The most common question we get asked is: how do we keep ourselves shredded including the 6-pack year round — Strong and Lean Body?

The answer consists of a multi-pronged response.  There are countless articles, books and internet posts, explaining the ultimate solution to a desired beach body.  In this article, we’ll discuss the Science and Strength strategies; and what it takes to create a strong and lean physique.  We call it the Stronger Leaner Faster (SLF) self.

The secret to a strong and lean body goes beyond the ultimate program, effective exercise or latest fad diet—it’s in the journey towards your end goal.

strong and lean body

Wizard of Oz — It’s about the Journey

Currently, our kids’ favourite story is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  When it comes to the big screen, nothing comes close to the original 1939 film where Dorothy (with Toto), Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion are on a journey to the Emerald City following the yellow brick road.  The purpose of this trip is to meet the Wizard of Oz who can make their dreams come true.

Along the way, Dorothy and friends experience challenges such as the flying monkeys and haunted forest.  These obstacles increase the difficulty of overall process, but Dorothy and friends persevere and succeed in their tasks, attaining their goals along the way. 

In the end, the Wizard of Oz turned out to be a placebo version of a man without any special abilities.  However, the determination of each story character created realtime experiences resulting in success by achieving inner wisdom, courage and heart.

This story depicts human nature, as we often look to others to make our dreams come true.  However, we often overlook our own potential and a full arsenal of inner qualities capable of turning dreams into reality. 

  • by knowing what we want—end goal,
  • we then need to identify the yellow brick road—the program,
  • and commit to the process—regardless of obstacles or difficulty.

The Emerald City – Understanding Strong and Lean

Strong and lean body is the goal of increasing strength while burning fat.  This includes creating an internal environment for:

  • muscular hypertrophy (building muscle), along with
  • overall caloric deficit that includes usage of energy reserves (fat stores) to build and repair tissue. 

Identifying the yellow brick road—step-by-step program—towards strong and lean requires several instrumental factors.

Increase Metabolic Demand

This simple phrase “Increase Metabolic Demand” summarizes a slew of different inner body environments we’re trying to achieve. 

  • Firstly, losing weight begins with caloric deficit by expending more energy than total consumption.  This imbalance in itself initiates the weight loss process.  But we don’t just want to lose weight; we want to lose body fat while simultaneously building muscle tissue. 
  • Second, is the required physical demand in form of exercise to generate internal metabolic stress (some of you may be familiar with the term metabolic disturbance — it’s the same thing). 

The body responds to this metabolic stress by raising its own activity of repair and recovery by spending more calories (burn more calories) via excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

Now that we know what we want—Strong and Lean body; how do we start?

Most conventional methods popularized by many are cardiovascular based training, varying in duration, intensity and frequency.  When people think of increasing metabolic rate, HIIT (high intensity interval training) style cardio pops into mind. 

HIIT is a great method to engage both aerobic and anaerobic respiration, leaving anyone out of breath by the end of a session.  However, HIIT can also be adapted through exercise variation that can really shoot up metabolic rate into superstratum. 

Not all exercises are created equal which directly translates into number of calories burned.  Compound movements such as a Squat or Deadlift will tower in energy consumption over a Jumping Jack, Step-Ups or a continuous cardio on a bicycle or a treadmill.  Therefore, total body multi-joint movements burn far more calories than continuous physical activity during similar duration. 

Due to greater energy requirement, we’re going to travel down the compound lift road, where brick colour is more red than yellow (beast mode).  Keeping to the HIIT spirit we can combine exercises in superset formation continuously raising the metabolic effect; through greater caloric total during training and recovery (EPOC).  Pairing up exercises through antagonistic movements of natural body planes are one of the favourite programming parameters of Science and Strength.  These include:

  • Lower body push and pull;
  • Upper body horizontal push and pull, and
  • Upper body vertical push and pull. 

No need to get fancy; six to eight sets of each superset comprised of moderate number of repetitions (8-10) should generate plenty of overload to make anyone feel “metabolically stressed”. 

HIIT sessions contain short intervals, and thus rest periods should follow suit, hovering around 45-60 seconds (longer for lower body).  In order to upkeep this kind of training density, intensity should be kept sub-maximal, ranging about 65-75 percent of 1RM.

