The cost of getting lean: Is it really worth the trade-off?

The cost of getting lean:
Is it really worth the trade-off?

By Ryan Andrews & Brian St. Pierre

SHARE

Six-pack abs. Tight butts. Lean, vibrant, flawless health. That’s the image the fitness industry is selling. But have you ever wondered what it costs to achieve that “look”? What you have to do more of? And what you really have to give up?

Make no mistake, there are real trade-offs as you attempt to lose fat and improve your health. Let’s talk about what they are. So you can consider how to get the body you really want while living the life you really enjoy.

A tale of two clients

Not long ago, one of our successful clients — we’ll call him Bill — came to us with a question.

Now that he’d lost thirty pounds (going from 22% body fat to 15%), he could run up stairs and haul heavy bags of garden soil without getting winded.

He could genuinely enjoy weekend bike rides with friends. He could wear clothes he used to be able to fit into but had long given up as hopeless.

But what next?

“Don’t get me wrong,” Bill said. “I’m happy with the way I look and feel.”

It’s just that he also wanted six-pack abs.

“Oh, I don’t have to look like a cover model,” he mused. “It’s just that I’m really close to looking… awesome.”

Bill figured that with just a little extra work, and a little more time, the abs would start popping and his physique would be “finished”.

Meanwhile, another client, Anika, had the opposite concern.

She just wanted to lose a little weight, and get a little more fit.

But she worried that in order to do so, she’d have to give up everything, become a “health nut”, and make massive changes.

Changes that probably included 6 AM bootcamps, kale shakes, lemon juice cleanses, and 1000 situps a day… forever.

“No way,” thought Anika. “That’s too much work.”

Two common misperceptions

Our two client stories reflect two common misperceptions:

Myth #1:
With just a few small, easy, hopefully imperceptible changes to one’s diet and exercise routine, you too can have shredded abs, big biceps, and tight glutes, just like a magazine cover model.

Myth #2:
“Getting into shape” or “losing weight” involves painful, intolerable sacrifice, restriction, and deprivation.

Of course, neither of these are true.

Reality #1:
The process that helps you lose “the first 10 pounds” isn’t the same one that’ll help you lose “the last 10 pounds”. Indeed, it usually takes a lot more work as you get leaner.

Reality #2:
If you do aspire to “fitness model” or “elite athlete” lean, you might be surprised. Images are photoshopped for effect. Bodybuilders only look like that for competition. And achieving that look comes at a high cost; one most people aren’t willing to pay.

Reality #3:
However, if you’re okay not being on the next magazine cover and aspire to be “lean and healthy” even small adjustments can — over time — add up to noticeable improvements. Sometimes these improvements can change, perhaps even save, lives.

Do more of this (and less of that)

With that said, we’re about to share something a lot of people in fitness and health don’t want you to see.

It’s a chart outlining what it really takes to lose body fat, improve your health, move from one fitness category to the next.

Some fitness people think you’re too afraid. Or too weak. Or that you won’t buy their products and services if they’re honest with you.

We think otherwise.

We think it’s necessary to weigh the pros and cons so that you can make informed decisions about your body and your life.

Let’s start with the benefits and tradeoffs with each fitness level.

precision nutrtion cost getting lean benefits table The cost of getting lean: Is it really worth the trade off?

Now let’s talk about what you might consider doing more of (and less of).

precision nutrition cost getting lean do table The cost of getting lean: Is it really worth the trade off?

Bonus: We even created a cool infographic that summarizes this article. Click here for: The cost of getting lean illustrated. Is it really worth the trade-off?]

Your body, your choice

At some point, many of our coaching clients decide that being severely out of shape costs them too much energy, health, quality of life, and longevity. So they choose to change their behaviors and choices. With our help.

Other coaching clients decide that they want six-pack abs. Then, they discover that this option costs them something too. Some folks are willing to pay that cost. But most aren’t.

Even if you think you’d like that six-pack, it might turn out that you actually want something else a little bit more. And we wouldn’t blame you.

Here are the two basic principles:

1. If you want to make further changes to your body, you’ll need to make further changes to your behaviors.

2. The leaner you want to get, the more of your behaviors you’ll have to change. 

What you decide to change, and how much you decide to change it, is up to you. What’s most important here is that you understand what it actually takes to do what you want (or think you want).

What’s a healthy level of body fat, anyway?

First, for the sake of context, let’s take a look at some numbers.

Data tell us that most men can be healthy somewhere between 11 to 22% body fat. For women, its between 22-33%.

Right now in the U.S.,  the average man is about 28% fat, and the average woman is 40% fat.

In other words, the average adult in the U.S. (and throughout most of the West) is carrying a lot of excess body fat. Unhealthy levels of body fat.

