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.

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{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Rahim August 12, 2009 at 2:05 pm

I notice that when I cut the foods that are higher in fat like white bread and rice out of my diet, my results show up that much quicker. I guess that’s cutting calories isn’t it? Also, I started working out really hard in the beginning and then I leveled out for the exact reason that you said. Great post! I’m gonna try some of these tips this fall, especially going into the holiday season.

Frank z August 12, 2009 at 2:09 pm

I like to do about 4-5 days a week, used to be 6 days a week before i realized i spent most of my days tired. each session for me lasts about 1-1.5 hrs. I’m making it a rule now not to train more than 2 days in a row, and to make sure i get my proteins and carbs. I’m not too concerned with counting calories since i do a good amount of session. most of the stuff i do are circuit bodyweight stuff, HIIT with sprints and 3 minute rounds on the punching bag, sparring, etc. Though i guess my goals aren’t just health but performance, so this is probably not practical for people who want to simply be healthy and look good.

Josh August 12, 2009 at 2:13 pm

I seem to get my best results from doing a formal workout 3 x per week. Anymore than that it feels like a chore, any less I feel like I am slacking. I realize that this is a mental block more than anything. I would imagine I could get decent results from a HIT type program going twice per week, all respects to Arthur Jones but trying to induce vomiting from one set to failure of biceps curls just doesnt appeal to me. 3 seems right and works well with my schedule. The nutrition aspect is finally getting the press it deserves. I don’t know if you caught last weeks Time magazine but the message was essentially the same as the one you are communicating. I follow ESE which my family used to think was crazy, that I was starving myself. Once you explain that it is a simple way to reduce calories. That can be accomplished with any type of diet be it “The Zone,” “Paleo,” “Weight Watchers,” whatever. There are many additional benefits to the ESE lifystyle in my opinion and I would highly encourage people to read Brad’s book for a better understanding.

Abir August 12, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Hi Rusty
Really enjoy your posts. I have a quick question. While I do believe in the lean body look, and have been working towards that, I have been following a body builder’s split with 2 body parts worked out on alternate days interspersed with cardio and abs on the even days. While I have managed to shed quite a bit of muscle mass using HIIT, I intend to start strength training from next week, in order to build up on my strength and get more definition. Could you please write me up a schedule that I can follow? I am male, 5″6, 143 lbs, abt 9% body fat. I would need to do HIIT on days that I don’t lift weights because I get tired otherwise.

Thank you, you are awesome!

Helder August 12, 2009 at 2:49 pm

That’s it, it’s so simple yet very few people tell the truth like you do, most fitness “experts” like to make this nuclear science.

I keep my calories under control (not that i’m counting them) and in the summer i eat less, i’m not so hungry in the summer, and i drink a lot more water, so it’s not necessary to workout so much if one keeps calories down.

A good way to workout without being an obligation is to play, play sports, ride your bike, walk in woods, row, swimm, have fun, it’s good to change, and the summer is perfect for that.

It’s an excellent way to exercise while having fun and living Life

Avery Smith August 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Good word at the end where you mentioned “Training More In the Beginning.” First year I was three days in the gym per week, in which I definitely needed.
But now I’m on my 3rd year of intense strength training so at this point I’m strength training once per week for 1.5 hours, body weight exercise once per week for 1 hour, and sprint/walk rotations once per week for 1/2 hour.

Sam August 12, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Hey Rusty,

This article comes at a great time for me since I have been struggling with this issue recently. I am currently doing 2-3 hours of cardio a day, training for the upcoming soccer season. Much of the time I am doing low impact cardio, since I have had ACL reconstruction on my knee. I am doing either the elliptical or stairmaster for 60 minutes at a time and a heart rate between 70-80% (I use a heart rate monitor to measure). I am also doing weight lifting 3 times a week to prevent catabolism. However, I am currently 5″10″ and 175 pounds, but my college coach would like me to get down to between 155-160 for my playing weight and the start of the season in one month. Considering my current stats and training, I would appreciate knowing how many calories I should be taking in a day to lose weight but also prevent catabolism, high cortisol levels, and over training? I try to eat a Paleolithic style diet since I have read on your site that eating only things that have been around for more than 1,000 years (things that come in their natural state) is the best way to lose weight, stay fit, and get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Thanks for all your support and for continuing to provide life-changing information.

