Years ago, you were young with little responsibility. You wanted to pack on muscle, shed fat, and gain superhuman strength. You trained six days a week for two hours at a time. You felt invincible.
Then, you matured and life changed.
Today, you tackle high-level work projects. You have family functions to attend. The days of training six days a week for two hours each session are long gone. Now, you’re lucky if you lift two days a week for an hour.
The pounds have crept on. You feel lazy and tired. The thought of being in the gym for two hours is as painful as watching grass grow. You need an iron-clad training plan that gets you in and out of the gym in four hours or less each week so you can dominate every day.
If only there was someone who could concoct the magic potion that enabled busy lifters to maintain strength and protect muscle, while they shed stubborn fat.
Well, behold! I present to you the 4-Hour Fat Loss Elixir for Busy Lifters.
Put a Strangle Hold on Your Muscle
The first instinct for some lifters is to trade lifting sessions for hours of slow, boring, steady-state cardio. I understand because I’ve been there.
Four years ago, I lost 14 pounds in a year. Ten came from fat and the remaining four were stolen from muscle. You may think four pounds isn’t much, but on an athletic 5’9” and 170lb frame, it’s massive.
Imagine lining up four lean, mouthwatering 16oz steak filets. Now, picture those filets as thick slabs of muscle on your back, chest, shoulders, or arms.
It’s the difference between you having a “skinny fat” body versus a muscular body.
It’s the difference between you having enough muscle to fill out a medium versus a large sized t-shirt.
Learn from my blunders. If you want to reveal a lean and muscular body, don’t skimp on weights.
A caloric deficit is required for you to lose body fat. You must burn more calories than you consume. When you’re in a caloric deficit, maintaining strength and muscle are key. When you consume less calories, your body wants to snatch energy from any available source. Sometimes, it wants to feast on muscle.
Don’t let this happen. Your body needs a reason to protect your hard-earned muscle. Lifting weights is the solution. In a fat loss phase, if you consistently practice the three mechanisms for muscle growth, you’ll keep a muscular physique as you shed fat. What are they?
Mechanism 1: Mechanical Tension
This is the process of progressive overload or an increase in strength over time. You need to generate as much force as possible through a full range of motion. Rarely does this require someone to perform their one-rep max on a lift. You should perform reps in the range of 3-5. Contract the correct muscles and lift the weight with maximal force every repetition.
Mechanism 2: Muscular Damage
Do you need to torture your muscles into oblivion? No. You can accomplish muscle damage in various ways. Create muscle damage with the use of a slower tempo on the eccentric (unloaded) portion of an exercise, an angle change to target a different part of a muscle, an increase in weight, or stretching a muscle under tension.
Mechanism 3: Metabolic Stress
Here, you chase the pump. It’s that time at the end of a set when your muscles become exhausted and you feel a deep burn.
Plus, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Lifters with a higher ratio of muscle to fat have increased resting energy expenditures.3 Therefore, even when you don’t have a ton of time, you’ll burn more calories while doing nothing because you made lifting a priority.
The best approach for you is to lift to protect your muscle. Use your diet to shed fat. If you need a reminder, repeat this message to your yourself or go old-school and write it 100 times on a chalkboard like a kid sent to detention:
“I will lift weights to build and protect my muscle. I will use my diet to shed fat.”
Protect Your Muscle With Heavy Days
The first two ingredients in your elixir are separate lower and upper body heavy training days. The goal is to maintain or (in some cases) build strength.
Below is your concoction for heavy days:
- CNS activation
- Primary strength movement
- Antagonist strength movement
- Primary support exercise for the strength exercise
- Secondary support exercise for the antagonist strength movement
Each session begins with an explosive movement to activate your central nervous system (CNS). CNS activation prepares your nervous system for the imposed neurological demands in the proceeding strength-based exercise. Jumps, throws, and slams are perfect examples.
Next, advance to your primary strength movement of the day. The movement makes your body more responsive to building and protecting muscle by improving your neural efficiency. Why is this important for you? Neuromuscular adaptions to heavier loading allow contractions to be forceful and efficient. This means that we can use more of the full potential of our existing muscle mass.1 This results in higher testosterone levels, a greater capacity to build muscle in the future, and a better-looking body
Each session ends with a support exercise for your strength movements. It gives you the opportunity to train the muscles responsible for maximizing each movement pattern. Since your CNS has been activated, take advantage of what’s called post tetanic potentiation (PAP). When your muscles produce a maximal effort, it increases the capacity of the nervous system to recruit muscle fibers during subsequent efforts. If you begin with a heavy lift, the remainder of the workout will be more effective because you can recruit more muscle fibers.4 For the support exercises, use heavy/moderate weight.
Protect Your Muscle With Light Days
The next two ingredients in your fat loss elixir are two separate lower and upper body light training days. The goals for these days are to provide your CNS a break and force lactate production to release growth hormone for fat loss.
Remember, you’re busy and stressed with work and family matters. When you train with heavier weights, it places an immense amount of stress on your body and CNS. Give each ample recovery time from the intense neurological demands of heavy lifts. The solution is the inclusion of two lighter weight days. Lighter weights don’t require use of your CNS. For these sessions, teach your muscles to flex and keep them under constant tension. You’ll fix underdeveloped muscles and build a better mind-muscle connection.
