,

I thought that video was funny as well. Both of those guys get a big thumbs up from me…they are really educating people on how simple it is to get in amazing shape.

Norbi,

That is a problem that many people would like to have. Have you checked your body fat percentage? If it is just body fat flying off, then go with it!

Tim,

I would step up the level, not increase the time of the HIIT part. You could also do the ocassional 30 minutes of steady state instead of 20 (not all the time).

Alec,

You are right, many people think they can eat whatever they want and then make up for it with more exercise. The numbers never work out, because at some point the amount of exercise becomes ridiculous. Great point!

Studio Element Personal Training,

I guess my point was reducing “official” workouts each week. I always encourage people to stay active, even when they aren’t working out. I agree with you about the benefits of staying active.

Elizabeth,

What you will want to do now is just slightly reduce the time spent working out and increasing the intensity a little. Continue to lift 2-3 times per week, but drop a cardio day. Watch what happens over a two week period of time. My guess is that you will not put on any weight at all. At his point you will be training 4 days per week. Here is how to make this as time efficient as possible. Speed up your lifting just a little if you are happy with your strength levels. You will just shorten rest in between sets a hair. Right after this do your HIIT, but reduce it down to 15 minutes instead of 25. Drop 10 minutes off of your teady state cardio as well. So 3 times per week you will get your HIIT and cardio in with your lifting and once per week you will have a day where you just do HIIT and steady state cardio. This is still A LOT of training. My guess is that you can drop that 4th day, or make that day an easier day of walking or something along those lines. It is possible that backing off a little in training could actually help wih weight loss. You took the correct approach…less calories without starving yourself. Now you just got to test and tweak to come up with a realistic workout plan.

Rusty

flowerd August 16, 2009 at 8:37 pm

hey rusty love this topic you wrote! i was wondering can i do just the crazy 8 circuit you outlined as my primary excersise? and not have to lift weights and hitt?

Andrew Tattle August 17, 2009 at 4:49 am

Hey Rusty,

Wanted to say first off that you’ve got a great blog. It’s nice to see someone with a wealth of fitness knowledge as opposed to some guy spewing out globs of misinformation. I happen to be a personal trainer, but it is often amazing how ill informed some of the so called “professionals” in the industry truly are! I’m glad that there are at least a few competent individuals among us.

Anyway, I wanted to mention that I agree with your view about what makes a body truly appealing and truly healthy. It’s actually interesting that I happened upon this blog when I did. You see, growing up I was a competitive swimmer. I swam all the way through college and loved every minute of it. As you know, swimmers really get that toned, ultra lean look as a sort of added benefit from all their time in the pool. And we always felt incredibly healthy.

Interestingly enough, no sooner did I finish college swimming and “throw in the towel” than I picked up weights. And heavy ones at that. Spending as much time in the gym as I did with my job lent itself to me getting “hooked” on lifting. Not only was I hooked on lifting but I became hooked on bodybuilding. I never wanted to compete but was always striving to improve my physique. After two or three years at that, I really started to notice major changes. My deltoids “popped” and my pecs did the same. While it was interesting to see firsthand how I could manipulate my body, I also realized that it seemed like I was on a merry go round. It was like I was on a ride that could go on forever. When would it stop? When would I be satisfied? Although I lifted for hypertrophy for a couple more years, I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I was one of the few guys I knew who took bodybuilding type training seriously and didn’t use steroids. That sort of made me do a double take. I thought to myself, if these guys are willing to put synthetic substances into their body to achieve that “pumped up” look, what AREN’T they willing to do? Is this really healthy? All of a sudden I really started to wonder if I wanted to be that blocky bloated guy for the rest of my life….I truly wondered how long I could maintain my drive and motivation, much less a healthy body overall with that type of training and calorie consumption.

Literally two days later I changed my training. I talked to other trainers to give me ideas. I had had built so much muscle that I knew I would be incredibly ripped if I were to shed 15-20 pounds. Now I feel better. Honestly. I have more energy. My knees don’t yell at me when I go for a jog. The mass I have now is better for my frame. Defintely more aesthetic. I don’t obsess about my arm measurements or the size of my chest. And truly I couldn’t be happier.