Getting the process started

The good news is that it’s not that hard to go from over-fat to the higher end of “normal”.

You can do it with a few relatively small, easy-to-implement changes.

For instance:

  • drinking less soda or alcohol each day
  • not overeating desserts and fast foods (instead, just eating them in reasonable amounts)
  • taking a daily walk or adding a yoga class

Assuming there are no other factors involved (such as a chronic health problem), if you make a few small changes like these, and do them consistently, in six months to a year, your body fat percentage will drop and fall into a much healthier range.

Cool!

Now of course, not every change will feel simple, small, or easy. Especially when you start out.

You’ll need to put a little extra effort and energy into making those changes happen every day. And having a trainer or a coach support you — and hold you accountable — will probably help you feel more confident and on-track.

Nevertheless, if the changes are small enough, and you practice them consistently, you’ll probably find that eventually they’re just part of your regular routine.

In fact, one day in the future, you might even say, “I just don’t feel like myself without my daily walk!”

“Overweight” to “no-longer-overweight” to “lean”

Suppose you’ve made a few changes like this.

Maybe you pack an apple in your lunch instead of apple juice. Or you include a salad with dinner, or you stick to one or two drinks with friends.

And you’re feeling good! Your knees have stopped hurting, plus your pants now button comfortably.

Now you’re somewhere in the zone of “a little extra padding, but not too bad”. You’re more mobile, healthier, and high-fiving yourself.

What’s the next step?

Well, if you’re a man who wants to reduce body fat from 20% to 14% (or 14% to 8%), or a woman who wants to go from 30% to 24% (or 24% to 18%), you’ll need to make some bigger changes.

You’ll need to invest more time, energy, and effort. You’ll need to plan more.

And you’ll also have to make some trade-offs.

From “lean” to “leaner”

If you’re a man and you want to go from 20% to 14% body fat, or you’re a woman and you want to go from 30% body fat to 24%, it’s all a question of doing more…and less.

You’ll probably need to do more stuff, such as:

  • get more exercise and daily-life movement, and perhaps make that exercise more intense
  • eating more vegetables and lean protein
  • choosing more whole foods
  • doing more meal planning
  • getting serious about rest and recovery
  • learning your physical hunger and fullness cues

You’ll probably need to do less stuff, such as:

  • drinking less alcohol and other high-calorie beverages
  • eating less processed foods
  • not eating when you’re not physically hungry

And you’ll need to make these small changes consistently, over a period of time.

Many folks will decide that these changes are worth making. They want to look and feel better, get a good night’s sleep, get off medications, and so forth. So they’re ready to compromise.

Other folks will decide that they’re not yet ready to make more adjustments. And that’s fine too.

The most important thing is that you realize: In order to change…you have to change.

What it takes to get “super-lean”

At next stage — going from athletically lean to bodybuilder lean — the tradeoffs get even more serious.

Here’s something that you may not realize:

Elite bodybuilders getting ready for a contest and models getting ready for a shoot are basically in a slow starvation process.

Adhering to an extremely strict and precise regimen of eating and training (and perhaps adding some drugs into the mix) is the only way way they can drop their body fat to extremely low levels.

Males can get to body fat levels under 6% with this process, and females can get to under 16%.

But this process is not for the faint of heart.

It goes against biological cues. It requires exercising when exhausted. It demands ignoring their desire for food in the face of powerful hunger cues. It involves intense focus and dedication.

And it often distracts from other areas of life that these athletes might enjoy and value.

Imagine all the practical things that are involved in very strict dieting and training.

  • You have to make your own food and measure every meal down to the last gram.
  • That food is generally very plain — lean protein, steamed vegetables, plain potatoes or rice, etc.
  • You have to carry that food with you so you can eat at a precise time.
  • You cannot eat in restaurants.
  • You have to do a specific workout on a given day, exactly as specified.
  • No sick days, no slacking.
  • You’ll probably be training 2 or 3 times per day.
  • You have to sleep and recover precisely.
  • No parties or staying up late.
  • You can’t think straight because you’re always hungry and tired.
  • Your whole life revolves around making food, dieting, training, and recovery protocols.
  • Did we mention you’re slowly starving?

So forget having a sex life, social life, parenthood, school, and probably a regular job.

Is that level of leanness worth it?

Having a six-pack doesn’t automatically make you healthy. In fact, getting toolean can be actively unhealthy.

You might end up with amenorrhea, low libido, disordered eating, bones like Swiss cheese, social isolation, and a host of other problems.

Some elite bodybuilders rely on drugs like stimulants, diuretics, and other drugs just to keep themselves going.

Many folks even rely on cosmetic surgery. Which creates its own health risks… and certainly doesn’t add health on its own.

In short, being really lean has almost nothing to do with being really healthy.

