Hybrid Training for Fat Loss

If you’ve spent any time in this iron game, you’ve probably heard about more ways to use strength training during fat loss than you can count on two hands.

“Only train compound lifts, using heavy weights, to keep your muscle.”

“You should be using high-rep, high volume to sculpt and define your muscles.”

“You only need 3, 45-minute lifting sessions per week to get shredded.”

“Muscle confusion is the way to go. Use crazy circuits and mix it up daily.”

(Okay, that last one is awful. But the first three? Very common, and not entirely wrong.)

I propose a lesser-known solution. A solution that has worked wonders for myself, and many of my clients that have used a similar system. A hybrid training system for fat loss, designed to maximize your results, and help you hold on to as much muscle as possible.

With this method, I’ve had many clients lose fat and get very lean, while maintaining, or even gaining strength in some cases. I believe that unless you are training for a meet, bodybuilding competition, or specific sport, this is the best split you can use if your goal is a lean, aesthetic body, with as much lean mass as possible.

What is “Hybrid Training”

First of all, let me explain what I mean by “hybrid” training. While it may sound like something involving elevation masks, kettle bells, and maybe some night time open water training, what it really means is utilizing different rep ranges throughout the week. Most of us have gone through strength or hypertrophy phases; this system combines both on a weekly basis.

You don’t need “training blocks,” undulating periodization, or anything fancy like that while dieting; your main focus should just be to work as hard as possible in the gym, crush your diet, and lose some fat.

Essentially, you would train 4 days per week, using two upper body sessions, and two lower body sessions. The first two would be heavy, strength-based workouts – the kind of workouts most of us reading this site are intimately familiar with. The second two workouts would use lighter weights, shorter rest times, maybe a circuit or two, and generally be closer to traditional bodybuilding “pump training” as I like to call it.

Maximize Your Gains

The main reason I like this, is that it allows you to use varying rep ranges, tempos, and exercise set ups, each and every week. Rather than spending a month at a time on a specific goal, as you might when preparing for a competition, mixing it up during the week allows you to stimulate your muscles in as many ways as possible.

Your first upper and lower body workouts may involve heavy benching, chin-ups, rows, deadlifts, squats – all the usual strength stuff. Low reps, longer rest periods, that sort of thing. The goal is to move as much weight as you can, with perfect form. This will help you maintain your strength as you lean up.

The second workouts will include high rep ranges, short rest times, supersets, tri-sets, and maybe even a bodyweight circuit or two, if you’re feeling bold. Get a pump, increase your time under tension, and burn some calories with this method.

By focusing only on strength, you lose your ability to be explosive, isolate muscles and feel them contract, and you will probably start to suck at isolation training, should you decide to go back. However, if you only use high-rep, high-volume circuits, like some popular programs would have you do, you risk losing the hard earned strength you gained in your mass phase.

This hybrid style gives you the best of both worlds.


Burn More Calories

Whatever your preferred dietary approach may be, in the end, fat loss is very simple. You need to burn more calories than you are taking in, and there are absolutely no magic tracks or voodoo that allow you to break this rule.

The way I see it, you have two options to burn more calories in the gym (I’m assuming you’re already in a proper caloric deficit from your eating habits; if not, then go sort that out right now). Option A is to continue your regular workouts, and add cardio. If this is your weapon of choice, there are plenty of great articles out there detailing exactly how to set up your weekly treadmill walks.

While you’ll probably need to implement some form of conditioning or cardio at some point, I like to save that for a last resort. Most of you will probably agree with me when I say that it makes much more sense to simply spend more time weight lifting to expend energy. You’ll get to lift more weights, do less cardio, and still increase your caloric expenditure. Win-win.

The higher volume days will have plenty of work built in, and that’s precisely the goal. You’ll be doing more reps, resting less, and maybe even getting some conditioning in from the circuits, so by default you’ll be burning more calories than if you simply stuck with your slower, low-rep strength training. Who doesn’t want to lift more weights, if means less time on the treadmill.

