Getting Strong While Getting Lean – Q&A

Question: I need your help. I am 37 year-old female about 128 lbs. with my last bodyfat at 18.7%. I lift 3 days a week, two with a trainer (who refers to me as a hard gainer). He continues my workouts @ 15 reps per set for all body parts with a decent amt of weight. I have not been able to budge my lean body mass/bodyfat for months. My diet is fairly clean but erratic (night shift physician) and typically i fall off the wagon and binge on a very large meal every several days, not bad food but lots of it…My goal is 17%. Should I use the rapid fat loss plan for 10 days (category 1)? My trainer says I dont eat enough carbs and will never get bigger/stronger without more carbs in my diet….Thoughts? I know how busy you are, it would really help me to get your expert opinion.

Answer: Ok, there are really two issues at stake here. The first is that your trainer seems to be slightly clueless to the fact that gaining lots of muscle and strength is generally antithetical to the goal of getting lean. Can it be done? Sometimes. But for most people, picking one goal and then optimizing training and diet towards that goal generally works better than trying to do all things at once. Most people will simply end up spinning their wheels trying to do that.

Put differently, if you want to get lean, you’re going to have to accept that you may not make any strength gains, or that they will be small. Aim to maintain your current strength while leaning out. If you want to get big and strong, then dieting is not the way to do it. You should optimize your diet and training towards that goal.

Which brings me to problem two. I do not think you are a hardgainer; I think your trainer doesn’t know what he’s doing. Sets of 15 aren’t good for getting much stronger in the first place. Working in the 5-8 repetition range on heavy compound stuff with some supplemental work in high rep ranges works better. High rep sets have their place to be sure, getting really strong usually isn’t one of them. So my advice is this:

  • Pick a single goal and work towards it.
  • Find a trainer who knows what he’s doing when it comes to training.



3 thoughts on “Getting Strong While Getting Lean – Q&A

  1. Hello Lyle, I have a question. I started eating healthier and exercising in late June of 09. I started at 380lbs and I was 302lbs in early November. I took a BodPod test and was 167lbs of LBM and 135lbs of Fat. Yesterday, I weighed 274lbs, 160lbs of LBM and 114lbs of Fat. I had lost 21lbs of Fat but I lost 7lbs of LBM.

    I’m almost 6’0 and I’ve always ignored it when people have told me that I’d be fine at 220lbs; I know I am much smaller underneath all of this fat. But, since I am a larger framed individual, I would like to be a lean, mean 185lbs. It is my aim to have 169lbs of LBM and 16lbs of Fat for a BF% under 10. I want this because I feel it is the only guarantee to give my skin the best chance to snap back and re-gain a youthful look.

    I am on a 40/40/20 split of 1700-2000 calories a day. All protein, whole grains and no artificial foods or sugar. I do a lot of low intensity cardio, I do yoga and I lift. I take protein supplements and creatine.

    Can you please point me in the right direction in my aim to put on 9lbs of LBM, while obviously not losing any more, and losing 98lbs of Fat?

    Thank you for your time and I appreciate any guidance you can offer,


  2. Hey i am 18 yrs old and weigh around 198lbs. Yes u know it’s too much. I want to get leaner and stronger and that too as early as possible. How should i begin my journey ??

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