I didn’t mean to give you my life story lol, but I truly felt sharing a little bit of my experience (since it was so relevant) might be good. A topic that might be something you could post on, which is totally in sync with the theme of your blog, would be the addictive nature of bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc. I know that people have a tendency to get stuck in their ways and that I was truly just a little bit “stuck” for a while. Thanks for letting me share!
Keep up the good work!
Andrew

Marius August 17, 2009 at 5:48 am

Hi Rusty,

I totally agree about your 3 times per week training. I train clients here in Norway for 30 minutes, 2-3 times per week, with good strength gains . For fatloss combining it with HIIT training and negative energy balance gives excellent results. Before I have personally trained 4-5 and even 6 times a week, an always ended up more sick. So now 80% av my training time I train 3 times a week full body workouts. My body looks better, I am lifting more weight, and I have better size increase. For Health I am sure that 3 times per week training with strength and cardio is best for health because of the body´s ability for restitusion and less stress. Nice blog, keep up the good work.

Marius Heitmann
personal trainer, Oslo
StarShape “Shape Your Body For Better Living”

mindbodygoal August 17, 2009 at 7:44 am

Great post Rusty.

I have been working with a guy for the last 8 weeks who only had time to train 3 days weekly.

I prescribed him 1 sandbag session and 2 kettlebell sessions per week and the transformation was nothing short of remarkable.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of if a little is good, more must be better but I concure with you, if the nutrition is balanced with energy expenditure and throw some high quality sessions into the mix, the results can be outstanding for less over all effort.

Be Well

Josh August 17, 2009 at 9:25 am

Thanks, Rusty!
I will do just that.

Now, since I am 16 and have not been working out for too long, do you suggest i do other ab exercises than planks?

In my school weight room, we have numerous “spine-crunching” ab-machines, but you often advise against them after 6 months.

What would you suggest?

Sam August 17, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Jason,

Congratulations on losing 60 pounds. What was your diet and training (number of calories a day and cardio duration) like during this time period and how long did it take you to lose the weight?

David August 17, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Highschool is going great Rusty!

I am doing the workout you suggested and so far, so good!
I’m also on the warrior diet, and it feels terrific!
After memorizing this entire website, going to weight training class is rather difficult for me because I spend half my time laughing!

All these kids are doing ridiculously stupid workouts and eat tons of pizza, gatorade, candy, etc. before their workouts!

Then they proceed to spend 25 minutes doing crunches!
hahaha!
Anyway, I do have a kid in my weight training class who is seriously ripped.
He is at 4% body fat, benches twice his weight, etc..
His definition puts anyone i’ve ever seen to shame, it’s insane!

But he suggests that for definition and muscle strength to do high reps, low weight.. which goes against your high weight, low reps..

Any suggestions on that?

Fit Jerk - Flawless Fitness August 17, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Nice Rusty. Yup I go 3 times one week, 4 times the other. Alternation is the key. I do nothing that is the same after 2 weeks. Those that have the same workout plan for more than 3 weeks are completely wasting their time because a brand new stimulus will have a much bigger impact with the same amount of effort. Why would you NOT want that?

David August 17, 2009 at 7:26 pm

One more quick question..
when doing strength training, 2 muscle groups per day as you suggested with 5×5 reps/sets should I work each muscle group seperately?
ex. Lat pull down, pull-ups x5 each?
then afterwards, incline bench, pec deck x5 each?

Or should I do one back exercise, one chest, etc..?

admin August 17, 2009 at 10:31 pm

flowerd,

You could create and maintain a great physique with that Crazy 8 Circuit…it is tough as hell and works extremely well. Craig Ballantyne has all sorts of varitations, but this one is one of my favorites. Give it a try for a few months. I did this winter and got great results.

Andrew,

It is funny, but once guys quit obsessing about getting or maintaining huge muscles, they typically look much better. Staying in top shape with a natural amount of muscle always looks best. Some guys are naturally more muscular than others…as long as they have the right amount for their frame they will look and feel better. I’ve never been huge, but I’m a light framed guy who put on about 20-25 pounds more muscle than was natural my frame. As soon as I dropped down to my natural size and just focused on strength while staying slim, I looked better and was twice as athletic. Great for a new post. I already have a few similar posts, but nothing quite like that topic. You have a nice fitness social site by the way…I just visited it.