Decrease Risk of Injury

Last but not least, this style can decrease your risk of overuse injury if properly implemented. Sure, there are always risks involved with weight training, but we can minimize those risks. It’s no secret that benching heavy multiple times per week, or squatting heavy, can take it’s toll on your shoulders and hips in the long run. Just ask any seasoned powerlifter.

When in a caloric deficit, your body will already be struggling a bit, and operating on less energy than it’s used to, so the last thing you want is to put unnecessary stress on your joints, tendons, and ligaments. Train heavy, but don’t neglect the high-volume, lighter, pump training as well. Save the all-out, heavy lifting for times when you aren’t dieting and walking around hungry.

Putting it All Together

Without boring you with an entire program, here’s a sample of how an average, injury-free, intermediate lifter might set up this program for fat loss. Keep in mind that exercises may vary person to person, and the actual sets and reps will vary as well. This set up assumes you already have a solid nutrition plan in place, and on top of lifting, I would highly suggest you do 1-2 short conditioning sessions per week as well, whenever you can fit them in, for metabolic purposes, but also general health purposes.

I know, I know, I said you wouldn’t need as much cardio, but I meant, long-duration, LISS sessions to burn calories. You don’t want to lose your conditioning and turn into a slug who can’t run up a hill if needed.

Day 1: Heavy Lower Body (2-3 minutes rest between sets)

Sumo Deadlifts: 4 sets of 3-6

B. Squat or Leg Press: 4 sets of 3-6

C. Hip Thrust: 3 sets of 6-10

D. Reverse Dumbbell Lunge: 3 sets of 6-10/leg

E. Standing Calf Raise: 4 sets of 8-12

Day 2: Heavy Upper Body (2-3 minutes rest between sets)

Bench Press: 4 sets of 3-6

B. Weighted Chin-Ups: 4 sets of 3-6

C. Standing OH Press: 3 sets of 6-10

D. Pendlay Row: 3 sets of 6-10/leg

E1. Hammer Curl: 3 sets of 8-12

E2. Lying DB Tricep Extension: 3 sets of 8-12

Day 3: Volume Lower Body (Varying rest)

A1. Front Squat: 4 sets of 8-12

A2. Romanian Deadlift: 4 sets of 8-12 (2-3 mins rest)

B. DB Step-Ups: 3 sets of 10-12/leg (1-2 mins rest)

C1. Bulgarian Split Squats: 3 sets of 12-15/leg

C2. Reverse Crunches: 3 sets of 15

C3. RKC Plank: 3 sets of 30-60 seconds (2 mins rest)

D1. Cable Pull-Through: 3 sets of 10-15

D2. GHR or Reverse Hyper: 3 sets of 10-15

Day 4: Volume Upper Body (Varying rest)

A1. Low-Incline DB Chest Press: 4 sets of 8-12

A2. Batwings: 4 sets of 8-12 (2-3 mins rest)

B1. Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 10-15

B2. Standing DB Push Press: 3 sets of 10-15 (1-2 mins rest)

C1. Cable Crossover: 3 sets of 12-15

C2. Face Pull: 3 sets of 12-15

C3. DB Shrugs: 3 sets of 12-15 (2-3 mins rest)

D1. EZ Bar Curl: 3 sets of 10-12

D2. Tricep Rope Pushdown: 3 sets of 10-12 (1 min rest)

The beauty of this program is that it can be adjusted to any fitness level. If for some reason you are coming off a higher-volume training program, maybe a 5 or 6 day/week split, you can adjust this hybrid program to fit you needs. It would look like the following. You would do more exercises on each day, and the program would be pretty taxing on the body, so only go for a 5 or 6 day split in a deficit if it’s something you’ve been doing for a while already. Exercises I listed above can be subbed out as needed for similar exercises, based on individual needs and available equipment.

5 Day Option:

Day 1: Heavy Lower

Day 2: Heavy Upper

Day 3: Volume Legs

Day 4: Volume Back/Biceps

Day 5: Volume Chest/Triceps/Shoulders

6 Day Option:

Day 1: Heavy Lower Body

Day 2: Heavy Chest/Shoulders/Triceps

Day 3: Heavy Back/Biceps

Day 4. Volume Legs

Day 5: Volume Chest/Shoulders/Triceps

Day 6: Volume Back/Biceps