Kara August 12, 2009 at 3:31 pm

I can’t entirely agree with this. First of all, it totally discounts the non-diet benefits of exercise and activity. And second of all, it makes no mention of the fact that lowering calories TOO MUCH will not only cause problems with getting proper nutrition, but can stall out weight loss due to a slowed metabolism.

Jeffrey August 12, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Good Post Rusty,

Typically work out M-F (5 days). In large part because I’m able to workout during my lunch at work (it gets boring in front of the computer screen & I’m much more productive at the job when I get back….). I’d rather be in the gym than making the lunch run with my co-workers everyday…although, I’ll got out for lunch every now and again with them (I do enjoy there company). I alternate cardio days with weight training days, and consisitently switch up the routine every 6-8 weeks, which has been good. For the most part I follow a modified Warrior Diet with some days of IF if I’ve eaten a little to much during the week. Somedays I don’t feel like training so I don’t & I’ll get a Blizzard from Dairy Queen and call it a day (Not often, but I do have my cheat days…oh yeah) 5’10” @ 155 and 6-8% BF. Keep up the good work my friend!

Palidor August 12, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Rusty, I like to work out 4 days a week, and no less than 3. I agree that less is more sometimes. Last summer, I worked out about 8-9 hours a week. This summer, I’ve cut back to 4-5 hours and am leaner and stronger.

BTW, thanks for your reply on my earlier comment. I’ve copied out what you wrote and put it beside my computer to remind myself not to be so obsessive. 🙂 Because I don’t weigh very much (110 pounds at 5’2″), I’ve had to accept that I can never create a huge calorie deficit (short of plain starvation), and thus can at most lose 0.5 a week… sometimes less. Even with ESE twice a week, I can at most create a 2400 calorie deficit a week with diet alone. But as you said, it is better to achieve it slowly but surely, rather than get obsessive and sick.

Jason G August 12, 2009 at 3:57 pm


This article represents my philosophy completely. This philosophy was mainly inspired by your site and by me losing sixty pounds almost exclusively by cutting calories. The only cardio I like doing involves running in a forest and do to time constraints I don’t do it enough. I force myself on the step mill about once a week.

Anyway the routine I am currently doing involves a HIT style routine. I do a full body routine with some isolation exercises every four days. I perform one set of each of the following exercises with no rest in between exercises: Leg Press, Machine Calf Raises, Bench Press, Seated Calf Raise, Incline Bench Press, Wide Grip Chin Ups, Seated Cable Rows, Close Grip Pulldown, Machine Shoulder Press, Barbell Upright Rows, Rear Deltoid Flys, Cable Flys for upper and middle chest, deadlifts, dips, reverse barbell curls, wrist curls, hammer curls. I also throw in a few weighted abdominal exercises randomly in the routine. I end my weight lifting day by carrying a forty five pound weight up and down the stairs at my gym while keeping my forearms parallel to the floor. I alternate between including leg presses and fifteen minutes on the stepmill into my routine. This exercise routine might seem a little overboard but because of the intensity, amount of sets, and no rest time it can be performed in about an hour. I believe as far HGH response is concerned it is the king of all routines. I also do a bodyweight day at home first thing in the morning, two days after the weight lifting day, where I focus on explosive movements and core exercises. So I go to the gym once every four days. With the bodyweight days I work out about every other day.

On a side note when people are eating less calories it takes longer to recover so they should go to the gym less frequently.

Aditya August 12, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Great post Rusty! You continue to inspire me with your solid informative posts!

Well for me its 5/6 days a week because I dont have a history of working out. And my workouts are basically HIIT and 3 days of weight training. I do planks everyday. And I follow a mix of Warrior Diet and the Fast – 5 Diets! I am soooooo impressed with following this lifestyle that I have made it a point to keep it going till the time I am in this world!

Coming to the point of how many days, I stick to 5/6 days for another reason. Its like, if I dont go for that morning HIIT, I just dont feel alright later on in the day anymore and anything I would eat just would make me feel guilty. That short HIIT session gives me confidence and will power or you can say a sense of good feeling through the day. I do steady state cardio after the HIIT session for 4 days a week and the rest 2 days I am basically just doing the 10 minute HIIT session! Combined with the Warrior/Fast5 diet, this is the best way to live. No seriously! Thank You so much for this site and for the info you share with us! I am at 12% body fat now and I already feel like I will hit 5% in another 2/3 months with ripped abs!

