Although personal training clients hire personal trainers for a multitude of reasons, the overwhelming majority of personal training clients, hope to build strength or achieve a lean physique. Fitness professionals should have a variety of methods to incorporate to achieve these goals—to keep things interesting and to ensure success.

Burning Muscles

Are Goals Mutually Exclusive?

The tried-and-true methods of high volume/low weight loads and low volume/heavy weight loads remain at the top of many trainers’ agendas when presented with such requests. Recently, I wrote an article on how best to achieve strength gains while also increasing hypertrophy. These two goals need not be in conflict, thanks to a training style referred to as the “Backwards Workout”.

An example of a typical high-volume workout includes 4 sets of 10 repetitions each. Rest intervals are short, 30-45 seconds. Endurance develops concurrently with hypertrophy through this type of training. Most athletes will select a weight they can comfortably lift for this volume, a middle-of-the-road load to suit their abilities.

Conversely, to achieve pure strength, one must apply a significant weight load to maximize results. Trainers often suggest 3-4 sets of 4 repetitions each, incorporating a rest interval of 2-5 minutes.

Fatigue will eventually occur at some point during a workout, regardless of the goal. The frustration, however, originates from different points: reaching failure too soon and missing out on volume due to the weight load; or compromising the strength-building in favor of getting lean.

The Backwards Workout bridges these two approaches to bodybuilding, with the end result being a leaner and stronger body.

Blending Strategies to Maximize Gain

The premise is simple.

Instead of executing 4 sets of 10 repetitions for a single exercise, perform 10 sets of 4 repetitions.

This protocol allows the client to derive all the benefits of a high-volume workout as well as cultivating strength with a challenging amount of weight. You may choose to think of this more as “inverse training” than backwards.

Incorporating Backwards Training Into a Split Routine

There is, however, a single drawback to training in this manner. The necessity of increased rest intervals between sets makes this a time-consuming, muscles-on-fire process. For this reason, I suggest targeting a single body part, or at most 2 body parts, within a week’s time. If glutes and biceps are the client’s priorities, help her train only these muscles using a Backwards Workout technique, spacing the training sessions at least 72 hours apart. In between, she can work on all other body parts employing more traditional approaches. A program such as this allows for the ample recovery time required for a successful Backwards Workout.

Try Before You Apply

If you are not yet convinced of the efficacy of this protocol, incorporate it into your own training for 3-4 weeks. Be sure to increase hydration on these training days, as a greater amount of lactic acid is likely to accumulate during the lifting process. When you return to a traditional workout program, the dynamic improvement in muscle strength and size might just surprise you! After your success, you can instruct clients with reassurance and confidence.