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How to Gain Lean Muscle and Burn Body Fat - Maximum Overload Training Philosophy & Nutrition

As a recent graduate from Adrian College in Exercise Science, I have always had a strong interest in health and fitness. As an athlete I have always wanted to get bigger, faster and stronger. There are a great deal of people out there who want the same thing. However, as I have found out throughout my life, it is not as simple as lifting weights 4 days a week and jogging a couple times here and there. There is a real science to the art of looking good and getting stronger. In order to gain lean muscle and trim that annoying body fat, you have to put in hard work in all aspects of your life.



A visit to a Human Physiology class from world renowned Bodybuilder Jeff Willet recently opened my eyes to the Maximal Overload Training (known as MAX OT) philosophy, that Jeff explains he learned from a man called Paul Delia of AST Sports Science. He showed us the “before and after” story of a man who spent 6 months on Max OT and experienced unbelievable changes to his body composition and muscle mass (see the picture on the right!).


Upon seeing this I decided it was about time I gave this philosophy a try to I can definitely say that it has worked for me also. I have gained 15lbs of lean muscle, am far stronger, perform better on the basketball court and am generally happier with the way that I look. So I want to share the basics of this philosophy with you and hopefully you can take something from it!

We will split into three main sections, these being Weightlifting, Cardio Training and Nutrition/Dietary Supplements. Through these three sections, if performed religiously and properly, you should see lean muscle growth, and also FAT LOSS! Many people don’t realize that building muscle actually increases the body’s metabolism and therefore the more muscle someone has, the more calories their body is burning during a normal day.

Weight Lifting

The basic idea behind the Max OT lifting philosophy is high intensity, low volume activity. This philosophy is thought to maximize muscle growth when combined with a good program of nutrition. Each muscle should be exercised only one time per week, with the exception of the abdominals which can be performed twice.

High Intensity/Low Reps

In terms of intensity and volume, in Max OT, what you want is a rep range between 4-6 reps for each set. The idea is that you should find a weight that you can lift by yourself within this range. If you are able to achieve 6 reps, you should increase the weight. When increasing weight you should use the SMALLEST unit possible, making it a gradual improvement (even if this is a 2.5lb plate, or even a 1.25lb plate!).

Low Volume

In terms of total sets, this philosophy requires a relatively small number of sets per body part. Ideally, each body part should have 6-7 sets. For instance, when working out the chest, you could do 3 sets of bench press, 2 sets of incline dumbbell bench press and 2 sets of weighted dips.


Many lifting philosophies ask for quick turnarounds between sets, hopping quickly from one to the other. However, with Max OT this isn’t the case. The philosophy wants you to get good rest between sets, even up to a couple minutes, as this allows you to fully recover. By fully recovering, your muscles can replenish ATP stores and therefore you are lifting the maximum weight and not wasting a set.

Nutrition/Dietary Supplements

When looking at nutrition, Jeff Willet explained various aspects of his diet that are important to him and that helped him achieve his body building dreams. Now, not everybody wants to look like a massive bodybuilder, but the basic ideas behind his nutritional plans still apply to us average folk (with some minor differences).

Whey Protein

A key ingredient in the entire philosophy is PROTEIN. PROTEIN, PROTEIN, PROTEIN! In order to see real muscle growth you should invest in some Whey Protein, which can be purchased from most grocery stores or supplement stores. Protein can be taken before the workout, during or directly after. I generally preferred to drink protein right after lifting weights, as this is when the muscles are the most hungry and need it to help the recovery process that is key to them rebuilding. Now, if your goal is to be huge and pack on the mass, then look to get protein into your body every three hours or so, whether it is a supplement or a food source. For me, who just wants to get a little stronger, one dose of protein per day plus some food source protein was enough.

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There are some things that are very important when it comes to eating while on Max OT.  One thing, is that you should eat often.  Many smaller meals will help raise the body’s metabolism and therefore help you burn calories.  Remember, LITTLE AND OFTEN!  In order to really see great results you should be COUTNING CALORIES and keep your calories at a level that doesn’t cause you to gain fat.  Remember, if your calorie intake is greater than your calorie expenditure you will gain fat.  If it is the opposite you will lose fat.  You should base your calories on your goals.

