You sure have heard the phrase “you are what you eat”
Let me introduce you to something similar that applies to this sport,
“You are what you lift!!!”
Diet in my view is critical, however, when it comes to overall aesthetics, training is non-negotiable and plays a pivotal role in developing your physique.
There are plenty of approaches one can follow with regards to training. Heavy weight vs light weight. Bodyweight vs CrossFit. Supersets vs one body part at a time and the list goes on and on. There is no end to it. Which program to choose will depend on what your end goal is? Your body responds differently to different programs. I want you to understand that training in the gym without following a proper diet will defeat the purpose of this program. Training is only 4% of the effort, the time you spend outside the gym is what helps you transform your physique. If your goal is to burn maximum body fat or optimize muscle hypertrophy then there is a particular method. If you want to maintain your current self then there is another approach. After trying different training methods and diet plans I have been able to understand what works best in each scenario. I am a firm believer of the old school style of training, Get up and go hard, eat clean, get lots of rest and grow like a mammoth(although sleep is a luxury here. it’s tough to get enough of it when gym is life and you have a day job with a family to take care of 😉 However, this is an ideal scenario. We certainly can get close to it and get near perfect results.
Now, when it comes to training for aesthetics, what you really want is to maximize your fat loss potential and minimize muscle loss. You won’t build any new muscles when you lose fat, however, as you get leaner training with weights the quality of your physique will improve.
What we will follow is
- A 5 day weight training split (split means dividing each body part for different days)
- Diet program
Let’s discuss cardio and diet first. We will touch the workout split in the end.
Cardio is something we want to use to our advantage and ensure the body doesn’t burn out. Let’s talk about two common approaches-
- Fasted cardio in the morning-The body will have to use stored fat and stored glycogen for energy when you run as you have not ingested any food (glycogen). Quite effective for a fat loss program.
- Cardio post weight training. We won’t overdo our bit here as the same can lead to muscle loss.
Now, we certainly can do cardio prior to training with weights. The only issue here is the energy expenditure on cardio will make your weight training suffer. You want to use your energy at its best potential to push weights first.
What form of cardio?
Steady state on the treadmill for 10 mins to start with and as we get better, 15 and then 20 minutes. Run at a minimum of 9 to 11 kms/hour. You could run in the park as well or you could do an HIIT cardio workout.(high intensity interval training) Look up the internet for HIIT cardio.
Now there is no set standard as to how much cardio is good? It depends on your end goal. Some don’t even consider cardio in their program. For me, I take it as a part of the process and use it as and when I see a need. Example- after a day of binging out which happens once in a while or mostly on a day when I have to miss my workouts. I try to go for a short run just to keep my metabolism moving. We should look to keep our cardio sessions short and expend enough energy in that period to burn fat and prevent muscle loss. When you train intensively with weights and run for around 15-20 mins at a decent speed, your body uses glycogen and fat as its main sources of fuel. When the body runs out of other sources of fuel, it will start to use muscle tissue for energy. This is common in the case where you train longer than usual on an empty stomach. Not eating sufficient calories or following a low carb diet will potentially lead the body to start using muscle tissue for energy and also in the case of starvation or when you’re sick. Weight training followed with moderate cardio builds your body to use glycogen and fat as the main energy source.
Now, there is no foolproof formula as to after how long your body starts to use muscle tissue as its main fuel and the science behind it is complex. All of this depends on your diet and intensity of exercise. Ideally, training intensively with weights for about 45-50 mins followed with a quick cardio session of 10-20 mins is an optimum way to burn fat and prevent muscle loss. The only way to assess your progress is to track it. Do weigh-ins pre and post training. Check your body-fat percentage once every week or two. Now there are carb depletion methods and workouts to get shredded, however, we are not ready for it yet. Let’s touch this after we get a little bit advanced.
Diet-Keep it high protein (don’t eat less than 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight) as you want your body to stay in an anabolic state. On training days we will keep our carbs lower than maintenance (20% reduction rule. See article on macros) or moderate. On non-training days we will stick to veggies as our main source of cabs and won’t eat any other form of carbs. By cycling carbs we will be able to keep our blood sugar constant. Your macros on your rest day will essential be protein, fat and carbs from veggies.
Training- your program will essentially include Heavy volume weight training and Compound training.
