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German Body Comp Program

The German Body Comp program, one of my most popular workouts, is based on the pioneering research by a Romanian exercise scientist who defected to West Germany.

Q: I’m interested in using the German Body Comp program to train for Brazilian jujitsu. Is that appropriate?

A: They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s not all that flattering when the imitators don’t do justice to the original work. Case in point: the German Body Comp program.

The German Body Comp program, one of my most popular workouts, is based on the pioneering research by a Romanian exercise scientist who defected to West Germany. Halarambie made the important discovery that the lactic acid pathway is better for fat loss than the commonly accepted aerobic pathway. He found that high blood lactic levels decrease blood pH levels, which in turn sends a message to the brain to accelerate its production of growth hormone. Higher growth hormone counts increase fat loss.

The GBC program is characterized by short rest intervals and multijoint movements to generate maximum growth hormone production. Not only does GBC result in greater fat loss than aerobic programs can produce, but it won’t sacrifice strength and muscle mass—in fact, it can make you bigger and stronger. With aerobics, all you get is fat loss and weakness. Why train your body to be weak?

How effective is the program? I’ve seen men gain 12 to 18 pounds of muscle in 12 weeks while losing fat, and it’s not uncommon for women to lose seven percent bodyfat in the same time period.

In addition to being great for anyone who wants to lose bodyfat, the GBC program is especially geared toward athletes because it develops muscular endurance. Law enforcement officers are prime candidates for the benefits of GBC, and I’ve had great success with grapplers and hockey players. In contrast, aerobic training does little to improve endurance for most sports and will compromise strength and power—it’s even been shown that upper-body aerobic training can compromise jumping ability. Which brings us back to the imitation problem.

The workout that is outlined in my book German Body Comp Program is designed for all levels of individuals. It’s a mix of machines and free weights, with the exercises increasing in difficulty—along with the overall volume of training—with the higher levels. Unfortunately, when fitness writers attempt to modify the program for athletes, they often make several critical errors in program design.

To show you how it’s supposed to be done, here’s a version for athletes who need to put on lean tissue and prepare for the months ahead of heavy lifting. Typically, the program is done by throwers and rugby players in the early off-season or by grapplers who want to take some time off the mat and build their lactate capacity; so in your case that would work. Obviously, these athletes will know their way around the weight room. It’s an advanced program and not for the weak of stomach.


A1 Snatch pulls on podium 5 x 6, X/O/X/O tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

A2 Walking lunges 5 x 6 steps per leg, X/O/X/O tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

Rest three minutes after completing all A sets

B1 Cyclists’ back squats 4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

B2 Close, parallel-grip chinups 4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

Rest 3 minutes after completing all B sets

C1 Lying leg curls (feet plantar flexed)

4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

C2 Incline dumbbell presses (semi-supinated grip)

4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

Rest 3 minutes after completing all C sets


A1 Clean deadlifts on podium 5 x 6,

4/O/X/O tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

A2 Sternum chinups 5 x 6, 2/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

Rest 3 minutes after completing all A sets

B1 Russian stepups 4 x 8-10, X/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

B2 V-bar dips 4 x 8, 3/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

Rest 3 minutes after completing all B sets 

C1 Lying leg curls (feet plantar flexed and 

   turned outward) 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

C2 Seated dumbbell presses (semi-supinated grip)

3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

C3 Seated dumbbell external rotations

   (elbow on knee) 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

Rest 3 minutes after completing all C sets


A1 Power cleans on podium 5 x 6, X/O/X/O tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

A2 Lumberjacks 5 x 6, X/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

Rest 3 minutes after completing all A sets

B1 Front squats (narrow stance with heels elevated)

4 x 4-6, 3/2/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

B2 Incline thick-bar presses 4 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

B3 Lean-away pullups 4 x 6-8, 30X0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

Rest 3 minutes after completing all B sets

C1 Lying leg curls (feet plantar flexed and

   turned inward) 3 x 6-8, 3/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

C2 One-arm bent-over shrugs 3 x 8-10, 2/0/1/2 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

C3 Low-pulley external rotations 3 x 10-12,

3/0/X/0 tempo

   Rest 45 seconds

Rest 3 minutes after completing all C sets 


A1 Snatch deadlifts, 10 x 6, descending-sets style, resting only 45 seconds; decrease the weight on every set so you can get the reps

