Question 1: “Is morning cardio more effective in burning fat quickly with an empty stomach?” –Yussuf Khan

Yes, in fact, fasted cardio in the morning has been used for years by bodybuilders. I remember seeing old videos of Ronnie Coleman waking up early in the morning, walking on the treadmill for about 45 minutes, eating a big ass meal replacement shake, and then going back to bed. It is as simple as increasing your activity throughout the day and monitoring your calories in, if you want to lose fat. And cardio in the morning is an additional training session that you’re adding to your weekly program.

But here is the killer. Fasted cardio must be low-to-moderate intensity. Any type of heavy activity in a fasted state, when your glycogen stores are low, can potentially be catabolic or muscle-wasting. You won’t have the energy to hit anything heavy or high-intensity anyway. Activities like walking, low volume bodyweight training, yoga, or dynamic mobility, are perfect for your additional morning ‘cardio’ sessions. They will increase your total activity for the day, help you lose fat, and jump start your day with something positive!

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Question 2: “Can you get stronger without getting bigger, and if so, how?” –Joseph Yeampierre

Yes. When talking about developing more muscle mass—referred to as hypertrophy—there are two ways to do it: 

1. Lift heavier weights for moderate reps – this will increase the contractile region of the muscle fiber, known as myofibrillar hypertrophy. 

2. Lift moderate-to-heavier weights for high reps – this will increase the volume of the non-contractile muscle cell fluid surrounding the muscle fiber, known as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

You’re probably used to the typical bodybuilding routine that use massive amounts of volume, like 4-5 sets of 12-20 repetitions for each exercise. They are developing more sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This type of training can be important for more advanced lifters who have an greater training age (have been lifting for many years), to allow them to continue making gains. It can also increase the cross-sectional area of the muscle which will allow them to handle heavier weights. 

In your case, where you want to get stronger without getting bigger, a more moderate volume approach utilizing heavier weights, should be considered. Workouts that utilize a rep range between 6-8—targeting more myofibrillar hypertrophy—are just what you’re looking for. Staying in this rep range with above 75 percent of your 1RM (one rep max = max weight you can lift for an exercise, for one repetition) will increase your strength, allow you to hit good quality repetitions through a full range of motion, and will keep you on track with your goals.

Meet the Lift Doctor

Jim Smith is a highly respected, world-renowned strength and conditioning coach. A member of the Fitness Advisory Board, Jim has been called one of the most "innovative strength coaches" in the fitness industry. Training athletes, fitness enthusiasts and weekend warriors, Jim has dedicated himself to helping them reach "beyond their potential." He is also the owner of Diesel Strength & Conditioning in Elmira, NY.