Fat Burning Workouts: What’s The Best Weight Training Workout For Fat Loss?

When it comes to losing fat, there are primarily two different categories of workouts a person might consider doing… cardio and weight training.

Now in the cardio category, we can break it down even further into stuff like steady state or interval training. And while this is all wonderful stuff that I get asked about approximately 30 billion times a day, we’re going to skip right over it for now and focus on the weight training workouts.

But I swear, I will cover all kinds of cardio topics eventually.

Now in terms of weight training and losing fat, there are primarily two different types of workouts you can do. Or, more accurately, two different purposes your workouts can have.

The Two Purposes Of Weight Training During Fat Loss

When we’re trying to lose fat, we really have 2 different goals. The first is to actually lose that fat. Obvious, I know. The second however is to avoid losing muscle while we’re losing fat.

As I’ve explained before, we may call it weight loss, but it’s body fat we want to lose here… not muscle. However, your body doesn’t really give a crap about what you want. It’s just going to see that a caloric deficit (the primary requirement of weight loss) is present and a fuel source is needed. So, it will look to burn fat and muscle whether you like it or not.

This of course can be prevented (more about that here: How To Lose Fat WITHOUT Losing Muscle). But, due to the improper way most people go about fat loss (e.g. eating and training like idiots), the average person ends up losing plenty of pretty muscle right along with their ugly body fat.

Been there and done that myself, actually. I don’t recommend it.

So with all of this in mind, there are two forms of weight training workouts you’ll be interested in when you’re trying to lose fat.

  1. Workouts that cause fat loss.
  2. Workouts that prevent muscle loss.

Unfortunately, what’s optimal for one is not optimal for the other. So a workout designed specifically for muscle maintenance will mostly suck for burning fat. And workouts designed specifically for burning fat will mostly suck for maintaining muscle. At least comparatively speaking.

Such a lovely combination of ironic and annoying, ain’t it?

In my opinion though, one of those workouts is extremely important, highly beneficial and really just flat out required. The other, while certainly useful, is purely optional. It’s also potentially detrimental and, if you ask me… a bit overrated.

So which is which? Why do I feel that way? Let’s find out.

Weight Training To Cause Fat Loss Version 1: The Myth

When the average person thinks of using weight training to burn fat, their first thought will often be one of the worst training myths of all time. In fact, I’ll go right ahead and appoint it THE WORST of them all.

Which myth, you ask? The one claiming that you lift heavy weights for low reps when your goal is to build muscle, but then switch to lifting light weights for high reps when you’re trying to lose fat and get lean, toned, defined, ripped, cut and blah blah blah.

Not only is this NOT true, but it’s the absolute worst thing you can do if you want to avoid losing muscle while in a deficit. Why? Please allow me to quote myself from a previous article

You know how gradually getting stronger (aka the progressive overload principle) is what signals your body to begin the muscle building process? Well, on a fat loss diet, just maintaining your current levels of strength (aka intensity, aka the weight on the bar) is what now signals your body to maintain muscle.

If that signal goes away, your body’s need to keep your pretty muscle tissue around goes away right along with it.

That’s why the insanely stupid myth of lifting heavier weights to build muscle but then lifting lighter weights (for higher reps) when you want to lose fat, get lean and get toned is the absolute WORST thing you could possibly believe when you’re trying to avoid losing muscle.

In reality, you lift heavy weight to build muscle, and then lift that same heavy weight if you want to actually maintain that muscle.

In fact, the typical version of this light weight/high reps nonsense is also borderline useless for actually building muscle in the first place (hi ladies, I’m looking at you… Why Workouts For Women SUCK!). And while we’re on the subject, the answer is no, this form of training won’t make you “toned” either.

As you can see, this one myth is single-handedly responsible for quite a lot of crap.

Weight Training To Cause Fat Loss Version 2: Metabolic Training

Now with all of that cleared up, it’s time to get to the type of weight training that is actually, you know… useful. And that is something known as metabolic training.

This form of training usually involves higher reps, very short rest periods, lots of supersets, tri-sets and/or circuits, lots of big compound free weight and body weight exercises (ideally ones that don’t involve much sitting but do involve as many muscle groups as possible), barbell complexes, all sorts of kettlebell stuff and other similar components with the primary goal being to promote fat loss and maximize the amount of calories being burned both during and after your workout.

Basically, metabolic training sort of aims to turn intelligent weight training into a form of high intensity cardio.

And in this regard, it’s definitely a useful fat loss tool. The hormonal response to this type of training is legit. It burns more calories than traditional weight training, and it also burns more calories than traditional cardio (and it’s waaaaay less boring than traditional cardio).

So, if you’re interested in using weight training to cause fat loss, metabolic training can certainly be beneficial.

The Problem

Remember that tiny problem I mentioned earlier? The one that was both ironic and annoying? Yeah, it’s time to bring that back up.

You see, while metabolic training can be great for burning fat, it’s not-so-great for maintaining muscle.

As I explained before, the key to maintaining muscle while in a deficit is maintaining that same heavy strength training stimulus that allowed you to actually build that muscle in the first place. But with the way metabolic training is designed, it makes this nearly impossible to do.

In order to go higher in reps and very low in rest periods and do all of the other cardio-like stuff that goes along with getting the fat burning benefits of this type of training, you’re just not going to be capable of lifting as heavy as you need to for that muscle maintenance signal to be there (at least not for anyone past the beginner stage, and that may be the one exception here).

