You can't ride two horses with one ass.

It's classic bodybuilding advice. They say you can't build muscle and lose fat simultaneously as the two processes diametrically oppose each other. One process is anabolic, the other catabolic, and trying to merge them essentially renders both ineffective.

Better to approach it as separate phases – eat a calorie surplus and train to get big and strong for X number of months (or until your penis disappears underneath your growing belly), and then eat a calorie deficit to shed all that fat while training just to maintain the size you built. Simple advice, and effective. And totally not necessary.

Building muscle while losing fat is possible, and this article will show you how I lost over 60 pounds of fat while becoming the strongest I've ever been. And I'm not even talking "pound for pound" strongest – I'm talking straight-up pounds on the bar.

First, a little backstory.

As a ninth grader I was an extremely obese 275-pound wrestler. During that year I lost almost 100 pounds and wrestled at 189 pounds the next two years before settling in at 195 pounds my senior year.

In college I started powerlifting in the 198 pound class and hit some respectable numbers before eventually hitting a serious plateau. Frustrated, I came across a lot of old timer powerlifting advice that said to just eat as much food as possible and get big.

The problem was, I wasn't a hard gainer. I didn't do it the right way. I put on weight all right, and most of it was body fat.

Every year I went up a weight class. First was 220, then 242, and then I went right to 308 and eventually super heavy weight. Although I did see some good strength gains, especially at first, I didn't get much stronger moving from 275 to super heavy weight.

And I was basically useless. I couldn't perform simple body weight exercises, had trouble sleeping, and could barely get up a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing. I had lost one of the most important things in life – my health.

It all changed when one of my personal friends called me out. It went pretty deep. He flat out said, "Do you want to be married with kids and then one day drop dead and have another man raise them?"

That was what I needed. Without your health you have nothing. How could I expect to be a good husband, father, businessman, and lifter if I'm stuck in a hospital bed or band-aiding myself with a litany of medications? It was time to sack-up and get shit done.

The biggest thing I did was invest in a coach. I wanted someone who'd gone through what I was about to go through as well as someone who had the same core values as me.

Hiring some pencil neck geek with a six-pack wasn't going to cut it – I needed someone who valued strength as much as I did and truly understood my situation.

I hired my man Jesse Burdick. Jesse went from over 300 pounds down to 220 pounds, ripped to shreds. He even competed in the 220-pound class and put up a great total.

Jesse held me accountable for all my actions from training, sleep, recovery, and even nutrition. He helped me every step of the way but never babied me. He called me out when I screwed up and gave me positive reinforcement when I did good.

While my lifestyle was getting a serious overhaul, my training didn't change that much. I still used a Westside Barbell template and trained four days a week, and I still lifted hard and heavy. The only thing I added that was drastically different was steady state cardio in the morning.

With fasted cardio, I started slow and made steady consistent progress. I started with 10 minutes of steady state work a few times a week and slowly built up to 60 minutes 3-5 times a week, depending on what phase I was in.

I used an elliptical machine, but any lower intensity cardio machine or even walking outdoors at a higher pace can work. Smaller guys can likely get away with a light jog, bigger guys should be wary of pounding the pavement.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when switching to a fat loss phase is eliminating all heavy strength work. Granted, traditional Max Effort work isn't the best option for a fat bastard – singles don't tire you out and it's tough to get a lot of volume in when doing only singles.

A smart change for fat loss is to occasionally perform triples and doubles and even sets of 5 on Max Effort day. Also, even when I'd perform a max single or heavy triple I'd still throw in some lighter drop sets to "keep the muscle on." This could be done with either the same movement or a very similar movement.

For example, let's say you work up to 500 pounds on a box squat with chains. Take a down set with 400 pounds (80%) and rep it out for as many reps as possible. Mark Bell and Jesse Burdick coined this "ultra-scientific" routine the 80% method.

Another option would be to strip the chains, reduce the weight, and do a squat/good morning combo for higher reps for 1-3 sets. This would be considered a secondary barbell movement.

Here's another example with a secondary barbell movement:

Max Effort Lower Body Workout

  • A. Deficit Conventional Deadlifts on podium
  • 475 x 3 reps
  • 495 x 3 reps
  • 515 x 3 reps
  • B. Sumo Stiff Leg Deadlift, Double Overhead Grip, no belt
  • 5x10 with 225 pounds

Again, I can't emphasize enough – do not drop your heavy strength exercises. That's a sure-fire way to lose strength quickly and drop a ton of muscle.