Rest 5 minutes after competing all A sets

B1 Thick-bar curls, 8 x 8, descending-sets style, resting only 45 seconds; decrease the weight on every set so you can get the reps 

B2 Decline EZ-curl-bar triceps extensions, 8 x 8, descending-sets style, resting only 45 seconds; decrease the weight on every set so you can get the reps

The best time for athletes to use this workout is as soon as the competitive season is over so your body can get accustomed to the change in body composition. After you try it and your teammates and competitors see your great results, don’t be surprised if they start imitating you!

 Q: What do you think is the best trap exercise?

A: Besides the competitive Olympic lifting exercises and their assistance moves, one of my favorites for developing the traps is the one-arm barbell shrug. It’s great for stimulating strength and size gains in the traps and offers several advantages over conventional shrugs.

Compared to the two-arm barbell shrug, the one-arm version provides a greater range of motion. Try it if you don’t believe me. You’ll instantly feel how much higher the trapezius moves upward when you use the single-arm version. In fact, I would say that the only equivalent exercise would be shoulder shrugs using the Atlantis shrug machine, such as the one we have at the Poliquin Strength Institute.

There’s no contact with the body during one-arm barbell shrugs, permitting a much smoother performance. With dumbbells there’s a considerable amount of friction created as the plates rub against your body, especially with heavy weights. The friction increases the resistance of the movement, but you can’t actually determine how much the load has increased and, consequently, how well you’re progressing with the exercise.

With this version of the shrug, the working arm has to remain in a neutral position. The technique helps correct the excessively internally rotated shoulder and arm posture commonly associated with individuals who have bench-pressed excessively for years. 

Finally, to prevent the barbell from moving toward the front of the body, the one-arm barbell shrug requires the infraspinatus and teres minor to be recruited isometrically. The additional work develops superior shoulder integrity that would be valuable for football and rugby players, who experience a high degree of disruptive forces to the shoulders during their sports. Although it seems like a simple movement, here are some special tips on how to get the most out of the one-arm barbell shrug.

First, to make it easier to load the barbell and pick it up, set the barbell on a power rack across the pins. You can then brace yourself with your free hand against one of the power rack posts, which will let you keep your torso upright. I would recommend the use of straps only if the weight is so heavy that your grip gives out—so no straps for sets of one to three reps.

To increase time under tension, which favors greater hypertrophy, pause for a predetermined time—one to six seconds, for example—at the end of the concentric range of motion. I prescribe that pause for people who are recovering from shoulder surgery, as they often cannot handle high loads but still need the hypertrophy to rehabilitate quickly.

If your traps are in need of a dire challenge, please give the one-arm barbell shrug a try. I’m certain you’ll be very happy with the quick results it provides, and adding it to your program would pay tribute to the pioneering work of the old-time bodybuilders and strength athletes.


Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit  IM

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German Body Comp Program

Charles Poliquin Explores His Weight-Training Program Designed to Burn Fat Without Aerobics

Many trainees approach weight loss with the idea that you have to spend countless hours performing aerobics that compromise your hard-earned muscle. Now the world’s winningest strength coach offers a sensible way to lose fat without sacrificing muscular size and strength. It’s the German Body Comp Program, and it was designed by Charles Poliquin.

A native of Ottawa, Ontario, in Canada, Poliquin has developed conditioning programs for more than 400 Olympians and countless professional hockey, baseball, football and basketball players. He’s also coached numerous successful bodybuilders. Poliquin’s reputation has inspired the best and most dedicated athletes to seek private instruction from him in his new state-of-the-art Tempe, Arizona, gym.

In this exclusive interview Poliquin talks about his new book, The German Body Comp Program. It’s one of Coach Poliquin’s most popular workout protocols, as it enables trainees to lose fat without aerobics’or following carrot-stick diets’and at the same time gain muscle.

KG: Do you actually have your athletes use German Body Comp training?

CP: Absolutely. The German Body Comp Program is the fastest way to change an athlete’s body composition. I’ve had great results using it with speed skaters, hockey players and other athletes who want to lower their bodyfat and increase their endurance. And it’s ideal for bodybuilders, who want to keep every ounce of hard-earned muscle while obtaining the absolute lowest bodyfat percentage.