Or to put it another way, what makes metabolic training “good” for burning fat is also what makes it “bad” for maintaining muscle. On the other hand…

Weight Training To Prevent Muscle Loss: Strength Training

On the other side of this spectrum, we have workouts aimed at preserving muscle while fat is lost. And the best name I can think of for it is plain old strength training.

Whereas metabolic training was primarily about burning calories/fat, this type of training is primarily about strength. Or more specifically, maintaining (or increasing) your current levels of strength. Why?

Because doing so is the primary stimulus that tells your body to keep (or increase) your current levels of muscle.

To make that even clearer, if you’re looking to avoid losing muscle while you lose fat, this type of training isn’t just useful and beneficial. It’s required.

So what are these types of workouts like? Well, you know the type of weight training that is optimal for building muscle in the first place? That’s also what’s optimal for maintaining it (with one possible adjustment being a small reduction in volume and/or frequency to compensate for the reduced recovery that comes from being in a deficit… more on that in a minute).

So lifting fairly heavy, in low-moderate rep ranges, with longer rest periods between sets, with a large focus on big compound exercises and, above all else, working your ass off to (at the very least) maintain your strength on every exercise.

This is the type of training that maintains muscle during fat loss.

The Problem

Remember how metabolic training was great for burning fat but mostly crap for maintaining muscle? Well, this type of training is the complete opposite. It’s great (and required) for maintaining muscle, but it mostly sucks for actually burning fat.

Again… ironic and annoying.

Sure, it will still burn some calories and that’s always nice. But, this type of training isn’t about that at all. This type of training couldn’t care less about calories burned. Metabolic training does, and it’s designed specifically to allow you to burn as many calories as possible in a given period of time.

This type of training however is designed solely to allow you to maintain (and/or increase) strength as best as possible. Why? Because maintaining strength is what maintains muscle, and that’s the fundamental purpose of strength training in a deficit.

So… Which Type Of Workout Is Best?

That depends. For burning fat, it’s clearly metabolic training. For maintaining muscle, it’s clearly strength training. So um… it’s a tie, I guess?

But which is “best” is really the wrong question to ask. A better one would be…

Which Type Of Workout Is More Important?

And in that case, assuming your goal is to lose fat without losing muscle, I’d say strength training 100% of the time.

Why? Because of the two, it’s the only form of weight training (or really the only form of exercise in general) that is actually required for this goal.

What I mean is, unless you’re significantly overweight (in which case muscle loss is much less of an issue or concern), you will lose muscle and strength in a deficit if the type of strength training described above isn’t there. However, you can VERY easily lose fat without ever doing a second of metabolic training.

So, one is required and the other is purely optional. For this reason alone, strength training wins the battle of the workouts.

Now that’s not to say metabolic training can’t also be important or highly beneficial. It most definitely can be if it’s your preferred way of creating your caloric deficit. But, if you’re only going to be doing one or the other, the clear choice here would be to skip the metabolic stuff in favor of strength training and use your diet to create your deficit.

Fat still gets lost, muscle and strength get maintained… you win.

What About Doing Both?

This of course brings us to the next question: what if it’s not one or the other? What if you want to do both?

The good news is that this is certainly doable and really the ultimate solution for getting the benefits of both forms of weight training (maintaining muscle AND burning fat). In this case, it’s just a matter of having both metabolic and strength training workouts in your overall program over the course of the week.

The details of exactly how this should be set up is a good topic for another day. But for right now I want to focus instead on the potential bad news…

That Other Problem: Recovery

As I briefly alluded to earlier, one of the things that sucks about losing fat is that overall recovery (along with work capacity, performance, etc.) is reduced to some extent, especially when compared to being at maintenance or in a surplus. That’s just one of the things that come with being in the energy deficient state needed for fat loss to take place.

Which means, while you always need to be careful not to exceed what your body is capable of recovering from, you need to be a little extra careful during this time because recovery is already lower than it usually is.

Plus, if you do exceed your capacity to recover, the first thing that will often start to go is your strength. And if strength isn’t being maintained while you’re in a deficit, that means muscle mass isn’t going to be maintained either.

For this reason, all forms of exercise (not just metabolic training, but HIIT, steady state cardio, etc.) have the potential to become detrimental to this goal by cutting into your ability to optimally recover from and perform during those muscle-preserving strength training workouts.

Again, this isn’t to say that these “fat burning” forms of exercise can’t or shouldn’t be done.

It’s just to say that doing them increases the total amount of additional work your body needs to recover from…

which increases the potential for you to be doing more than your body is capable of recovering from…

which increases the potential for strength loss…

which increases the potential for muscle loss.

And if you care about maintaining muscle as much as I do, you can understand why my preferred method of causing fat loss is through diet alone, with the ideal use of weight training being to build and/or maintain strength and muscle… not cause fat loss.

This of course is what my recommended fat loss routine (The Fat Loss + Muscle Maintenance Solution) is specifically designed to do.

Speaking of what I recommend…

My Opinion, And What I Recommend

I’m generally not much of a fan of using exercise (be it metabolic training or more traditional forms of cardio) as a means of creating a deficit and causing fat loss in the first place.