Indeed, being too focused on getting lean may lead you away from good health.

precision nutrition getting lean abs The cost of getting lean: Is it really worth the trade off?

Meanwhile, on the subject of six-packs, it might surprise you to learn that even among the super lean, not all abs are created equal.

That’s right. Strip away all the excess fat, and some people will never reveal a magazine cover set of abs.

Why? Because — quite apart from that airbrushing we referred to earlier — we’re all built differently.

Some folks have staggered abdominals. Some have angled abdominals. Some people might really only have four abdominals that are visible no matter how lean they get.

Don’t believe us? Go to any amateur physique competition for a first-hand view.

Who knows? The experience might prove enlightening. It might even contribute to greater body acceptance and self-compassion.

Because what you’re sure to notice is that in real life, nobody’s “perfect”.  Not even elite bodybuilders and fitness competitors.

Getting clear, getting real

Clarity is essential in change.

If you think you may want to change how much body fat you have, start by getting a clear idea of where you’re at.

  • Figure out your goals and priorities. If you don’t know what your priorities are, now’s a great time to explore that.
  • Decide what you’re willing to do right now in order to serve those goals and priorities. Why?
  • Decide how often, and how consistently, and how precisely, you’re willing to do those things.
  • Decide what you’re not willing to do right now. Why not?
  • In the above steps, be brutally honest and realistic yet compassionate with yourself.

Now you have your action plan.

And you know where you are on the cost-benefit continuum.

In the table above, we’ve provided rough estimates for what it might take to achieve specific levels of leanness or muscularity — or even simple health improvements, like getting off medications.

This is just a general guide. It’s a start. Something to get you thinking.

You may need more tailored guidance or coaching. Age, gender, genetics, medical conditions, and pharmaceuticals can all affect what you’ll need to do to get and stay lean.

If tracking your body fat is important to you, make sure you have a valid way to do it, such as a skinfold caliper measurement by a trained professional. If you don’t care, and use other indicators like your belt notches, that’s cool.

What to do next

1. Take the long view

Whatever change you want to make, remember: It will take time.

Eating one big, rich meal won’t make you wake up overweight. Fasting for 24 hours won’t give you six-pack abs.

A simple plan followed consistently is better than a complex plan followed intermittently.

2. Review what’s involved

To reduce your body fat from unhealthy to healthy levels

You only need to make a few changes, and follow them about 80% of the time.

To go from normal to reasonably lean

You need a few more changes, and a bit more consistency.

Now you might need to eat protein and veggies at every meal, and get 7+ hours of sleep 85% of the time.

To go from lean to very lean

You’ll have to put in more time and more effort. Plus, you’ll need to follow your plan even more consistently — with almost obsessive accuracy.

This means adding a few more habits, such as monitoring fat and carbohydrate intake, and exercising at least 5 hours per week 95% of the time.

For instance, if you eat 4 meals per day, in any given month you’ll need to ensure that 114 of your 120 precisely calibrated meals are perfectly executed, in order to achieve your desired level of leanness.

That’s a serious commitment right there.

3. Get clarity on what YOU want

Review the “getting clear, getting real” list.

What matters to YOU?

What are YOU willing to do… or not? Why?

There’s no right answer. What’s most important is that you understand what it takes to get a certain outcome.

And now YOU have the power to choose. Healthy, athletically lean, or super lean: It all depends on your priorities and goals.

Now you can make the decisions — and get the body you really need, while still living the life you want.

[Bonus: We created a cool infographic that summarizes this article. Click here for: The cost of getting lean illustrated. Is it really worth the trade-off? If there’s someone you think might benefit from seeing it, please pass it along.]

Push/Pull/Legs Split – Strength, Size and Athleticism

Reblogged from: 

BY · OCTOBER 13, 2013

One of the simplest yet rewarding routines out there is the “Push/Pull/Legs” split. It is an easy template mould which harnesses all the required criteria for a full-proof program – balanced time spent on each individual body part/movement and consistent overall training volume. It is also one of the best programs for optimal recovery, which puts it right up there.

The split is based on the idea that your body is essentially split into three parts, in terms of “movements”:

  • Push: Movements that push away from the body e.g. bench press
  • Pull: Movements that move resistance towards the centre of the body e.g. dumbbell rows
  • Legs: Any movement which targets the muscles of the legs.

screenshot20110414at121

As I have said in the past, if your goal is to be athletic, or athletic and aesthetic you should train movements not muscles (http://jt9797.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/movements-not-muscles-program-included/). I favour this split over any other mainstream program for that very reason. By splitting the program up this way it allows the individual to strengthen the basic human movements required for almost all athletic activities, while also delving into the muscle building side of things. It is perfect for athletes who are looking to gain mass, especially in the off season.

