10 x 3 For Fat Loss

Think fat loss requires high-rep training and tons of cardio? Think again. You can torch fat in sets of three.


Here's what you need to know...

  1. 10 sets of 3 reps doesn't just work for hypertrophy. It can work for fat loss too.
  2. With only 3 reps per set you'll need to lift heavier, but unlike mass phases, don't go all the way up to 80% of your 1 RM. Instead use 75% while cutting.
  3. Eating for fat loss means you won't have the ability to lift as heavy as you normally would, so ease up on the loading progression from one week to the next.
  4. Add sprints and jump roping as a fat burning "booster" and skip the direct ab work and steady state cardio.

10 Sets of 3 Reps

It's one of the most effective parameters I've ever used for building muscle. And the percentage of my athletes who respond well to it is higher than any other method I've prescribed.

With 10 x 3, the loading and volume combination seems to hit a "sweet spot" with lifters who don't build muscle optimally using standard set/rep schemes like 3 sets of 10.

Whether the effectiveness is due to the sets, reps, loading, or rest periods doesn't really matter. Just know this: it works extremely well.

10 x 3 For Fat Loss

When an advanced lifter would hire me to add muscle, I'll start him on the 10 x 3 system by using compound exercises and medium-duration rest periods. His eating plan would consist of slightly above maintenance calories and the frequency of training would be 2-3 times per week, per body part.

But it wasn't until later that I started experimenting with 10 x 3 for fat loss. Although I'd been using the system for over five years, I always avoided 10 x 3 with clients who wanted to drop to single digit body fat.

Why? First, lifters often get very sore when they embark on the 10 x 3 method. This soreness is usually due to them performing a set/rep volume that's larger than they're accustomed to with about 80% of their 1RM (one rep max). After all, most lifters pair heavier loads with fewer sets.

Second, I often prescribed a load that caused my clients to be at or near failure during the last rep of the last set. This loading prescription often induced considerable fatigue accumulation, which isn't bad for hypertrophy, but not optimal when cutting.

Third, I usually recommended a progression that consisted of a 2-3% load increase with each subsequent workout. Anyone who's been on a fat loss eating plan knows how difficult it is to gain maximal strength while in such a deprived state.

I've been looking for an effective "middle ground" that would take advantage of the highly effective 10 x 3 system while managing the fatigue factor since cutting diets impede performance and recovery. What I've discovered is incredible.


A Hybrid Progression for Rapid Fat Loss

The first issue I needed to address was loading. Even though a load of 80-85% of 1RM was great for hypertrophy, it needed to be adjusted during periods of restricted calories.

I knew I needed to keep the load as high as possible to preserve maximal strength, but I didn't want to push the intensity level too high. Therefore, a loading of 75% of 1RM, or a 10 rep maximum was ideal.

Second, the cardiovascular demand of the workout needed to be enhanced. So I shortened the rest periods from 70-90 seconds to 30-45 seconds.

Third, a frequency of three sessions per week, per muscle group, was excessive for a fat loss plan. Sure, I could've decreased the loading and increased the rest periods to offset fatigue, but such steps would have altered the magic of 10 x 3. So, I decreased the frequency of training each body part to twice each week.

Finally, I knew a loading progression of 2-3% per workout wouldn't work. It was too much for any dieting lifter to handle. During the periods I experimented with such loading progressions, the lifter only lasted about two weeks before he was burnt. And that's not good.

So I chiseled away at the loading prescriptions and realized that a hybrid progression plan worked best. One workout would consist of decreasing the rest period; the other workout would consist of increasing the load, albeit 1.5 to 2%.

Abs and Cardio

It's not necessary to run 45 minutes or do a gazillion crunches. To perform either is an act of futility if you're trying to get your six-pack out of the freezer. Long-duration cardio will eat up muscle and crunches are little more than a waste of time.

To get lean, weight train and stick to one of the many outstanding eating plans here on T Nation.

To get an eye-catching California beach midsection? Stick to compound exercises. Squats, deads, chins, and overhead presses will provide more than enough stimulus to develop the abdominal region to fitness model status. There's no need to isolate them within your routine.

Tip: If you're one of the masochists who lives for waking up to sore abs, do the following: perform 5 x 5 pull-ups with a heavy dumbbell between your feet.

Increase your heart rate with high-intensity energy system training. There's a fat-burning "booster" phase in this program. Exercises like sprints and jump roping have induced the largest levels of fat-burning within my gym. You'll do both for this program.

Here's your 10 x 3 fat loss program. Pay attention to the progressions that follow.

Jumping Rope

The Program

Day 1

  Exercise Sets Reps Load Rest
A Deadlift 10 3 75% of 1RM * 45 sec.
B Chin-Up or Pulldown 10 3 75% of 1RM * 45 sec.
C Barbell Front or Hack Squat 10 3 75% of 1RM * 45 sec.
D Dip or Decline Bench Press 10 3 75% of 1RM * 45 sec.

* 10 rep maximum
Note: Perform all 10 sets of each exercise before moving to the next. This method remains constant throughout the program.

Fat-Burning Booster

  • Exercise: Cycle sprints
  • Method: Low intensity pedaling for 60 sec. followed by 30 sec. sprinting
  • Duration: 10 min.

Day 2

Jump rope
Duration: 10 min.

Day 3 Off

Day 4

  Exercise Sets Reps Load Rest
A Back Squat 10 3 75% of 1RM 45 sec.
B Seated or Bent-over Row 10 3 75% of 1RM 45 sec.
C Romanian Deadlift 10 3 75% of 1RM 45 sec.
D Standing Military Press 10 3 75% of 1RM 45 sec.

Fat-Burning Booster

  • Exercise: Walk/Sprint
  • Method: Walk for 60 sec., sprint for 30 sec.
  • Duration: 10 min.

Day 5 Off

Day 6

Jump rope
Duration: 11 min.

Day 7 Off

Day 8

Repeat Cycle. Do program for 4 weeks


Day 1

Weight Training
Decrease the rest periods by 5 sec. on Week 2. Increase the load by 1.5 to 2% on Weeks 3 and 4.

Fat-Burning Booster
Increase the total duration by 90 sec. with each subsequent workout.

Day 2

Jump Rope
Increase the duration by 60 sec.

Day 4

Weight Training
Increase the load by 1.5 to 2% on Week 2. Decrease the rest periods by 5 sec. on Weeks 3 and 4.

Fat-Burning Booster
Increase the total duration by 90 sec. with each subsequent workout.

Day 6

Jump Rope
Increase the duration by 60 sec.

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