To me, eating slightly fewer calories each day just seems like a much more efficient and sustainable way of doing that than trying to burn that same amount of calories daily. And in terms of recovery and muscle maintenance… it’s often much less problematic, too. (More about all of this here: How To Lose Weight Without Exercise)

And regarding weight training specifically, I like it even less as a fat burning tool than I do cardio. I think it’s best suited as a muscle and strength building (and maintaining) tool, and for many people… ONLY that.

Again, for the 438th time, that’s not to say it can’t be used for fat loss, or isn’t effective when used for fat loss. It can and it is. I just don’t love it, because I think there’s a better way to do it.

If anything, I like to view “fat burning” forms of exercise (which again includes all forms of cardio as well) as a “wait-until-it’s-truly-needed” fat loss tool.

Meaning, start by creating your deficit through diet alone and save that type of exercise for when/if you reach a point where you still want to get leaner but would rather burn more calories than eat less calories.

Granted, some people feel this way right from day #1. And that’s fine. By all means feel free to do whatever you feel is most ideal for you. If you will fail to lose fat without using metabolic training, then definitely use metabolic training. The same goes for cardio.

But in my opinion, it’s a much harder way to create (and consistently sustain) a deficit day in and day out, fairly inefficient when compared to just eating slightly less as a means of creating the deficit… and a bit overrated in general (yes it burns a nice amount of calories, but it still takes a good bit of time, effort and energy, and it’s not TONS and TONS of calories being burned).

Add on the fact that all of this fat burning exercise requires more recovery during a time when recovery is already reduced (thus increasing the potential for it to hinder your ability to maintain strength and muscle while fat is being lost), and the CONS just outnumber the PROS in my opinion.

Which is why my default recommendation for losing fat is simply this:

Use your diet to cause fat loss, and use weight training to maintain (or increase) strength and muscle. Metabolic training and/or cardio are completely optional.

Use them only when/if needed (or just preferred) to create or help create your deficit. But if you do, and you care about maintaining muscle, do so in a way that ensures this type of training doesn’t interfere with the other type of training.

NEW: My brand new fat loss program, Superior Fat Loss, is now available. It’s completely designed to allow you to lose fat as quickly and effectively as realistically possible… WITHOUT losing muscle, or feeling hungry all the time, or giving up the foods you love, or doing tons of cardio, or following annoying diet rules, or experiencing excessive metabolic slowdown and plateaus, or regaining the fat after you lose it. You can learn all about it right here: Superior Fat Loss

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

103 thoughts on “Fat Burning Workouts: What’s The Best Weight Training Workout For Fat Loss?”


  1. Solid article. Waiting for the day when this becomes mainstream knowledge. I guess some ‘guru’ needs to find a way to make money from it first… PS: your beginners routine has been working well for me the past few months 🙂

    • Interesting article for the purposes maintaining muscle, However what about using cardio for getting fit and having a healthy heart and lungs. My strategy is to burn off the fat and get fit first, then build muscle latter. Being fit should also help my weight training. Although I am not overly concerned about being big any more, I want to be fit, light, strong and toned. I meet guys in the gym who go on holiday and seem to deflate when they come back and get depressed, I just don’t see the point. Maybe that’s because I am nearly 40, my goals have changed.

  2. For me, “cardio” is not optional. And by “cardio” I mean my volume day. When people ask me where the cardio is in my training, I tell them, “Do 5 sets of 10 deadlifts at 70% of your max immediately following your heavy squat day, and tell me I don’t do cardio.”

    • I used to do 20 minutes of cardio as part of my workout, I was dropping weight way too fast…and I was trying to GAIN weight (still am actually, just cannot). I found through my normal routine of warm up, lifting and resting my heart rate increases during the lift and then settles back to near normal just about the end of my rest period and then increases again during my rest, etc…

      To me, this is good enough cardio for my needs. I think some people mistake cardio with endurance training. I cannot sprint a mile at full tilt like I did when I was a kid, but I can burst out some energy and recover without heavy panting very quickly.

  3. Jay, I have seen some good evidence of guys who leaned out while their weight either stayed the same or went up a bit. Most of them were doing high volume weight training while eating at a deficit and keeping protein intake at around 1-1.5 grams per lb of weight. I know the whole theory of “you can’t build muscle while in a calorie deficit” and I also know muscle looks bigger when bodyfat is low. But the scale moved up or stayed the same. What are your thougths on this? And yes, these guys were not huge to start with but they were not beginners either.

    • So you’re saying you’ve seen evidence of people who lost significant amounts of fat and got significantly leaner while their body weight went up, likely as a result of building a decent amount of muscle at the same time?

      If so, I’d have 4 thoughts on that.

      1. They were regaining muscle they previously built but then lost. Magical things can sometimes happen then.
      2. They were beginners. Magical things can sometimes happen then.
      3. Drugs. Magical things almost always happen then.
      4. Bullshit, show me the evidence.

      • OK, I get the point, LOL. I’ll have to get more details from them as to the things you specify above. I think a possible explanation is that their increased size (not much, but a bit larger) is due to glucogen storage going up as a result of the high volume training. Or maybe they were beginners, as you pointed out. That was the first time they trained intelligently.

