Intermittent Fasting: Workout Planning

Posted February 1, 2011 in Diet, Intermittent Fasting 7 Comments »

Intermittent Fasting Part 3 – Training to Burn Fat

And so, faithful readers, we have arrived at the final installment of our intermittent fasting series. In part 1 I gave you a brief overview as to what intermittent fasting is and what some of the benefits are. In part 2, I laid out the guiding blueprint to help you create your own nutrition plan, but today we’re gonna talk about how to create the sexy via resistance training.

Intermittent Fasting Results - Front Intermittent Fasting Results - Back
Here are the results of Roger’s recent bout with Intermittent Fasting – Nice work Rog!

Let me get this off of my chest first before the urge becomes too strong and I go on a multi-page rant: I hate the term fat loss training. While it sounds cool when you’re explaining to people what you’re doing, it really doesn’t say much. If you’re taking care of your nutrition first and foremost, flying a kite outside on a cool summer day could be considered fat loss training.

High Reps or High Intensity?

Most people associate fat loss training with high reps and low intensity spread across a mind boggling amount of sets. If you think about it, this approach isn’t much different than the body count in a Rambo movie – the higher the number of reps that you’re doing, the more effective your workout is, right?


What I’ve just touched on is a classic example of how people approach training when they’re trying to get ripped. They have their chest day, arm day, leg day, back day, and probably at least 3 days specifically devoted to ab training and high intensity intervals. While some may find nothing wrong with this approach, many who embark on such a program often fall far short of achieving their ideal physique, usually burning out far before they can even see the finish line.

They’re approaching it from the wrong end. The goal of weight training isn’t to lose fat – the caloric burn you get for your time invested isn’t anything to write home about – but to build and maintain the muscle that you do have.

How to Train in a Calorie Deficit

The problem with this increased-volume approach is that the high levels of volume that most people subject themselves to, at best hinders their progress, and at worst makes them worse off then before they started. When you’re in a caloric deficit, your recovery is already compromised due to the fact that you’re consuming less than you normally need, so adding more work on top of this already less than ideal situation is a surefire way to dig yourself into a deep hole that you’ll regret.

In order to maintain your muscle while on a diet, you need to maintain intensity first and foremost, and this only happens by keeping some serious weight on the bar. The term “serious weight” is a relative term of course, as someone who squats 500lbs will have a different meaning of that statement than someone who is struggling with 225lbs, but the principle still applies.

Focus on Compound Movements

If you want to maintain intensity, it only makes sense to use the movements that utilize the most amount of muscles, which subsequently allows you to use more weight – think squats, deadlifts, chin ups/pullups, rows, and bench presses. Can’t do those movements due to an injury or some other reason? No problem – exercises such as the leg press, chest press, lat pulldown, row and hamstring curl machines will serve our purposes just fine. The name of the game is intensity by any means necessary; there are no sacred cows, so if machines help you get towards your goal then so be it.

Rest Between Sets

If you bench press 225lbs for a set of 5 and rest only 30 seconds before trying again, do you think that you’re going to be able to match that same performance during your 2nd set? Not if you’re keeping that intensity ramped up like you’re supposed to.

A general recommendation that I like to use both for myself as well as with my clients is to rest at least 3 minutes between sets, sometimes even upwards of 5 minutes. My reasoning is this: research has definitely shown that longer rest periods are better for strength gains, and when you’re trying to lose fat you want to preserve (or better yet increase) your strength levels.

These extended rest periods give you time to recover between sets, allowing you to use more weight than you otherwise would’ve been able to, plus when you throw in the fact that increased strength levels are a very good sign that you’re losing fat and not actual muscle mass, which is what’s going to determine your look once the flubber is gone, you’re setting yourself up for success from the beginning.

Putting it All Together

So now how do you synthesize all of this information? Don’t worry, I have your back.

One of the most effective training methods that I’ve used when dieting down is called Reverse Pyramid Training, and I have Martin Berkhan to thank for turning me on to this one. The system incorporates all of the above and makes training while losing fat a, dare I say it, enjoyable experience.

