Can You Gain Muscle Without Getting Fat?

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Training

can you gain muscle without getting fatCan you can gain muscle without getting fat?

Anyone can eat a ton and lift heavy weights for a few months.

The result is they will gain weight. That’s for sure.

Unfortunately, in 99% of cases, more than half of it will be fat.

That’s never  a good look.

But by following a proper diet and adding in some type of high intensity conditioning work a few days per week you actually can build muscle without getting fat.

Traditional medium intensity cardio methods will eat away too much muscle and should be avoided for this reason.

Besides it’s lame and boring as hell.

What real man wants to be caught dead on an elliptical machine or stair climber?

None with a functioning set of testicles.

“Cardio” That Works

So in place of the shame and dishonor brought about by traditional cardio or aerobic training you should add in some high intensity conditioning methods.

This would be something like hill sprints or sled work two or three times per week, either immediately after your muscle building workouts or as a separate workout on the same day, 4-6 hours later.

You can also do these conditioning workouts on off days as well.

You should be doing some type of hard training four days per week if you want to gain muscle without getting fat.

If you only have three strength training sessions you should add in another day of hill sprints or sled work.

These high intensity conditioning sessions should be about 10-30 minutes in duration and you should aim to work at a gut busting pace for 10-30 seconds followed by one to two minutes of rest.

Repeat in that fashion for the duration of the workout.

The Little Known Benefit of Sled Work

The great thing about using a sled for your conditioning is that there is no eccentric component to it so you can use it quite frequently without the fear of any type of negative impact on your strength workouts.

In fact, sled work can actually help you get stronger while building muscle and simultaneously improving work capacity and conditioning.

Everyone should own a sled and make it a regular part of their program.

The benefits are almost miraculous.

On top of a few high intensity conditioning sessions per week I always recommend going for a walk first thing in the morning before you eat anything, if you have the time.

Simply walk for 30-45 minutes at a very fast past.

This can be done seven days per week and will have zero negative impact on your size or strength gains because it’s of such low intensity.

It’s not the ultimate bang-for-your-buck fat burning exercise.

But it is a good idea to go out and get some fresh air, clear your head and get moving.

Every bit of physical activity counts and no one can argue against simply going for a walk each day.

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31 Responses to Can You Gain Muscle Without Getting Fat?

  1. james April 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Daily walking should be mandatory for everyone!

    We’ve got 5 sleds at our gym, it’s time I started using them a little more…


  2. Oliver April 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    Hi Jason
    i am following Jim Wendler 5-3-1

    I like to do sprint, on treadmill, 1 minute at 12 miles and 2 minutes at 7 miles. i do it for 20 minutes with 10 minutes of warm-up when i start. I do it 3 to 4 times per week, but i do it soon in the morning, and i workout in the evenng, at least 6 hours after the cardio. is it a good way, or is it more efficience to do the strenght training in the morning and the cardio in the evening ? thx

    • Gabri April 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

      Hey Oliver, you should read what Jason writes:
      These high intensity conditioning sessions should be about 10-30 minutes in duration and you should aim to work at a gut busting pace for 10-30 seconds followed by one to two minutes of rest.

      An effort you can mantain for 1 minute is no t a real sprint.

      You should try to do real sprints, those where you are the one who is moving, not the treadmill.

      Good luck!

      • Jason Ferruggia April 15, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

        @Gabri- Yup. If you don’t get it the first time I just have to say yes.

      • Oliver April 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

        yeah, thx for the advice, but, this is the max speed on the treadmill, but i found some who go to 15 miles per hours, and i cant sprint for more than 40-45 seconds.

        The problem, i need to do it on a treadmill because i need a bathroom near when i sprint haha,

        but i had very good results on losing fat and increasing my conditioning with this kind of sprint

    • Jason Ferruggia April 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

      @Oliver- That should work

  3. wilmer April 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    I have no money to buy a sled
    and my city is very flat
    What should I do?

    • josh April 15, 2012 at 7:08 am #

      build one and put heavy weights on it

    • soren April 15, 2012 at 7:31 am #

      Hi there
      Get an old tyre, put a piece of plywood in the bottom and fill it up the rocks, slaps of concrete or whatever you can get your hands on. You can either push it “prowler” style or attach a rope or some chains to it and drag it as a regular sled.
      If you are training at a commercial gym you could try to do treadmill sprints without starting, without starting the treadmill first. Just grab the front panel and then try to get the belt moving by sprinting as hard as you possibly can. The gym manager will most likely not fancy this, but who cares – at least you can out sprint him if he gets pissed.