        In you experience is muscle maintenance while in a calorie deficit a function of weight lifted or total load? In other words, if I reduce volume slightly (less sets) but manage to keep the weight on the bar, will that suffice? I ask because I am about to start a cut and I am afraid to drop volume. For example (stupid example), if I do 12 sets of 10 reps for chest with 185lbs per week, the total volume I will move is 22,200 lbs. If I reduce that to 9 sets of the same, the weight on the bar will remain but the total load will be 16,650. Wouldn’t that signal it is ok to use some of that muscle as energy?

        • Maintaining intensity/weight on the bar is the key, not volume. Volume usually SHOULD be reduced slightly in a deficit compared to what it was in a surplus during muscle growth.

      • That actually did happen with me. I lost 4 inches on my waist and a lot of body fat while my weight went slightly up through training. I’m sure that it was because of your first theory in that I had regained previous muscle.

  4. Really good article, great site infact!! I posted a message ages ago on here and since then have seen decent changes and learnt so much !! Went from 72/3 kg a year ago to 84kg at 16.8%. now I’m using this page to help cut up around 78kg at hopefully 12/13% for summer- beach body and that haha 🙂 great site and thanks again !!!!

      • Will do boss !! Also I’m thinking of keeping with the strength training for the upper body, but trying the metabolic training for the lower body, for some reason I seem to have more fat stores on the lower body than upper!! You reckon that could work ? 🙂

  5. As usual, fantastic article! I initially spent a few years running on a treadmill to try to lose weight and it has only been the last year that I really started to focus on weight training. However, was quite confused as to how to incorporate both weights and cardio and still maintain appropriate recovery. As you have recommended I had been continuing strength training and really watching my diet and throwing in a few metabolic sessions just to round out my program. I am super relieved to hear that I have been on the right track.

    I would absolutely love to hear your take on what you believe is a good metabolic/strength program!

    Keep up the great writing! Honestly, I skim over most fitness articles and take out of it what I need but I always read every single word of your articles, usually twice. Spot on!

  6. Jay –

    I’ve read elsewhere on the interwebs that the high rep / crazy set scheme approach that you described as metabolic training is commonly used by competitive Body Builders for actual muscle building. For example, professional Body Builders post their routines on simplyshredded.com and they feature lots of 15+ rep moves.

    Do you have any thoughts on this? It would seem to run counter to your (and my) experience, but it also seems like conventional wisdom for these guys who do this for a living.



    • Two things…

      1. It depends on exactly what you mean by “high rep / crazy set scheme approach.” Because higher reps (such as 12-15) in and of themselves can still cause growth. It usually won’t be optimal, but can certainly work as long as there’s progression and a diet designed to support it.

      2. Also keep in mind that most competitive bodybuilders are genetic freaks using every drug known to man, thus allowing them to grow just fine no matter how horrible their training is.

  7. Great post as ever. AWR is a very helpful website for free info on how to train. It treads that fine line between analyzing the science of bodybuilding whilst presenting it in a way that ordinary folks can grasp easily.

    I always take the time to read AWR’s posts and feel that they’ll always be more useful and better use of my time than other similar gurus such as Hodge Twins (Bro Science), Scooby etc.

    So thanks AWR! Great job as ever.

  8. Another awesome article! This really needs to be planted in most peoples heads.


    Man you really need to do a post on trying to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time! 😛 That thing is so huge it needs a typical no bull-post from you to clear shit up!

  9. Great article Jay. Myself, I do only diet deficit and strength training. Much less complicated this way.

    I have a question. You have always stated that muscle memory is real and can work fast.
    So, my question is why are people so obsessed about maintaining muscle?
    I mean, after you’re done with your cut/fat loss, you go back to a surplus and lost muscle will be back in no time due to muscle memory. I even remember you saying that muscle memory can cause muscle gain and fat loss at the same time. So, in theory, you can regain the lost muscle while still in the cut phase.
    Is that non-sense or is there some sense to it?

    • Muscle memory is definitely real in that you will regain lost muscle faster than you originally built it. It’s not exactly “in no time,” but certainly faster.

      But, if you’re losing and regaining the same bit of muscle over and over again, you’re never actually making any new progress. You’re just spinning your wheels.

      Not to mention, when you lose muscle and then work to rebuild it, that also means you will go through a stretch of time where your body looks worse because there is less muscle on it (and who wants to unnecessarily look worse?).

  10. Jay writes common sense articles that are unfortunately no longer taken as common sense in weight training circles by newbies, because there’s so much bullshit on the web. There are a lot of strength coaches out there passing themselves off as experts in hypertrophy and they’re sending folks down the wrong path.

    In addition, there are a lot of “natural” bodybuilders out there leading folks astray as well. For one, if some guru/coach/expert is telling you to change your routine weekly or every few weeks, ignore them. Progressive overload is the key to unlocking muscle gains and that can only occur through employing the same movements for longer durations.

    Body transformation doesn’t occur overnight, however if you eat right, train as Jay recommends, and get enough sleep, you will build a great physique. Also, don’t compare your body to someone you even suspect is taking drugs; your body will never look like their body and that’s fine, because you won’t harm your health in the short-term and longer-term.

    Everything Jay writes is put in simple straight forward terms. In other words, KISS/”Keep it simple stupid” is how I view his writing and this site. I’ve been training for many years and this is one of the few sites I point folks to. Actually, it’s the first site I point people to, because I don’t have the time to explain everything to them for free.

    There is no other site on the web offering this information for free. Appreciate it and don’t waste your time wandering and getting confused by other sites and gurus.

