High-Frequency Full-Body Workouts for Simultaneous Mass Gain and Fat Loss

Last weekend I ended my three-month experiment with the ketogenic diet.  I also ended another experiment: five weeks on the Targetted Ketogenic Diet while doing full-body workouts nearly every day. 

The result of that experiment: in five weeks I went from 146 pounds at 13% body fat, to 144 pounds at 11.5% body fat. I lost half an inch off my waist, as well as a quarter inch off my hips and nearly a full inch off my iliac measurement.  Based on body circumference measurements, I gained a pound of muscle and lost three pounds of fat. 

I also gained a substantial amount of strength, even on movements I had already been doing for months when I started this program. 

None of that is water weight loss.  Since I had already been on the ketogenic diet for nearly two months when I started that, I was already past the point of losing water weight.  If anything, I would have gained a little water weight, since my carbohydrate intake went slightly up compared to what I was eating when I initially started the ketogenic diet. 

Now, I’ll write more about the ketogenic diet in the future.  But to give you an idea of my calorie balance, I was burning somewhere between 2500 and 2800 calories a day, and on most days I was eating 1500-2000 calories.  On most days this put me at a daily deficit of around a thousand calories.  I did have a cheat day once every 10-14 days, during which I would eat at a surplus of at least a thousand calories.

For exercise, I performed four full-body weight training workouts, on rotation, every day.  There two or three days when I missed workouts, but no planned rest days.  I also didn’t do any cardio, but I did take long walks on sunny days, which you can see in some of my vlogs.   

There are two lessons to take away here. 

First, full-body workouts every day are actually doable, and won’t necessarily lead to overtraining even in a deficit, so long as volume and intensity are kept at moderate levels.    

And second, you can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time while you’re in a deficit.  Or a small surplus for that matter, but I was in a deficit, which is where most people should be.  In fact, Menno Henselmans has a nice collection of case studies where people do just that. 

Here are the exact workouts I performed. 

Workout 1: Deadlift-focused

Order

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (Seconds)

Notes

A1

Deadlift

3

2-3

5

A2

Box jumps

3

5-6

300+

Go into a deep squat on every rep

B

Seated cable incline-decline press

3

10-12

120

Alternate up and down by reps, not sets

C1

Slow myotatic crunch

2

8-10

30

C2

Ab suction

2

8-10

60

Workout 2: Pulling-focused

Order

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (Seconds)

Notes

A1

Yates bent row

3

5

120

The farther you bend over, the more this works your lower back

A2

Bulgarian split squats

3 per side

8 per side

120

Go deep on each rep- use light weights

B1

Barbell reverse drag curl

3

8

90

B2

Dumbbell shrugs

3

6

90

Pause for 1-2 seconds at the top of each rep

C1

Chin-ups

2

8

30

If you can’t add weight, go to 2-3 reps shy of failure

C2

Dips

2

8

30

If you can’t add weight, go to 2-3 reps shy of failure

C3

Side to side knee raises

2

To fatigue

30

Workout 3: Leg-focused

Order

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (Seconds)

Notes

A1

Front squats

3

8-12

120

If you haven’t done these before, start with a very light weight until you learn the form

A2

Push-ups

3

12-20

120

B1

Pull-ups

2

To fatigue

60

B2

Hip adduction

2

8-12

60

This is the one where you squeeze your legs together, not push them apart

C

Seated calf raise

1

20-30

60

D1

Machine incline press

2

6-10

30

D2

Machine ab crunch

2

12-20

60

Optional: If you experience a lot of leg soreness after this workout, you can add 5-10 minutes of moderately fast pedaling on a stationary bike at the end to reduce leg soreness.   

Workout 4: Push-focused

Order

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest (Seconds)

Notes

A1

Cable pec fly-aways

3

5

5

Same motion as dumbbell fly-aways, but with a cable machine

A2

Plyometric pushups

3

5

180

B1

Bent over dumbbell row

2

8-10

30

B2

Walking lunges

2

6-10 per side

60

Use the same dumbbells as you used for the rows

C

Shoulder mechanical advantage drop set

2

12-15

180

See this article for an explanation

D1

Side plank

1 per side

30-60 seconds

20

D2

Ab suction

1

10-12

0

Note that most of the exercises denoted A1, A2, etc are merely alternated to save time, not performed circuit-style.  The only exceptions are the fly-aways plus plyo pushups, and the deadlifts plus box jumps; these two pairs are exercises are supersetted in order to benefit from post-activation potentiation.

How to use these workouts for full-body recomp

These workouts are ideal for body recomposition.  If you do them at high frequency, eat somewhere near or moderately below maintenance, and get enough sleep every night, you’ll almost certainly gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.

So do you need to do them every day?  Probably not.  In hindsight, my frequency was a bit too high for me, and is too high for most people. 

As you advance in training age, your body gets more resistant to exercise-induced damage and fatigue.  Consequently, your anabolic window gets shorter after each workout, and you need to work out more often.  Here’s what that means for you:

Beginners using these workouts should work out every other day.

Intermediate-level trainees should work out two or three days on, one day off.  In hindsight, three days on, one day off would have been a better frequency for me.

Advanced trainees should work out either every day, or six days a week. 

I’m starting to prefer this style of workout programming over traditional body part or movement pattern splits, and I’ll provide a full explanation of why in a future article. 

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