I’ve heard a lot of crazy exercise claims made over the years. That’s what happens when you edit content for some of the biggest publications in the world. After all, cover lines sell. It’s the reason why “Burn fat faster!” “See Your Abs Today!” and “10 Pounds of New Muscle—NOW” are the standard fare on any magazine rack. And I’ll be honest: I don’t have an issue with the cover lines. I just think all of them require an asterisk: Results not normal. Or guaranteed.
Of all the crazy claims people can make, one of the “wildest” is actually a reality. You can build muscle and burn fat at the same time.
I don’t care what anyone says. It is physically possible. I know this because I’ve done it. And this isn’t some “Trust me, bro. It works.” Back in 2008 I had Alan Aragon (a man whose love of science can be described as science-erotic; he loves Pubmed that much) put me through a body recomp project that is well-documented in Aragon’s research review.
The experiment was 12 weeks long. The short end:
Starting weight: 179 pounds, 13% body fat
End weight: 170 pounds, 7% body fat
On the surface it might seem like I just dropped fat. But if you look at my lean body mass (LBM or fat-free weight), I started at 155 pounds of LBM and ended at 158 ponds of LBM.
Translation: Not only did I drop 6 percent body fat in 12 weeks, I also added 3 pounds of muscle. Not too shabby for a guy with more than 10 years of training experience.
That led to an even more determined effort to discover the “Holy Grail” of fitness, and the result became Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha.
The Goal: Muscle Gain and Fat Loss
Fast-forward to today, and much of my “research” has focused on ways to replicate my results for any man. That’s why I teamed up with John Romaniello (or Roman, as most know him) to build a testing ground where we wanted to make anyone more shredded and muscular. If Roman is known for anything (and let’s be honest, he’s known for a lot of things), it’s his ability to get people shredded at a ridiculously high success rate.
From a physical standpoint, that’s what Engineering the Alpha is all about. The book is much more than that—it’s nutrition programs, life advice, health tips, and a mega-dose of myth busting that dispels all of the bullshit that pollutes the fitness industry. After all, if we are to evolve the fitness industry, we have to fix a lot of broken pieces.
But I want to focus on the mythical beast: Gaining muscle and burning fat—at the same time; and making that replicable for any type of person. Let’s be completely transparent: this only happens with hard work and a combination of diet and fitness. But if you want to set your training in the right direction, here’s a method that was effective for the 300 men who tested the programs shared in Engineering the Alpha.
Rethink Program Design
One of the best ways to see faster (and better) results is to increase training density. That’s not to say this is the only way to make gains, but it’s certainly an effective one.
Before we can talk about adding density training to your program, it’s probably best to define the concept so you can understand why it’s so effective. To compute your training density, you’ll look at two very specific factors of training: volume and duration.
- Volume: Your total workload—that is, how many total sets and reps you perform in a given workout
- Duration: The length of time your workout lasts
For the most part, there are two simple and relatively well-known ways to increase training density. Either you do more sets and reps within the give time frame, increase the weight and do the same sets and reps, or you do the same amount of work in less time. (That is, you have a shorter workout.)
Speaking generally, trainees seeking to increase density focus on one of the above. It comes down to either doing the same amount of work in less time or doing more work in the same amount of time. In the most extreme cases, a trainee in extremely good condition could potentially end up doing more work in less time and see phenomenal results.
Keeping in mind that increasing training density essentially increasing the amount of work you’re doing in a given time frame, it stands to reason that over time you will also increase your ability to do work over any time period.
We call this your work capacity, and this determines how much you can realistically accomplish in the gym. Performing density-based training in any form increases your overall strength endurance and work capacity, and is phenomenally expensive from an energy perspective.
All of those things mean that not only is this great for fat loss, but increasing work capacity and strength endurance also has implications for increasing the rate of muscle hypertrophy. Translation: it becomes a lot easier to build muscle. And for most guys, that’s usually the biggest hurdle. Well, this is your solution.
That alone would make it a good fat-burning protocol. But that’s not enough for us. We developed a density-based protocol that takes fat burning to a whole other level.
In traditional density workouts, you simply seek to exceed the number of reps for each exercise on subsequent workouts. In that system, you’re gauging progress from session to session. That’s good, but we’ve found a way to add a dash of Alpha to density training. In Alpha density training, you see progress during the workout. In addition to performing more reps during the second set, you’ll also be increasing the weight.
Here’s an example of what it might look like:
You’ll start with three compound movements, (two upper, one lower) which will be cycled for 6 minutes. Select weights you can lift 10–15 times. The goal is to get as many reps as possible within the 6-minute timeframe—so do not perform these exercises to failure. Instead, perform only 6–8 reps for the first exercise; then put the weight down and perform 6–8 reps for the next, and then finally 6–8 reps for the final exercise. Keep cycling through these three exercises for 6 minutes.
After this circuit, rest 3–5 minutes. Then increase your weight by 3 to 5 percent and repeat the circuit for another 6 minutes. After that circuit, rest 5 more minutes and proceed to circuit C.
For instance, you might combine:
Rows: 6-8 reps
Squats: 6-8 reps
Presses: 6-8 reps
Now, of course it’s hard to believe that you’ll be able to do more weight and more reps on the second circuit of each of these exercises—and, to be fair, you won’t always be able to. However, very often you’ll exceed your reps from the previous set, and you’ll almost always beat the total reps from your previous workout. This is what makes our Alpha density protocol special and unique—we take advantage of the fact that you often get stronger during a workout, which allows for greater total results.
In addition to helping you burn tons of fat, density training will increase your work capacity and help you get stronger while you retain LBM. And, of course, it helps you produce testosterone and combat estrogen-related fat storage.
Leaving you with a simple reality: A planned progression that is designed to accomplish multiple goals at once, and a systematic approach that creates a hormonal environment more conducive to your body recomp goals.
Want to learn more about density training, building more muscle, losing more fat, and having more sex? Check out Engineering the Alpha on Amazon.