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Let’s say you’ve got a wedding coming up, or a trip to Cabo, or a high school reunion. Whatever the event is, you have a date on your calendar marked where you want to look good. No, not just good, but rather like a cross between Fight Club Brad Pitt and Fast Five Dwayne Johnson. Because you know people are going to be taking a billion photos. And there might even be a late-night bacchanalia at the hotel pool, which will require you to show some skin. And when you do, you want it to be a “Wow, he’s been hitting the gym hard” moment. Rather than a “Wow, he’s been hitting the Taco Bell hard” moment.
It’s called the 600 Workout because you’ll perform 600 reps per session (in about an hour). Sounds insane, right? It is.
The workout was designed by Ken Roscoe—a British trainer who works with top IFBB physique competitors such as 2016 Olympia Physique runner-up Ryan Terry.
There are two variations of the 600 Workout. In the upper-body 600, you’ll do three sets of 20 reps for 10 exercises. Do the math, and that equates to 600 reps. In the lower-body/abs 600, you’ll do seven leg exercises and two abs exercises for a total of 600 reps. During the week, you’ll alternate between the two workouts. Start with one session of each workout per week and slowly add more workouts over time.
It wasn’t always known as the 600 Workout. Years ago, when Roscoe was working with overweight clients, he devised a series of circuit workouts that involved lots of high-rep resistance training. “I found it the fastest method for losing weight while maintaining as much muscle as possible,” says Roscoe. “Back then, trainers pushed people into lots and lots of cardio to lose weight, as if it just magically melted the fat off. They forgot that the muscle is the body’s furnace, where everything is burned, so it requires stimulating.”
Soon, Roscoe was using these workouts to prep physique athletes for competition—and finding just as much success. “The principle is the same for an advanced athlete,” says Roscoe. “Get rid of the fat with maximum muscle retention. The nearer the show, the more I’d look to circuits to burn the last stubborn fat to attain the hard, crisp look.”
That hard, crisp look was what Matt Green (pictured), a Bay Area– based fitness model and corporate marketer who was once a special assistant to Arnold Schwarzenegger, was looking for. A couple of years ago, after meeting Roscoe at the Arnold Classic in Ohio, Green began following the trainer’s workout programming to help polish off his already impressive body. Their collaboration would eventually lead to the 600 Workout. Now, a couple of months before a shoot, Green will do the 600 as many as five times per week (three upper, two lower). To see more of Matt Green check him out on Instagram @MattGreenFitness and his Facebook page.
“It’s great for toning and sculpting your muscles,” says Green, who had never entered a gym in his life until 2007 and has since added some 50 pounds (mostly muscle) to his frame. “Obviously, as you tone down and lose weight, you will lose a little muscle mass. But this workout almost prevents that. It preserves as much muscle as you can.”
One of the reasons the 600 Workout is so effective is its fast pace. You’re completing 600 full reps (with proper form!) in about an hour. That’s 10 reps per minute, or a rep every six seconds. That might not seem like a breakneck speed, until you realize it includes all the time between exercises, as well as the rest between sets.
“When you tell a bodybuilder he’s going to do a circuit, he invariably thinks it’ll be a walk in the park,” says Roscoe. “Fifteen minutes later, he’s blowing out of his backside.”
Roscoe recommends selecting weights that will have you reaching that final rep of each set fairly close to failure. The high-volume and high-intensity approach increases metabolism and EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) so that you’ll continue to burn fat long after you leave the gym.
Green also cuts carbs when he’s doing these workouts, which makes things only more challenging.
“Obviously, without carbohydrates, your body’s pretty fatigued,” says Green. “So it’s an intense feeling. Your muscles are burning.” To counteract this, Green encourages people to sip on a shake with some branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) throughout the workout, occasionally throwing in some maltodextrin for carbohydrates. Afterward, he drinks a protein shake and stops taking carbs by 3 p.m.
Keep in mind, too, that you can always swap out these exercises for similar moves. In fact, Green does this all the time. Instead of incline dumbbell presses and incline dumbbell flyes, he’ll do flat-bench dumbbell presses and hit the pec deck. “As long as you’re keeping to the 20 reps, three sets, and two exercises per body part,” says Green, “you’re good. You’ll experience the same effect.”
Of course, you don’t have to be training for a photo shoot (or a trip to Cabo) to employ this workout. As Roscoe points out, the use of lighter weight makes it a safe training method to use anytime you want to burn fat while building muscle. Whichever way you use it—twice a week to stay toned, a week out of every month to keep things fresh— you can’t go wrong.
But if you are training for the Olympia, it’ll work for you, too. “I’ve had tremendous results with bodybuilders who’ve sought my help in desperation very close to a show,” says Roscoe. “Don’t get me wrong, though—they’ve had to work for it!”
Monday: Upper 600
Tuesday: Lower 600
Wednesday: Upper 600
Thursday: Lower 600
Friday: Upper 600