Josh had the worst possible “body type” (skinny, fat and weak) imaginable for achieving the goals of gaining lean muscle, increasing strength and losing body fat.
Yet, against the odds, he achieved all three simultaneously. How did he pull it off? Well, first of all, Josh refused to give up on himself. He was disciplined, motivated and passionate about overcoming the physical limitations that his DNA had so graciously “blessed” him with.
However, all the discipline and motivation in the world won’t do a single thing for you if you don’t have the right nutritional protocol and training program to back you up. That’s where I came in!
So in this post, I’d like to go a little more in depth on what I did to help Josh pull off the impossible. Let’s start with his training protocol:
Training volume- In most cases, alternating phases of high and low volume training would yield excellent and predictable muscle building results. But not with Josh! In fact, every higher volume phase we used resulted in a significant decrease in strength and size for him.
Additionally, joint pain and inflammation was becoming a problem from any volume work. It was becoming crystal clear that his recovery ability was exceptionally poor and that I would need to take this into account when designing his programs.
After months of trial and error, we finally found the balance between training stimulation and ability to recover. The volume may sound incredibly low, but this is what it took for Josh to achieve results:
On upper body days, the optimal training volume was 10-12 sets. If a 13th set was even considered, his results would suffer greatly.
On lower body days, optimal training volume was even less. We found that anything over 8-10 sets would lead to overtraining in a hurry.
Training frequency-Typically, a higher training frequency would better teach skill and stimulate the muscles more regularly. This often leads to better technical form and more muscle growth (especially for beginners). But just like training volume, high frequency just led to overtraining.
We finally discovered that for Josh, the best gains were made when we trained each major movement pattern once every 7 days. In between the 7 day cycle, Josh would hit each muscle group once, indirectly.
Training intensity- Most skinny/fat sufferers train too hard. With compromised recovery abilities, Josh (or anyone with this body type) couldn’t even flirt with training to failure. The optimal cycling of intensity turned out the be:
Week one- 65%
Week two- 75%
Week three- 85%
Week four- 95/100% (each phase would alternate percentages)
Week five- OFF
Notice that Josh would only lift limit weights once every ten weeks. This was a crucial component to his training success.
Cardio- To help increase fat burning and decrease the likelihood of fat gaining from a calorie surplus, we experimented with a variety of conditioning techniques. We tried every conceivable variation of intensity levels (high, med and low) and styles (intervals, bursts, HIIT and steady state).
The results of all techniques were — you guessed it — nil. Even worse, all of the higher intensity methods resulted in decreases in muscle and strength gains. The worst part was that despite Josh’s tremendous effort, the rate of fat loss was not altered at all.
The bottom line was simple: any cardio that Josh tried either did nothing or caused a detrimental training effect.
Exercise selection- This finding will be obvious to most of you. Josh needed to put the majority of his efforts into the big compound movements.
There was one interesting discovery however. Josh did improve his hypertrophy response by adding a movement (after the main exercise was completed) that loaded the target muscle group in the stretch position.
For example, after squatting, doing one set of a rear foot elevated split squat (this movement stretches the quadriceps while under loading) actually increased hypertrophy. Just one high rep set (12-20) was necessary and recommended.
I hypothesize that this positive effect came from stretching the facia, which allowed the muscle more room to grow. For those of you who don’t know, the facia is a sheath of connective tissue surrounding your muscles.
Although the above list is far from exhaustive, these alterations were the most powerful training modifications that led to Josh’s success.
Now let’s move on to the nutritional aspect. Remember that Josh wanted to lose fat and gain muscle. We initially had decided to focus our efforts on one goal at a time. Here are our findings:
Muscle building- Since building muscle requires a calorie surplus, I prescribed an appropriate nutritional plan for Josh. Unfortunately, regardless of food quality or timing, Josh gained fat from any type of surplus.
Fat loss- For fat burning to occur, a caloric deficit is necessary. We experimented with a variety of dietary techniques including low carb, high protein, balanced calorie controlled, meal timing, etc. and every blend of these methods. Every possible fat loss technique only resulted in muscle loss and decreases in energy and strength.
The Diet- Since neither extreme worked, we decided to blend the two together. On training days, Josh would follow a muscle building meal plan and on off training days, Josh would follow a fat loss meal plan.
Fortunately, this new meal plan schedule worked wonders for Josh. Now, for the first time, he was able to build muscle and burn fat simultaneously.
Some of these techniques are specific to the genetically cursed, skinny/fat/weak body type. If you fall into this category, these techniques will work amazingly well for you.
That being said, there are powerful lessons to be learned here for all of us. Perhaps, the most important lesson is that everyone’s body is different. Some people get great results just by walking into a gym; others have to battle constantly to get what they want in the gym.
However, if you are determined to succeed, and you have a coach at the helm with the knowledge and the willingness to experiment until YOUR perfect training and nutritional approach is discovered, you will be absolutely shocked by the results you can achieve.
So those of you who are genetically “cursed”, I encourage you to stare down those bad genetics and show them who is really in charge of your body: YOU!
Dedicated to your success,