In my diet, I am hard and fast on reducing the calories/carbs in a very disciplined manner. I do not touch sugar, salt or any form of bread and it has kept me healthy as ever!

My next aim at the moment, following this awesome lifestyle, is to master Craig’s Turbulence Training Routine! And I seriously have always thought of requesting you to write a post on TT.

All in all, I feel strong, lean, healthy and awesome with whatever kind of workout/diet routine I am following and I think thats what we all should aim for – feeling good in what we do!


David @ The Fat Loss Authority August 12, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I’m with you on this one Rusty.

3 times per week for me. Up until last year it was 4-5 times per week with massive amounts of guilt if I didn’t get in my workouts. How messed was I?

I probably still do the same amount of training too because my rest periods are short (30 secs between sets) and my reps are high (12-15).

To each their own but really consider how your spend your time because life is way to short!


Marc Feel Good Eating August 12, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Hey Rusty hope all is well and you are enjoying some nice summer weather.

I couldn’t agree more with your post. you pointed to a small secret in there I think that doesn’t get alked about much ; “There is something to be said for building a base of strength your first 1-3 years of training.” If you want a better build, you need to be comitted and lift hard for a year or two. Many people never really do this and never see the changes they want so badly. When I lifted weights for the first time in my life at age 34, I would hit the gym 5 times a week. My body was transformed after a year. After about 18-22 months I went from weighing 135 to weighing 174.
After that you can easily maintain if you just keep an avtice lifestyle. As to the food part, it’s my biggest piece of advice i share with everyone that asks me about wieght loss/leaning out. EVERYONE eats to much!!!

Have a good one.

TonyKim August 12, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Kara, you can still suffer from a slowed metabolism despite working out frequently. Metabolic slowdown is more a result of a high, sustained caloric deficit, regardless of the exercise you are doing. Look up leptin, ghrelin, insulin, peptide YY. One way to counteract this is via planned refeeds.

For the most part, I agree with the article, but I still try to workout 6 days a week simply due to the fact that I sit on my butt all day at work and could benefit from some daily movement. I do 3x/week at the gym & then 3x/week doing fun cardio stuff like rollerblading, cycling, swimming, jumprope, etc.

Donkey Lips August 12, 2009 at 5:49 pm

I enjoy working out and eating a lot till I feel stuffed. I have gotten very lean while still enjoying delicious food and drinking alcohol by doing very intense workouts 4 to 5 times per week and following a warrior/ESE diet monday through friday and being much more lax about what I eat and how much on weekends. I just feel weeker and like my muscles are softer if I cut down on workouts and eat less. I get a calorie deficit in overall but it’s through more working out and a little more eating than needed. It’s just what I prefer. Then again I’m 24 so when I am ten or twenty years older I could see myself slowing down and eating less. I also worry about losing testosterone by not eating enough and not working out enough so I defintely make up for that on weekends with fatty foods and overeating.

I’m really looking forward to this vacation post you keep teasing us with. I have a trip to Hawaii and to Spain next year and would really like to see how this vacation crash course looks. I stay at 8% body fat but the desire to get extra sharp for events is always appealing. By the way since finding your site 6 months ago not only have I achieved all my goals I only go to the gym once per week now. I do body weight cicuits and HIIT and steady state jogging the other 4 or 5 workouts I get in throughout the week all at my apartment, or outside. It’s really saved me time and gotten me away from the gym. Eventually I’ll go back but the freedom has been amazing and I’ve gotten in to the best shape of my life by doing this. The other great thing is now I know I can workout anywhere anytime with just a small amount of floor space.

Casey August 12, 2009 at 6:35 pm

I am into my second week of fitness, tired of being the skinny fat guy I have started working on my health. Currently I am doing HIIT Tue/Thur which are my two fast days, which I love. Oddly enough I feel like I have more energy on my fast days at about the 16th hour of the fast. Then MWF I have my strength days. I watch my nephew 12 hours a day, and go to school at night, so I don’t have much time for a gym. So currently I am doing mostly bodyweight and freeweight exercises. I have been attempting L sits (currently the toughest exercise) to work on my core, and I can’t really do one yet, but just trying and getting close for a minute or two is working me pretty hard.

David August 12, 2009 at 6:48 pm

First day back at highschool today!

I’m a 16-year-old junior in highschool and I’m taking weight training this year-again.

