Strength Training Programs for Fat Loss

Q: I try to do the approach that you suggested with the pyramid routine. The problem is that on my off days I feel like I’m losing muscle. Or I have a strong urge to just go and lift, because I don’t feel pumped up. Is it normal to feel this way?

-Ahsan A.

My Answer: Yes that is normal for some people, particularly ectomorphs. But there is a big difference between “feeling” like you’re losing muscle and actually losing muscle. The pump that you get from working out is transient. It is temporary, and it is not a true indicator of your muscle size. Nevertheless, some people get addicted to the pump and want to have it all the time, so they go to the gym all the time.

If you feel like going to the gym every day, then go right ahead. Split the workout in half according to upper body and lower body. Alternate between upper and lower workouts throughout the week.

And because you’ve split the workouts in half, don’t be tempted to add more exercises, because you will overtrain and lose the pump. The pump is indicative of your anabolic state. If you pump up easily, then this indicates your body is in an anabolic state. If you do too many exercises or your workout goes on for too long (over 45 minutes), then you will be unable to maintain that pump, because you’ve overstressed your muscles and the capillaries within these muscles have now collapsed.

So don’t be greedy. Workout just enough to get the pump.


Q: I’m trying to lose some weight for ROTC and also want to start getting ready for (hopefully) becoming an MP. Could you give me some tips for beginning fat loss resistance training? Thanks a lot.


My Answer: Strength training for fat loss is very different from strength training for muscle gain. For muscle gain, you do straight sets in an attempt to flush a select set of muscles with blood and create lactic acid build up. This localized build up releases a number of hormones which grow muscle. In other words, to build a particular set of muscles you have to keep the stress on it for an extended period of time.

For fat loss, it’s completely different. Your entire musculature has to stressed. You avoid localized stress (straight sets) and attempt to stress your musculature globally. Instead of straight sets and seeking the pump in a particular muscle group, you should avoid the pump and work the entire body.

This is why circuit training is used for fat loss. Logistically, however, circuit training is problematic, because you’ll need to have access to several pieces of equipment at the same time. There is a way to get around this, which I go over in my article on Strength Training for Fat Loss.

It is a highly effective strength training program for fat loss, but I do list 6 other strength training programs for fat loss in my book Strength and Physique, Volume One


Q: Regarding the pyramid program, I know you said to stick with one exercise per muscle, but could you do barbell bent over rows for 2 sets and do pull-ups for 2 sets? I feel like I need to add pull-ups to the routine because they are one of the best back exercises, and I definitely won’t be able to hit 15 reps with pull-ups.

Thanks in advance,


My Answer- I suggest you follow one of 2 options:

1) Do 3 sets of pull-ups followed by one set of pulldowns. If you cannot do 15 pull-ups, then instead do 3 sets of as many pull-ups as possible. Finish off with a burnout set of 15 pulldowns.

2) Alternate pull-ups with seated cable rows from workout to workout. For one workout, do 4 sets of as many pull-ups as possible for your back. Don’t worry about sticking to the 10-8-6-15. Then on your next workout, do seated cable rows for your back with a 10-8-6-15 rep scheme. If you want to do barbell rows instead of cable, that’s fine. I prefer cable rows to barbell rows.


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