Sets and Repetitions

You cannot rely on the movements alone to develop performance and muscle mass simultaneously. To build both athleticism and muscle you must tamper with the sets and repetitions ranges, as well as the exercises (we’ll look into this later). As a general rule of thumb a single session should consist of 4-6 movements (exercises) and 16-24 sets. Here are the ideal sets and repetition ranges you should perform for each exercise:

  1. Primary Exercise: focus on strength/ athletic development = 3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets
  2. Main Assistance: aimed towards improving the primary exercise, again, focused on strength and athletic development with a little muscle building = 5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets.
  3. Compound Mass: aimed to improve upon strength and muscle weaknesses = 6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets.
  4. Mass Assistance: directed towards gaining muscle mass and strength = 8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets.
  5. Mass: solely focused on muscle development and conditioning = 10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets.
  6. Mass: solely focused on muscle development and conditioning = 10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets.

As you can see we begin with strength and athletic development exercises that focus on low repetitions and heavy weight which are used to develop strength. These require the most amount of energy and technique; therefore they must be performed at the start of the session. We slowly fade into mass building parameters, focusing on slightly higher repetitions.

Exercise Selection

Exercise selection is easy – on pull day you do pulling exercises, on push day you do pushing exercises, on leg day you do leg exercises. You begin with compound movements and slowly move onto isolation movements.  Here are some exercises you could use:

Days Primary Exercise Main Assistance and Compound Mass Mass Assistance Mass
Push Bench   PressOverhead   PressPush   Press Overhead   PressBench   Press (and any variation e.g. close grip)DipsDumbbell   Bench Press

Incline   Press

Push   ups

Dumbbell   Overhead press (single or double)

Push   Press

Floor   Press

Push   upsDipsCable   fly’sFly’s

Skull   crushers

Pec   Deck

Triceps   PushdownTriceps   ExtensionPush   upsCable   fly’s

Fly’s

Dips

Lateral   raises

Pull DeadliftOlympic LiftsRack-pulls Olympic LiftsRows (any type)Chin upsPull ups

Shrugs

Rack-pulls

Pulldowns

Chin upsPull upsShrugsRow variation   (lighter)

Pulldowns

Straight arm   pushdown

Face pulls

Band-pull aparts

ScarecrowsBand-pull apartsFace pullsCurls (any arm work)
Legs SquatOlympic   LiftsDeadlift Olympic   LiftsBulgarian   Split SquatsHip   TrustsGood   mornings

Stiff-legged   deadlifts

Lunges

Step   ups

Leg   Press

Hack   Squats

Glute-ham

Raise

Box   Squats

Glute-ham   raisesPull-throughSwiss   ball leg curlReverse   hyperextensions

Lunges

Step   ups

Hip   trusts

Leg   press

 

Sled   dragsLeg   extensionsLeg   curlsGlute-ham   raises

Swiss   ball leg curl

Abdominal   work

Pulling It All Together

Why didn’t I just hand you a readymade template for you to follow? I decided to lay out the structure for a reason. Too many trainers hand out generic programs that do not meet the needs of individuals. By giving you the opportunity to pick your own exercises, repetitions, sets and training days you have the chance to make an individually moulded program that will be focused towards your own goals, take responsibility. A personalized program will always out perform a generic one.

I will lay out a ready to go program, but this is only for beginners and people who want to see what the finished product looks like. If you know what your goal is and have a basic knowledge in training, channel your program towards attaining your goal. Pick exercises that strengthen your weak areas and train how you want to train! Here we go:

Push:

  1. Primary Exercises: Bench Press (3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets)
  2. Main Assistance: Dumbbell Incline Bench Press (5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets)
  3. Compound Mass: Dips (6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  4. Mass Assistance: Push-ups (8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  5. Mass: Triceps Extensions ( 10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)
  6. Mass: Triceps Pushdowns (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)

Pull:

  1. Primary Exercise: Deadlift (3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets)
  2. Main Assistance: Dumbbell Rows (5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets)
  3. Compound Mass: Chin ups (6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  4. Mass Assistance: Face Pulls (8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  5. Mass: Barbell Curls (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)
  6. Mass: Hammer Curls (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)

Legs:

  1. Primary Exercise: Squat (3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets)
  2. Main Assistance: Stiff-legged Deadlifts (5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets)
  3. Compound Mass: Bulgarian Split Squats (6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  4. Mass Assistance: Leg Press (8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  5. Mass: Glute-ham Raises (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)
  6. Mass: Weighted Abdominal Rollouts (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)

Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic program but it will never outdo a personalized program.

