As I stated in a previous articles regarding fat burning, it’s not really the workout that causes fat loss but the right diet. Weight training serves us mostly to maintain (spare) muscle mass during cutting cycle. In other words we lift weights to stimulate muscles to avoid losing them while being on a lower carbohydrate diet. We will not be changing their shape and they will not be growing.
However to maximize fat loss, achieve really good definition with a big, ripped muscles we need a good weight training workout combined with cardio.
Again, as with muscle building, there are many good workouts for fat loss but this is the one that I think is the most effective and suitable for majority of amateur bodybuilders.
Generally it’s a typical Push, Pull, Legs routine with a relatively small volume and added cardio. Each weight training session of this fat burning workout is rather short but intense. The whole routine should last minimum 12 to maximum 16 weeks.
Workout for Burning Fat
When we are in a calorie deficit we don’t want to train too much. Eating fewer carbohydrates makes us feeling weaker, we recover slower. For these reasons we will perform weight training only 3 times a week with a one or two cardio session.
- Day 1 – Chest, Shoulders and Triceps;
- Day 2 – Legs, Abs, Lower Back;
- Day 3 – Back, Biceps, Forearms;
- Cardio Day – once or twice a week.
It would be the best to train in Monday, Wednesday and Friday however you can choose different days if you want or alternate them. Cardio session can be done in Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday or any of the days that you don’t work out.
Intensity, sets, reps, rest intervals, tempo and warm-up
- 75%-85% of 1RM – intensity,
- 3 sets of 10-6 repetitions in most compound exercises;
- 12 reps till failure in isolation ones;
- 60-90 seconds rest intervals,
- 2 sets of 8 reps for the warm-up (30-50% of your max).
Tempo: 1 second to press the weight up, pause for a second tensing your muscles and lower it a bit slower (2 seconds down) trying to keep your muscles contracted.
3×12-Failure means you should do 3 sets of certain exercise starting from the weight you are able to lift around 12 times. Take a rest (around 60 seconds) and do as many repetitions as you can (till failure) with a heavier load. Take another rest, use heavier load again and do as many reps as you can for the last set.
3×10-6 means 3 sets of 10 to 6 repetitions.
Day 1 – Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
|Sets and Reps||Every 4 weeks|
|Bench Press||3×10-6||DB Bench Press|
|Incline Bench Press||3×10-6||Incline DB BP|
|Machine Shoulder Press||3×10-6||BB Upright Row – 5 sets|
|Side Lateral Raises||3×12-Failure|
|French Press||3×12-Failure||Press Downs|
We’ll start as usual from 2 exercises for chest muscles – flat and incline bench press to stimulate heavy both lower and upper pectorals. Every 4th week I would like you to do these exercises with dumbbells instead of barbells in the same sets and repetition range just for one week and then come back to the barbells again.
After that we’ll go to shoulders and perform 1 heavy pressing exercise. Because our stabilizing muscles will be a bit tired I recommend doing this movement on the machine. It can be hammer strength or smith machine done behind the neck but not necessary. Feel free to choose something that you like and works good for you. 3 sets of lateral raises done till failure will finish off our delts completely. Every 4 weeks replace these 2 exercises with 5 sets of barbell heavy upright rows for a week and then come back to the previous routine.
9 sets of pressing will stimulate triceps very well. One extra isolation exercise should be enough to exercise it fully. As with above exercises switch french press for press downs or cable over-head extensions every 4 weeks for a week.
Day 2 – Legs, Abs, Lower Back
|Sets and Reps||Every 4 weeks|
|Romanian Dead Lift||3×12-8||Dumbbell Lunges|
|Standing Calve Raises||3-4×15-10||Seated Calve Raises|
|Decline Sit-ups||3×12-8||Leg Raises|
|Dumbbell Side Bends||3×12-8||Side Crunches|
|Back Extensions||3×12-8||Single Leg DB DL|
Legs will be hit directly with squats and finished off with romanian dead lifts. After 3 weeks replace these 2 movements with leg press and dumbbell lunges for a week.
Standing calve raises will be replaced with seated ones. Decline sit-ups with leg raises, side bends with side crunches and back extensions with single leg dumbbell deadlifts.
Day 3 – Back, Biceps, Forearms
|Sets and Reps||Every 4 weeks|
|Barbell Row||3x 10-6||1-Arm DB Row|
|Shrugs||3-4×15-10||SM Shrugs Beh. Back|
|Barbell Curls||3×10-6||Alt DB Curls (4 sets)|
|DB Incline Curls||3×12-Failure|
|Wrist Curls||3×15-Failure||Barbell Reverse Curls|
|Reverse Wrist Curls||3×15-Failure||Wrist Curls Beh. Back|
Our back muscles will be hit from different directions with pull-ups and barbell rows. These are hard exercises. Switch them every 4 weeks to cable pull-downs and single arm dumbbell rows for a one week. Keep the same number of sets and repetitions.