KG: What do you say to those who believe you can’t gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?

CP: I just tell them to look at my results. Many of my athletes report to me that they’ve made their very best gains using the German Body Comp Program. I’ve seen men gain 12 to 18 pounds of muscle within 12 weeks. And it’s not uncommon for a woman with 16 percent bodyfat to go down to 9 percent within 12 weeks.

KG: Why should someone choose your book over any of the popular weight-loss books written by fitness trainers who train movie stars? Celebrities often have amazing bodies. Is there something special about what they do that’s also in your program?

CP: First, you need to understand that being popular doesn’t always mean being good. One of the most popular exercise books for weight loss on the market first made the best-seller list because the author, who is a millionaire, bought 50,000 copies to help move it to the top of the list. When the public saw that it was a best-seller, they assumed it was good, and that hype helped generate sales to keep it on the best-seller list. Second, it’s no secret that the most special thing many celebrities, such as movie stars, do is cosmetic surgery. And let’s face it, many of the celebrity clients those trainers are working with simply have superior genes.

KG: So what you’re saying is that no matter how good a program is, Oprah Winfrey is never going to look like Britney Spears?

CP: I’m confident the German Body Comp Program would help Oprah look the best she’s ever looked, but it’s obvious that Britney Spears has the right genes to help her look like she does.

KG: Genetics and liposuction aside, are there any similarities between the type of training the best celebrity trainers do and the German Body Comp Program?

CP: Not to my knowledge. The workout protocol in the German Body Comp Program was designed a long time ago by Hala Rambie, a Romanian exercise scientist who defected to West Germany. Rambie was the first exercise scientist to propose the concept that the lactic acid pathway was better for fat loss than the commonly accepted aerobic pathway. He found that when you increase your blood lactic level, your blood pH decreases, and that sends a message to your brain to accelerate its production of growth hormone. Growth hormone helps the body burn fat. Simple as that.

KG: Studies have suggested that a small amount of aerobic training, such as 20 minutes three times a week, doesn’t compromise strength gains. Would adding such a relatively small amount of aerobics to the workouts increase the amount of fat loss in your program without sacrificing muscle mass?

CP: That approach might be all right for some, but the way I look at it is, most people work for a living and can fit in only so much training. One of the advantages of the German Body Comp Program is that you can achieve maximum weight loss with a minimal investment of time. Beyond that, aerobic conditioning does little to improve sports performance for most of the athletes I train. ALL KG: Are you saying that aerobic training is overrated for most athletes?

CP: That’s right. For example, the average VO2 max in the NBA is only about 47, compared to about 42 for the average couch potato and about 80 for a world-class rower. If you look at the research, there are studies showing that the higher your aerobic power, the lower your vertical jump. To make a basketball player, or for that matter any athlete who needs speed and power, perform a lot of aerobic work would be counterproductive.

KG: Are aerobics at least used as a warmup for your program?

CP: They can be, but the best warmup is to take the first two stations in the program and do about two sets of five, using increasingly heavy weight. If your first exercise is the deadlift and you expect to use 150 for your primary training weight, you could start with 95×5 followed by 135×5.

KG: Is it better for athletes to use this program in the postseason or in the preseason, when their improvements in muscular endurance are greatest?

CP: No question about it’it’s always better for athletes to make the biggest changes in weight loss or weight gain as far from the competitive season as possible so they have more time to become accustomed to the change. Take figure skating, a sport that involves an exceptionally high degree of body awareness. Say a female skater drops eight to 10 pounds of fat just before a competition; she may not perform well because she’s not used to jumping at that lower bodyweight. Likewise, a football player doesn’t want to perform a hypertrophy phase in the preseason because he won’t have enough time to get accustomed to his increased size by the time the season starts.

KG: Is there any difference in the results seen by men and women who use the German Body Comp Program?

CP: It works equally for both; however, many women prefer this type of training because they don’t like the feeling associated with the blood engorgement that comes from doing a lot of sets that concentrate on a single bodypart.

KG: Because German Body Comp training focuses on multijoint exercises over isolation movements, is it better for athletes suffering from overuse injuries such as tendinitis?