3 Day a Week vs 4 Days a Week

Push/Pull/Legs can be split into a three or four day a week program:

Day 3 Days a Week 4 Days a Week
Monday Legs Legs
Tuesday Off Push
Wednesday Pull Off
Thursday Off Pull
Friday Push Off
Saturday Off Legs
Sunday Off Off
Monday Legs Push
Tuesday Off Pull
Wednesday Pull Off
Thursday Off Legs
Friday Push Off
Saturday Off Push
Sunday Off Off

Both have their benefits, if your goal is purely strength and size based or you’re going through a bulking phase, you may find the four day a week to be beneficial. However, I personally prefer the 3 day a week program as it gives athletes plenty of time to work on skills needed in their sport, as well as sprinting and other conditioning sessions, while still gaining great amounts of strength and size.

In conclusion, this is a fantastic program for people looking to gain strength and mass. I regularly use this style of program with rugby players and other contact athletes who need to gain muscle mass, while still developing athleticism.

5 x 5 Compilation.

I am a big fan of the 5 x 5 routine and I came across an article written by another fan who pretty much put all info about 5×5 that he could into one place. I believe I have another post that I had done that is similar but this one is more comprehensive . I found it useful and I think you will too.

5 x 5 Strength Training Template: How to Do It Right

Reg Park 5x5 Strength Routine

5 x 5 Strength Training Template in History and Its Variations

Well, I don’t really know whether old-timers used exactly 5 sets of 5 reps. I think, that they came up with something like this at some point. Lots of coaches attribute invention of 5 x 5 system to Bill Starr and his famous book The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football. I admit I haven’t read it yet. But it is on my to-read list. Here’s a quote and original template from the book (that I found here):

“These are 3 basic exercises used by weightlifters to increase their strength….the football player (and you can insert Martial Artist, Fighter, whatever there) must work for overall body strength as opposed to specific strengthening exercises….In other words the athlete should be building total leg strength rather than just stronger hamstrings. He should be seeking overall strength in his shoulder girdle rather than just stronger deltoids….the program is fast, simple and, most importantly, effective. It requires very little space and a minimum of equipment….”

Bill Starr’s 5X5 Routine In Its Original Form

Monday – Heavy

Power cleans – 5 sets of 5
Bench – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set (add 10 rep sets after 8-12 weeks on program)
Squats – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set

(set 1 35% of target / set 2 70% of target / set 3 80% of target / set 4 90% of target / set 5 target)

Wednesday – Light

Power cleans – 5 sets of 5
Incline Bench – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set
Squats – 5 sets of 5 / 1×10 weight from 3rd set / set 5 use weight from 3rd set of Monday

Friday – Medium 

Power cleans – 5 sets of 5
Overhead press – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set
Squats – 5 sets of 5 / 1×10 weight from 3rd set / set 5 use weight from 3rd set of Monday / set 5 use weight 4th set of Monday”

As you can see, template is simple and effective. There are 3 days with almost the same exercises (Bench Press “evolves” in Overhead Press throughout the week). Heavy-Light-Medium, which is great for intermediate lifters (for beginners, I think, it would be better to use linear progression increasing weight every session). In addition, you should have noticed that the weight gets ramped up every set. We’ll talk about this later in this article. Exercises used are basic compound lifts in Push-Pull-Legs fashion.

Of course, history of 5 x 5 strength training template doesn’t stop at the Bill Starr’s version. Another example is Reg Park’s 5 x 5 variant:

Reg Park’s Three Phase 5×5 Program

Phase One

45-degree back extension 3×10
Back squat 5×5
Bench press 5×5
Deadlift 5×5

Rest 3-5 minutes between the last 3 sets of each exercise.

Train three days per week for three months.

Phase Two for Bodybuilders*

45-degree back extension 3-4×10
Front squat 5×5
Back squat 5×5
Bench press 5×5
Standing barbell shoulder press 5×5
High pull 5×5
Deadlift 5×5
Standing barbell calf raise 5×25

Rest 2 minutes between sets.

Train three days per week for three months.

* After the basic Phase One, Park had a different set of recommended exercises for aspiring Olympic weightlifters. It used a few different sets and reps, and included lunges and power cleans.

Phase Three for Bodybuilders

45-degree back extension 4×10
Front squat 5×5
Back squat 5×5
Standing barbell shoulder press 5×5
Bench press 5×5
Bent-over barbell row 5×5
Deadlift 5×3
Behind-the-neck press or one-arm dumbbell press 5×5
Barbell curl 5×5
Lying triceps extension 5×8
Standing barbell calf raise 5×25

Rest 2 minutes between sets.

Train three days per week for three months.”

As you can see, this program is quite different from Starr’s except the first phase. I really don’t know whether phase 2 and 3 will work for the average trainee, but they will take serious effort at least to be accomplished. I know they probably won’t work for me as I have quite bad recovery. Another important point is the fact that Reg Park didn’t recommend ramping up the weight. He recommended 2 warm-up sets and 3 work sets with fixed weight.