I’m pretty light, am going to be doing solid 40 minute workouts every day of the week, and I can’t wait!

I’m currently on a clean, low-calorie diet and am running at least every other night.

Loved this post!
Thanks Rusty.

David August 12, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I just watched that video under “Nutrition plays a small role in Building Muscle” talking about the adonis effect.

Does that mean that protein shakes such as “Gold Standard Whey Protein Isolates” and other supplements do not help in building muscle?

Cameron August 12, 2009 at 7:07 pm

I am 16 and I just started lifting a year ago and am going for Brad Pitt’s “fight club” physique.

You said the first 1-3 years of lifting it is OK to lift 4-5 days a week, but that goes against what you tell many people on this site.

If I want size and definition like that, should I be doing low volume, low rep? Or one muscle group per day for 4 days a week?

Ian August 12, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Does the adonis effect imply that protein supplements such as Whey and monster milk won’t help a body build muscle?

Ian August 12, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Does the adonis effect imply that protein supplements such as Whey and monster milk won’t help a body build muscle?

Also.. I am 16 and have been lifting for about 6 months.

I am on a great diet and am looking better every day!
But, in this post you suggest that young people such as I should train 4-5 days a week for max results.

However, most of what this site says about definition, etc.. goes against that.
If I am going for “fight Club” Brad Pitt physique, should I be lifting 4 days a week, one muscle group per day? Or.. low rep, low volume strength training?

I have some size, but not too much, I have a nearly visible “six pack” and am quite thin, help would be appreciated!

Rafi Bar-Lev August 12, 2009 at 8:04 pm

This is something I actively talk about on my blog. Glad you brought it up Rusty!


Greg at Live Fit August 12, 2009 at 10:08 pm

This is exactly right. The truth is that weight has got to be at least 80% nutrition. Right now I’m experimenting with how diet affects body composition.

Jonz August 12, 2009 at 10:35 pm


Lately for the past 1 1/2 months i’ve been restricting my calories and bumped up my workouts and cardio. Intensity has remain the same or has been bumped up although i’ve reduced the number of workouts per muscle group.

This is my typical workout routine nowadays.

Day 1 – Chest + Back + Cardio (HIIT)
Day 2 – Shoulders + Biceps + Triceps + Cardio (Steady State)
Day 4 – Legs + Core exercise + Cardio (HIIT)
Repeat Day 1

I’m still doing about 8 – 12 reps for each set, each workout contains about 4 sets.

Thing is, my weight is dropping, i’ve dropped 5kg ( more than 10 pounds) in 1 1/2 months but I find my fat % hovering at about the same but i’m losing muscle. I’m at about 18% body fat now and previously i’m at about 22%. I weigh about 180 pounds now on a 5’10” frame.

Anything you could recommend to tweak my workout to get past this fat burning plateau? It’s kinda frustrating seeing my body fat % remains about the same.

Some of the fitness clubs trainers has advised me to go on high reps but at 60% intensity. Any comments?

Josh August 12, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Rusty, I’m just curious..
About how many calories do you consume in an average day?
No IF?

LG August 12, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Always love your posts Rusty! This post reminds me of one you did a couple of months ago about enjoying life. In it you mentioned that your grandmother passed away and that you missed her cooking. I stopped by my grandparents home on the way back from a business trip a few weeks ago and had ribs, pinto beans, rolls and peach cobbler with ice cream. I never eat like that, but just being with them and not obsessing about one bad meal was worth every calorie!

Sue August 12, 2009 at 11:11 pm

“I notice that when I cut the foods that are higher in fat like white bread and rice out of my diet, my results show up that much quicker. I guess that’s cutting calories isn’t it?”

Bread and rice would be high in carbs unless adding lots of fat to them then they will be high in carbs and fat. So with cutting the bread and rice you are seeing good results from some carb cutting and minimal calorie reduction.

Sue August 12, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Kara said:
“I can’t entirely agree with this. First of all, it totally discounts the non-diet benefits of exercise and activity. And second of all, it makes no mention of the fact that lowering calories TOO MUCH will not only cause problems with getting proper nutrition, but can stall out weight loss due to a slowed metabolism.”

I don’t think Rusty totally discount exercise – he is just saying that if you lower your calories a touch you don’t have to exercise so much. This is good if you haven’t got time to exercise almost daily.

