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CT:Training an overweight high school athlete

CT: I truly admire your success and articles. You are a unique strength and athlete. Also, you are a football coach, which brings me to the question. I am the S&C coach for our high school football team. We had a tremendous off season last summer with huge gains in strength and speed. With our winter season of conditioning upon us, I have one special project that concerns an overweight athlete. He is 6’1" weighs 295 pounds with a bodyfat % of 26. We truly believe that he has the potential to be a great player IF he drops his bodyfat. This will help him go longer in games as a result of being in better condition. I have until May 30 to change this kid (after that we will start on our summer phase of lifting). I would love to get him down to ~265 with 15% bodyfat. My question to you is what do you think the best way to go about this is? I also want him to improve his major lifts during this time as well. I know that there is an issue of gaining muscle mass along with this fat loss, so should it be done in phases, simulataneously, ??? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Considering his age and current level I’d say that the focus should definetly be on loosing the fat and not so much on gaining strength and muscle right now. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll be able to gain strength, power and some muscle while loosing the fat (because of his young age and trainability) but his career is still in its infancy and he’ll have plenty of time to get bigger and stronger.

So you should definetly focus on helping him loose has much body fat as possible in the next 5 months or so. Then you’ll have all summer to help him get as strong and muscular as possible.

There are three major factors to take into consideration: diet, strength training and energy system work.

DIET: I like JB’s approach to loosing bodyfat (3 P+C meals, 3 P+F meals/day) but in his particular case (significantly overfat) I feel that this approach still provides too much carbs. I feel that a targeted ketogenic diet might be best for him, until he drops down to 18-20% or so (which should take him 4-8 weeks). With this diet you only ingest one P+C meal during the day, and that’s right after training, during that meal he should include around 100g of carbs and 50g of proteins. He should also ingest a small amount of carbs right before his training sessions (half a bottle of gatorade or 2 pieces of fruit for example). The rest of the day is protein + good fats.

Once he get down to 18-20% body fat you can switch to add a second P+C meal (breakfast). And when he gets down to 15% (if he gets there that will already be a great progress) you can switch to a 3 P+C and 3 P+F diet.

STRENGTH TRAINING: While on a caloric deficit the focus should be on training the CNS which revolves around explosive training and low-volume, high-intensity lifting. The reason is simple: with a lowered carbs intake he wont have enough short-term energy to fuel high volume strength workouts and restore the exhausted glycogen stores afterwards. I believe that high reps sets are a mistake when trying to loose body fat, especially if you are an athlete.

I?ll say it once and for all: the purpose of strength-training while dieting is primarily to prevent muscle loss while on a caloric deficit diet. A lot of gurus now like to use strength training exercises to burn fat by using long series (15-20+ repetitions) and short rest intervals (30-60 seconds). Their logic is that this form of training increases growth hormone output. GH being a lipolytic (increase fat usage) hormone they argue that a training method leading to a production of GH will naturally lead to an important fat utilization. This theory is interesting however in the real world it is just not that effective. Why? Consider that when a bodybuilder uses exogenous human growth hormone a minimum dose of 2IU per day for at least 3 months is required to produce noticeable changes. Many bodybuilders even argue that below 4IU per day is useless for body composition purposes. The medical dose recommended for GH is around 0.20 to 0.5 IU/kg per day, so for a 90kg individual (200lbs) this comes up to a daily dose of 2.6 to 6.5IU. And this is for medical use, which is often too low to cause any ?bodybuilding? results. As a comparison, the natural production of GH by the body varies from 1IU to 2IU per day (so maybe 0.25 to 0.5IU during exercise). So it is unlikely that the slight, transient, increase in GH levels from strength training would cause any significant short term improvements in body composition.

High-intensity strength exercises (in the 70-100% range) are better than low intensity strength exercises (in the 40-70% range) while dieting. The higher training loads helps you preserve strength and muscle while on a hypocaloric diet much better than super-high volume/low intensity workouts.

We’ve been brainwashed by the various muscle magazines to believe that you should do high reps training for definition. This is absolutely ridiculous! Sure you use a little more energy, but think about it: the higher the training volume, the more energy you need to recover. The more glycogen you burn while strength training, the more carbs you’ll need to recover and progress. While on a hypocaloric diet your body has a lowered anabolic drive, meaning that it can’t synthesize as much protein into muscle as if you were eating a ton. A super-high volume of work leads to a lot of microtrauma to the muscle structures; a lot of microtrauma requires a great protein synthesis increase.

So if you use high-volume/low-intensity training while dieting you’ll breakdown more muscle and build up less. Not exactly good news! Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of high-reps training is an increase in blood and nutrient flow to the muscles, but if you have a reduced amount of nutrients available in your body, this benefit is pretty much wasted.

ENERGY SYSTEMS WORK: Interval training is probably the best option for this athlete, but because of his conditioning level and weight it might be out of his reach right now. You can get him started by having him do short sprints followed by walking. For example, Do 10-15x twenty yards sprints with 60 seconds walks between sprints. Each weak you cut down the “walk time” by 5 seconds. When he is able to do all the work with 30 seconds walks only, switch to 40 yards sprints, and finally progress to regular interal training (45 seconds jogging, 15 seconds sprints).

CT: Thanks a lot for your quick response (BTW: I got a little excited typing and meant to say Great strength COACH and athlete) I am printing out your response right now and and going to digest it for a while. I will defineately keep in touch with you. Again thanks again, you are the best

Just one last word: CONSISTENCY! There is just no way that he cannot loose 25-30 pounds in 5 months if he does everything right. The only way he cannot achieve his goal is to screw things up along the way. If he is monitered right, understand the importance ofthe whole process and agree to make all the changes, he cannot fail. But he gotta understand that it will be hard.

Thanks again, He does understand that it is a process and will not be an easy one. However, he has my full support and that of his father to really get him going. Also, he is very motivated.