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe

Another reasonable program is Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength. I highly encourage you to read his Starting Strength and Practical Programming for Strength Training. I think, it’s one of the best programs for beginners and with some tweaking it becomes one of the best programs for intermediates too. Mark recommends 3 sets of 5 (which is variation of 5 x 5) similarly to Reg Park’s example above, but overall program volume is much more reasonable. For advanced trainees (if their goal is bodybuilding) program volume may be too low, which can be adjusted with assistance “pump” work. Original template looks like this:

“Workout A

1) Barbell Squat 3 x 5

2) Barbell Bench Press 3 x 5

3) Barbell Deadlift 1 x 5

Workout B

1) Barbell Squat 3 x 5

2) Barbell Military Press 3 x 5

3) Barbell Power Clean 5 x 3

Workouts A and B should be alternated on a 3-times-per-week basis. For example, Monday – workout A, Wednesday – workout B, Friday – workout A, Monday – workout B etc.”

Simplicity at its finest. If you are new to strength training, I highly encourage you to use this routine.

Madcow, Stronglifts etc.

These are other notable variations of 5 x 5. I won’t include actual templates here, but if you are interested in trying them:

You can learn more about StrongLifts template here.

You can learn more about Madcow template here.

They are both just variations of the above.

My Experience with 5 x 5

I, personally, was first introduced to 5 times 5 system by Mike Mahler (it was featured in several articles by him and in his e-book “Aggressive Strength Solution for Size and Strength”). It was something really new for me as I was used at that time to basic 3 x 10, classic bodybuilding-style and HIT-style work. I was so brainwashed in those days that I thought it was impossible to gain muscle on low repetitions. To my great surprise, 5 x 5 worked and worked very well. That’s how I found my love with strength training. Gaining muscle was not a great priority anymore. Especially seeing the results that steroids can deliver to others. I have a guy at work that gained at least 15-20 kg in 2 years with no fat (he has visible abs). He’s now 100 kg. Of course, he uses steroids (he told me). And this is true for almost any big guy in the gym at least in our country. I am highly competitive person. And after that I just lost interest in bodybuilding. What’s the point? Yes, you can put in a lot of effort, get perfect program and perfect diet, and gain pretty decent size in 5-10 years. However, some guy will just inject this and that, have really sub-optimal training and nutrition, and will be bigger than you in less than 2 years. So building muscle for me is more like a side effect of building strength. From the time I discovered it, I use some variation of 5 x 5 in almost all of my programs. This is what works for me.

5 x 5 Methods Explained

So what you can see in above examples? Low reps, low-to-mid amount of sets, heavy weight, basic exercises, full-body routines etc. I won’t use percentages here, but probably they are between 70-85% of 1RM. Therefore, basic methods of 5 x 5 are:

  • 4 warm-up sets of 5 working towards 1 top work set of 5;
  • 2 warm-up sets of 5 and 3 work sets of 5 with fixed weight;
  • several warm-up sets and 5 sets of 5 with fixed weight.

Every one of them has its own application. 5 sets of 5 with fixed weight requires less intensity because it has more volume. It may not be suitable for some people. They just might not get all the reps in all the sets no matter what they do. Their sets may look like 5, 5, 5, 5, 3. I’m one of these people. With increased intensity I tend to not get all the reps in such template. Second variant is much more suitable for me. First variant has less volume with working weight, which can be used in light and mid days because you have only one set of practice with working weight.

Here’s a method of progression I learned from legendary Brooks Kubik. You can start with 4 warm-up sets of 5 and 1 working set. Next session you can do 3 warm-up sets and 2 working sets. Next session you can do 2 warm-up sets and 3 working sets. Then add weight and start over with 1 working set of 5. Here’s the picture to make it more visual.

5 x 5 Progression

Secondly, despite the examples above, 5 x 5 is not only for full-body routines. You can successfully use it with split routines. Iron Addict’s SPBR is one of the examples. You can check it out here.

5 x 5 and Calisthenics

Regular 5 x 5 routines are great when it comes to weights. But what about calisthenics? Well, everything is a little bit trickier (as always). 5 x 5 will definitely help you build strength in bodyweight movements, but great chances are that you’ll need to use more flexible scheme. It’s all because you can’t make microadjustments like with barbell exercises.  There are 2 ways out:

  1. Weighted calisthenics
  2. Use more flexible set/rep scheme

Rough Strength Variation of 5 x 5

Of course, I can’t leave you without routine and practical knowledge how to implement 5 x 5. You can find beginner routines here.