Another key point is that you should eat carbohydrates after working out, along with protein, which may surprise people.  Without carbohydrates the body has to get its energy from other areas, and in most cases it looks to protein.  However, we want this protein to concentrate on building our muscles!  So don’t be afraid of carbs!

The last tip is to eat a lot of vegetables, as these will fill you up in terms of hunger, but have very few calories.  They almost serve as negative calories, as by eating them the metabolism is raised to the point where you burn off more calories than the vegetables were even worth!! This is especially true with things like broccoli, green beans and carrots.

Check out this trailer for Jeff Willet's video "I Want to Look Like That Guy"

Cardio Training

The Max OT cardio training philosophy is a very simple one, and very different compared to many other takes on this topic. However, there is a distinct science behind it and it has proven to work in most cases.

Basically, the cardio philosophy is to perform 15-18 minutes of high intensity cardio. This means for this time you should be working as hard as you can, and you should be breathing hard and struggling throughout. By doing this, you are raising the body’s metabolism for the rest of the day and therefore attacking those calories. A good way to ensure your intensity is to either measure your distance that you are able to run in 16 minutes (can be done easily on a treadmill) and then attempt to beat this next time. Ideally, to maintain your current level of body fat you should do this around 3 times a week, and to lose fat you should do it around 5 times a week.

NOTE! As an athlete and exercise science student, I have to mention that while this philosophy works for its purpose, it is not necessarily great for cardiovascular fitness. So if this is important to you (as a runner or athlete in a sport involving endurance), you should still incorporate your long distance running, or your other cardio exercises such as sprinting and track runs. You can still use Max OT cardio sometimes, but if you stick to your original cardio hard enough you will still see great results from Max OT lifting and nutrition. Also note that playing a sport will reduce the need for high levels of Max OT cardio. Over training will only lead to reduced muscle growth, so find a balance!


Well that pretty much sums up the Max OT philosophy that Jeff Willet introduced to me and that I have since studied and put to use.  I hope you try it out and I hope that it gives you the results you are looking for.  If you are simply an exercise science student or fan that wants to learn a new philosophy then I hope this was informative.

Workout Schedules

For those of you who need to have a workout regime on paper, I have a number of workout schedules that follow Max OT on paper and I would be happy to share some of the ones I have used with you.  I haven't included them here but if you would like to have a look at one please leave a comment and I will be glad to reply with a program.  

I would like to finish by saying thanks to Jeff Willet for introducing me to the philosophy and please check out his website that I will link below.  It has some great stuff!

Other Hubs of Interest


Adam Keating on March 05, 2015:

Can you check out mine "Building Your Body to the Max"

jmartin1344 (author) from Royal Oak, Michigan on November 22, 2012:

Thanks rajan jolly. Absolutely, at 61 a great thing to do is exercises that are similar to the kind of stuff you do on a daily basis. Like step ups for instance.

Riding the stationary bike or eliptical is good for cardi and easier on the knees. Then if you wanted to do some weight lifting you should focus on the core stuff that works large muscle groups rather than some of the little stuff that is more "show". For example bench press, lateral pulldowns, light squats. Then make sure you leave yourself 2-3 days between (maybe more initially since you haven't worked out in a while) because being a little older makes recovery time longer. Then as you progress you can up the frequency by a day or so.

Hope that helps - I'd google the subject too, I'm sure there's lots of stuff!

Thanks for reading!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on November 21, 2012:

Very interesting read, James. Though at my age exercising hard is not possible, still I'd like to reduce the paunch I have managed to put on. Any suggestions. I'm 61 and haven't exercised in a while.


jmartin1344 (author) from Royal Oak, Michigan on August 18, 2011:

It is really good, I swear by it now (as long as its followed correctly).

I never tried P90x but I have been told it is tough! ha... I would like to try it sometime and see how I handle it.

Definitely a lifestyle change! Thanks for the comment!

Sam Kear from Kansas City on August 18, 2011:

Thanks for the tips! I've never heard of the Max OT program but it sounds interesting.

After doing 3 months of cardio to get back in shape I decided to start the P90x program. I'm almost done with my first week and boy am I sore!

It really is a lifestyle change and I agree there is a lot of science to it as well.

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