We couldn’t forget about barbell shrugs to attack our traps. 3 to 4 sets should be enough. Replace this exercise every 4 weeks with shrugs on a smith machine but this time perform this movement behind your back. This will hit your traps from different angle.
Barbell curls and dumbbell curls done on an incline bench will work your biceps throughout the whole length. Your guns will be really fried after heavy back session. I want you to do 4 sets of alternating dumbbell curls every 4 weeks instead those 2 exercises but just for a week. After that do what you did before.
You don’t want to forget about your forearms. Your arm muscles will never look impressive without them. 3 sets of wrist curls and reverse wrist curls with the barbell with do the job. Replace them for a week with reverse curls and wrist curls behind back as you did with other exercises.
Cardiovascular training (cardio) is a part of fat burning workout that has the biggest impact on the fat loss itself. Without it, our weight will be going down very slow, if any. However there are people who burn fat without any cardio at all. It’s because they have fast metabolism or quiet busy lifestyle. Some people, on the other hand, require more than 2 cardio sessions each week to achieve desired results. This simply depends from individual and the diet.
As a cardio training for fat loss we have two options:
- Aerobics (low intensity, steady activity): cycling, walking, jogging or using any of the gym cardio machines.
- HIIT (high intensity interval training): few sets of sprints done with a short rest between.
I recommend starting from low intensity aerobic first. Once we’ll build up some endurance we can try HIIT, which is quiet intense form of cardio training. Then we can also mix them up in some weeks – one day aerobics, once intervals; or see what better works for us and stick to it.
As an aerobic training I recommend to do one of the below activities for minimum 30 and maximum 60 minutes:
- cycling (real or stationary bike),
- jogging (outside or treadmill),
- walking (fast march),
- cross-trainer or elliptical machine,
- rowing (rowing machine, unless you have access to a boat ;)),
- other gym cardio equipment.
The best would be to change these activities every week to shock the body and train all muscles equally.
Aerobic training should be done with low or moderate intensity. That means that you should be able to have a conversation during it but it has to be challenging. You have to be able to breathe peacefully. Good example would be fast walking or slow jogging, something you can do steady for minimum 20-30 minutes.
If you do cardio in a gym and it measures your heart rate (HR) try to stay between 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.
As with everything else use progression. Start from 20-30 minutes training and build it up until you able to perform full 60 minutes.
As an interval training you can perform few sets of sprints on any equipment you were doing aerobic training. Simply use rowing machine, cross-trainer, treadmill or bicycle. Swimming and running is great for this type of activity as well, maybe even the best.
Usually we perform around 20 seconds of sprint (going as fast as we can) and then around 40 seconds rest. In reality it looks like that:
We run as fast as we can for 20 seconds or as long as we can and then we are resting during walking for 40 seconds. This is one interval or one set.
I recommend doing 4-10 intervals during training. You can start from 4 and week by week increase the number of sets until you reach 10.
Generally during this fat burning workout we perform 3 days of weight training and 1 or 2 cardio sessions each week. You can start from 1 aerobic session, next week do two. When you’ll build up your fitness level a bit you can replace one of the aerobic trainings with HIIT and if your fat loss slows down you might add third aerobic session per week. Basically use a progression as with everything else. This is how the schedule can look like:
|Example 1||Example 2||Example 3|
|Monday||Workout 1||Workout 1||Workout 1|
|Tuesday||Aerobics (cycling)||Aerobics (walking)||Aerobics (rowing)|
|Wednesday||Workout 2||Workout 2||Workout 2|
|Friday||Workout 3||Workout 3||Workout 3|
I don’t recommend doing interval training more than once a week. This type of exercising is very intense and taxing. We don’t want to overtrain.
Feel free to modify this workout to suit your goals – if you think that your rear delts need more attention than side ones replace lateral raises with bent-over laterals; if your traps are too big – don’t do shrugs, if triceps is not getting enough add one extra exercise, etc.; but try to keep exercises to minimum.
As you noticed I make small changes every 4 weeks. It’s because we don’t want our muscles to get use to the same exercises and also our nervous system needs to rest a little bit. It’s far easier to overtrain when we are on a cutting diet. I replaced heavy barbell exercises with their lighter substitutions like dumbbell or cables to hit muscles from a different angle and range of motion, but this is only for a week. After that we have to get back to the prescribed movements again for another 3 weeks. So we train with standard workout for 3 weeks, and then change it for a week; then repeat – go back to normal for 3 weeks and change for a week.
The combination of heavy weight training and cardio will result in amazing fat loss. If you’ll be persistent and stay on this ‘fat burning workout’ for 12 weeks, keeping your diet right, you’ll notice tremendous change in your body composition. You will look much more muscular and even appear bigger than before. When your body fat is very low at the end, the real definition of your muscles will appear along with improved vascularity and possibly shredded look.