CP: Possibly. But tendinitis is most often associated with uneven tension in the muscular structures, which sometime can be resolved with soft-tissue treatments.

KG: Some exercise authorities would say that if people are in extremely bad shape, it would be better to have them build a minimal level of strength by performing a low-intensity aerobic program such as walking before beginning a weight-training program. Is that good advice?

CP: Exercise physiologists say that strength is the mother of all physical qualities, so even if you want to go for a walk, you still need some strength to get out of your chair. For the chronically obese, weight training is a better way to train because it can bring about faster changes in body composition. I would have them start the program by taking up to three minutes between sets, then reducing the rest interval by 15 seconds at each workout. Most people will be able to handle my protocol in about 10 workouts.

KG: Is there room in your program for people who need to perform rehabilitation exercises, such as rotator cuff work for the shoulder? And how should they modify their workout?

CP: They should either incorporate the exercises into the training process or simply shorten the program and perform the rehabilitation exercises at the end. KG: What type of evaluation process, if any, do you use at your training center for overweight clients?

CP: Normally my first step is to put them through a full blood profile so we can prescribe precise food selections and supplement choices. Interestingly, you can almost predict their blood work by doing a 12-site bodyfat test to determine where they have the highest fat stores.

KG: Is there a particular diet that the German Body Comp Program works best with, such as high protein/low fat?

CP: Only about 25 percent of the population does well with lowfat/high-protein meals. For most people a high-protein/low-carb diet with an emphasis on the good fats would be more appropriate. As a general rule, the best way to diet to lose bodyfat on this system can be summed up in one sentence: ‘If it doesn’t swim, run or fly, or it’s not green, don’t eat it. In other words, you should focus on eating vegetables and animal-based proteins’sort of a Paleolithic, or caveman, diet.

KG: Many weight-loss programs recommend eating numerous small meals throughout the day rather than two to three large ones. Is it better to eat more frequently?

CP: Generally speaking, I would say yes, but everybody is different. Some people don’t react as well to eating frequently, and there are some who need food about every 1 1/2 hours. I would say the accepted range is between 1 1/2 and 3 1/2 hours, and beyond 3 1/2 you might shortchange yourself.

KG: It’s been suggested that to enhance fat loss, people should train in the morning on an empty stomach, as the body’s glycogen stores are low and fat is immediately accessed. Is that safe?

CP: If you lift weights in the morning, I’d say eat a light meal beforehand because your blood sugar is so low in the morning and the workout is going to lower it even more. That effect causes most people to feel nauseated and dizzy. If you’re talking about performing a short, low-intensity aerobic session, then it may not be a problem, except that the aerobics may compromise muscle tissue.

KG: Many people who use programs with short rest intervals get nauseated during the workout. To prevent that, what should people eat before performing the German Body Comp Program?

CP: Obviously, sausages are worse than whey-protein powders, but it’s not so much what you eat as when you eat. People often get nauseated because they train too soon after eating. But I know athletes who can eat right before they work out and have no problems. You’ll find that weight trainees have a transition time that’s four times slower, so their ability to process food fast will improve. Some guys who are well trained can eat 30 minutes before performing GBC and don’t feel nauseated at all.

KG: Most popular weight-loss programs use meal-replacement drinks, whereas your book advocates actual food.

CP: The problem here is that there are very few good meal replacements on the market that are truly low carb’one dead giveaway that it’s a bad product is if you can purchase it at any discount store. Although meal replacements are convenient, it’s been shown that whole foods are more thermogenic. That said, however, it’s better to use a meal replacement than to skip a meal.

KG: There’s a school of thought that athletes need to take frequent breaks from strength training, such as a one-week break after four weeks of training and then several weeks off after several months of training. Do you recommend that people take such layoffs when following the German Body Comp Program?

CP: One of the primary reasons many trainees have to take frequent layoffs is that their workouts don’t have enough variety. As for weight loss, it’s been shown that if a program lacks enough variety, you will stop producing as much growth hormone even though you may continue to become stronger. It’s been said that for a man to live to be 100 years old, he must sweat every day. That’s good advice.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin’s German Body Comp Program is available from Home Gym Warehouse for $29.95 plus shipping and handling. Call (800) 447-0008 to order, or visit IM

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