How to lose weight and build muscles?
If you’re 6’3” and 250, it’s hard to see yourself training as if you were a 5’10”, 155-pound guy. For you, the treadmill probably seems like a medieval torture device. And forget restrictive diet plans—there’s no way you’re living on carrot sticks and kale juice.
But why should you train like a gazelle if you’re built like a grizzly bear? In other words: What’s the best way for a naturally big dude to shed some extra weight?
To get the lowdown on how big guys like Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy might get down to fighting weight, we got in touch with two pros from EXOS, the high-performance training facility that helped Lacy get absolutely shredded for his combine workouts: Scott Schrimscher, an EXOS performance specialist, and Joel Totoro, R.D., an EXOS nutrition solutions manager. We also talked to Luke Pelton, C.S.C.S., NSCA-C.P.T., a competitive powerlifting coach and weight training instructor based in New York.
Here are five fundamental strategies that a big guy should use to gain muscle and shed that extra weight.
1. CLARIFY WHAT YOU MEAN BY “LOSING WEIGHT”
First, it’s important to determine the difference between useless extra weight (the stuff you’re presumably trying to shed) and “functional mass” (which you presumably want to keep), Totoro says. “Ten pounds of fat is simply extra weight and extra stress on the body, whereas 10 pounds of muscle can produce force production, stabilize the body, and can handle more stress or physical loads.”
A big guy seeking to get lean, in other words, wants to “promote lean muscles maintenance or gains while promoting fat loss.”
This is especially important because gaining muscle tissue will also ramp up your metabolic needs. “Muscle tissue, by nature, requires energy to be used simply so it can exist and work minute by minute, ” Pelton says. “If you have 10 lbs. more muscle than someone else, and you both sit in a chair for an entire day, you would theoretically have a higher caloric expenditure than the other person (all other physical attributes being equal), ” Pelton says.
2. TRAIN LIKE A BIG MAN
Strength Training: You’re a big, powerful guy—so train like it! “By building strength and lean body mass, you’ll elevate your metabolism and that elevated rate will last for a few days, ” Schrimscher says. He suggests focusing on two types of moves: Compound exercises (which train multiple muscle groups across multiple joints) and exercises that enhance stability and posture (like planks, pillar bridges, or Turkish get-ups). That way, you can build overall strength while improving your balance and maneuverability, Schrimscher says.
If you find that smaller muscles fail during compound movements, then it’s not a bad idea to train with isolation moves (those that involve one muscle across one joint), Pelton says. For example: If your triceps always get tired during bench presses or overhead presses, try training with triceps pushdowns and/or skullcrushers. Otherwise, focus on compound movements that will challenge multiple muscle groups.
“Practical Moves”: You don’t have to limit your training to the weight room. Pelton recommends fun compound exercises like sledgehammer swings, farmer’s carries, and tire flips, which are a favorite of football linemen. (“It doesn’t get much manlier than flipping a big ol’ tire down the block!” he says.) These full-body motions tax the core and lower body, and they’re especially versatile because you can change the weight of the implement and the speed of each rep to focus on strength or endurance.
HIIT the Gym: Instead of slogging away on the treadmill—which doesn’t always stimulate your body to shed fat anyway—consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT), Schrimscher says. “Research shows that high intensity interval training is not only more effective than long slow duration cardio but also more efficient, enabling you to perform more work in less time, ” Schrimscher says. “Try using intervals of 30 seconds or 1 minute at a high intensity followed by rest periods of longer, slower duration intervals. You can progress over time by either increasing the high intensity interval duration or decrease the rest intervals, forcing your body to adapt more quickly.”
Circuit Training: Shake up your strength days by alternating exercises in a circuit, Schrimscher says. Circuit training breaks up your exercises, so you can do more work (either reps or weight) in a shorter amount of time. It also increases the number of muscles you recruit, ramps up your blood flow, and unleashes positive hormones, Schrimscher says. “As a result, you’ll increase the workout density—the quality and quantity of work per unit of time—improve your overall fitness, and enjoy cardiovascular benefits while increasing your strength, balance, flexibility, stability, and mobility.” A no-brainer.