Obviously you don’t consume low calories all the time you take the required breaks to avoid slowed metabolism. If you stick with nutrient-dense foods you will be properly nourished. I think a lot of people over-estimate how much they need to eat.

Josh August 12, 2009 at 11:42 pm

I do mean YOU, by the way.
Want to make sure that there is no misinterpretation!

Just want to know so I will be secure with my daily caloric intake of about 1300-1500 calories.

Baz August 13, 2009 at 1:37 am

Hey rusty,

I hear that fibre can keep you full longer meaning you won’t feel the need to eat as often and in turn take in less calories throughout the day. Is this true and if so will the fibre add to the calorie consumption? fibre supplements in powder form are sold, would they work do you think?


Baz August 13, 2009 at 4:57 am

Rusty I also remember you wrote a post a while back recommending not to work small muscle groups such as forearms. I have small forearms so I was looking for that post but couldn’t locate it. Do you have a link for that article or could you remind me why that was?

Thanks again

Denmark August 13, 2009 at 6:06 am


I’m no pro, just going to let you know what I did since I was around your size about 6 months ago..
(6ft – 89kg – 22y/o) so a little bigger.. not sure my fat procent, but probably around 17-20.

Here’s my advice and am speaking from own expience…

Full body workouts – 3 circuts, 15 reps. Try to do this afap with no breaks. (If your doing this right it is working sort of as a resistance cardio – Cardio/weight lifting combined and will kick your butt)
Follow up with some steady cardio or HIIT- I usually hit the treadmill for 30 min or so… (do this every other day)

On off days do HIIT followed up with steady state cardio or a sport…

On top of this remember Diet is the main part of loosing weight. A saying I always have in the back of my head is – nothing tastes better than being fit. (can’t remember where I heard that)

Anyway, my main goal was to loose weight, periode. didn’t think much weather it was fat or muscle.
Now that I am closing in on my goal – 75kg (goal is 72) I have started alternating between heavy weights/5 reps and lighter weights/15reps. still sticking with LOTS of cardio!! (sometimes I do bodyweight workouts and skip the gym, but this is no excuse for an easier workout)

Lifting weights on top of fat will indeed make you stronger, you just wont see the results.. and in some cases just makes you look bigger..
That’s why it helped to loose the fat first so now I can really see the muscles (great motivation) who cares if I lost a little muscle, I have plenty of years to rebuild it..

Anyway, just wanted to give you a heads up..

I want to outline that for me I realize you have to change forever so don’t kill yourself.. and I am no saint eathier 🙂 I had mexican food Tuesday and last night I had left over tortia chips (normally I will never buy this stuff or allow my gf to) with guacamole.. (I ended up running 8km/40min) almost instantly after due to guilt, but the point is you need to have fun at the same time otherwise it is hard to stick with in the long run… If you feel like a day off, take a day off… if you feel like a piece of choclate or an ice cream in the warm weather, do it.
Just limit this and make it an acational thing that you only do if your with friends or a girlfriend or whatever…

Plus is it really worth it if you dont allow yourself to enjoy the other things in life..

Good luck to everyone.. 😀

Vy August 13, 2009 at 9:22 am

Great post as usual, Rusty.
Great reminder about food.
I used to spend a lot more time ‘deliberately’ working out with steady state cardio 3 times per week,light resistance weight training (1-2 hrs), and sit ups. Lots of time; in fact, between work, college, and exercise, my day was gone!
Now, I ve learned to be more efficient with TT circuits, or tabata, and eating less with IF. Exercise is way more enjoyable and full body movements kick my butt more than crunches and light weights ever could.
Weight loss is apparently 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise. Often forgetting this, I just enjoy eating way too much and find it hard to stop once I start, even with ESE. Im 20 yrs old too, so weekend time with college friends can be sabatoging.
Ive also read that we achieve 80% of our accomplishments in 20% of our time, so Im trying to be more efficient to have more time to enjoy NOT in the gym.
Also, I find exercise is a self-esteem thing-I just feel weak and ‘weird’ if I go a few days without exercise.
Thanks Rusty, and looking forward to your Vacation prep post.

Sterling August 13, 2009 at 9:39 am

Rusty – Nice Article!

I do weight/bodyweight training 3x’s/week. I mix in some plyometrics and sprints also. Yoga occasionally.

