Train For Performance, Not For Aesthetics: How CT Lost 15lbs in 13 weeks While Adding 70 Pounds To His Squat and Deadlift

Today, I want to briefly touch upon a few points and highlight a client of mine who has done very well with his performance, athletic and aesthetic goals, all in a span of just over 3 months.

I can’t give his full name because he’s currently being scouted to play professional basketball overseas, but for this article, we’ll refer to him as CT.

CT came to me early in 2012 with the goals of dropping some body fat after his basketball season was over for the year. Since he wouldn’t be actively participating in practice and lots of sport-specific activity, it was a good time to drop the calories and focus on fat loss for a period.

I just got an email from him last week for an update on his progress and I wanted to take a second and share it with you for two reasons:

  • To inspire you and show you what is possible in just 12-13 weeks time
  • To give you a reason to focus your efforts on performance-related goals as opposed to only aesthetic goals

I touch on this more in Train Like an Athlete, not Like a Fitness Model.

Now let’s get to the good stuff.

In just 13 weeks, CT has improved majorly on all the big lifts. The following list will display the movement along with his starting weight and current weight.

Key: movement | weight x reps (improvements)

  • Hang Clean | 100kg x 3 – 125kg x 3 (+25kg = 55lbs)
  • Bench Press | 225×5 – 265×5 (+40lbs)
  • Squat | 255×5 – 325×5 (+70lbs)
  • Rack Deadlift | 370×3 – 440×3 (+70lbs)
  • Barbell Glute Bridges | 275×8 – 500×5 (+225lbs) *yikes*

The glute bridge is NOT typical. This was a new movement for him, so it took him a little while to find a good starting weight. As you can imagine by now, his posterior chain is pretty solid.

Thick. Tight. Solid. (internet joke – holla at me if you get it)

And here’s an image from where CT started and where he is currently – much leaner and athletic-looking. The first image is 253lbs and the second image is 238lbs – a 15lb loss.

CT is 6’8″

Alright, so what I’m most impressed with is his Hang Clean and Bench Press numbers. Everything else is good too, but I’m pretty familiar with improving people’s squats and deads during a diet. I’ve been asking him what special elixir he was taking, but he won’t share the secrets.

Okay, I’m kidding of course. I looked at his training progress on a weekly basis and we chatted about his nutrition – making sure he was hitting his macros and getting the recommended amount of protein by the end of the day.

He even had long weekend in Vegas with his friends, taking advantage of the good food and drink that abounds, yet still managed to lose 15lbs in 13 weeks.

So What’s The Big Deal?

CT was motivated and determined to reach his goals. Of course, he’s eternally motivated because he wants to continue his basketball career post collegiate level.

His reason for persevering is reinforced due to his focus on an athletic accomplishment (improved performance, getting to the next level) as opposed to a sole focus on getting six pack abs.

While there’s nothing wrong at all training for aesthetics, I find it can become cumbersome and dare I say it, a little boring if we’re not constantly chasing strength or performance goals.

In saying that – it’s worth analyzing your current situation. Why are you training? Is the end goal worth enough to do what it takes to reach that goal? Is it enough to endure the fat loss plateaus and other diet-related problems?  If not, then you better figure something out.

Simplicity Usually Wins

CT’s training program was mostly built around the movements he was already doing (squats, bench, hang cleans) and where I saw he could improve (hip thrusts, hyperextensions, extra pulling, rack deadlifts).

I had him training only 3x per week, using a full-body routine. Each day was varied in intensity and built around a particular movement for the day. So while he wasn’t training the deadlift every session, he was still working the same muscles on days he wasn’t deadlfting. The same applies to bench press, squat, etc.

Congrats to CT – I hope your dream of playing abroad is fulfilled and it’s been an absolute joy helping you get strong and lean.