Heavy volume-The reason behind using heavy weights is to cause micro tears in your muscle fibers which leads to hypertrophy. It increases muscular stress in the shortest amount of time by engaging more muscle fibers within a specific muscle. When you feel your muscle shaking while lifting heavy is because you’re recruiting larger muscle fibers which are stimulated only when heavy resistance training is performed. Result- maximum energy expenditure and muscle fiber tear in the shortest amount of time which leads to greater potential to activate fat loss and promote anabolism. Now, I am not asking you to lift as heavy as the next big guy in the gym. Your goal should be to challenge your body and push it to its limit in the shortest span of time- a good rule of thumb is to keep your rep range between 6 to 8. If you’re being able to push more than 8 reps- like 12 to 15, increase the weight. If you are getting stuck at 2 to 3 reps, reduce your weight. As simple as that.
Compound lifts- Compound lifts are lifts which recruit more muscle fibers that stimulate major muscles in a single exercise and increases your body’s potential to change its composition in the shortest amount of time. These movements use multiple joints at one time. Example, a barbell squat is a compound movement as it uses the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, core, hips etc in one movement vs an isolation exercise like a bicep curl which works on the bicep muscle only.
Other compound lifts are
Bench press- Uses the chest, shoulder and triceps.
Shoulder press/overhead press-deltoids, arms and the core to push the weight above your head.
Deadlift-(my personal favourite)-Back, Glutes and legs.
Follow a 5 day split with one day dedicated to compound movements only. The break down will be as follows-
- Day one-Chest and back
- Day two-Shoulders and abs
- Day three- Legs
- Day four- arms (bicep and triceps) and abs
- Day five- compound lifts and abs
Each day you will include one compound lift.
Day one you have bench press
Day two you have overhead presses
Day three you have the largest muscle group-legs
Day four you can do a deadlift to start with as the focus is on a much smaller muscle group- your arms. A lot of people will oppose this as deadlifts on the day you train arms doesn’t sound right. Conventional training advises to deadlift on a back day. In my view, it doesn’t really matter. My rule of thumb is to include one compound movement each day to optimize ones body’s training potential.
Day five- we will stick to just four exercises-
Bench press, barbell squats, deadlifts and shoulder press. (5 sets each. A total of 20 sets)
Now, day five is critical as you only perform larger muscle group movements and create maximum stress. This period is followed by rest and recovery for 2 days. The idea is to train hard and ensure maximum stress is caused to your muscles each day (compound movements everyday will help that cause) and the week ends with elevated stress on day 5 with compound movements only. You must ensure to complete 4 exercises into 3 sets per body part
E.g., for chest-
- Bench press * 3 sets
- Incline press* 3 sets
- Flys * 3 sets
- Pullovers * 3 sets
Look up the internet for body part exercises.
Your training on two body part days will include 24 sets in total over and above the compound lift and on non-training days it will have 12 sets with cardio over and above the compound lift. This is enough intensity to induce fat burning and help develop an aesthetic physique (diet has to be in place)
All this might seem overwhelming in the beginning as you’re not used to training with high intensity. However, once you start progressing you will notice how well your body adapts to this routine as the stress will make your body strong and resistant. Some folks might argue with me on the fact that there are plenty of other programs which could potentially give similar results. Absolutely!!! However, this is my take on building an aesthetic physique. There is nothing better than the old school-go hard or go home approach. High intensity weight training is most suited and is practiced actively by the old and the new folks. Once we become a little bit advanced, workouts need to be tweaked and changed every once in a while as per our goals. Will touch that in the future.
You can perform cardio sessions 2 to 3 times a week. I will recommend it on day 2 and 4 as you are training your upper body only and throwing in a session of cardio can increase the intensity further. You’re free to train abs more than recommended. But honestly, abs are just like any other muscle group and need rest. You need to get your body fat level down to reveal the abs first and then start working on it. Once your abs can be seen it’s a different approach to training them and we will touch that in another article.
Few guidelines to this program;
- Don’t spend more than an hour training with weights. If you’re doing that, you’re making friends and not training hard enough.
- Don’t stress too much about muscle loss and diet. This is a learning process and your body will respond differently at different stages. So enjoy the process and learn while you make mistakes. The idea is to assess your progress as you get better and better. Draw short term and long term goals.
- This program will not work if your diet is not in place. You need to have an understanding of your maintenance macros and follow the 20% carb reduction rule for best results.
- Your body doesn’t understand repetitions in the gym. It understands failure. So push yourself every time you can. Growth happens when you push the last 1-2 reps and you will notice outstanding results.
- Don’t stress on body fat levels. This approach works. In case it’s not working, revisit your routine and check where you’re going wrong. It could be your diet or your intensity level in the gym. Make amends and come back stronger. There is no flaw in the process, your approach could be out of line.
DM me on Facebook, Instagram or email on [email protected] in case you have any questions. Always happy to help.
We lift, therefore we are!