  11. Hi, I’m one of those guys who have been doing it wrong for a couple of years at the gym. Tomorrow, Monday morning at 5:30 AM, I’m starting all over on with the Beginner program. I have two questions though….

    Is it OK to do cardio on the inbetween days?

    I’m learly of doing the deadlifts, I’ve never done them before. Is there a substitue exercise (or combo of a couple) that will product the same results?

    I am very excited and cannot tell you how I appreciate all the information that you’ve put on your website. Thank you very much!

    • 1. If it’s needed or preferred for your goal, cardio is ok. Exactly what kind, how much, how often, etc. needs a full article to properly cover.

      2. Honestly, it’s pretty tough to replace deadlifts with something that just isn’t another deadlift variation. If the conventional deadlift scares you, you can optionally try Romanian deadlifts if preferred.

  12. “(at least not for anyone past the beginner stage, and that may be the one exception here)”…Why is that the only exception. Ive seen obese pope lose tons of fat and build muscle at the same time. how does that happen?

    • That’s actually not what I’m saying at all. The exception I’m referring to with beginners is the fact that since they’re untrained and therefore fairly weak, the weights they end up lifting during metabolic type training may be heavy enough to maintain muscle… whereas for people who are already trained/stronger, that weight probably won’t be heavy enough.

  13. Hello,

    I have been doing the beginner routine to get back in shape after about 9 months off from weight training (and a solid amount of fat gained in the interim.). After three weeks, I love the routine, and thankfully, seem to be in the magic gaining strength/muscle while in a deficit phase due to regaining past muscle and being a new beginner (and being a little fat).I have been able to increase my weight lifted on almost every exercise almost every session. My question is this. I am 5’11’ and about 212. I have a good amount of fat to lose but I am also just kind of a naturally big strong guy. I tend to build muscle fairly quickly and gain fat fairly quickly. In order to lose fat i have been eating 2100 net calories a day. So if I don’t work out, I eat a straight 2100 and don’t feel too hungry. If I run or do other cardio, I eat back what I burned to stay at 2100 net and generally don’t feel too hungry. On lifting days though I get hungry! Even though weight routines aren’t supposed to burn a lot of calories, I feel just as hungry as when I run. Do you have a ballpark figure on what one of your beginner workout routines burns for someone my size? I do them pretty intensely. I have been figuring about 150 but that seems a little low based on my hunger.

    Thanks for the great workouts and the great articles. I bought your eBook too which is also great.

    • Glad to hear everything is going well so far man… keep me updated.

      I honestly have no idea how many calories the beginner routine burns, although I’d imagine it’s not a super high amount.

      One option to consider though if you want to eat more on training days is to do some form of calorie cycling where you eat a little less on rest days, and a little more on training days. But then, at the end of the week, the same total weekly calorie intake is still there just the same (and the same total weekly deficit is there just the same, too).

  14. Great article. No surprise there.
    I always did the switch over to high rep/low weight during my ‘cutting’ phase. I spun my wheels for years.
    This is probably the first time I’m actually losing weight the right way (maintaining strength way). I have dropped about 10 pounds recently and my strength is staying pretty level. Starting to uncover some of that muscle to see what I have under there. Am a bit disappointed that my last bulking phase of, oh, 1 1/2 years didn’t add more muscle to my frame haha but hey, genetics is a huge factor here too.

    Awesome article Jay, keep educating.

  15. I always enjoy your posts.

    In my opinion, the biggest problem is that most people overestimate how many calories are burned during exercise and how underestimate their daily caloric intake.

    I also wish many would stop referring to their pedantic 20 minutes on the stationary bike as “cardio.” Real cardio requires progressive overload just like strength training. That is why training for running is so difficult.

  16. Great article! What’s your opinion on the theory of taking a quart of whole full fat milk post workout. There is controversy on how the combination of both whey and casein may be superior post workout as oppose to traditional whey. And apparently whole milk showed more fat loss and muscle gain then low fat milk when both were taken post workout, although the researchers don’t know why. Dairy calcium can enhance fat loss in some people but it can also stall it in others.

    • As long as your total daily calorie and macronutrient goals are met, all of this stuff is unlikely to matter much. And if in addition to hitting those totals you’re also getting a decent amount of protein/carbs before your workout, your post workout meal matters even less. And if you’re getting your daily totals right AND getting a decent pre workout meal in AND having any kind of protein/carb meal post workout, then the exact specifics of this meal and the sources and amounts of those protein and carbs become what I’d estimate to be damn near completely meaningless.

  17. There are also other methods like waiting a whole hour before you take whey, which apparently enhances growth hormone levels which in turn, enhanced.fat loss. You’ve never lead us wrong. What’s the truth?

  18. I love all the information that you have posted in all your blogs, its honestly mind blowing of how many myths there are. I haven’t gone through all your blogs but there is just one thing I couldn’t find if you have or haven’t talked about it yet. The question is… “Does working out twice a day improve with fat loss or performance, like for example you work heavy in the morning and light in the afternoon or evening?” Cause I started in regime last week and spent over a hundred dollars on mostly garbage, except for the Mega Men Sport Multivitamin, and Whey Protein. (not from GNC) Well either way, I just wanted to know if I’m either doing an okay job or wasting my time doing all of this exercising or overworking my muscles. Also, just to be clear, I’m doing all of this for fat loss.