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28 thoughts on “Train For Performance, Not For Aesthetics: How CT Lost 15lbs in 13 weeks While Adding 70 Pounds To His Squat and Deadlift”

      • This “no cardio” is misleading. Some people say they do zero cardio, but they walk/bike to work, play ball everyother day, do bedroom sports everynight, walk during their lunch break, they do not use the car for groceries, etc…they end up moving around 2-4 hours a day. For other people zero cardio means only sitting all day long. They do not even climb a flight of stairs.

  1. Thanks for sharing your client’s successes with us JC!

    Two things are clear to me – and I will take these forwards for my own goals.

    1. CT made ground through motivation and he was motivated because he was training for functionality and a purpose (ie basketball) – personally, because I don’t play a team sport at the moment, I use races and enter events to get my purpose for training. Aesthetics are of course a motivation but are not enough fr me alone…

    2. The example workout you have posted shows how low reps in a more traditional strength training format can lead to a lean and toned physique! 3 x per week is very achievable for most people which I why I too advocate the full body sessions! Super effective and less time consuming.

    Great stuff!

  2. Awesome results, those pics show it. Could you elaborate a little on the dietary approach you took with him, seeing that he got stronger but obviously lost fat too. I understand you don’t want to post the whole training/diet strategy but a rough calorie number? Would appreciate it.

    • sure thing, so basically, I had him at Maintenance on his training days, which was about 3700-3800 kcals.

      Then on off days, I had him at about 3100-3200 kcals.

      His diet was high carb, moderate protein (about 1.2-1.3x lean body mass) and moderate fat (80-100g daily).

      Keep in mind, he’s an athlete and active, so that’s the reason for so many calories – he’s also 6’8″ and well over 200lbs.

  3. Hey JC and CT,

    I’d like to congratulate the both of you on your progress. It’s great to know that keeping things simple can help you achieve your goals quickly. CT, your pictures have motivated me to continue training hard and KISSing when it comes to nutrition.

    Keep up the great work, guys!

  4. Very Silly Article Title. Overall the article showed your lack of understanding with regards to training with respect to goals.

    Most Fitness Models train like the way you described until they reach a point where they are either maintaining muscle, or cutting for shows or magazines. So in that statement you are wrong.

    Secondly training for Performance, or like an athlete, by definition is very different to training for aesthetics – so again you are wrong in that sense.

    Training like an Athlete isn’t as simple as “squat”, “deadlift”, “bench”. Training like an Athlete like you correctly said is for performance, but for performance related to your specific sport.

    Training for Aesthetics,is about tailoring not your exercises for just pure performance. Training for Aesthetics or how your website advertises “No-BS Approach to Looking Great Naked”, is about tailoring your movements to your specific physique at the moment. Not for performance. Training for pure performance instead of Aesthetics could make you out of proportion despite how much you can lift – and hence it can be in many cases having goals in direct conflicts.

    Ultimately leading to inefficiency, or at a worse case – failure. Why go two steps forward and one step back? Advise people on what you know. Performance related training is a whole different ball-game.

    • Hi Jackson,
      So you didn’t like the article title. So what? Can you read past that?

      Training for performance is different for the individual. I’ve found most of the time those who don’t have specific goals for performance and only for aesthetics, give up more quickly than those who want to improve their strength and work capacity.

      Training like an Athlete isn’t as simple as “squat”, “deadlift”, “bench”. Training like an Athlete like you correctly said is for performance, but for performance related to your specific sport.

      And I never said that, did I? I even said CT was done with basketball for the season. In saying that, we still made performance-related goals, which in this case were strength goals that he did very well with.

      Training for Aesthetics,is about tailoring not your exercises for just pure performance. Training for Aesthetics or how your website advertises “No-BS Approach to Looking Great Naked”, is about tailoring your movements to your specific physique at the moment. Not for performance. Training for pure performance instead of Aesthetics could make you out of proportion despite how much you can lift – and hence it can be in many cases having goals in direct conflicts

      At this point you’re just playing with semantics and taking it all out of context. In case you missed the point, I’ll hammer it home again. CT was successful in his fat loss goals because he focused on getting strong and letting the diet do the work as opposed to letting aesthetics be his only goal.

