Because I have written a few articles on gaining mass and getting big, it’s only fair that I send some love to the fat guys who want to get in shape and feel better about all that mass they (hopefully) gained from all the time spent eating big and training as heavy as they could.
I’m big on getting in shape. Yes, you absolutely can get ripped and look like you’re in shape by walking for countless hours on the treadmill and eating small meals six times a day. However, looking in shape and being in shape isn’t the same thing. Be strong and look strong. Be in shape and look in shape. Your function creates your form. I like for my programs to be easy to institute into your life. Some guys can’t get in six or seven meals a day regardless of what their goals are and I am mindful of that. So whether you’re trying to gain or lose, eating shouldn’t be a difficult task to work into your schedule. To steal a quote Jim Wendler once told me, “Eat to live. Don’t live to eat.”
With that said, let’s talk about a conditioning program a fat guy who breaths heavy sitting on the couch can use to get into shape.
If you’re a fat guy who needs to get in shape, your focus should really be on improving your conditioning each week. In the plan below, that means four days of conditioning a week. Your strength gains and mass gains will take a back seat for now. You can’t serve two masters. So pushing back from the table while also placing an emphasis on cardio should be first. Conditioning of some sort four days a week should be your focus while you’ll lift only two days a week. Your lifting should focus on something that also compliments your conditioning. We’ll get to that.
You don’t have to condition four separate days from your lifting. You can do conditioning after lifting and then do conditioning two other days all by itself. It really all depends on what you feel comfortable with or want to do. And what your schedule will allow.
You should also bear in mind that you need to ease into hard conditioning. Sprints, hill sprints, Prowler pushes, bag work, and sled pulling can be hard on the connective tissue and joints if you don’t prepare properly. Overuse injuries from conditioning work will come very fast because of the repetitive motion of it all, and they don’t go away very quickly even when treated properly. So start modestly and work your way up. If you feel an overuse injury coming on like shin splints or constant aches in your heel and such, discontinue whatever it is you’re doing that causes the pain and find something to replace it with. If you need to give your legs a break, have heavy bag work in there for two of the four days or swim for one of those days. If you can’t swim, this is a great opportunity to go learn how.
So for the guy looking to improve his conditioning, here’s a split he could use if he were doing conditioning four days a week.
Eight-week fat guy plan to stop breathing heavy sitting on the couch:
Day 1: Hill sprints X 3 (rest is walk back down)
Day 2: Heavy bag work, 2-minute rounds X 3, 120 seconds rest between rounds
Day 3: Prowler pushing, 40-yard pushes X 5, 2 minutes rest between
Day 4: 60-yard sprints at 65% speed X 5 (rest is walk the 60 yards back)
Notes: If you don’t have a Prowler, use a sled. If you don’t have a sled, push a car. If you don’t have a car, walk around the neighborhood and fight the toughest looking dog you see for a solid five minutes.
- Hill sprints X 4
- Heavy bag work, 2-minute rounds X 4, 90 seconds rest between
- Prowler pushing, same as week 1
- 60-yard sprints, same as week 1 but at 75% speed
- Hill sprints X 5
- Heavy bag work, 2-minute rounds X 5, 120 seconds rest between
- Prowler pushing, 40-yard pushes X 6, 2 minutes rest between
- 60-yard sprints at 65% speed X 8
Week 4 (cut conditioning in half for the week)
- Hill sprints X 8
- Heavy bag work, 2-minute rounds X 6, 90 seconds rest between rounds
- Hill sprints X 6
- Tire sledge hammering (use a 12- or 16-lb sledge hammer), alternate each side, 20 seconds of sledge hammering, rest 10 seconds, and go to the other side. When you compete both sides, that’s 1 set. Repeat this 4 more times.
- Bag work, 2-minute rounds X 6, 60 seconds rest between
- 60-yard sprints at 75% speed X 10
Week 6 -
- Hill sprints X 8
- Tire sledge hammering, 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds rest X 6 rounds
- Bag work, 2-minute rounds X 8, 90 seconds rest between
- 60-yard sprints at 65% speed X 12
Week 7 -
- Hill sprints X 10
- Tire sledge hammering, 8 rounds
- Bag work, 2-minute rounds X 8, 90 seconds rest between
- 60-yard sprints at 75% speed X 12
Week 8 -
- Hill sprints X 12
- Tire sledge hammering, 10 rounds
- Bag work, 2-minute rounds X 10, 90 seconds rest between
- 60-yard sprints at 75% speed X 15
At the end of these eight weeks, you should feel very good. You should have lost weight (even if you didn’t modify your diet) and you shouldn’t be breathing (as) heavy sitting on the couch.
A very easy maintenance plan from here on out is to simply do the hill sprints and bag work or tire sledge hammering each week. If you want to get into even better shape, add a single unit of exercise to each for four more weeks. So do 13 hill sprints the next week, 11 rounds of tire hammering, 11 rounds of bag work, and 16 sprints. At the end of those four weeks, cut the conditioning back to twice in one week again (like you did in week four) and assess what you want to do from there.
