Maintaining Strength and Muscle Mass while Leaning Down | Erin Stern

September 15, 2015

As a fitness competitor, I have an off-season and a season where I need to be leaner. Anyone who has gained a little weight and body fat knows that they’ll also experience an increase in strength. I enjoy my off-season because I’m able to set new personal bests in my lifts and add more muscle.  

Even though my weight never fluctuates more than 8-10 lbs., it’s enough to see different numbers across the board in my lifts. With the surplus of calories, I’m also able to make aesthetic changes to my physique more easily.

But what happens while leaning down? My goal is to keep the muscle I’ve worked hard to gain and to maintain my strength. This can be tough! A few training principles that have helped me are:

  • Starting the workout with your big, heavy lifts most days. This can be anything from squats, to bench, to Pendlay rows. I keep the reps low (3-8), and focus on being explosive.
  • After, I’ll employ the use of supersets while lifting. I’ll usually train antagonistic muscle groups (chest/back, hamstrings/quads) or organize supersets into a push-pull format (shoulder press/upright rows). This helps to allow the opposing muscle group to rest while keeping the heart rate up.
  • I’ll keep tension on the muscle during the workout. Most exercises are performed in a deliberate, controlled manner.
  • I opt for workout finishers rather than traditional cardio most of the time. Circuits can be put together using the prowler, tsunami ropes, medicine balls, kettlebells, and body weight exercises. The goal is to get the heart rate up for short bursts, from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, with 1-2 minutes rest in between.

As I began to lean down for my September appearances, I worried that my 165 lb. bench press max would suffer. This week I benched 145 lbs. for 3 reps; something I wouldn’t have been able to do during previous periods of leaning down! BetaTOR has helped me maintain my strength! I can’t wait to resume training for my bench press competition later this year!

Thanks for reading! Until next time, train hard, y’all!!

-Erin Stern

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