Before we get into it, here are a few caveats:

  • Take a day off between training sessions, which usually turns out to be a training frequency of 3x a week.
  • Use this for only one or two (compound) lifts per session in order to avoid burnout.
  • To progress, work within a predefined rep range, only increasing weight when you get to the upper end of that range.
  • After a proper warm up, your first work set will be your heaviest set.
  • Drop the weight by 10% or so each subsequent set in order to get +1 reps compared to your last set.

Here is a page from my training log as an example and for the visually inclined I’ve included a video of a training session as well:

Front Squat: 3 x 3-6

Set #1: 320 x 3

Rest at least 3min. Drop that weight by 10% and terminate the set after you get +1 rep from your last set.

Set #2: 290 x 4

Rest at least 3 min. Drop that weight by 10% and terminate the set after you get +1 rep from your last set.

Set #3: 260 x 5

Done. Rest 5min before beginning the next compound movement.

Bench Press: 3 x 3-6

Set #1: 275 x 3

Rest at least 3min. Drop that weight by 10% and terminate the set after you get +1 rep from your last set.

Set #2: 250 x 4

Rest at least 3min. Drop that weight by 10% and terminate the set after you get +1 rep from your last set.

Set #3: 225 x 5

On this day that was my entire workout – brief, intense and effective. This is how most my sessions usually turn out, and my muscles are just fine as a result. You can add in a few assistance exercises as well, but I’d keep it limited to 2, 3 at the absolute most, and stay within the 6-10 rep range. Cut out the fufu exercises and keep your training centered around the big movements.

Fitness Games

What about cardio?

Are you an athlete? If not, then walking is all the cardio that you need, and depending on your starting point you may not even need much of that. I personally loath high intensity intervals and I’ll do anything to avoid them, so my “cardio” consists of walking on the treadmill at 2.5mph for an hour while reading a book. Some days I’ll even switch it up and play some Dance Central on my Xbox for fun.

Keep it simple and effective. It needs to be something that you at least kinda sorta enjoy and that you could do on a daily basis if you wanted. On the other hand, high intensity interval training, especially if you’re doing it right, is hard work both physically and mentally. It cuts into your recovery resources and can’t be done nearly as frequently as simple walking, so it’s applications as a fat loss tool while in a large caloric deficit are limited.

Remember: It’s all about the calories that you burn, not how hard you have to work in order to do so.

See also:
Intermittent Fasting Part 1 – A Primer

Intermittent Fasting Part 2 – Meal Planning

About the Author

Roger Lawson

A graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Roger Lawson II received his bachelors degree in English Language and Literature. His passion for writing, teaching and helping others achieve their goals while improving their quality of life, has led him to pursue a career in the fitness industry. Wanting to first ask of himself what he would ask of his clients, Roger transformed his body and mind over the course of six months, finishing as a runner up in Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program.

Roger is a personal trainer at All Access Fitness Academy in Shrewsbury, MA, and is the owner of He recently completed a three month internship at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA under the guidance of Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore and Brian St.Pierre where he learned the fundamentals of proper coaching and professionalism in the fitness industry.

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7 Responses to “Intermittent Fasting: Workout Planning”

  1. Hey Kujo,

    Yep, sure do. If I were doing intervals or something high intensity in nature, I’d take some branch chain amino acids prior to it, but for low intensity stuff there is no need for any of that.

  2. cool, thanks for sharing your workout plan. I have tinkering with my own plan, and having read yours, I have slightly modified mine so thanks again!

  3. @Roger, another fine addition to the series. Those are some really long resting periods between sets and exercises.
    As for the cardio, I’m the opposite. I hate spending an hour on the treadmill, and LOVE intervals.

    @Yum Yucky, Josie, you may have an awesome score on Dance Central, but how’s your Black Ops score looking? 🙂

  4. Dude. Dance Central is definitely cardio. And I’m sure my score on the Bell Biv Devoe “Poison” dance is way higher than yours. Just sayin’.

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