T Nation

Ideal Program or Methodology While on a Reasonable Caloric Deficit?

Hi Coach

Love your work.

I’m fairly new to lifting but want to use it for a) strength and b) general fat loss - as in losing up to 20% bodyfat. I’ve done the whole 1500 cal, extended cardio thing previously and, as you know, it doesn’t work long term.

Most of your programs or methodologies I’ve looked in to so far are directed to be done on a caloric surplus.

What would be your best program to date to maintain or slowly increase strength and lose fat at a reasonable rate. I.e. if I was cutting 500-750 cal per day below maintenance.

Not looking for a detailed answer. Just a couple of answers if possible.

Thanks in advance

Athlete Lean, Athlete Strong comes to mind. CT also has an article on fat loss principles in general..

Furlus, that might be a bit much on a 750 caloric deficit and works mostly if the goal is fat loss and performance oriented. If his goal is muscle mass improvements while getting lean the best approach is very low volume, very high frequency.

Training either the whole body 4-5 days a week or using an upper/lower split 6 days a week.

30-45 min sessions tops.

Maximum of 5 total exercises in one session (ideally 4)

1 easy preparation set, 1 hard but not all out set, 1 all-out set or set using a method like cluster, drop sets, rest/pause, muscle rounds, etc.

Interesting CT, could you elaborate on this?

When you say 4 movements are they are big lifts or 2 big, 2 isolation?

I would have thought going all out on big lifts everyday would eat up the CNS? Especially on a deficit.

Why is this method better for this goal than four hard days lifting (is it because these splits have more volume per session and thus are better for growth?)

Thanks CT

2 big lifts 2 iso …on days you are tired or drained can be 4 isos or machines. By all out I do not mean absolute failure, I mean as hard as you can without failing. And the volume is low, you wont have any problems. Thats what I’m doing now.

Ah ok, I understand.

Do you prefe r to do the same lifts multiple times per week or have a different lift every day (for the big lifts)

I’d assume same lifts through the week if you want to gain a bit of strength, and varied if it’s muscle size?

Actually I dont think it matters that much. I use 3 different big lifts per muscle group/pattern that I rotate. Iso I go by feel.

True. Hence I’m not personally a big fan of using a deficit that high. It severely limits one’s options on how to train and their ability to maintain or gain muscle and strength.

Also: Finally someone else who agrees with high frequency work while dieting!

You can either do volume or frequency to increase the stimulus. Most people (exception: genetically gifted and enhanced) do not respond well to volume especially when dieting: DEPLETION OF MUSCLE GLYCOGEN IS ONE OF THE MOST CATABOLIC THAT CAN HAPPEN… volume + reduced carbs = glycogen depletion.

Low volume high frequency allows you to trigger protein synthesis multiple times, allowing you to better preserve muscle mass when the body is looking to dump it. and the fact that you do not deplete muscle glycogen (because of the low volume) protects the muscles.

Thanks Coach, you’re a legend mate, I appreciate it a lot.

So basically 4 exercises by 3 sets (intensity increased each time but not to failure ). 2 compound, 2 iso. 5-6 days a week.

I’m assuming to keep compounds 2-5 range and iso 6-8?

Give cardio a miss then? (would be the same re the glycogen depletion at a guess)

And carbs only around workouts?

Thanks in advance

This stuff is gold. CT’s outlined approach is awesome.

Actually might be best way for “leangains” approach? Say cyclic calories (maintenace/deficit/extra), but weekliy deficit.

Could drop fat/add muscle simultaneosuly.

The 6 day upper/lower, could it look something like this?
Day 1: Bench & Push Press (1 cluster, then 3/3/3/3/3), DB arnold press & laterals 3x8
Day 2: Snatch grip dead & Front Squat (ramp up to heavy set of 3, backoff muscle rounds 3-4 reps x 3-4 rounds), DB bulgarian split squat
Day 3: Incline tilt and weighted chins
Day 4: Snatch grip high pull, sumo dl
Day 5: Off
Day 6: Repeat
Day 7: repeat

Off days here and there. But basically mix and match two compunds upper/lower days, 1 prep set, 1 hard set followed by an intensity method (cluster/rest pause).

Alternatively, could one simply ramp up to top 3 rep (not RM, but until weight grinds a bit)? Then back off and do some volumed/density singles/doubles/triples?

This goes back to the original high freq, “autoregulation” stuff CT talked about that I loved, first time i loved training so much

The last set has to be a real hard effort… you can do clusters, rest/pause, drop sets… go very close to you limit but do not attempt a rep that you are not 100% of getting.

On some days you can do 4 big lifts or others 2 and 2, depends on your fatigue level.

The reps should vary. On some days go heavy, on others mid reps and on others pump work.

Low intensity cardio or low volume loaded carries are fine

Not necessarily… at first just reduce the amount per meal with enough of a deficit so that you are losing about 1kg per week. When fat loss stalls for 2 weeks straight, take carbs out from one meal. Only go “workout carbs only” when you have to.

I sometimes go carbs only around workouts but only when I need to rapidly lose some extra fat for a photo shoot or vacation

CT as you mentioned that depletion of muscle glycogen should be avoided at all costs, how should a person train that is basically purely deprived of carbs on all days but two? Basically the layout is one free meal on Monday and a 5-hour refeed on Friday.

Id keep carbs pre and during workout. Will be burned for fuel thus preserving muscle glycogen

Anything special to be done on non-carb training days?

Coach, again, thanks a billion. I appreciate your time.

What CT is recommending here is very similar to the “40 day” workout that Dan John has written extensively about. I used a version of the “easy strength” program like this on a 500kcal deficit and it worked very well. Full body, 2 worksets of 5 movements, done daily.

As an older guy with a lot of commitments, I found the short, frequent sessions to be very manageable. Once I stopped losing weight on the deficit with just the lifting and walking, I added in some bodyweight circuits 3-4x per week after lifting. Increasing pre-workout carbs helped me to get even leaner, as my training intensity and metabolism increased.