    • Training twice a day (and I assume we’re talking specifically about weight training?) is something that CAN work depending on the person and the goal and how it’s all set up. But, it’s not really something I’d recommend for the average person.

  19. Howdi. Dumb question – the Routine “book” – is it a paper book or a download. I didnt see anything after a quick look. I need it to be a download because I live in another country that taxes US-sent deliveries quite heavily.

    The other thing is – me. I am 49. I just weighed myself at 228. Shocking. I don’t think I look it but hey. I need to lose weight of course. I ride bike everyday to/from work but its not that far. I like to run 5ks or be ready to run them anyhow. And I would like to look lean and mean one year from now when I turn 50. I read your articles and you seem to say you prefer diet to cardio because cardio essentially depletes you more. Got it. Whats the best approach for me then – run 2 days a week? FYI – I actually like to do sprint intervals and only about 20 minutes max. I dont like long runs anymore except for the 5ks as mentioned. Thanks

    • The book is a download, so no problems there.

      As for fat loss and diet vs cardio… my only true preference is for creating a caloric deficit (not so much a preference as it is a requirement, though). To create this deficit, you can either eat less calories (diet), burn more calories (cardio) or some combination of the two (diet and cardio).

      In my opinion, doing it entirely (or at least partially) via your diet is much more practical and efficient. But, what matters most is that you create your required deficit using whatever method (diet, cardio or both) that YOU want to do and YOU will be most likely to consistently stick to and sustain. So if you like sprinting, then by all means go for it. It’s perfectly fine.

      • Ok. Got it (I see you repeat yourself a lot here – thanks for your patience). The calorie deficit was a given – just wondering if there is tipping point where the cardio is counter productive in way I never heard before.

        Since I have a 5k in one month that I am not ready for – I’ll give the cardio more priority over the next few weeks – along with a diet. My guess is I could lose 10lbs in that period no problem – then I’ll ramp down the cardio and ramp up the weights via your book all along with deficit intake. Cool beans. Thanks.

        • There is a point where a person will do TOO much cardio and it begins to cut into recovery and therefore makes maintaining muscle/strength harder (assuming of course the person cares about that… it probably doesn’t matter all that much to the average person just trying to lose a bunch of weight). But what exactly that point of “too much” is will vary from person to person, so I can’t really say X amount is perfect but Y amount is too much. Monitoring progress and how you’re feeling overall is probably the best method of knowing if you’re going over that point.

  20. yeah spot mate.its taken me years of trial and error.but have finaly realized.i can walk run 3 hrs a day for month at a time.good for me lungs ect, but have not lost or even put fat on.its 70 or 80 percent diet.now im eating clean .its all working and falling into place.top article

  21. Hi, Im 33 and just starting to get back into training. Last time I trained was over 10 years ago where I mainly did weights.

    Ive been on a diet for the past 6 weeks and dropped from 78.5kgs to 71.5kgs, so not doing to bad. Ive now started hitting the gym but Im confused what to do really. Ive read through a couple of your articles but still not sure on what to do. Basically I would like to go down to about 65/66kgs or more importantly loose the (beer belly) ;/ However I would also like to build muscle as I dont want to become a skinny without any strength.

    Can I do your weight training recommendation for beginners (ABA week 1 BAB week 2) and on the off days do 1 hour of cardio just to increase the fat burning. Or this want work. If it wont work which is best for me to do to loose the fat with out becoming too skinny.

    Thanks for your help.


  22. Hi, I got a question about calories. If I’m aiming for 2800-3000 calories a day to create a defect to loose some fat, is it alright on days I do weights training at gym to have the extra 500calories from my post workout shake an still be in a defect? So really what I’m asking does the training burn around a extra 500 calories or should I be cutting calories somewhere else through out the day to compensate for having my post workout shake? Thanks

    • The exact amount of calories you burn when training will vary from person to person, so I can’t really answer that. But generally speaking, you’ll burn more calories on training days than rest days, which means you can technically eat a little more on those training days.

      • What would be your typical ballpark to aim for? If it makes any differance I’m 6ft tall, 100 kg an following your ultimate muscle building program?

        • If your goal is fat loss, all that really matters is that there is a total net deficit for the week. So if you eat more calories on training days, make sure you’re eating whatever amount of calories is needed on rest days to compensate and allow that deficit to be there.

  23. I can’t get enough of your articles!!!! They cut through the BS that are out there and the “I’ve heard this and that” approach to everything. Every time I read an article I get that epiphany where I think “DUH! How did I not know this already?”. Thank you for being gracious enough for sharing your insight on all of these topics as they truly are appreciated from so many. You may be able to calculate how many people view your site but it’s impossible to calculate how many people are out there now spreading what they’ve learned from you to others. That is something to be proud of. Not to mention you have a great sense of humor and a unique ability to maintain a newspaper-worthy piece while making people laugh. Kudos!


  24. Hi Jay,

    Thanks for all the tips…the website is fantastic!
    I have a question for you:
    What is a typical amount of expected muscle loss during a fat loss cycle?
    For instance, if i were to lose 10 pounds of bodyweight, on average how much of that would be muscle loss.
    On my last two fat loss phases about 20-30% of the bodyweight lost was muscle, is this normal?

    Thanks – Andy.