This is more of a mindset than anything else. You want to train fast and aggressive. For your primary strength move on Max Effort day you should still rest as much as needed but don't be lazy. Once your strength work is finished, it's time to start hauling ass!

In the beginning you'll have to drop the weight on your accessory movements significantly – which sucks – but as you get in better shape you'll be able to use the same weights you're accustomed to.

The key is to focus more on volume than weight. Beginners should start at 50 reps for assistance work and intermediates at 100 reps. You can break it up however you want –10 sets of 10, 5 sets of 20, or anything in between.

As you advance you can even go as high as 200-300 reps for smaller muscle groups like biceps and triceps. This is very effective in preventing muscle loss while dropping body fat.

The key is to use a weight that stimulates the muscle and allows you to keep form. Don't turn your assistance work into a bastardized workout of the day. Think quality repetitions working at a fast pace. If you aren't stimulating the muscle, you aren't doing yourself any good.

Here's an example of assistance work using this modified style of the repetition method:

Accessory Work for Dynamic Bench Day

  • C1. Band Triceps Extension 100 reps (total) with two light bands
  • C2. Chin-Up 50 reps (total)
  • D1. Thick Bar Curl 50 reps (total)
  • D2. Band Pull Apart 200 reps (total) with Monster Mini-Band

An intermediate may do triceps extensions and pull-aparts for 5 sets of 20 and chin-ups and curls for 5 sets of 10. A beginner may need to cut that volume in half. An advanced trainee should simply do as much as they can while leaving a little in the tank, hitting slightly different numbers each set while achieving the volume goal.

The key is picking a weight that allows you to complete your assistance work goal in a responsible time period without resting too much. The only true break you get should be moving from one exercise to the other. To progress, slowly increase the weight or total number of reps each workout.

There's a lot of debate about whether dynamic work has any merit whatsoever. In my opinion, dynamic work is the most misunderstood and underused method in the toolbox. Whether the goal is strength, athletic performance, or fat loss, it can be a great tool in your arsenal.

The basic premise of dynamic work is to train with sub-max weights for a high number of sets performed with maximum force. As a bonus, by using a high number of sets in your routine you get multiple opportunities to dial in your set-up and execution. (Learning to execute the barbell lifts efficiently with a lot of force never hurts, no matter what your goal!)

Using sub max weights also allows for better quality volume. The key here is you get more "first repetitions," which ultimately is the only one that counts in a meet.

Typically dynamic work is done for 8-10 sets of bench, 8-12 sets of squats, and 6-10 sets of deadlifts. When I started working with Jesse, dynamic work was no less than 12 sets and went as high as 20 sets. By doing so I saw great gains in work capacity and efficiency in my movement.

The key is using a weight you can handle with perfect form and at high speed throughout the workout. In the beginning you may need to start with as low as 40% of your 1RM, but as you get in better shape you can expect to use anywhere between 50-70% of your 1RM, depending on the exercise and how much accommodating resistance you add to the bar.

Here's an example of a more traditional Dynamic Effort squat workout, followed by something that would be more suitable for someone looking for fat loss.

Traditional Dynamic Effort workout for a 550-pound squatter and 600-pound deadlifter

  • A. Safety Squat Bar to Parallel Box with 120 pounds of chains with loose belt 10 x 2 with 275 pounds (about 50% of 1RM squat)
  • B. Sumo Deadlift versus Short Monster Mini-Bands with loose belt 6 x 1 with 365 pounds (about 60% of 1RM deadlift)

Dynamic Effort workout for fat loss for a 550-pound Squatter and 600-pound deadlifter

  • A. Safety Squat Bar with no belt 20 x 2 with 225 pounds (about 40% of 1RM squat)
  • B. Conventional Deadlift with Two Chains per Side15 x 1 with 275 pounds (about 45% of 1RM deadlift)

Of course, make sure you're already accustomed to the appropriate rest periods for dynamic work. The best scenario is to perform dynamic work with a group of 2-4 lifters and everyone within one plate of each other. The only rest you should get is your partner(s) going and the time it takes you to set up.

