Workout Routines

Stay Lean While Pigging Out this Thanksgiving

Follow this workout routine to keep in shape this holiday season.

Thanksgiving Dinner
Duration 4 days
Exercises 27
Equipment Yes

Thanksgiving can be a particularly challenging time of the year for your typical gym rat; not only do you have to listen to your uncle’s high school football stories for the umpteenth time, but there is also the issue of the over-abundance of delicious food everywhere. Combined with shorter gym hours and colder temperatures (at least for us unlucky souls living in such areas), you have a recipe for disaster a.k.a. weight gain. What is to be done?

Traditionally, the fitness community has handled Thanksgiving one of two ways: 1) you can be the guy sitting at the table eating out of Tupperware, being proud for being so hardcore (when in reality it’s just plain awkward) or 2) you overeat dramatically on Thursday, feel bad on Friday, starve yourself and perform two straight hours of fasted cardio. Not only does option two sound horrible, it will invariably make you fatter, as it throws your body into binge eating/starvation mode. But what if I told you that there was a third way where you could eat reasonably well while getting leaner and bigger? Sounds good? Read on.

The program I laid out is a straightforward carb depletion/loading scheme with an anabolic peak on Friday to regain any muscle volume lost during the cutting days. 

You'll deplete your body of all glycogen by training it twice over the course of four days, then start refilling on Wednesday. Given that your body will be thoroughly depleted, the extra calories will not get stored as fat (please note: you’ll need to return to regular eating by Friday!) On Friday, once you wakeup from your food coma, you should have plenty of energy to get in a monster workout and reap the anabolic benefits of the carb load.

Sunday – Wednesday

Keep your diet as clean as can be by basically eating only veggies and lean proteins. Ideally, you’ll want to go for a large deficit here. Think about consuming only 50% of your maintenance calories. Yes, it’ll be tough but since it is only for 3 days, deal with it.

Wednesday

Keep the same diet until the workout, and then eat 30 grams of carbs along with 20-30 grams of protein about 30 minutes before your workout.

The workout itself can be split up with AM and PM sessions or done as one block. If you split the workout into two sessions, the low carb / low calorie phase will continue until the PM workout.

Immediately following the workout, you’ll start the carb load. In terms of total amounts, think along the lines of 5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. If you are using any type of fat burner, stop using it until Friday, as it will interfere with the carb load.

Thursday

Enjoy your family as much as they’ll let you and eat to your little heart’s content.  Be nice to your uncle, nothing happened in his life since he won the Tumbleweed Cup in 1985!!

Friday

Go back to your regular diet, but make sure to eat 2 meals before you hit the gym. If you want to add 200-400 mg of caffeine to boost performance, that would be fine as well. As for the workout itself, you have two choices: 1) train your weakest body part but double your regular volume or 2) (highly recommended) try the workout below.

I broke down this workout into one metabolic drop-set per muscle. The concept is as follows: you start with the hardest exercise and drop down in difficulty as you fatigue. You want to make sure that you get a good warm-up; spend at least 10 minutes warming up to get your head into the game. Leave the cell phone in the locker room.

Sunday

Exercise 1

Leg Press How to
Leg Press thumbnail
4 sets
20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Machine Leg Curl How to
Machine Leg Curl thumbnail
4 sets
8 reps
-- rest
Spend 6 sec on the negative phase.

Exercise 3

Sumo Squat You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Sumo Squat thumbnail
5 sets
5 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

Leg Extension How to
Leg Extension thumbnail
4 sets
30 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5A

General Pullup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Pullup thumbnail
4 sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5B

Barbell Biceps Curl You'll need: Barbell How to
bicep curl thumbnail
4 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6A

Bodyweight Dip You'll need: Dip Station How to
Bodyweight Dip thumbnail
4 sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6B

Triceps Pressdown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, V-Handle Attachment How to
Triceps Pressdown thumbnail
4 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Monday

Exercise 1

General Pushup You'll need: No Equipment How to
Pushup thumbnail
4 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2A

Single-Arm Cable Row You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, D-Handle Attachment How to
Single-Arm Cable Row thumbnail
4 sets
8* reps
-- rest
*Per arm

Exercise 2B

Dumbbell Row You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Row thumbnail
4 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Dumbbell Flye You'll need: Dumbbells, Bench How to
Dumbbell Flye thumbnail
4 sets
10 reps
-- rest
Keep a deep bend in your elbows for maximal stretch in your chest.

Exercise 4

Lat Pulldown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar How to
Lat Pulldown thumbnail
4 sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5

Barbell Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Deadlift thumbnail
4 sets
25 reps
-- rest
Perform as partial deadlifts. Stop just under the knee and come back up.

Wednesday

Exercise 1

Plyometric Pushup
exercise image placeholder
4 sets
10 reps
-- rest
Perform during AM session.

Exercise 2

Bodyweight Jump Squat You'll need: No Equipment How to
Bodyweight Jump Squat thumbnail
6 sets
3 reps
-- rest
Perform during AM session.

Exercise 3

Speed Row
exercise image placeholder
5 sets
3 reps
-- rest
Perform during AM session.

Exercise 4

Barbell Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Deadlift thumbnail
5 sets
5 reps
-- rest
Perform during PM session.

Exercise 5

Sissy Squat
exercise image placeholder
4 sets
10 reps
-- rest
Perform during PM session. Add weight if needed.

Exercise 6A

Standing Overhead Press
exercise image placeholder
4 sets
8 reps
-- rest
Perform during PM session.

Exercise 6B

Clean and Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Clean and Press thumbnail
4 sets
20 reps
-- rest
Perform during PM session.

Exercise 7

Kneeling Rope Row
exercise image placeholder
4 sets
8 reps
-- rest
Perform during PM session.

Exercise 8

Bodyweight Dip You'll need: Dip Station How to
Bodyweight Dip thumbnail
3 sets
12 reps
-- rest
Perform during PM session.

Friday

Exercise 1

Leg Press How to
Leg Press thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest
Perform 1 set with a narrow stance, 1 with a medium stance and 1 with a wide stance.

Exercise 2A

Stiff Lunge
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2B

Dumbbell Lunge You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lunge thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Lat Pulldown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar How to
Lat Pulldown thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest
Perform 1 set with a wide grip, 1 with a narrow over-handed grip and 1 with an underhanded grip.

Exercise 4A

Arnold Press You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Arnold Press thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4B

Clean and Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Clean and Press thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4C

Dumbbell Shoulder Press You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Shoulder Press thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5A

Dumbbell Flye You'll need: Dumbbells, Bench How to
Dumbbell Flye thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5B

Push Flye
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5C

Triceps Press You'll need: No Equipment How to
Triceps Press thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6A

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension You'll need: Dumbbells, Bench How to
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6B

Dumbbell Kickback You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Kickback thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6C

Close-Grip Dumbbell Press
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7A

Zottman Curl
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7B

Barbell Biceps Curl You'll need: Barbell How to
bicep curl thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7C

Hammer Curl
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
10 reps
-- rest
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