I use a 16 hr fast/8 hr (or less) fed method everday except I fast 24-36 hrs once/wk; this really frees me up from food and if I feel like pigging out one day a week with the kids — I do it and do it guilt-free and without damaging results. As a matter of fact, sometimes I’ll drop a pound or two after a free-for-all fest.

mickieb August 13, 2009 at 9:50 am


I really enjoy seeing you evolve into your 40’s! I am also in my 40’s (later though) and it seems that this method of not going crazy (as I had been) with the exercise and getting in more “natural” and fun forms of exercise is a great way to keep in shape. I still have my “charts” of intended exercises and right now, I am doing them as I feel like! Mainly bc its summer time. I know once the weather gets colder, Im going to be spending more time inside and the charts will become more used. I have created 5 sheets of Body Weight Interval Training exercises that alternate between cardio and BW exercises. Somewhat like the Crazy Eights. So I choose the one I want for the day and do that sheet 3 times. The cardio portion, I do 30 seconds each and the exercise portion, I do a 12 rep each. Plus aftewards, I do 30 min of steady state, whether its outside on my bike or inside on my treadmill or Spin bike. (I have an elliptical, but for some reason, I dont use it much). The main reason I enjoy this is bc I dont do it daily! I change things up and have fun with it.

Just wanted to know if you have any thoughts on the Body Wave and the Power Wheel (the new one that has the foot attachment). I find the Power Wheel is GREAT for the core, but the Body Wave just shakes me up! I did find the “sweet spot”, but maybe Im not doing the exercises correctly?

Anyway, hope you enjoyed your “drift” down the river!

Michael August 13, 2009 at 11:33 am


Is it possible to inscrease muscle size (add muscle) to particular body parts while losing fat? I have been working out for many years but since finding your site have finally been able to get a six pack (thanks by the way). I would like to inscrease the size of my upper pecks and bi ceps but want to lose a little more fat around my abs. Do I have to choose one goal or the other, then pursue that goal till accomplished before moving onto the other? I’m almost as lean as I want to be but now that I’m down at this weight I see the areas I’d like to add just a little mass to. What’s your recommendation? If anyone else wants to recommend something feel free I read everyone’s comments.

Thanks for all you hard work and information.

Shaun August 13, 2009 at 12:07 pm

1) Go full out at the start
3) save time
4) Slow down
5) maintain some more

I notice that it takes about 4 weeks of no action till your results really start to fall. pump hard at the beginning and make the results last.

Pablo August 13, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Hey rusty, nice post like always, I only workout twice per week, in my 2 fasting days and I lose about 1 pound in each of these days, I guess im doing good, a lil slow but steady. Ive been member of this site for about a year, I don’t miss any post u make and I really found the motivation and techniques here to lose fat properly. Thanks man.

Jason G August 13, 2009 at 4:32 pm


How are you measuring body fat? If you are using a body fat scale then you need to weigh yourself at the same time of the day with the same hydration and glycogen storage. Moreover you should be weighing yourself on an empty stomach. The easiest way to do this is to eat the same amount of calories/carbohydrates and water each day at least around your weigh ins. Weigh yourself in the morning after you drink one glass of water as a rule of thumb.

The only reason I bring this up is because in less you are very lean (which you are not) or severely fasting(close to death) than you should not be losing large amounts of muscle and no fat. It is possible that you are providing your body with close to no protein so your body is recycling the protein (muscle on your body), but for that to be the case you would probably have to be purposely avoiding protein intake. Nevertheless you might want to increase your protein intake as a precaution. There is a point where the body gets stingier with releasing body fat as the backup energy source but you are not close to that point so you should probably not fear the fat loss plateau. It’s important to remember that as your body gets smaller so does your basal caloric rate. This means that you need to cut additional calories if you are not losing body fat. I found it EASY to lose sixty pounds over five months because I systematically decreased the amount of calories I consumed in a day as my basal caloric rate went down. Weight loss is all about math. It’s also important to remember that people who do large amounts of steady state cardio while in a large calorie deficit will lose more muscle than people who just work out.

Weight lifting in the 8 to 12 rep range when you have been losing two pounds a week is not the right approach because you have about a weekly calorie deficit of 7000 calories. You are sending signals to your muscles to grow while sending signals to your whole body to shrink. Your body WILL not respond to both demands. While diets like Eat Stop Eat and the Warrior diet are designed to take advantage of both catabolic and anabolic periods of time we must remember that the day, and week for that matter, is a man made device and the body does better with extended periods of time of either anabolism(body tissue growth) or catabolism(body tissue reduction). Strength training is better while working with larger calorie deficits because you are mainly telling your muscles to get stronger which does not require as much building material (calories and protein).