  5. “Awesome pics. Great size. Look thick. Solid. Tight. Keep us all posted on your continued progress with any new progress pics or vid clips. Show us what you got man. Wanna see how freakin’ huge, solid, thick and tight you can get. Thanks for the motivation.”

    lolzZz

  6. Awesome stuff JC! And I totally agree. When I started my journey to lose weight and get healthier and in better shape two years ago…everything I did was to lose weight and body fat…and I was gradually succeeding…but it was not fun and I was losing motivation…I never had been an athlete before in my life and I didn’t see myself starting then. That changed after my trainer got me to take up running, after few months of battling with him….he new I loved the strength training and would be up at the gym as much as possible to do my strength training…but I wasn’t much of a fan of cardio and would tend to ignore. I had no goals other than losing weight and getting healthier and he new that to stay motivated I would need to set more fitness and performance related goals. So through a challenge, he finally got me to run. And that changed my life. As I told Jon Goodman in his post today, started to run and setting my first goal, a 5K…yes a 5 K was a goal for me and it was a goal that really turned things around for me…That 5K goal changed my whole training because when I completed that goal, something I never would have imagined doing before, it got me seeing that if I can complete that goal, having been a non runner my whole life then I could accomplish any goal I set for myself. It my beginning in to the world of fitness goals, but strength goals as well. Aaron helped me see that when the day after my 5K, during a strength session, he said to me “New goal…a half marathon in one year.” Yes I would have to run a lot of 5Ks and 10Ks to prepare…but he truly believed it was something I could accomplish and it was the beginning of me believing in myself and becoming an athlete. I have since run that half marathon last fall and three more this spring and will be doing my first marathon in the fall. But this is not just about running goals….because when I first started setting running goals, I started thinking I could achieve strength goals as well…and last year just two weeks after I ran that half marathon I competed in LifeTime Fitness’s Alpha Showdown Bootcamp Challenge as well. It is where I met the always awesome Jen Sinkler! And I have been setting and making PR goals for my lifting. Not long after Aaron and I set that half marathon goal, he moved out of state and I started training with my current trainer Josh. And for the year and a half I have been working with him my training has been focused on functional and performance training. For the last year and a half I have truly been training as an athlete for the first time in my life, at the age of 50…my workouts are killer and I love them. My fitness and performance goals are never ending! And the best part of it is that I lost my weight, 60lbs and 23% body fat without focus on the weight loss and just focusing on training for athletic performance. Since I have lost all that weight I put back on about 10 more pounds; however that has all been lean muscle mass so I am looking even better than I did at 120! I am stronger than I have ever been in my life because….and I owe a lot of it to two phenomenal training who got me to switch my thinking from focusing on weightloss to focusing on performance training. Life just keeps getting better everyday!

  7. I’ve lost 10 pounds in 7 weeks. From 163-153.

    However, I’ve also lost about 20lbs. on my front squat, and my bodyweight exercises have not improved at all. I also don’t look any leaner than when I started.

    I’ve strength trained 2 times per week, and BJJ 3 times per week. I get about 1g of protein per lbs. of bodyweight per day.

    Great example of bad genetics!! Yay me!!

    • Hey Neal,

      Sorry to hear about the lack of progress. It could very well be bad genetics, but it could also be less-than-optimal training/life conditions. I am not super familiar with BJJ, but I do know that it can be quite intensive when it comes to the conditioning aspect. Dieting too hard, especially for the athlete who is very active will result in lean body mass loss. In my humble opinion, losing 10lbs in 7 weeks is too aggressive of a deficit, especially as you noted only taking in 1g/lb of body weight. I would have set your diet at 1.5g/lb of lean body mass and probably adjust training volume (but hard to know since I haven’t seen your routine).

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