Let’s implement several training tools and several methods of 5 x 5 and create a program for intermediate trainee for gaining strength and building some muscle:

Day 1

A) Sandbag Zercher Squats 3 x 5

B) Tuck Planche Push-Ups (between chairs) 3 x 5

C) One-Arm Kettlebell Row 5 x 5

D) Ring Triceps Extensions 3 x 8-12

Day 2 – off

Day 3

A1) Kettlebell Double Lunges 5 x 5 (each leg)

A2) Kettlebell Double Swings 5 x 5

B) Pistols 4 x maximum

C) One-Leg Calf Raises 3 x 12-20

Day 4

A1) Handstand Push-Ups 3 x 5

A2) Weighted Chin-Up 3 x 5

B) Weighted Dips 1 x 5

C) Sandbag Shouldering 5 x 2 (1 per side, switch sides after every set)

Day 5 off

Day 6 off

Repeat.

Notes:

  • 1 x 5 means 4 warm up sets and 1 work set;
  • 3 x 5 means 2-3 warm up sets and 3 work sets;
  • 5 x 5 means 2-3 warm up sets and 5 work sets;
  • If you can’t accomplish all reps in work sets in first week, you’re using weights or exercises that are too hard for you;
  • If you can accomplish all the reps in work sets, you can add the minimum increment. No more than 2.5 kg;
  • If you want to add some muscle, then you need to be in calorie surplus and eat enough protein and carbs.

Get PHAT

When it comes to following a program the best thing is to stick with it. Commit for the long haul. Jumping around from program to program is never a good idea because they are designed to be followed to the end. When you jump around it is hard to measure your progress.

That being said , here is a program that some one I am friends with is doing and they tried to get me to do it. But I am taking my own advice. I am working a sweet little 4 day split designed for hypertrophy and I am doing well. When I get done with it I will see but until then I am stick with it. But this program looks fun and I think one day I will try it. So I am posting it here so I have it in my little internet scrap book of a blog for the future. If any readers decide to jump on this program then come back on here and keep us posted, I would be really interested as I am sure others would be too.

P.H.A.T. Training: A Look At Layne Norton’s Workout System

Author: Alex Borja B.S. SPT, HFS

The P.H.A.T. program or “Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training” program is unique in that it involves the combination of powerlifting and bodybuilding training. If you are new to the scene, powerlifters are often regarded as using lower reps and higher weight in their workouts to mostly gain strength whereas bodybuilders strive for mass using a higher rep and less weight approach in comparison to powerlifters.

So who is Layne Norton?

P.H.A.T. Training: Layne Norton's Workout System

Well if you haven’t heard of him by now I will explain. Layne Norton is a professional natural bodybuilder, powerlifter, and writer. Oh, and did I mention he has his Ph D? He is very experienced in the fitness industry and sought after highly for his articles and thoughts. So Layne Norton is highly qualified to introduce his newest training system: P.H.A.T. training.

Why P.H.A.T.?

Well you can pretty much use common sense when thinking of the possible outcomes from using both powerlifting and bodybuilding approaches to training – at the same time!

Typically when one is training for strength, he will inevitably need to gain mass once he hits a wall. That is just fact. He will someday reach a plateau where he can no longer get any stronger without adding some more muscle to help with the motion. The opposite holds true to: the bodybuilder will evenetually need more strength to add more mass to his body. P.H.A.T. hopes to aid with this…

So in conclusion: Strength and Mass are directly proportional. (To a degree)

So one can draw the conclusion that putting the two types of training together, for mass and for strength, the outcomes can be very impressive. Does P.H.A.T. really work? Can we really train for strength and mass within the same week to boost our overall results and accelerate to new heights we never thought possible? There’s only one way to find out.

Note:

This is a very intense, volume heavy program that is meant to push you to your limits. No person has achieved more than they were able to by not pushing themselves to places where they thought they couldn’t reach. Having said this, P.H.A.T. training can be highly demanding and as such you should always distinguish real pain to “training pain”. If you feel yourself taking it too far, back off for a day or two. An injury can set you back months to years while knowing your limits will set you back a few days. Train hard but train smart.

PHAT Training Overview:

Day 1: Upper Body Power
Day 2: Lower Body Power
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy
Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy
Day 6: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy
Day 7: Rest

Day 1: Upper Body Power Day

  • Pulling Power Movement: Bent over or Pendlay rows
    3 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Assistance Pulling movement: Weighted Pull ups
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Auxiliary Pulling movement: Rack chins
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Pressing Power Movement: Flat dumbbell presses
    3 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Assistance pressing movement: Weighted dips
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Assistance pressing movement: Seated dumbbell shoulder presses
    3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Auxiliary curling movement: Cambered bar curls
    3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Auxiliary extension movement: Skull crushers
    3 sets of 6-10 reps