    • Ideally you want to lose as close to 0 muscle as possible. What actually happens will depend on how well your program was designed, how well you executed it, and genetics. With all else being equal, some people are just going to lose more muscle than others.

  25. Like everyone else, love your articles. 2 part question on fat loss: I have recently been in a calorie deficit for about a month. 1800 cals on a 2900 cal maintainence. I have a body fat percentage in the low 30’s. So with the higher body fat percentage, can I afford the more than recommended calorie deficit? My main concern is getting my body fat percentage down to a less than obese level so I can get back to the recommended 500 cal deficit and then focus on losing fat (I understand it will be at a much slower pace than it is now) while maintaining muscle. I’m happy with my current rate of weight loss with my current deficit and understand that I’m probably losing some muscle. Can I afford this higher calorie deficit at my current body fat percentage (in terms of minimal muscle loss) and at what point do I need to switch to the recommended calorie deficit?

    • The fatter you are, the bigger the deficit can be with less risk of muscle loss. Add in a sufficient protein intake and weight training, and the risk will be even less.

      I’d be more concerned about losing muscle when you’re nearer to the low 20’s of body fat.

  26. Hey,
    Thank you for all the solid advice you provide. It is really helpful. When it comes to maintaining muscle while in fat loss you obviously recommend your 3 day routine for exactly that purpose. However, how will your two day workout routine work in a fat loss scenario?

  27. Hello! This is only my first week on your beginner 3 day split workout routine and I have lost 2lbs so far, which is the ideal rate of fat loss that you mentioned in the calorie counter website.

    So here’s the deal; I have calculated the amount of fat, protein, and carbs I need every day and I am eating 4 meals to meet my 1800 calorie deficit (my maintenance level is 2300 calories). I think I am doing things right except one thing is bugging me.

    So for example, I am eating lentils because they are cheap and have 8 grams of protein, so this is my protein source. I notice though, that they also have a decent amount of carbs 15 grams or so. However, I am getting my carbs from white rice. So after you convert grams to calories, am I eating more calories from carbs than I think I am?

    I only just know thought of that just because a certain food has the protein/carbs/fat you need, they don’t only have those things, but a food that you chose for protein will also have fat and carbs in it for example.

    How do I take that into account as far as calculating my calories are concerned?

    • Regardless of the reason for eating a specific food (e.g. it’s your “protein source”), you need to count the protein, fat and carbs in every single food you eat. So if lentils have 8g of protein and 15g of carbs, that counts toward both your protein AND carb totals and needs to be taken into account.

      • Thank you very much! I have definetely been eating more calories than I thought I have then.

        By the way, your site is BOSS

  28. Hello again,

    I have been on a caloric deficit (currently consuming 1600 calories on a 2000 maintenance) for 3 months now.

    I started at 170 lbs and now I am at 157-158 give or take.

    You pointed out something very important, which is that since being in a deficit, it is harder on the body as far as recovery is concerned.

    So should I continue progressive overload or should I just lift the same weight all the time? I noticed that I have been having trouble bench pressing anymore than 90 lbs. I think this is due to either the recovery issue or just the fact that I am in a deficit.

    • Your main goal is to maintain strength in a deficit. As long as you’re doing that, you’re good. If however you find that you can still occasionally progress at certain exercises, definitely go for it. If not, then just maintaining will be perfectly fine.

  29. G’day Jay,

    I was wondering whether you think The Muscle Building Workout routine would be beneficial on a calorie deficit?

    Potentially at reduced set numbers to aide in recovery.

    What are your thoughts?

  30. Wow. I’ve been trying to tell both males and females this for a long time. Nothing beats strength training for fat loss. I do not do cardio. I want a good pump I squat and deadlift 10-12 reps at 75% max. Sometimes I do slack off my workout and gain some fat. Whenever I hit back the gym people are always asking me how I lose the fat so quickly. The answer is simple, calorie deficit through reduced eating and strength training.

    Great article man

  31. Hi! This article along with all the others are great. You mentioned that both metabolic training and weight training can both be done but said thats to talk about for another time, not sure if you answered that in another article but could you help me understand that and how and the best way to do that?
    Thank you!!!

  32. Hi Jay,

    So many things to read on your site.You need a space next to FB. Love your site.

    Thanks a lot.

  33. Gread article/read as usual. I am just wondering what is your take regarding calorie cycling for body recomp? Should I have calorie surplus during workout days and the normal deficit days on rest days WHILST maintaining the weekly deficit needed to lose fat? Thank you

  34. Hi jay, quick question on this topic.

    My weight loss stalled after 2 months if diet and erratic exercise ( very little at that), so I’ve started working out to drop back into a deficit. As a beginner I know I’m capable of progressive overload while metabolic training. But would I be wasting valuable beginner magic doing this? when I would still be in putting myself in a deficit if I was training for strength.
    Or would the overload potential be about the same for either?

    • As a (I’m assuming) fat beginner, part of the magic you have is the ability to gain muscle WHILE in a deficit losing fat. I’d highly recommend taking advantage of it.