At Science and Strength, we also believe in frequency so, three weekly sessions are good, four are better, and five constitutes a well balanced metabolic stress cocktail.  The goal is not only to raise metabolic rate, but continuously re-raise it every other day.  There are number of scientific research papers supporting higher frequency training sessions for better results towards a strong and lean body.

Improve Nutritional Intake

To train well, we need to eat well. 

This does not mean quantity but, quality.  Don’t worry about how many meals you need to consume daily, and simply try to ingest quality macros (protein, carbohydrates and fats) within each meal.  Also make sure that each meal goes even further in terms of nutrition — packed with micros (vitamins, minerals), as well as fiber. 

In terms of food choices, try variety: chicken breast and broccoli is a good meal but, there are numerous options available providing similar nutrient profile while packing a lot more flavour.  Your body is designed and equipped to eat and process different types of foods, through various enzymatic abilities for breakdown, digestion and storage of products. 

Fiber is a friend, and when achieving daily prescribed dose, simply add some more.  Contained in many plants and vegetables (as well as added to numerous grain products — breads) fiber slows down digestion process, stays longer in the stomach, binds water to create bulk thus, extending satiety.  Along with improving natural gut flora, indigestible fiber (calories) are eliminated as waste product.

Maximize on Recovery

Any type of volume based resistance training generates soft tissue tightness and inflammation.  After the training session, we often feel sore within worked body areas.  Recovery is essential not only for bringing everything back to baseline, but adapting to physical stress environment by improving involved systems. 

This includes improving metabolic flexibility within energy supply and storage while increasing muscle mass.  Once again, these processes use energy, which is predominantly derived from body fat deposits by way of EPOC.

Sleeping is the simplest and best recovery strategy. During sleep, body engages in many of the repair mechanisms, supplies nutrients and flushes out waste by-products.  Staying hydrated is also important.  Water makes up to 70 percent of the body mass and is a major player in many internal reactions.  Drinking adequate amount of water speeds up recovery times.

Self-myofascial release is another popular and effective recovery method.  This is done by rolling sore muscle areas on a foam roller.  Repeated external pressure loosens up the tightened tissues and improves blood flow to such areas.  Greater blood circulation brings along nutrients while clearing out waste and inflammation.

intensity work stress photo

The SLF Approach

In order to effectively utilize information discussed in this article, we first need to know two things:  destination—end goal, and the path—training plan. 

Destination is the personal fitness goals that each of us is continuously aiming to achieve.  This is the Emerald City we are trying to get to.  Direct quantitative actions (numbers attached) are simpler to plan and achieve.  Examples of such goals would be completing a half-marathon without stopping, squatting own bodyweight, or losing ten percent of body fat.  The associated benchmark numbers create a more specific program approach, and allow continuous analysis of training data to ensure progress. 

Path is the training plan used to achieve goals.  The yellow brick road in Wizard of Oz was easily identifiable path that was not always simple, but it got Dorothy et al. to their Emerald City destination. The training path should be laid out through exercise format of gradually increasing progressive overload variables — intensity, volume and frequency. Some flexibility in program is a good thing, as experimentation allows for personal tailoring of any designed regime. 

The key is to be consistent, record completed sessions and draw quick analysis, to maintain progression while limiting risk of injury.  An effective method to schedule exercise programs are in blocks or periodization.  Periodization focuses on few tasks at a time through gradual training periods.  Periodization is a structured method of scheduling training and will be discussed in greater degree within future articles.

Final Thoughts

Building strength and lean body mass while losing body fat is not a fictitious tale, but a real possibility achieved by many with scientific corroboration.  To achieve success, the goals need to be developed and quantifiable.  Once the targets have been set, a progressive training approach can be made by focusing on one or two aspects within the main target.  Periodization has been proven successful in achieving goals with people of every fitness levels. 

If you would like a step-by-step guide and program—yellow brick road—laid out for your emerald city—Stronger Leaner Faster Self, be sure to learn more at:

Stronger Leaner Faster HER

Stronger Learner Faster HIM

The No-Diet Book

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