Marius,

I need to visit Norway in my long list of places to travel to. I want to go there in the summer, where it is light almost 24 hours a day. I love that! I too feel that 3 times a week is healthy…especially for people train hard. Too much stress causes the body to breakdown. I feel a little worn down if I train 4 days per week non-stop. I can do it for a few months and then like you, it catches up with me. Thanks for commenting…I love hearing from people who live so far away. The Internet is magical at times. I went over to your site. You look pretty darn ripped! I think people believe that more is better…which is not the case.

Mind Body Goal (Matt),

That is great that your client got amazing results in just 3 times per week for 8 weeks. Only 24 total workouts and a dramatic transformation. I know you are big into kettlebells (I’ve visited your site quite a few times)…one of the days I’ll get up the guts to include them into my routine.

Josh,

I still wouldn’t recommend the ab machines. You could do various versions of hanging leg raises. This would work your grip strength and abs at the same time.

David,

I am sure that you are light years ahead of guys in you high school when it comes to training. I remember what it was like when I took weight lifting as a senior in high school. I basically just copied what the strongest guy was doing without knowing a whole lot of the science behind what I was doing…and took tons of aminos and protein powder. As far as the ripped guy goes…you can do a lot of things wrong when you are first training and still get results. The biggest reason he is ripped is most likely due to a crazy fast metabolism (many younger guys have this for a few years). His advice of high reps for muscle tone is old school bodybuilding advice. You will do much better if you focus on strength gains while maintianing a low body fat percentage. Aim for 5 sets of 5 reps for dense muscle growth. Great question about training muscle groups. I prefer to do all the sets for one muscle group before moving on to the other. Once you get your neural pathways fired up and in the zone for a muscle group, you want to keep those pathways “greased”. If you switch between muscle groups you lose a little bit of focus.

Rusty

Josh August 18, 2009 at 12:40 am

What types of hanging leg raises would you suggest?
I know what they are, but have never actually done them.

Jason G August 18, 2009 at 4:06 am

Sam,

I basically lost 12 pounds a month for five consecutive months (December 08-May 09). I went from 255 to 195. I am 6’2″ inches tall. I shot for a calorie deficit of about 1500 calories a day for those five months. This is about three pounds of weight loss a week. I did not compensate for the time spent at the gym so my calorie deficit was more likely 1800 calories a day when I was really well behaved. I found that by not including gym time as part of my calorie deficit it helped make up for mistakes in food calculations and for meals eaten outside the house and other moments of weakness. If I anticipated a Friday dinner with my girl friend I would fast all day in preparation.

I had a three day weight training split (Chest&Tricepts/Shoulders&Bicepts/Back&Legs) with one day of rest. I lifted heavy and performed about four sets per exercise. I now believe that one sets to two sets is better for people with large calorie deficits because their body will not be in a state that is adequate for significant strength gains anyway. There was no regular cardio involved until the fifth and last month when I starting running in the mountains. I did 24 hour fasts for the first three months anywhere from one to two times a week and I tried not to eat more than 1500-1800 calories on non fasting days(there were exceptions but I did not let days where I got side tracked knock me totally off course). I gave up the fasting in month 4 and 5 for more steady low calorie deficit days with a primal style diet. I NEVER ATE 5 TO 6 MEALS A DAY TO KEEP MY METABOLISM HIGH. I however did drink a lot of green tea including my beloved Matcha tea.

I ate fewer calories each month as my weight went down starting at 1800(Month 1: 265lbs) calories a day and ending at 1300(Beg Month 5: 207 lbs) calories a day. I have gained three pounds on a few occasions (due to small bulking periods) since losing sixty pounds and easily knocked them off again in week periods using similar methods. I believe that small calorie deficits are better for preserving muscle and are a healthier approach; however I have a nicely muscular body under all that fat and now that it is visible I have the motivation to make it exceptional over the next two years or so.

Yavor August 18, 2009 at 9:24 am

Rusty – just in front of my building there is a school with pullup bars, monkey bars, parallel bars for dips, etc. So that’s where I train sometimes, especially when it’s hot. I used to do weighted chinups and dips there with a backpack full of stones lol

Hassan August 18, 2009 at 10:55 am

how often do you think i should be working out during ramadhan, seeing as i wont have much time, rusty can i have your opinion on what i should do to just build up my shoulders a bit and slim down alot during ramadhan, i was thinking i might try a CKD diet for that month as in no carsb at all while i eat and fast and workout after breaking fast. do you think this is a good idea?

David August 18, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Awesome, thanks rusty!