Since you have a fairly large calorie deficit it’s also likely that you are bombarding your body with more sets than necessary. Many people don’t realize that the more damage that you do to the muscle the more recovery you need. Recovery is a factor of both calories and rest. Therefore it is safe to say that people who are losing two pounds or more a week are more prone to over training and probably get diminishing returns after about two sets(assuming maximum intensity) per body group because their recovery needs will not easily be met. It only takes one set to tell your body that this particular muscle group is important so do not let it waste away. Multiple sets and reps in the eight to twelve rep range are better for people who have the right anabolic conditions (minimally enough calories to fulfill the basal caloric rate) for growth.

ramak August 13, 2009 at 5:07 pm


I believe it is possible to add size to a particular muscle while losing body fat. It requires minus calories, on one hand, and, on the other hand, some resistance training + sufficient protein (also good/natural fats, and some carbs).

For your upper pecs I guess incline bench could work, possibly also standing military press. As for incline bench I am not sure which grip width is best when wanting to add size to upper pecs. But try working your pecs thrice a week, e.g. Mon/Wed/Fri. 2-4 sets should suffice I guess, and 5-8RM resistance if you want some strength in addition to mass, but if mainly mass is what you want then 8-12RM resistance. I’d recommend leaving 1 rep in the bank on each set or on most of the sets.

As for biceps I think some type of one-hand curl with a heavy dumbbell might be the most effective approach. At least myself easily added size to my biceps this way years ago. Same recommendation for number of training days and sets. But a bit higher rep scheme, e.g. 7-12RM. Permorm the majority of biceps sets with slow rep speed, thus maximizing tension.

Jason G August 13, 2009 at 7:27 pm


It’s my opinion that people can only get significant muscle growth while losing fat if they have a very modest calorie deficit(a couple pounds a month) and provide a lot of rest and protein for full recovery. Not to step on any toes, but I am pretty sure that working out your chest M,W,F like ramak is suggesting would result in over training if you have any kind of calorie deficit.

Josh August 13, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Most North Americans are actually eating less than required during a day sloweing their metabolisms, which leads to the high fat stores in the first place. Rather than eating less a better approach would be to eat smarter.
Eat every 2 hours rather than eating 3 large meals a day.]
Active men need around 3000 calories a day (based on average bodyweight) and women around 2000.

There is no substitute for exercise. Diet is where you will see the most results from in athletic performance and in appearance, but for mass and strength gains, as well as overall health exercise is a must. There is no effective way around this, and starvation on any level is not a healthy nor advisable option.

SethP August 13, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Recently I have changed over to a 3 day on two off split. Weights and strength training 3 days a week with 10-15 minute of HIIT on the off days. But it has been hit and miss since im no longer confined to a weeks schedule, also life is getting more busy now days. I try not to ever spend more then an hour in the gym. I’m considering a solid 3 day on 3 off split with only 2 days of HIIT on my off days and one complete rest days. I want to spend less time in the gym but I have so many strength goals I have yet to obtain.

I’m 25, 5’9″ and 160lbs @ aprox 8% bodyfat and have been lifting for about 7 years. For what God has given me my bodies shape and form is close to its ideal (in my opinion). My measurements are all at or very close to what I want them to be. Yet my strength goals are far from where I would like them. My max lifts are as follows; 240 bench, 315 squat, 300 deadlift, 165 overhead press. I’m consider myself strong for my size (although some would think I’m week) but for sure nothing special or anything to brag about. My lifetime goals (same order); 315, 405, 455, 205 at my same body weight or no more than 165-170lbs bodyweight.

Rusty, or other posters, do you think a 3 day on 3 off split is enough to reach these goals? Oh and I know you don’t like squats but my legs used to be tiny, I like squats too much to stop.

Jonz August 14, 2009 at 3:03 am


Thx for the pointers. I agree that we should not be restricting our daily lives just to achieve a great physique – i enjoy my fair share of beers now and then haha.

Jason G,

Thx for the information provided, it got me thinking whether I am introducing too much of a calorie deficit into my diet or whether my protein intake is too low, currently I am taking in 60 grams of protein from shakes + another 90 grams or so from food.