While conditioning, your strength will probably take a bit of a dive at first. This is normal. Don’t fret this. Remember, you can’t serve two masters. If conditioning is the goal right now, scale back lifting to twice a week, narrow your movements down to a select few, and maximize your training economy. The big four will always be the squat, deadlift, bench, and overhead press.
Because your strength will be going up and down quite a bit until you adapt to the conditioning training, you can either do singles with the big four, working up to what you feel like on that day to keep strength gains intact as much as possible or use a program like 5/3/1 and just get the minimum reps in for the day. I also suggest splitting those up so that you train your squat in one week and your deadlift the next week and your bench in one week and your overhead press the next week.
Day 1: Bench press
Day 2: Squat
Day 1: Overhead press
Day 2: Deadlift
Circuits to supplement your conditioning work
Because our emphasis is conditioning, let’s also put that to work after we’re done with our main lift. On upper body days, do a circuit involving two pushing and two pulling movements, and on lower body days, do a circuit for quads, hamstrings, abs, and glutes.
Upper body circuit
Push-ups: 5, 10, 15, 20, 15, 10, 5
Chin-ups: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Dips: 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 12, 9, 6, 3
Barbell rows at 135 or 185 (185 for stronger guys): 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 12, 9, 6, 3
There are a couple ways you can run this. You can do the first round (five push-ups, one chin-up, three dips, and three rows all in a row) and then rest for two minutes, or you can go through the whole thing nonstop. You can do a mix and match of both as well. Do two rounds nonstop and then rest for two minutes. Either way, just make sure you push yourself and work.
Lower body circuit
Walking lunges: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 20, 15, 10, 5
Dumbbell stiff legs: 8 reps same weight each circuit
Ab wheel: 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 12, 9, 6, 3
Glute ham raises or hypers: 10–20 reps each circuit
Don’t be surprised if this circuit puts you down for a few days, especially if you’ve been used to doing low rep work. Conditioning will be hard with sore ass legs, but man up and get it done even if you are slow and it is painful.
Eating less made (sort of) easy
Just like I can narrow down a solid bulking diet to some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I can narrow down a diet for the blue collar trainer for losing body fat. Will it suck? At first, yes. Anytime you go into a calorie deficit, the first few weeks are the most awful. You will be hungry, and I will give some tips for getting around this, too. However, there will be times when you’re just going to be hungry and you’ll have to deal with that for a little while. Focus on your goals and hunker down. If that doesn’t work, have a buddy kick you in the junk and you won’t think about eating for a few hours. I haven’t tried this method yet, but if you decide to try it, make sure you get it on YouTube for verification.
A few things I know will help:
- Chew gum
- Drink diet 7-Up or water with lemon
- Drink green tea
- Eat sugar free, fat free Jell-O as a snack
Four meals a day
Narrow down your eating to four solid meals a day. Multiply your current body weight by ten and divide that by four. So if you’re 250 lbs, you get 2500 calories a day. That means 625 calories per meal. You should be shooting for 40–50 grams of protein per meal, so 160–200 calories of each meal should be coming from that protein source. I don’t really care what you do with the rest of the calories. Fat loss is still about calories in versus calories out. This is dieting at a really simple and doable level for everyone.
I recommend eating your protein source first. Then eat your vegetables (as many as possible by the way) and eat your carbs last. How you set the timing of this all up doesn’t matter to me. You could do a breakfast, lunch, and dinner and put your “snack” or “fourth meal” anywhere you want. On workout days, I suggest putting your two biggest meals before and after the workout. On hard conditioning days, I suggest eating your biggest meals at breakfast and lunch.
I also don’t count calories when it comes to vegetables. Eat as many as your heart desires. Count calories on your protein, fat, and carbs. Cut out all soda, candy, cookies, salad dressings, and desserts. Drink one gallon of water a day minimum. The “dieting” stuff is really that simple and it works. If you want a protein shake, mix it with water. Just be mindful of the calories in it because it still counts toward your daily total.
If you’re busting a 38 plus in the pants, maybe it’s time to cut away from that ten-year bulk you’ve been on and put in some time on the hill or behind the Prowler. Maybe it’s time to stop shoveling down 12 Big Macs or 17 pieces of fried chicken on a daily basis. I understand the journey for mass and strength, but there comes a point when you have to wake up and realize that you’re just a fat guy now. If that’s all you ever want to be, by all means don’t even wipe the grease off the keyboard and continue on with what you’re doing. However if or when you decide that enough is enough and you want to feel more awesome than you have felt in a while, give the program a run for 8–10 weeks and get into the best shape you’ve been in for awhile. When you hit conditioning maintenance mode, you can rebuild your strength to its former levels or close to it, and you’ll feel better than ever to boot. And finally you’ll be able to sit on the couch without someone asking you if you just got done jumping rope in the attic. And even if you aren’t a real fat guy but just want to get in better shape, the program will still work for you.