My weight training coach, who is a moron, only gives us about 15-20 minutes to lift a day. However, I go to lift during my lunch period, so that is 30 more minutes.

Now, say I am working chest and back on one day.

Would I still get good results doing the 5×5 sets for my chest exercises (2 exercises) then finish up at lunch with my back workouts?

Or is it most beneficial to do it all in the same workout?

mindbodygoal August 19, 2009 at 8:48 am

Hi Rusty,

You should give the Kettlebells a go, everyone I have introduced to them have loved them……you dont know what your missing !

Very Best Wishes

Joe August 19, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Hi Rusty and anyone else who can comment,

I am trying to speed up my workouts so I can get done with weights in 15-20min so I have more time for cardio. i am wanting purely tone, so what is shortest rest time in between sets I could have w/o sacrificing strength, tone etc? I was thinking 30secs and maybe the last heaviest set 45sec – 60sec the most… would this be okay?

David August 19, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Hey Rusty.
Just got done running 4 miles! I feel great.

I weighed myself before the run and I am down to 6.9 BF %, very proud of myself.

The funny thing is, i thought that I had gained 5 lbs today because my stomach looks and feels much bigger and flabbier than normal.

I am 6′ 0′ and weigh about 137 right now, with a moderate amount of muscle, but still working.
You suggested I do 5×5 sets/reps but I was hoping to do size lifting every other week. Would you suggest that? )I would be taking advice from the “sensible way to build muscle” thread.

mindbodygoal August 20, 2009 at 3:36 am

Joe,
As you asked, for optimal time and results I would suggest doing super sets of exercises using opposing muscles.

For example, Bench Press/Bent Row which would be 1 set. Rest 30 – 60 seconds and repeat.

Other ideas include Military Press/Lat Pulldown or chins.

Muscles such as arms are relatively small, so I would be inclined to perform a 2 Tri sets of something like, Barbell curls to alternate dumbell curls to cable curls and just perform 2 tri sets then move on.

Hope that helps

Nove August 23, 2009 at 3:35 am

hey rusty
if u just go to the gym 3 times a week, what kind workout u do? fullbody workout or u split it ?

Physique Bodyware USA August 24, 2009 at 8:13 am

The gist is that you should balance your workouts & calorie intake which will help you in achieving your desired physique. Thanks Rusty

Ashley August 28, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Hi Rusty! Another great post. It’s so nice to be informed and inspired. 🙂

I could use some advice… I would like to lose 10 lbs. I gain muscle very easily – may be genetics or because I’ve been active since a very young age, not sure. I don’t know how to incorporate resistance training without gaining unwanted muscle – I don’t like how it makes my body feel heavy. Should my focus be HIIT and steady-state cardio with no resistance training at all for a bit? I know I can get my body to where I’d like it to be, I’m just confused as how to go about it. I need a plan! 🙂

I currently do eat stop eat 2x/week, eat mostly paleo, little alcohol, walk almost everyday, and do HIIT + steady state cardio 2-3x/week. What do ya think? Hope all is well!

Marius August 29, 2009 at 9:28 pm

You are more than welcome to visit me here in Norway, Oslo.

stomach fat October 18, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I think we all need to stop focusing on counting calories. It’s the elevated insulin levels that is the real problem, and you get that via the endless amounts of processed carbs and sugar in today’s diet.

Kylee November 9, 2009 at 10:08 am

Rusty I do weight training 3 days a week and I make sure I have 1 full days rest in between these days but I power walk 5 days a week and take 2 days off for rest and to spend time with my family.
It’s worked pretty well for me.
I also just eat good food all the time and don’t diet, I don’t even count calories because the last time I did I got down to 49 kilos and looked gaunt in the face , drained and lethargic.
Now that I lift weights I can’t afford not to have any energy.

Aaron Curl January 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Good article. I have been exercising and eating less for the last couple of months because over the summer I was doing some shape of exercise everyday and eating fewer calories. That strategy helped me lose a lot of fat! Now I’m basically just maintaining through the winter months. When spring hits I’m going to try and refrain from over training….or eat more. Time will tell.

Mona March 17, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I’ve been reading for a while now really good info here, also started ESE and cut down my calories intake and workout days, trying to lose 15-20 pounds to reach my goal, my only concern is about the loose skin .Is it true if you lose the weight you will have loose skin? If it’s true,how do I avoid that?

Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: