How to Burn Fat Without Losing Mass

German Body Composition - Arnold Squatting

In this article I would like to share the basics of a training protocol advocated by Charles Poliquin and many other bodybuilding gurus called German Body Composition (GBC).

GBC uses weight training for fat loss. Aerobic training is not utilized — at all! The primary goal of this method is fat loss while preserving hard earned muscle. Contrary to popular opinion, aerobics usually cause a LOSS of muscle tissue.

Also, as an added little perk, many trainees will also add lean tissue during the course of a GBC cycle.

Results normally seen from this type of training average a loss of approximately one-half a percent of body fat per week.

The basic premise behind GBC is the promotion of fat loss by increasing lactic acid levels in the body, which in turn produces higher growth hormone levels. This puts the body in an optimal state to burn fat and build lean tissue.

So how do you go about attaining this state with your workouts?

The following is a bullet point list of what you need to do:

Full Body Workout Utilizing Upper and Lower Body Supersets — By alternating between upper and lower body exercises it is possible to keep the rest intervals short, even with big compound movements like the squat and bench press. This allows you to accomplish a large amount of work in a relatively short time.

High Reps (10-15) Stopping Short of Failure — Studies have shown that high reps sets with a time under tension of 40 to 75 seconds produce an appropriate amount of lactic acid for the purposes of GH release and fat loss. You should stop about two reps short of concentric (positive) failure. Training to failure has little benefit and potential drawbacks with this protocol.

Remember, the goal is to create the environment within your body to burn fat.

Also, if you train to failure it would be highly unlikely you would last until the end of the workout. The volume of work is pretty high (at least for a natural trainee).

Short Rest Intervals (30-75 seconds) — By alternating between upper and lower body exercises, you will be able to cut down on needed rest intervals greatly compared to repeating the same movement in a straight set fashion. These short rest intervals accelerate the accumulation of lactic acid and create our desired

Workout Duration Less Than One Hour – Studies have shown that weight training sessions lasting over one hour tip the anabolic/catabolic scale in the negative direction. Forty to fifty minutes seems to be the ideal time frame. This does not include warm-ups, stretching, or cool-down.

Sample Workouts

Below are three sample workouts based on the GBC protocol. These three workouts can be alternated throughout the week. Frequency of workout sessions depends on training age and starting condition. The minimum is twice a week and the maximum that I would recommend would be five per week.

In these examples I use the notation system developed by Charles Poliquin because it provides a good amount of detailed information on each of the workout variables.

There are a few notations that you might not be familiar with. These are used to denote supersetting and tempo.

Supersetting is designated by the use of letters and numbers i.e. A1 and A2 or B1 and B2. First perform the A1 movement. Rest the prescribed amount of time and then perform the A2 movement. Continue alternating between the two exercises until all the recommended sets of each are complete.

Tempo (the speed at which you perform the movement) is designated with a three-digit number in units of seconds i.e. (301). The first number is the eccentric or lowering portion, the second number indicates the isometric or pause, and the final number is the concentric or positive portion. For example, on a bench press with a 311 tempo you would lower the load for three seconds, pause on the chest for one second, and then extend to the start in one second. Note: “X” denotes explosive effort.

Day One

A1 – Step Ups 4 x 12 (20X) 60 sec
A2 – Chin Ups 4 x 10 (311) 60 sec

B1 – Lunges (dynamic) 3 x 12 (311) 45 sec
B2 – Incline Dumbbell Chest Press 3 x 10-12 (411) 45 sec

C1 – Seated Leg Curl 3 x 10 (401) 45 sec
C2 – Barbell Shoulder Press 3 x 12 (311) 45 sec

D1 – Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curl 2 x 10-12 (411) 30 sec
D2 – Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extensions 2 x 10-12 (422) 30 sec

Day Two

A1 – Deadlift 4 x 10-12 (311) 60 sec
A2 – Swiss Ball Push Ups 4 x 12-15 (222) 45 sec

B1 – Leg Press 3 x 12-15 (411) 60 sec
B2 – Seated Cable Row w/rope to Neck 3 x 10-12 (321) 45 sec

C1 – Single Standing Leg Curl 3 x 10 (411) 45 sec
C2 – Lateral Raise 3 x 12 -15 (221) 45 sec

D1 – Barbell Curl 2 x 10 – 12 (311) 45 sec
D2 – EZ Bar French Press (seated) 2 x 10- 12 (311) 30 sec

Day Three

A1 – Squat 4 x 12-15 (401) 60 sec
A2 – Bench Press 4 x 10-12 (411) 60 sec

B1 – Lunge (static) 3 x 15 (311) 60 sec
B2 – Barbell Rows 3 x 12 (311) 60 sec

C1 – Good Mornings 3 x 10 (312) 60 sec
C2 – Standing Alt. Dumbbell Press 3 x 12 (201) 45 sec

D1 – Reverse Barbell Curls 2 x 12 -15 (212) 30 sec
D2 – Triceps Pushdowns (underhanded) 2 x 12 -15 (312) 30 sec

Give this a shot and let me know how it goes for you….chances are you’ll be begging for it to stop if you’re lifting honest and resting the prescribed amount!

Oh, and you’ll burn some body fat while putting on lean mass too :)

Train Hard,


Leave A Reply (8 comments so far)

  1. Tebogo Nzala
    694 days ago

    Big up

  2. tony Lehner
    694 days ago

    Hi Rick…I'm 71 ….have been working out for 40 years ….in good health…should I change anything on the this new fat burning excersize…….Tony Lehner

    • Rick Gray
      694 days ago

      Hey Tony, good question. It really depends on what your goal is and what your body can physically handle. If none of these exercises are an issue for you, then I wouldn't think you'd need to change much. But if there's something here that's difficult for you to do, then I'd switch out for an exercise that works the same muscle group in a similar way, but one that's easier to execute properly.