My initial plan was actually to bring my total body weight down to about 77kg – was hoping that as I lose muscle i’ll be losing more on fat as well, turns out that i’m losing muscles faster than fat. I’m changing up my routine a little for this week or two to introduce a change to the muscles. Hopefully it will shake things up a lil and produce positive results.

sangita August 14, 2009 at 3:34 am

Your site really is aptly named! This is a lot of common sense which cuts through all the fancy shmancy stuff. As you become famous you could easily put a lot of diet businesses out of work!! I too have been realising these points as I have been reading blogs like yours and it has really helped to decrease the mental stress of weight-loss, health and staying in shape. I think for the first time in my life I am not obsessing over every bite.
4-5 times a week agrees with me too. Like you I too noticed that my face really looks quite unhealthy if I overdo it.
As always your commentators are a delight to read. This time it is Aditya who has inspired me with his dedication towards his beliefs. I am also going to stick to my goals and not let(try and not let) catty comments from aunts-cousins-friends-co-workers get to me!
That must have been fun – floating down the river!

leftfield August 14, 2009 at 6:11 am

this is a great post, if you’re over 30 & not competing then training intelligently can produce amazing results with minimum input, my scructured workouts are based around intensity & minimum time, a full body workout (12 mins) + hiit sprints (8 mins) = 20 mins, do this 3 times a week & you’ll be in shape for around an hour a week! thats amazing really, this is given that you’re in ok shape to begin with. Then throw in some fun stuff, bag work, walking, martial arts, whatever, the thing is the pressure is off, you get the mandatory workouts done, the rest is play. i don’t like the idea of reducing calories or eating less, that makes me feel edgy, i follow a mind set of ‘i can eat / drink as much as i like of anything i like’ however i generally on a daily basis choose not to, but i could of i wanted, maybe later, maybe tomorrow, usually the day is over & i never stuffed my face, but i could have, you get it? i’ll think ‘after dinner i’ll have a big bowl if ice cream maybe’, but first i’ll eat a big salad, avacado, olive oil & steak with a couple of glasses of red wine by which time i can’t be bothered or i’m to full to have the ice cream, this is kind of a form of trickery allowing you the mind set of abundance but a reality of eating sensibly, if you’re satisfied & not feeling you’re going without or enduring hardship & you’re personal system is producing results then it’s easy to be in shape

Yavor August 14, 2009 at 9:01 am

Hey man –

I’ve worked out from 2 to 7 days per week during the years. It all depends on how much time I have. At the beginning, I was using a power to the people workout, back in 2002. I would deadlift, press and do pullups and janda situps everyday. My workouts took about 30-40 mins tops and I felt awesome (more energy after the workout).

I’ve also trained with full body workouts like this one: It would take me about 1-1.5 hrs to finish the workout – and I’d train 3x per week.

I also sometimes (such as now) use split training – 5 days per week plus a cardio session at the end (such as jumping rope)

During the winter, I trained 2-3 per week with weights and did the body weight circuits from the turbulence training Those were very efficient, though tough as hell LOL.

Right now – I train 3-5 times per week. I got me a set of adjustable dumbbells and I train in my bedroom + I go outside for pullups, dips, muscle ups, etc.



p.s. do basketball and swimming at summer pools count as workouts? How about looking at the topless pool babes lol?

Hassan August 14, 2009 at 10:19 am

hey rusty…ramadan is coming up next week, and i was wondering..can i use ramadan to lose about 10 pounds and tone up, or do you think it is risky?…because with ramadan…its 1 meal b4 sunrise and 1 meal afta sunset, in da time gap we have got to fast without water or anything, what can you advise me to do for the month to have maximum weight loss and get a toned looking body? im also starting university after ramadan…so basically i want to lose the last few pounds and look good lol

Denise B August 14, 2009 at 2:39 pm

When I was in the best shape of my life, in my 30’s, after having a child, I did two one and half hour workouts a week of varying intensity throughout and I also had an active lifestyle.

After reading your blog I realize that many of the things you recommend I was doing, although it was from sheer luck rather than a planned well thought out process. Since then I have moved on to other types of workouts but I have never been in as good of shape as I was during that time.

Needless to say I am thinking differently about what I do, and don’t do, to stay in shape now.

Great blog, thanks!

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

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 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!


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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).


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.


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).


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+.


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!


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).


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!


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.


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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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!


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).


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.


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.


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!

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


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!
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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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

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?

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