Cardio for Natural

Well, one thing people ignore is that the way I actually train most clients is now the same as how I have been training athletes for 20 years (with different loading schemes and methods of course). I made that decision last year and the results have been awesome. I’m in the process of rewriting all the programs on my own website.

Anyway, the core principle is that we use 3 whole body workouts. Each workout focuses on one type of contraction (NO this is not influenced by Triphasic training… if you read my book "Theory and Application of Modern Strength and Power methods, written more than 15 years ago, you’ll see that I was training people that way 20 years ago). Monday is eccentric focus (slow eccentrics or overloads), Wednesday is isometric focus (mostly stato-dynamic methods… including pauses during lifts) and Friday is concentric emphasis (normal lifting).

These workouts normally consist of 4 exercises, all compound movements. One squat, one hinge, one pull, one press.

We will also add a 4th, lower demands workout on Saturday. Depending on the goal this is either an isolation hypertrophy workout to focus on the muscles that might not have been properly stimulated by the compound movements. It can also be used for other things like conditioning or injury prevention.

When working with body composition clients, “cardio” is added on 1-2 days per week (non lifting days).

Now, here is the particularity and it will look weird. The whole plan is periodized this way:

The goal here is to improve the body’s capacity to rely on using fat for fuel. We actually want to minimize glycogen use for fuel. In most people, glycogen use is super efficient and fat use is not. If we further reinforce the use of glycogen for fuel, it becomes harder to improve fat mobilization and oxidation capacities.

That’s why we use steady state cardio at this point. It’s also because, while intervals are interesting; if someone doesn’t have the proper cardiovascular capacities to do them properly, they represent an excessive stress on the body. LISS will prepare the body for intervals.

Diet: Keto
Lifting: Heavy (sets lasting 20 seconds or less)
Cardio: Low intensity steady state on 1-2 non-lifting days

Here we start to increase the energetic demands of the workout. With the diet portion we decrease overall calories BUT we increase carbs. That will be a theme with my approach: carbs actually increase throughout the cycle, even though calories are decreasing (keep in mind we start with a pure keto diet of 60-70% fats). This serves three purposes:

  1. Psychologically the person feels less on a diet when it progresses because, “hey more carbs!”
  2. The increase in carbs help reduce the likelihood of jacking up cortisol and adrenaline levels as the diet progresses
  3. It allows us to increase the volume and demands of cardio and lifting work.

Diet: Low carbs (around 30%) but with carbs peri-workout and in the evening, fats are lowered so overall calories are lower
Lifting: Moderate reps (even though I don’t use TUT, it would go up to around 30-40 seconds per set)
Cardio: Mix of 15 sec intense/45 sec relax intervals and steady state on 1-2 non-lifting days.

We once again keep increasing carbs while decreasing fat (so that overall calories go down a bit). But we increase the caloric deficit mostly by increasing workload at this point. From phase 1 to phase 2 it’s easier to increase the caloric deficit by lowering fats while increasing carbs. But when you switch from phase 2 to phase 3 you don’t have that much fat left to take out of your diet. So essentially at this point you are mostly trading fats for carbs while lowering calories a bit or keeping them stable. But we increase workload to further increase the deficit.

Diet: Bumping carbs to 50%, still consumed mostly peri-workout and in the evening
Lifting: Here we might increase the number of exercises by performing post-fatigue supersets with the main lifts
Cardio: Mix of 30/30 intervals and steady state on 2 non lifting days, adding 20ish minutes of LISS on lifting days.

Phase 4 is only done on people who want to compete in physique competitions or do a photoshoot. It is a phase that WILL de detrimental to health and might require some damage control afterwards. But as I often say: everything you do to get down to a true 9-10% body fat is healthy. Getting down to 6% is NOT.

Here we go to a either a push/pull/legs 2x a week or upper/lower 3x a week split (do lifting 6 days a week). Typical bodybuilding methods, higher volume (still lower than what most bodybuilders do, but high for me). Drop sets, supersets, rest/pause, etc.

Cardio-wise we do 5-8 minutes of 30/30 intervals and 20-30 minutes of LISS 6 days a week (ideally on a separate session, earlier in the day).

Diet-wise we lower the carbs slightly and increase protein slightly. Fat is the same as the preceding phase.

This should not be done for more than 3-4 weeks. The person WILL have sleep issues and a drop in libido at that point. That’s why we do not use it if someone just wants to get lean.

If a non-competitor isn’t where he wants to be after the first 3 phases, we go back to maintenance for a month and start over from phase 1.