Performing this kind of workout with two people is brutal, three is perfect, and four is good if you aren't in great shape yet. If you're stuck training alone give yourself one minute on the clock for rest.

As you get in better shape you can knock it down by 10 second increments, but give yourself at least 30 seconds to rest between sets – and never rush your set-up.

To be successful you need a plan. Here's a basic template to follow. Of course, this doesn't substitute for working with a coach, but if you're training alone this can give you a good idea of how to program for yourself.

Westside for Fat Bastards Template

Day 1

  • Morning: Fasted Steady State Cardio
  • Evening: Dynamic Effort Lower Body
  Exercise Sets Reps
A DE Box Squat or Free Squat Variation * 12-20 2-3
B DE Deadlift or DE Sumo Deadlift Variation * 10-15 1-3
C1 Quads/Single Leg Work   * *
C2 Glutes/Hips   * *
C3 Abs   * *

* Every 5-6 weeks change squats to 5 x 5 and omit deadlifts
* * Repetition Effort Method 50-200 Reps for each

Day 2

  • Morning: Fasted Steady State Cardio
  • Evening: Max Effort Upper Body
  Exercise Sets Reps
A ME Bench, Floor Press, or Overhead Variation    
B Supplemental Second Barbell Movement or 80% Method    
C1 Lats   *
C2 Triceps   *
D1 Biceps   *
D2 Upper Back   *

* Repetition Effort Method 50-200 Reps for each

Day 3

  • Morning: Fasted Steady State Cardio
  • Evening: Max Effort Lower Body
  Exercise Sets Reps
A ME Squat, Deadlift, or Good Morning Variation 1-5 1-5
B Supplemental Second Barbell Movement or 80% Method    
C1 Hams   *
C2 Lower Back   *
C3 Abs   *

* Repetition Effort Method 50-200 Reps for each

Day 4

  • Morning: Fasted Steady State Cardio
  • Evening: Dynamic Effort Upper Body
  Exercise Sets Reps
A DE Bench, Floor Press, or Overhead Variation * 6-12 3-5
B Supplemental Second Barbell Movement *    
C1 Lats   * *
C2 Triceps   * *
D1 Upper Back   * *
D2 Grip/Biceps   * *

* Every 5-6 weeks, change presses to 5 x 5 and omit second barbell movement
* * Repetition Effort Method 50-200 Reps for each

Day 5

  • Higher Intensity Cardio: Hill Sprints, Heavy Sled, or Prowler Pushes
  • Cheat meal after 5pm

Over the past year I've lost over 55 pounds while adding 55 pounds to my deadlift.

And my results at a recent meet:

  • Squat: 705 pounds to 845 pounds
  • Sumo Deadlift: 545 pounds to 600 pounds
  • Bench Press: 525 pounds to 495 pounds

My bench going down was a bit of a disappointment (if not unexpected), though it's been inching back up again. Still, adding 140 pounds to my squat and 55 pounds to my deadlift while dropping 60 pounds of fat isn't a bad year of training in my books.

  • Make small changes over time and be consistent.
  • Invest in a coach to help, support, and hold you accountable.
  • Do fasted steady-state cardio.
  • Don't eliminate heavy strength work.
  • Dial in your diet.
  • Haul ass during assistance work.
  • Increase volume for assistance work.
  • Hit a specific number of reps versus a traditional sets and reps approach for accessory movements.
  • Drastically increase number of sets performed on dynamic day and lower intensity slightly.
  • Go through periods where the main goal is fat loss with strength maintenance.
  • Go through periods of time where the main goal is increasing strength while maintaining body weight.

Next, it's back to the drawing board so I can lose another 20-40 pounds. Once there, I hope to maintain my weight for a bit while putting any muscle I might've lost back on, only this time cleaner, leaner, and especially, healthier!

I'm not looking for world records or single digit body fat – I simply want to be the best I can be, the strongest version of myself, and continue to challenge myself as a lifter and coach while setting an example for the members at Gaglione Strength.

We've all heard a million times that you can't lose weight and gain strength, but I suspect that a lot of fat strong guys simply use that as an excuse. And let's be honest, unless you're going for all-time world records and signing million dollar strongman contracts, your health and quality of life should always be priority number one.

Whether your goal is fat loss, muscle gain, or just being awesome, these modified Westside principles can help you get there.

Don't wait – start today.