Cut Body Fat Using Methodized Strength Training

Someone who is strength training should have the flexibility to go on a weekly run and remove a day on the weights. That’s heresy to some coaches who want to keep you in the gym.

Occasionally, I pop my head out of my cave to examine where the average level of insight among the general public is in regards to strength and conditioning. I’m not as pessimistic as many of my contemporaries who look for things to be angry about to justify their general dissatisfaction with life. I think things are improving.

Occasionally, I pop my head out of my cave to examine where the average level of insight among the general public is in regards to strength and conditioning. I’m not as pessimistic as many of my contemporaries who look for things to be angry about to justify their general dissatisfaction with life. I think things are improving.

The last time I peeked out, I learned that crowds in the gyms and on the internet were looking into strength training to help them lose weight. Strength training is an effective alternative to attempting jogging or buying stationary bikes to put in their basements.

Folks who were casually doing some strength training are asking how a focused strength training routine with higher intensity will help them cut weight. Unfortunately, many of them are directionless on how to do this or where to start.

I fear that well-meaning strength coaches and champions of barbell sports are getting too excited that all these newcomers are interested in lifting weights. They are telling them to put themselves into boxes the same as treadmill zealots who claim walking on an incline is the only appropriate way to lose body fat.

These authorities are not only impeding the newcomer’s progress, either short or long-term but are also putting unnecessary restrictions on them. These limits could cause an excited and stimulated mind to lose interest and abandon the thought of physical fitness. Now, it’s become a box to be checked rather than their expression as a human being.

We need to be flexible when we exercise and cut weight, even if there are best practices. I do believe beginning a weight cut with a focused strength training routine to be one of them. But someone who starts a somewhat intensive strength training routine should have the flexibility to go on a weekly run and remove a day of strength training if they want.

If that’s what they want, they’re acting and moving in line with their actual wants and needs and expressing themselves. No one should tell them it’s wrong. And if no one tells them this, they’ll follow through with improving their health and physicality in a way that suits them.

Develop a Program

In using a focused strength training program as the primary contributor during a cut, we need to follow specific guidelines.

  • First, we have to take a macro view and choose the type of training attributes we’re trying to develop. If we’re using the training cycle as a tool to cut weight, we shouldn’t focus our training on hypertrophy or high volume sets. It would cause too much fluid retention. Plus, increases in muscle mass often are accompanied by an increase in appetite. If someone isn’t mindful of this, they will end up gaining body fat as well as muscle during a training cycle.
  • Choosing to follow the loading parameters of a dedicated strength cycle could be more beneficial during a cut. Volume per set and overall volume are lower, while weights used in each set are heavier. This type of training affords us the required intensity that stimulates the physiological processes that will aid in cutting body fat while making strength the primary attribute over muscular size.
  • Once we’ve figured out the focus, we then have to provide structure to the training weeks. As with any useful training cycle, the training should increase in difficulty each week until a planned deload week where you purposely reduce volume and intensity to recover from fatigue. Theoretically, you superseded your previous levels of strength and fitness in some capacity.
  • When your training cycle is a tool to help reduce body fat, I’ve found it helpful to increase both weight and volume each week. It’s tough to add to both of these factors simultaneously. However, if you make the weekly increase small with the significant share going toward increased weight over volume, it can be done. And, it can be effective in helping you reach your goal.

Accurate Methods and Aim

It’s essential to understand how strength training can be methodized to be more useful for fat loss while we’re writing our training program. There are methods involving timed rest periods and sets that can be very effective for fat loss as a part of a structured strength cycle progression.

Strict and Reduced Rest Times

A straightforward but effective way to get more training volume using higher intensity (or percent of 1-rep-max) in a training session, is to find the minimum rest time needed for recovery at the planned work weight.

  • Let’s say that you’re resting two minutes between each set of squats, but you’re only doing two reps at 80% of your 1-rep-max.
  • You may find that you can cut the rest time down to one minute and thirty seconds and still feel just as recovered for the next set.
  • Maybe working at this capacity; you can cut rest down to just one minute and still use the same percentage while staying consistent each set.
  • You may find that this allows for such an increase in work capacity that you can program more sets at this same intensity, which of course can help with your cut.

If you decide against that and determine the increased volume won’t help this progress, the increase in heart rate along with other metabolic processes from working at this pace will help in fat loss.


When I was a college strength coach, our Director of Strength and Conditioning would use something called turnovers instead of rest times to:

Because we were dealing with large groups, there was no way to make sure that all of the players finished their sets at the same time. Also, there was no way the players could get the same rest times based on when we started the clock.

Instead, he used turnovers. From the time he announced the start of the set, they would have a given time to complete their sets, change the weights if needed, and be ready to start the next. He may, for example, have assigned a one-minute, thirty-second turnover. He would announce the beginning of the set, and they would have that time to complete the set and be ready for the next.

Although this was intended to keep a pace for groups, I’ve found it helpful for people to hold themselves accountable and on pace. We know how easy it can be to forget to press start on your stopwatch as soon as you rack the bar. A recurring timer works better.

Rest-Pause Sets

These rest-pause sets were intended initially for bodybuilding. I learned from Josh Bryant how they could be a very effective way to work at heavier weights for a longer duration of time with much higher volumes. I also found it to be a way to fit a lot of work into a short amount of time, and with anything that meets that criteria, it becomes a means of conditioning.

The most effective way I’ve personally experimented for this purpose was to work up to 80% in the main barbell lift. Then perform one set at this weight and stop 2-3 reps short of failure.

  • Rest exactly 20 seconds and then do one set 1-2 reps short of failure.
  • Rest 20 seconds again and do a final set to complete failure.
  • Make sure you have a spotter to help you.
  • Time your rest accurately.
  • Rest two minutes and then repeat the method.

Yes, guessing if you could do 2-3 reps more or not can be a very arbitrary and an inaccurate marker. But, even if you underestimate, you will still get plenty of good results. This is something that you can use in a strength cycle for cutting almost every week.

Density Training for Supplementary Exercises

Density training is one of the most useful tools I’ve found for beginner to intermediate level trainees who want to be strong and fit.

For a challenging exercise like pullups, setting a time limit rather than a prescribed rep and set count allows the trainee to complete more work. Just set 5-10 minutes on the clock and do as many total pullups as you can.

After a couple of weeks of this, if you could typically do six pullups in a row, you begin to pace yourself and only do three before hopping down to rest a bit. But you may also find that at the end of this time limit, you did more reps than if you tried to do multiple successive sets of five reps.

Each week, you can try to increase the number of reps you do in the time limit or even expand the time frame. This way, you’ll continually be doing more work and working at a higher intensity as you progress through the program.

Focus the Work

Improved body composition usually comes with an increased workload. If you want to reduce body fat and your nutrition is in order, increasing the amount of work you do with weight training is an effective method. Focus your effort on challenging yourself with progressing weights through a training cycle, which means more work within each session.

Jesse competes in the sport of Olympic weightlifting, and he was also formerly a competitive powerlifter. He was featured in main strength and fitness publications. You can read more of his work on his website.