When we talked about determining a goal weight and target calories in the main program we ran with the assumption that most people reading this stuff are starting out quite overweight or even obese. Accordingly, we set a primary goal of BMI 25 which is the upper end of the “normal” weight range.
That makes sense since this is a weight loss site, right? But what about the people already in a “normal” BMI who are ready to step it up a notch and get into better shape than just “normal”?
Well I’m glad you asked.
As far as training goes, I actually don’t think there’s much difference between training to lose weight, training to gain weight, or training to maintain weight while improving body composition. You should be eating appropriately to support your goal weight, and smashing some heavy weights together in the gym. You can take your pick of training program as long as it has good balance of pushing, pulling, bending at the knee and hinging from the hips. I have a nice program called Power, Precision & Pump that is ideal but really… if it’s a balanced program and you train hard you are going to get results. It doesn’t need to be terribly fancy.
Remember though, an actual balanced program is what we’re talking about. A lot of the time (especially females) will think “well the back of my arms are wobbly, so I’ll do lots of arm exercises. And my stomach is a bit squishy looking, so I’ll do lots of sit ups”… and that’s their “program” that they hit in between hours on the stationary bike or whatever.
Don’t do this. You cannot “spot reduce” fat by training the areas where you see the fat. You have to train full body, and smash those larger, major muscle groups. Smash them hard.
Brief notes & recommendations depending on where abouts you’re sitting within that normal weight range. I’ll be generalising a little. Really this is something I’d prefer to evaluate on a case by case basis, depending on your frame, current ratio of fat to lean muscle, and so on. But generally speaking, these recommendations should suit most of the people they apply to.
Lower end of the normal BMI, or actually underweight.
Even if you can look in the mirror and visually identify areas where you are a bit flabby or squishy looking, you absolutely do not need to lose any weight. It’s common to think that dieting / losing weight is the answer, but this isn’t a weight issue as much as a body composition issue. What I mean by that is that the amount of lean mass, verses the amount of body fat. You’re not carrying enough fat to be actually overweight, but the issue is that you’re also not carrying enough lean mass to appear lean and toned. In other words; “skinnyfat”.
Dietary Recommendation: dial in calories and macronutrients to support a higher weight, at about the middle of the normal BMI. That’s right, I just said you need to GAIN weight. Remember though, muscle takes up less space than fat… even at the heavier weight, you will be lean, toned, strong and not necessarily any larger than you are now. Remember that increased weight doesn’t necessarily equate to increased size – especially under your circumstances.
What you absolutely must NOT do: you must resist the urge to reduce calories and/or do excessive cardio to “burn calories and lose weight”. We’ve established that you do not want to lose weight, and I’ve already addressed the whole “burn calories” issue in the main section of the free program.
I see a lot of women and girls with this approach to training, just sticking to the cardio machines and avoiding the weight room… at best they’re just wasting a lot of fuel (calories) that could be going towards actually building their ideal figure, at worst… if they’re also restricting calories they’re going to be putting their bodies under way too much stress, playing havoc with their hormone balance, and actually encouraging the storage and retention of fat at the expense of lean mass.
This is the absolute opposite of what would give them the results they are looking for.
No cardio? But I LIKE cardio: That’s great. It means you get to eat a lot more. And by “get to” I don’t mean it’s an option; you are required to eat a lot more to be adequately fuelled, to adequately recover, and to adapt to your training program.
Around the middle of the normal BMI range:
Recommendation: Now this is one of those “case by case” … uh… cases where it really depends on what you’ve been doing up until now. If you’ve been under eating and / or over training as described above, simply dial in the appropriate calorie and macronutrient plan to maintain your current healthy weight, and train hard consistently as described above.
In some cases where we are not trying to recover from over restriction, I may recommend creating a slight calorie deficit for a brief period to kick start the results a little, before steadily increasing to maintenance levels.
Remember what I’ve already said a half dozen times, the issue is to create a more aesthetically pleasing figure through improving the balance of lean body boss, not to see a smaller number on the scales.
Higher end of the normal BMI range:
Recommendation: This one is pretty simple. Just dial in appropriate nutrition to support a new goal weight closer to the middle of the normal range, let’s say around BMI 21, and train exactly as described above.
Also, everyone: make sure you are drinking lots of water throughout the day, and especially at training. When you’re getting enough of it, your body is less inclined to hold on to it. Water retention can really make it hard to see the results that you are otherwise achieving.