Which Approach for Fat Loss?

Hi Thib,
For fat loss purposes which approach do you prefer:
A- Low volume/high intensity with low calories:
Something along the line of three full body workouts per week, focusing on only the big lifts for 3 sets of 3-5 + one gap workout. The rest periods are fairly high except on the gap workout.
Calories are around 2000 for a 180lbs/16% guy

B- Higher volume/lower intensity with higher calories.
Think Upper/lower or PPL with about 20 sets per bodypart per week and 1-2 min rest periods.
Calories are kept around 2500 (more on training days, less on rest days) to compensate for the higher volume.

Assume our hypothetical guy (which happens to be me) is 27, does not have any job and sleeps like a baby, just to take the stress factor out of the equation.

Coach wrote a great article about this last summer: The Right Way to Train for Fat Loss

Low volume doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to lower calories too. You can increase caloric expenditure by being more active, doing cardio or walking more throughout the day.

I personally prefer to use a lower lifting volume when trying to get lean but increase the amount of non-stressful physical activity to allow myself to keep calories higher.

You should never design a lifting program to “burn more calories”


Definitely agree. I thought there might be other benefits to higher volume/low rest training than increasing calorie expenditure. You talked in some articles about lactate-inducing workouts and how beneficial they are for fat loss. In one program you wrote, there were two heavy workouts per week and two other circuit-based workouts. Have you changed your mind about that since that time ?

It’s something I believed earlier in my coaching career, mostly because I was so heavily influenced by Charles Poliquin and preached this approach to fat loss and I never questionned him at the time.

I’m not saying that there is no benefit. But they are unlikely to offset the drawbacks, especially if done as a high volume of work

No. I use circuits quite a bit. And I do like to use shorter rest intervals during fat loss periods. BUT that’s not the same thing as increasing volume (you are basically doing the same volume but in a shorter period of time).

For example, in the “Eternal Warrior” approach uses 1-2 circuits per workout. But they are typically circuits of 3 exercises for 6-12 reps with around 60 seconds of rest between exercises and 2 minutes between sets.

If I want to use “conditioning work” as a way to lose fat I now use mostly “metcon exercises” not lifting movements.

For example:

  • arms and legs bike
  • rowing ergometer
  • ski ergometer
  • KB swings
  • stationary bike
  • prowler pushing/sled dragging

And will often pick 3. done as a circuit with almost no rest for a total of 2-3 minutes per set (45-60 seconds per exercise).