      • Ok cheers, and yes there’s a fair deal of podge to be lost. Not sure how much. Haven’t had my bf% done

  35. First of all, I want to thank you very, very much for all the good information in this website. It’s absolutely great!
    As for the dilemma between strength or metabolic, my situation is this one:

    I’m 46, 1.84 meter tall (a little bit more than 6′) and I weigh 112 kg (247 pounds). I am currently in my 10th week on Stronglifts5x5 and I’m progressing nicely in all my lifts. I don’t count calories nor macros but I eat pretty clean, low carb and small portions.
    Even though I feel stronger, I haven’t lost a single gram so far. I know it’s probably too soon to see results but I’m doubting about this program.

    I’m not building much muscle and I’m not losing fat either. Well, I feel my pants a little bit loose but not too much. Reading your articles, I see that building muscle AND losing fat at the same time is doable but very hard. Also, I’ve been lifting for just a few weeks, so I don’t have much “gains” to preserve…

    So I wonder if I should be doing a more metabolic type of training instead. After reading this article, I believe that the old strength training would be the best choice if I was already big and muscular. But at this moment, I’m just big and fat.

    Besides, even though the metabolic one is not aimed to building muscle, for someone who is still a newbie like me, wouldn’t it be still a good option compared to cardio?

    In few words: I’m very overweight and my main goal is losing fat. Building muscle would be great, but not a priority (but I’d like to prevent losing more while slimming down). At this stage, should I continue on Stringlifts or I’d better switch to metabolic training (such as barbell complexes)?

    • Honestly? Your biggest issue is your diet. The sole cause of fat loss is a caloric deficit, and not counting calories makes getting into that deficit a matter of blind luck.

      Start counting calories and macros, create a small deficit, and watch fat loss instantly begin to occur every single week after that.

      • Got it. I will pay more attention to my diet.

        Last question and I promise I won’t bother you more!:
        As for my routine, I’m starting to feel the weights are getting kind of scary. I’m squatting and deadlifting 120 kg, and 5 sets of 5 leave me quite exhausted.

        How much do you think I can go on with progressive loading while on a deficit? What should I do when I hit my limits? Reduce sets? Stop increasing weights..?

  36. Hi Jay,

    I’m very glad to have found this article, well written, insightful and amusing to read. Good stuff but the elephant in the room seems to be around recovery.

    If one is eating at a deficit, 30 minutes cardio 5 days a week and 2 weights sessions a week, the key to making it work will be based around recovery time.

    Could you spend a few minutes discussing how to assess recovery times and any indications to look for that maybe pushing to hard into recovery time. I would guess the simple answer is that ‘if you haven’t increased weights in X sessions than you may have a problem.’

    But of course, it probably isn’t that simple, but then what do I really know 🙂

    I’d love to here your thoughts.

    Kind Regards,

  37. AWR –

    I am a newly certified personal trainer and recently stumbled upon your site… I can’t seem to keep up with all of the articles I want to read; TOP NOTCH content and extremely useful for me as a new trainer. So… THANK YOU!

    I do have a question for you regarding strength training and metabolic training workout programming. You mentioned in this article that you would save that topic for another day, so I’m wondering if you ever got around to writing it? I’d love to have an overview on what programming would be like for that. I’d actually like to use it for myself, but as I read in some of your other articles, I definitely wasn’t getting enough recovery time and was burnt out way too quickly. Please let me know if you have any recommendations and/or references/books to point me in the right direction.

    Thank you for your time and help! 🙂

  38. Hi, I’m new to your website and I’m finding very good advice that points at areas where I’m cheating myself when I work out.

    I know you’ve already covered “lower weights”=loss of muscle, but I was wondering about stepping down some lbs during a workout if a weight gets to “heavy” and my form just goes to crap.

    i.e. I’ll start curls with XX lbs, do maybe 1.5-2 good form sets, but then I start losing my form or reps per set. Is it bad for me to progress to a lower weight to do complete sets?

    • Reducing the weight because your form has gone to shit with heavier weight is the best reason reduce the weight.

      If the problem is that you’re losing a few reps from set to set, that’s normal. Details here.

  39. Hey Jay! Can any of the routines in SMG be used for fat loss? I ask because I am trying to focus on my shoulders right now and really like the Targeted routines? I seem to be more motivated when I can do something upper body each workout. Most of the routines in the book seem to have similar volume as the fat loss+maintenance, so just curious. All of the routines are really great actually and I want to do all of them at some point! Thanks a lot.

    • Make similar adjustments that the FL + MM routine makes (slightly reduced volume, etc.), and most of the routines in the book will be fine… though I prefer using only 3-day programs during fat loss.

      • So just reduce 1 set from the secondary exercise of each muscle group?

        Need to keep things very basic for now due to school, work and family so I will be working out at home and need to keep the exercises to a minimum. Was thinking about 3DM routine.? Understand I won’t be building muscle on a deficit but would lie to keep increasing my strength. Thanks!

  40. Hi Jay! I have your SMG book and I love it. I am trying to lose BF at the moment but would like to do the upper body focused routines. The reason is because I tend to have more motivation when I can workout upper body twice a week vs once. I like working out my legs but tend to lose interest when I get to a week rotation where I do legs twice that week and upper body only once.

    I really like the upper body focused workouts. Do I keep the workout as is and just reduce 1 set set from one exercise per muscle group and keep everything else the same? I think it is the major muscle groups that I need to decrease volume right?

    Thanks for all your help!

    • I guess I’m asking about the isolation exercises. Can I keep them as is, for example like 3×10-15 for biceps or do I need to decrease it to 2 sets? I understand limiting the volume on the big compound movements.

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