Here's what you need to know...

  1. If your goal is to become as lean and muscular as possible, you need to train like a power/speed athlete.
  2. Workouts should emphasize strength, explosiveness and speed, and the capacity to maintain a high level of strength for an extended period.
  3. The exercise menu should be limited. An excessive amount of volume or garbage sets will sap recovery capability.

The 3 Elements

To excel in his sport, a power/speed athlete must be able to move explosively through space. To do that at an optimal level requires power (a solid amount of muscle) and as little dead weight (fat) as possible.

Put another way, if you train to be strong, explosive and fast, and capable of maintaining a high level of strength or power output for an extended period, then you will be lean and muscular. When I want to get someone ripped, I base their program on improving those three elements.

1.  Getting "Athlete Strong"

Athlete strong is having a high level of general strength, not just excelling in a few specific lifts. Being strong on the basic barbell lifts will give you a very good head start in the strength department, but it takes more than that to be athlete strong. You need to be able to transfer your gym strength to real-life activities.

For this reason, you must 1) get stronger on a variety of barbell lifts covering the whole body and 2) get stronger using different versions of the loaded carry.

Box Jump

2.  Getting Explosive and Fast

Being explosive and fast are two qualities that have a huge impact on your appearance. To call yourself explosive you need to be able to:

  1. Jump high and far.
  2. Run fast.
  3. Throw things a long way.

When these are maximized, you will be lean and muscular.

Another important aspect of body composition training is various forms of jumps, throws, and sprints. These can be done for:

  1. Maximal power output: Low-rep jumps, moderate-weight throws, or sprints of 60 meters or less
  2. Maximal capacity output: Sets of jumps or throws lasting 45-60 seconds, sprints of 200-400 meters
  3. Overload: Weighted jumps, heavy throws, resisted sprinting

All of the above will contribute to building a lean and muscular physique.

st-pierre punch

3.  Staying Strong for an Extended Period

The leanest power athletes are those who can maintain a high level of power or force production for one or two minutes. Think of a 400-meter sprint, a gymnastic ring routine, or a round of boxing or MMA.

Athletes in power sports that require extreme power for only a brief moment, such as throwers and most Olympic lifters, typically aren't as lean. Even 100-meter sprinters, who are super lean and only run for 10 seconds, do a lot of 200, 300 and 400-meter sprints in their training.

So to be very lean you not only need to be strong and powerful, you must be able to sustain your capacity over an extended period. That's where loaded carries (extended strength) and explosive capacity work (jump and throw sets lasting 45-60 seconds, 200-400 meter sprints) come into play.

Another strategy is to use complexes. For example, doing a combination of three strength and/or power exercises back to back without rest.

Diet

You still need to establish a caloric deficit to lose fat. You can do that by restricting calories on a daily basis or by using the 5/2 Fat Loss Diet for Lifters that has you eating two lower calorie days a week (you establish your weekly deficit on those two days and can eat more on the other five).

However, the type of training you do profoundly affects how your body will look and how fast it will take you to get there. You should still strive to improve performance, even if you're consuming fewer calories than you need.

That's one reason I like the 5/2 approach when training like an athlete. It allows you to have a caloric deficit over the week, thus stimulating fat loss, while also having sufficient fuel to perform at a very high level and enough nutrients and calories to grow muscle.

The Program

Here's the exact program I use with my athletes. You may not have all the equipment to follow it to a "T" but you can still use this as a guideline for creating your own plan.

This program has five lifting days and two days where you only work energy systems. These could also be off days, but fat loss will be a bit slower.

This program is ideally suited for the 5/2 diet but any eating style will work, provided optimal peri-workout protocols are followed. I strongly suggest Plazma™ before and during training and Mag-10® after training.

Important. Decreasing or eliminating peri-workout carbs to expedite fat loss is a mistake. When trying to lose fat it's paramount that you do everything possible to maintain or improve performance. That's the only way to ensure that you're preventing muscle loss and triggering some lean mass gains.

Monday Lower Body

  Exercise Week Sets Reps/Time % RM/Rest
A Box Jump 1
2
3
4
3
4
1
1
5
5
5
5
 
B Jump Squat 1
2
3
4
None
None
3
4
 
 
5
3
 
 
20%
30%
C Trap Bar Deadlift or
Dead Squat™ Bar
1
2
3
4
4
5
6
3 cluster *
6
5
3
4-5
80%
82.5%
87.5%
90%
D1 Back Squat 1
2
3
4
3
4
5
3
8
8
8
8
65%
67.5%
70%
72.5%
D2 Box Jump 1
2
3
4
3
4
5
3
AMRAP * * 30 sec.
AMRAP 45 sec.
AMRAP 45 sec.
AMRAP 60 sec.
 
E Farmer's Walk or
Dead-Squat Bar Loaded Carry
1
2
3
4
3
4
4
4
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
45 sec.
30 sec.

* A cluster set is where each rep is performed as its own "mini-set" of 1 rep. Re-set the bar and rest for 5-10 seconds between each rep of a cluster set.
* * AMRAP = As Many Reps As Possible

Tuesday Upper Body

  Exercise Week Sets Reps/Time % RM/Rest
A Medicine Ball Backward Throw Against Wall 1
2
3
4
3
4
3
4
5
5
8
8
 
B Medicine Ball Push Press Throw 1
2
3
4
3
4
3
4
5
5
8
8
 
C1 Push Press 1
2
3
4
4
5
6
3 cluster
6
5
3
4-5
80%
82.5%
87.5%
90%
C2 Pull-Ups
(use a band if you need help)
1
2
3
4
4
5
6
3
AMRAP *
AMRAP
AMRAP
AMRAP
30 sec.
30 sec.
30 sec.
30 sec.
D Medicine Ball Complex
1
2
3
4

3
4
4
2

AMRAP 30 sec.
AMRAP 30 sec.
AMRAP 45 sec.
AMRAP 60 sec.
 
