What is body composition training?

Body composition training is a popular term used to train with the objective of making favourable changes to one’s body composition. Before I explain how to do that I will first explain what body composition means.

Body composition

Your ‘body composition’ is describing what your body is composed of. In the fitness world, we tend to only concern ourselves with muscle, bone, fat and water. So when we make changes to our body composition we alter the ratio of those components. Generally, we want to reduce body fat, increase muscle mass, increase our bone density and hydrate our cells with more water. Any of those developments would be considered as a favourable change in body composition.

Body composition training

Before you carry out body composition training I highly recommend you complete a 12-week GPP programme first to build the foundation you need in order for this type of training to be safe and effective. Body composition training is best carried out with the utilisation of resistance training. This training method is by far the best method for simultaneously improving bone density whilst dropping body fat and increasing muscle mass. However, there are some principles that optimise muscle growth that needs to be followed.


Volume trumps intensity. This means a greater number of reps and sets will have an overall greater impact on muscle growth than low reps and sets of heavier load.

  • 6-12 reps per set
  • 3-6 sets per exercise
  • 1-2 minutes rest between sets
  • 67-85%1RM
  • At least 10+ sets per muscle per week.
  • As many as 20 sets per week for advanced lifters.

Time under tension (TUT)

Each set should last between 30 and 70-seconds. Remember this when planning reps and tempo: (i.e 12 reps with a 2:2 tempo = 48 seconds). However, tempos greater than 10 seconds per rep have been shown to be inferior for muscle growth. 

Vary rep ranges

Train across a spectrum of rep ranges to ensure maximal stimulation of all fibres 6-8 reps, 8-10 reps, 10-12 reps.

Pump and burn but don’t fail!

You don’t need to train to all-out failure to achieve a maximal benefit. In fact, failure could lead to decreased volume across the training session and the microcycle. Periodise training to failure i.e save it for the last set or last week of mesocycle.

Big muscles first

Place the most demanding exercises at the start of the workout when energy and concentration levels are high.

First things first

Whatever gets trained first gets the biggest training effect so if you have priorities ignore the previous principle and train those first!

Full ROM

Train every exercise with a full ROM to activate all muscle fibres. Contracting muscles particularly in the stretched position is wonderful for stimulating growth. So feel the stretch before you contract the muscle.


Once movement patterns have been learned, use a variety of exercises to maximise whole body hypertrophy and use multiple planes: Sagittal, frontal, transverse.

Maximise your time

Workouts should not really take any longer than 60-minutes, not including warm-up and cool-down if you are training drug-free. 

In the next article, I will explain how to train for strength and power.

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