  4. Raymond April 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    I have seen a few people at my gym try to bulk and then cut and really they ended up with only a very minimal increase in muscle, if at all.
    I do believe you can increase muscle without fat but its a slow and consistent ‘natural’ process.
    I have found too much cardio does affect muscle growth.
    Sled work seem the way to go but they aren’t popular out here in Australia for some reason … so personally I make do with hill sprinting and walking.
    Thanks for the reminder on all this.

    • Matty C April 15, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

      Sled work isn’t popular in Australia? 1st – doesn’t matter if it’s popular or not, just do it! 2nd, where do you train in Australia cos I know heaps of people who use them, including me in my gym! Popularity is over-rated anyway!!

  5. DiscoStew April 14, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    Jason, in the tnation article “More Reps, Bigger Legs”, you give an example workout that mixes low rep and high rep training for legs in the same workout. Could you do this type of workout, once a week, and also do two sprint/conditioning sessions a week?


  6. Craig L. April 14, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    @ James – Why would you have 5 sleds and not use them? If and/or when I open my gym the sleds will be in use at all times. I’m guessing the stack of sleds and minimal amount of other cardio equipment will keep some people from joining my gym, but who wants a bunch of pansies walking on a treadmill training at their gym anyway?

    I’m just busting your chops a bit :). It’s time to put those sleds to use my man!

  7. craig oc April 15, 2012 at 7:33 am #

    get an old tire, eye hook and nut from a hardware store costs $2.00, get a piece of rope —– = sled

  8. Liam April 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    Hi Jason,thanks for the handy info as always! Would you say that the above applies to hardgainers such as myself? I heard doing any form of cardio is bad for someone like me whos trying to gain overall muscle/weight? Also whats your views on cycling as a form of exercise?

    • Jason Ferruggia April 19, 2012 at 8:40 am #

      Liam- A true hardgainer is a skinny fat guy. Skinny guys who stay ripped have it easy. They just have to eat more. If you are truly a hardgainer then you should definitely be doing 2 sprint or sled sessions per week and keeping your diet in check.

  9. James Argonan April 18, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Hey Jason I need your advice on something. I have been reading about the renegade diet a lot and I’m kind of iffy about it because I’m 260 pounds, 22 years old. I’m looking to lose about 70 pounds of body fat. I’m not necessarily looking to gain a lot of muscle, just lose a lot of fat. How can I do that with renegade diet? It seems like it’s just for people already at a body fat % of 15 or below to get more muscular and lose the extra fat.. I just wanna get rid of my fat as quickly as possible.

  10. Richy RCFitness April 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    Treadmill pushes are the next best thing. Hold onto the handle and push the belt as fast as you can (while treadmill is off) for 20 seconds, rest for 30, then repeat 5 times!

  11. Poly May 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    hey i dont have a sled and i workout at my apartment complex.. i was just wondering can i push a car.. to a certain destination and back again… would that work????

  12. Ryan August 13, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    jason – i was reading some of your articles and i noticed you didnt have anything on penis growth. I was wondering if you know maybe some exercises i could do increase the overall strength and size of my penis. i can bench nearly twice my body weight so i figured my penis should be able to do the same. cheers.

    • Jordan March 12, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      What the hell?

    • Jordan March 12, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

      @ Ryan

  13. Jason April 25, 2013 at 7:10 am #

    Ryan…you have my attention.

  14. Jason April 25, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    P.S. I have seen people use plate pushes when no sled available. It’s an option. Just throw a plate down on carpet or astro turf. Get down and sprint that thing back and forth. Like in gym class when they had one kid on an upside down piece if carpet and the other kid pushed em. In fact…that’s a third option :))

  15. Adam January 20, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    Good read Jason. My approach is to try and gain muscle, whilst minimising fat gain, and monitoring it to the point where I do not “get fat” as such. Thanks for the article.

  16. Kelly January 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    Quick question. I read an article on t-nation ( ) that basically alludes to the idea that HIIT mobilizes fat while SSC burns it, so by doing HIIT followed by SSC should reduce fat stores. I was under the impression that lifting would act as the HIIT and then could be followed by SSC on lifting days but on non-lifting days, cardio should consist of HIIT followed directly by SSC. Could you shed some light on the subject? Thanks!