10 Ways to Get Leaner and Stronger By Summer, Starting Now

I’m a big believer in training cycles and adjusting workouts around the seasons of your life. Not only does this make training more sustainable, but it’s a good idea to give your body a break from hardcore workouts or diets throughout the year.

For the average person, it’s common to slow down around the holidays and take diet breaks in order to accommodate the holiday rush, parties, and festivities. By spring, we start dialing it in in preparation for summertime fun, weddings, and vacations.

If you’re a competitive athlete, your season might look a little different depending on the sport you’re in. Either way, no one is ever “on” all the time!

With summer upon us here in the U.S. I get a lot of questions about how to lean out and prepare for beach, wedding, and summer season. Here are 10 ideas you can incorporate right now to get yourself ready!

Strength training is Fat loss training

 When your goal is to lose a little body fat, lifting weights is the way to go. That’s because when it comes to getting the most out of your time in the gym, strength training requires more effort, more muscle groups, more calories burned, and that’s what will shape the muscles underneath while burning fat. Here is a client of mine that lost body fat by strength training 1-2x a week with me (with 1-2 sessions additional on their own).
Structure your workouts wisely

Finding a structure that works for you and gives results is not that complicated. First, set how many days a week you will workout and how much time you have from warm-up to cool-down. Next, create a “training focus” based on how many days you’ll train. For example, if you can only train 3x a week you could do 3 full-body days. If you plan to train 4 days a week, you can do two lower body days and two upper body days. Or, you could do two full-body days, one lower, and one upper.

Don’t overthink this one, just pick one structure and write down the exercises you’ll do based off that. Most people fail because they walk in without a structure or a plan, and end up wasting time doing random things at the gym.

Strength training IS fat loss training.

Add in more multi-joint, compound movements

The most efficient and effective way to use strength training for fat loss is to spend the bulk of it on multi-joint, compound exercises instead of a bunch of isolation exercises. Any variation of the squat, lunge, deadlift, pull-up, swings, carry, and sprints will do more than a bunch of exercise that focuses on one small body part. Unless you’re a bodybuilder, 90% of your strength training should have a multi-joint component. The other 10% can be saved for isolation exercises, finishers, or conditioning.

Eliminate the guesswork
You can keep playing the guessing game with your strength training and end up frustrated, or you can hand over the reins to an expert that will figure out those details for you. Look, it doesn’t matter how well-equipped or advanced you are, EVERYONE needs a coach. Maybe you don’t need one all year-round but when you’re stuck and too busy to figure it out yourself, outsourcing your training is the best way to go.
I recently hired my first nutritionist because I practice what I preach. I want to get better but I’m way too busy to figure everything out on my own. This is exactly what I offer in BarbellSTRONG coaching: Accountability, support, personalized programming for your current life and needs, and help you learn along the way. 
 
Save the long cardio for “off” days

If you must do long, steady state cardio sessions, save it for your non-lifting days. I often recommend that my BarbellSTRONG clients do at least one day of moderate-intensity cardio for 20-30 minutes once a week. It’s good for stress relief, good for heart health, and overall endurance. Plus, you can get creative with it and take it outside through hikes, long walks, paddle boarding, and other summery ways.

Sprinkle in an intense exercise or two

Once you’ve found a structure to your workouts, add at least ONE intense or ballistic movement to the day’s program. Ideally, that one exercise is in line with your training focus for the day and is within your experience level. I like to use kettlbell swings, dumbbell thrusters, and med ball slams for my 1:1 clients. It’s a nice way to add in something tough without beating up the body.

Add a finisher or density set into your workout

If you’re not sure how what a finisher or density set is read this. I love using these for my 1:1 clients who have a background in lifting, CrossFit, or have training experience under their belt. It’s a quick and dirty way to get metabolic conditioning into a workout, which is also great for fat loss! If these aren’t your thing, doing some kind of sprint, interval training at the end is just as effective.

Leave the isolation exercises until the end using a complex chain

If you’re like me, you likely have a body part that you feel could always use a little more attention. For men, this is often chest and biceps, and for women it’s arms and abs. Assuming you have a structured routine in place, adding a little “extra credit” complex chain at the end is an ideal way to hit that lagging body part without it eating up too much of your training time. For example, I love getting a pump in my arms and shoulders at the end of an upper body day. Instead of spending 10-minutes hitting my arms in sections, I string together the following exercises, and hit them back to back without putting the weight down for the entire set. You have to choose a weight that will work for ALL the exercises, so be conservative. Here’s what I did today:

3 sets of 8 reps of:
  • Eccentric bicep curls
  • Lateral raise
  • Overhead tricep extension
  • Bent over reverse fly
  • Front raise

Aim for one new skill or performance goal

Just because you have an aesthetic goal doesn’t mean you can’t spend quality time learning something new! Learning a new skill like a pull-up or kettlebell snatch, means that you’ll have more exercise options down the line to choose from. Setting a performance goal also gives you another way to measure progress besides how you look. Remember, sustainable fat loss is a process. As you’re making gains in the gym and losing a little body fat, why not also aim to PR a lift or get stronger in particular movement? You get bragging rights and more confidence in the process.

Sustainable fat loss is not like TV. It's a process!
Take progress photos and measurements
I get it, taking before/after photos is super uncomfortable, but do them and you’ll thank me later. Unlike what we see on TV, sustainable fat loss doesn’t happen dramatically or overnight. The transformation can take a few years of consistent effort and there is always room for improvement.

While the scale or body fat percentage captures one aspect of your fat loss journey, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Progress photos and measurements are phenomenal ways to capture the small details in your progress. For instance, just because you had a few crappy days of eating poorly and missing workouts, doesn’t mean you gained all the weight back (even if you feel that way). By looking at your progress photos, you can actually SEE how you’re doing, what’s working, and where to focus your time.

 

Reclaim your body and your fitness, without the guesswork and pointless burpees.

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