1. Backward Throw Against Wall
2. Chest Throw Against Wall
3. Push Press Throw Against Wall
4. Slam
E Overhead Carry
(Barbell, Dumbbell, or Kettlebell)
1
2
3
4
3
4
4
4
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
45 sec.
30 sec.
F Rowing Ergometer 1
2
3
4
2
2
2
1
500 m.
750/500 m.
750 m.
1500 m.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
 

* add weight if you can get more than 12

Wednesday High Intensity Energy System Work

  Exercise Week Sets/Rate Distance/Time
A Moderate Intensity Cardio
(jogging if outside, treadmill or elliptical if inside)
1
2
3
4
120 bpm *
130 bpm
130 bpm
140 bpm
10 min.
10 min.
12 min.
12 min.
B Short Sprints 1
2
3
4
4
4
4
6
30 m.
30 m.
60 m.
60 m.
B Bike Short Sprints * * 1
2
3
4
5
5
5
8
10 sec.
10 sec.
20 sec.
20 sec.
C Moderate Distance Sprints 1
2
3
4
5
5
5
8
200 m.
300 m.
400 m.
400 m.
C Bike Moderate Distance Sprints * * 1
2
3
4
5
5
5
8
60 sec.
90 sec.
120 sec.
120 sec.

* beats per minute
* * Alternate exercise

Bench Press

Thursday Upper Body

  Exercise Week Sets Reps/Time % RM/Rest
A Medicine Ball Chest Throw Against Wall 1
2
3
4
3
4
3
4
5
5
8
8
 
B1 Bench Press 1
2
3
4
4
5
6
3 cluster
6
5
3
4-5
80%
82.5%
87.5%
90%
B2 Dead-Start Barbell Row 1
2
3
4
4
5
6
3 cluster
6
5
3
4-5
80%
82.5%
87.5%
90%
C Upper Body Complex
1
2
3
4

2
3
3
4

30 sec.
AMRAP
30 sec.
AMRAP

30 sec.
30 sec.
30 sec.
30 sec.
1. Battle Rope: Alternating arms
2. Inverted Row
3. Battle Rope: Two arms
4. Push-Up
D Bear Hug Carry
(Dumbbell, Sandbag)
1
2
3
4
3
4
4
4
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
45 sec.
30 sec.
E Rowing Ergometer 1
2
3
4
2
2
2
1
500 m.
750/500 m.
750 m.
1500 m.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
 

Friday Lower Body

  Exercise Week Sets Reps/Time % RM/Rest
A Knee Tuck Jumps Over Hurdle 1
2
3
4
3
4
1
1
5
5
5
5
 
B Power Clean (or Power Snatch) From Hang 1
2
3
4
4
5
6
8
5
3
2
1
75%
80%
85%
90%
C Deadlift 1
2
3
4
4
5
6
3 cluster
6
5
3
4-5
80%
82.5%
87.5%
90%
D Explosive Complex
1
2
3
4

2
3
4
4

AMRAP 30 sec.
AMRAP 30 sec.
AMRAP 30 sec.

 
50%
 
1. Box Jump
2. Power Clean From Hang
3. Burpees
E1 Farmer's Walk 1
2
3
4
3
4
4
4
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
45 sec.
30 sec.
E2 Dead-Squat Carry 1
2
3
4
3
4
4
4
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
60 sec.
45 sec.
30 sec.

Saturday Strength Circuit

Perform A1 through A4 as a circuit. Rest 30 seconds between exercises and 2 minutes at the end of each circuit.

  Exercise Week Circuits Reps % RM
A1 Deadlift 1
2
3
4
5
6
6
5
5
3
5
3
75%
85%
77.5%
87.5%
A2 Dip
(add weight if possible)
1
2
3
4
5
6
6
5
8
5
8
5
 
A3 Power Clean From Hang 1
2
3
4
5
6
6
5
5
3
5
3
75%
85%
77.5%
87.5%
A4 Pull-Up
(add weight if possible)
1
2
3
4
5
6
6
5
8
5
8
5
 

Sunday Moderate Energy Systems Work/Active Recovery

  Exercise Week Sets/Rate Distance/Time
A Moderate Intensity Cardio
(jogging if outside, treadmill or elliptical if inside)
1
2
3
4
120 bpm
130 bpm
130 bpm
140 bpm
10 min.
10 min.
15 min.
15 min.
B Abdominal Circuit
1
2
3
4

3
4
4
5

10-12
AMRAP 45 sec.
AMRAP 45 sec.
45 sec.
AMRAP 45 sec.

 
1. Cable Crunch
2. Swiss Ball Crunch
3. Reverse Crunch
4. Plank
5. Crunch

Note: On this day you can also perform "beach work" (biceps and triceps) as long as it doesn't exceed 20 minutes.

Train Like an Athlete, Look Like an Athlete

You'll notice that there isn't much variety in this program. The goal is to get you lean and mean, not carve out the coveted upper pec/front delt tie-in. When trying to drop a lot of fat to get super lean, you won't build much muscle, so it doesn't make sense to use a million lifting exercises.

The most important thing when trying to lose fat is to maintain (or even increase) your strength. If you can do that, then you won't lose any muscle and might even add some. Doing garbage sets when trying to lose fat will just leave you tired and make it harder to keep your big lifts up.

This program has you lift, move, and train like an athlete to give you a body that looks, and is, powerful. Who doesn't want that?