Day 2: Lower Body Power Day

  • Pressing Power Movement: Squats
    3 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Assistance pressing movement: Hack Squats
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Assistance extension movement: Leg extensions
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Assistance pulling movement: Stiff legged deadlifts
    3 sets of 5-8 reps
  • Assistance pulling/curling movement: Glute ham raises or lying leg curls
    2 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Auxiliary calf movement: Standing calf raise
    3 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Auxiliary calf movement: Seated calf raise
    2 sets of 6-10 reps

Day 3: Rest

Day 4: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy Day

  • Pulling Power Exercise speed work: Bent over or Pendlay rows
    6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of normal 3-5 rep max
  • Hypertrophy pulling movement: Rack chins
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy pulling movement: Seated cable row
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy pulling movement: Dumbbell rows or shrugs bracing upper body against an incline bench
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy pulling movement: Close grip pulldowns
    2 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Hypertrophy shoulder movement: Seated dumbbell presses
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy shoulder movement: Upright rows
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy shoulder movement: Side lateral raises with dumbbells or cables
    3 sets of 12-20 reps

Day 5: Lower Body Hypertrophy Day

  • Lower Body Power Exercise speed work: Squats
    6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of normal 3-5 rep max
  • Hypertrophy pressing movement: Hack squats
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy pressing movement: Leg presses
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy extension movement: Leg extensions
    3 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Hypertrophy pulling movement: Romanian deadlifts
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy curling movement: Lying leg curls
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy curling movement: Seated leg curls
    2 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Hypertrophy calf movement: Donkey calf raises
    4 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy calf movement: Seated calf raises
    3 sets of 15-20 reps

Day 6: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy Day

  • Pressing Power Exercise speed work:
  • Flat dumbbell presses
    6 sets of 3 reps with 65-70% of normal 3-5 rep max
  • Hypertrophy pressing movement: Incline dumbbell presses
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy pressing movement: Hammer strength chest press
    3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy fly movement: Incline cable flyes
    2 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Hypertrophy curling exercise: Cambered bar preacher curls
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy curling exercise: Dumbbell concentration curls
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy curling exercise: Spider curls bracing upper body against an incline bench
    2 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Hypertrophy extension exercise: Seated tricep extension with cambered bar
    3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Hypertrophy extension exercise: Cable pressdowns with rope attachment
    2 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hypertrophy extension exercise: Cable kickbacks
    2 sets of 15-20 reps

Also: See Layne Norton’s Interview with Directlyfitness.com!

Author:

Alex Borja B.S. SPT, HFS

References:

http://forums.rxmuscle.com/

Tish Shelton Aims High in First Pro Season

Krivs Studio Blog

Newly minted physique pro Tish Shelton has lofty goals in mind for her first season in the IFBB ranks—namely earning a trip to Las Vegas to compete in the Olympia next fall. Challenging expectations to be sure but certainly legitimate considering the rising star from Mobile, Alabama brings a notable and striking package to the stage.

In fact, we just discussed a coterie of contenders for the upcoming season in the previous post that could have easily included the steely 5-foot-1, 125-pound powerhouse and reigning NPC North Americans short class champion. Pro physique continues to be intriguing with newcomers like Rikki Smead, Erica Blockman, Tracy Weller and Tish Shelton all joining the mix this year.

Following Tish’s dazzling, pro card-winning routine, highlights from a contest shape debut shoot in Pittsburgh, Pa. last summer feature a tantalizing combination of sinewy and sinuous. Tish’s tremendous development is on display—wide, detailed back

View original post 105 more words

Hardcore Thought Of The Day- A way of life

The gym isn’t an escape from life’s problems, but a way of solving them. A strong body makes for a strong person. Challenge yourself, test yourself, and grow.

Quote from Dave Tate

dave-tate-belt

Hardcore Thought Of The Day

What a privilege it is to be healthy and  train!


cropped-lhxc_250-fw.png

Hardcore Quote Of The Day by Ross Enamait

“Somewhere along the line people have been fooled into believing that life is supposed
to be easy. I often work 12+ hour days, and there are weeks when I work 7 days. I
perform my own workout at the crack of dawn. Do I enjoy waking up at 4AM? Not
really, but I get it done. I have a wife and son, with another on the way next month. I
also have dogs, house work, work in the yard, etc. I’m beyond busy. Oh well, that’s
life. I won’t cry about it and feel bad for myself. I won’t rush to the local fast food
restaurant. I cook much of my food ahead of time. I make time. I find a way. Most
people aren’t trying to make time. They aren’t making an effort.
We need to stop making excuses for others. People need to stop feeling bad for
themselves. Life is tough. That’s a fact. There are good times and bad times. There are
action takers and action fakers. There are ultra busy professionals who make time for
fitness, while others don’t. We all have options, and we all make our own decisions. If
someone has made poor decisions, I won’t sugarcoat it and console them with more
excuses.”
– Ross Enamait