Your ability to maintain constant tension for at least 40 seconds forces lactate production which leads to the release of growth hormone. Growth hormone regulates whole body metabolism, and physical exercise is the most potent stimulus to induce its secretion in humans.2 Since we need to maintain tension longer on these days, the reps are 12 or more with shorter rest periods between exercises. You’ll remain focused, elevate your heart rate, and burn more calories because you’re training more muscles in less time.
Plus, you must hit muscle failure on some exercises. Muscle failure is the signal for creating muscle growth and protein synthesis. Sure, your goal isn’t to pack on muscle. However, stimulating the process of protein synthesis during a fat loss phase increases your body’s ability to maintain muscle. Failure will be achieved by extending sets with the use of two methods: drop sets and rest/pause.
- For drop sets, you train close to failure. Then, drop the weight anywhere from 15 to 25% and perform as many reps as possible until failure.
- On rest/pause sets, you also train close to failure. Then, you rest for 10-15 seconds. Once time has passed, you knock out more reps until failure.
Below is your concoction for lights days:
- Reps of 12+
- Unilateral exercises
- Antagonist supersets
When life gets crazy and trips to the gym are inconsistent, your muscles become fragile. Do you feel like one arm or leg is weaker than the other? Maybe you have a tough time flexing your muscles on one side of your body. When one side is weaker than the other, it makes you feel like you’re not getting enough from your workouts. Regain your muscle with unilateral movements and feel invincible again. Unilateral refers to a movement where each side is training independently. Unilateral training helps you fix muscle imbalances, improve your explosiveness and athleticism, and add variety to your workouts. Each light day begins with a unilateral superset.
You’ll perform antagonist supersets so you can crush multiple muscles at once without a decrease in strength. This method consists of pairing two exercises of opposing muscle groups in a superset (two exercises performed consecutively). There is a brief rest between the exercises and moderate rest after a set of both have been completed.
Your Training Plan
Day 1 – Heavy Lower Body Day
- Vertical Jumps – 3 x 5, rest 60 sec
- Front Squats – 5 x 3-5, rest 2-3 min
- Barbell RDL – 4 x 6-8, rest 90-120 sec
- Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat – 3 x 8-10 per leg (slow eccentric), rest 75-90 sec
- Lying or Seated Hamstring Curl – 3 x 8-10 (rest/pause on the last two sets), rest 75-90 sec
Day 2 – Rest
Day 3 – Heavy Upper Body Day
- Incline Plyo Push Up – 3 x 5, rest 60 sec
- Incline Barbell Bench Press – 5 x 3-5, rest 2-3 min
- Pendlay Row – 4 x 6-8, rest 90-120 sec
- Dips – 3 x 8-10 (slow eccentric), rest 75-90 sec
- Supinated Pull Ups or Supinated Lat Pulldown – 3 x 8-10 (rest/pause on the last two sets), rest 75-90 sec
Day 4 – Light Lower Body Day
- DB Reverse Lunge – 3 x 12 (per leg), rest 45 sec
- Weighted Single Leg Hip Thrust – 3 x 12 (per leg), rest 60-75 sec
- Leg Press – 3 x 12-15 (rest/pause on the last two sets), rest 60 sec
- Leg Extensions – 3 x 12-15 (drop set on last two sets), rest 30 sec
- Cable Pull Through – 3 x 12-15, rest 60 sec
- Hanging Leg Raises – 3 x 12-15, no rest*
- Kettlebell Swings – 3 x 20-25, rest 60 sec*
*Finisher for the session
Day 5 – Rest
Day 6 – Light Upper Body Day
- One Arm DB Z Press – 3 x 12 (per side), rest 30 sec
- Split Stance Single Arm Row – 3 x 12 (per side), rest 60-75 sec
- Incline DB Flyes – 3 x 12-15 (drop set on the last two sets), rest 30 sec
- Incline DB Reverse Flyes – 3 x 12-15 (drop set on the last two sets), rest 60 sec
- Lean Away Cable Curls – 3 x 12-15 (3 second peak contraction), rest 30 sec
- Tricep Pushdowns – 3 x 12-15 (drop set on the last two sets), rest 60 sec
- Shrug Row – 3 x 15 + 10 sec hold on last rep, rest 30 sec
- Incline Lateral Raises – 3 x 15 + max partials, rest 60 sec
Day 7 – Rest
Your Best Approach to Muscle
Life is short. Don’t spend an eternity in the gym. Each workout should take you no more than an hour. Take four to six weeks and use this plan so you can feel invincible again. You deserve the chance to dominate work, rest, and play every day, in every way.
1. Helms, Eric, Andy Morgan, and Andrea Valdez. The Muscle & Strength Pyramid: Training. United States: Muscle and Strength Pyramids, LLC., 2019.
2. Ignacio, Daniele Leão, Diego H. Da S. Silvestre, João Paulo Albuquerque Cavalcanti-De-Albuquerque, Ruy Andrade Louzada, Denise P. Carvalho, and João Pedro Werneck-De-Castro. “Thyroid Hormone and Estrogen Regulate Exercise-Induced Growth Hormone Release.” Plos One 10, no. 4 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0122556.
3. Rolfe, D. F., and G. C. Brown. “Cellular Energy Utilization and Molecular Origin of Standard Metabolic Rate in Mammals.” Physiological Reviews 77, no. 3 (January 1997): 731–58.
4. Thibaudeau, Christian, and Paul Carter. Maximum Muscle Bible. Saint-Raymond, Québec: F. Lepine Pub., 2016.