      For example, if the Swiss ball pushups are a bit much, substitute in regular pushups. You don't get all the stabilizer workout, but you'll still get the chest/shoulder/tris. Hope that helps!

  3. Jarett
    694 days ago

    Good morning Rick, I would like for someone out there (like you) to tell us what supplements a body builder need to take from A to Z and when, how & how much we need someone other than the big companies to be straight !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for your time and honesty

    • Rick Gray
      694 days ago

      Hey Jarett – if I answered that here, it'd be the world's longest blog comment! But you raise a great point, and I think I'll actually write a new article that answers that exact question because I know it's one a lot of people have. Just trying to cut through all the hype and flashy marketing can be hard sometimes.

      So thanks for the idea, and I'll see about getting that posted here in the next week or so…it won't be a short post!

  4. Henrique
    656 days ago

    Eating carbs while trying to lose body fat is telirbry inefficient. When in glycolysis (burning glucose as fuel) you have to lower your calories (which not only slows your metabolism but catabolizes lean tissues as well) exercise heavily to deplete your glycogen stores before burning body fat.The core of Atkins program is converting the body from glycolysis (burning glucose as fuel) to ketosis (burning fat as fuel). Dietary fat levels need to be at >65% of total calories, if not, the body will still remain in glycolysis by converting 58% of excess protein into glucose (via gluconeogenesis). It takes minimum of 3 days to convert a body to ketosis, (but only one bite to convert back to glycolysis). People feel sluggish the first week but most feel better than ever thereafter.You can lose more body fat eating protein fat (don’t eat protein alone) than not eating AT ALL. To lose weight fast, eat all you want, but nothing but meat, eggs, healthy oils, mayo, butter half an avocado a day (for added potassium). Keep the calories high the fat percentage high, at least 65% of calories. Green vegetables some cheese will continue weight loss but at a slower pace.The first 2 weeks eat several cups a day of (mostly) lettuce celery, cucumbers, radishes, mushrooms, peppers more variety of vegetables thereafter add 5 grams per day additional every week (20 grams day first 2 weeks, 25grams 3rd week, 30grams 4th week etc) til you gain weight, then subtract 10grams. That will be your personal carb level (everyone is different depends on how active you are.) Start with meat, fats salads for 2 weeks and then slowly add in more green veg, wk4 fresh cheeses, wk5 nuts seeds, wk6 berries, wk7 legumes, wk8 other fruits, wk9 starchy veg, wk10 whole grains. You will learn how your body reacts to different foods. The first week is just water weight but fat is lost thereafter if you keep your calories high enough. Otherwise the body will strip it’s own lean tissue for nutrition. Although that may look great on a scale it will make it MUCH easier to accumulate fat in the future (since all that pesky lean tissue burning up calories will be gone). The body won’t release fat stores if you lower calories below what it needs. It will slow metabolism to compensate store every spare ounce as fat. If you continue lowering calories, it will continue lowering the set point, til it can survive off nothing store fat on anything. The body will only release it’s fat stores if it knows there is plenty of nutritious food.Simple carbohydrates (sugar, flour, bread, cereal, pasta, potatoes, rice) trigger insulin which can store the calories eaten into fat. The more protein the more the fat burning hormone glucagon is released. The more carbohydrate the more the fat storage hormone insulin is released.Simple carbs are addictive can be disastrous to health. The best way to break the addiction is NO carbs for 3 days. Make a huge batch of deviled eggs, eat one every time you want something have huge omelets with bacon, sausage, peppers, mushrooms cheese. Pork chops smothered with peppers, mushrooms cheese pork rinds dip or tuna/chicken/turkey/egg salad steaks a huge sugar free cheese cake. Eat so much you won’t feel deprived of anything. By the 4th day, the addiction will be gone you can start making healthy choices.High insulin levels promote inflammation, weight gain, hunger unbalance other hormones. Controlling insulin levels will balance out other hormones allow human growth hormone (HGH) to be produced naturally so lean muscle will be gained even without exercise. Any exercise will greatly increase muscle mass with high HGH levels.Ground flax seed (2 Tbsp) 1/4 cup water, artificial sweetener, mix in a raw egg let sit 10 min. to absorb liquid, put some cream cheese in the middle nuke 2 minutes. Suggested for daily fiber needs.As long as you have <9grams carbs per hour, you will maintain insulin control shouldn't gain weight, no matter the calories because insulin, the fat storage hormone is not activated. Many people gain weight on high carb, do low carb to lose weight then are shocked when they return to high carb gain weight. Many people can return to moderate carb levels but very few can really eat all they want of sugar maintain weight or health.

  5. John
    38 days ago

    I’d say intermittent fasting (IF) is a great way to reduce calories without counting. I personally do the 16/8 protocol, meaning I fast for 16 hours and eat in the other 8 hours. For me a feeding window between 12:00 and 20:00 is easiest. Breakfast is black coffee.

    There are some other protocols like fasting every second day, or fast twice a week, or a 20/4 protocol. I personally prefer the 16/8 version because it can be easily sustained for a long time. It’s great in combination with a ketogenic diet.

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  6. Gain muscle–burn fat–not lose mass. This is pretty much what most bodybuilders need to accomplish and they guide here, I would say is very helpful. If you follow the day to day guide on the workouts that you should do, it's highly likely that you'll love the results.