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4 Ways to Boost Lactate

The hours spent at the gym per week doing droning rounds of cardio are something none of us enjoy. In their avoidance, we’ve all sought after the high-intensity, low-rest training methods to help boost your metabolism to oblivion.


HIIT (high-intensity interval training) has become a staple of many training programs for fat loss and often, prolonged biting-of-the-dust ensues.

Here’s what we know – and these apply to both workouts with weights and cardio:

  • Training with compound movements a la total body will burn more calories.
  • Training with lowered rest intervals a la HIIT will increase metabolic demands, so more total calories are burned if you add the exercise and post-exercise components.
  • Knowing this, we can add another key player into effect and use it wisely: that of lactate.

What Lactic Acid Can Do for You

Just so we’re clear, lactic acid is a by-product of anaerobic exercise. When the muscles have no oxygen to work with (normally in the first 10-15 seconds of intense exercise, like a heavy bench press or a fast sprint), they have to rely on chemical compounds without oxygen present. The waste product that occurs as a result of this all is lactate. That’s the “burn” you feel as you start getting fatigued.

But the burn can do you well where fat loss and a lean body are concerned. Strength guru Charles Poliquin notes that increases in lactate through small rest intervals and proper training methods can stimulate the pituitary gland to release up to nine times more growth hormone than at rest. That means fat loss, fat loss, fat loss, all the while building more solid muscle. Not to mention, your metabolism will be going berserk through the protocols I’m about to lay out here.

4 Killer High Lactate Protocols

With these ideas, you have to play it smart. First, the trick is to still reap muscle-building requirements (proper amounts of volume and weight lifted) while lowering the rest. It’s tough to do both at the same time.

Ladder Set Training

These can become a staple to any cutting program. They help you maintain your strength, and improve muscular endurance, but they don’t sacrifice your weight lifted! To do them, choose a movement (compound movements like squats, standing presses or bent-over rows work best). After warming up, load it to approximately your 10-12 rep max. Take it out of the rack and perform two reps. Rack it, and rest for 10 seconds. Take it back out and do three reps. Rest for 10, then do five reps. Rest again for 10 seconds, and then do 10 reps. By giving your ATP only 10 seconds of rest in between these progressively larger sets, the demands on the lactate system get stronger and stronger. By the time you’re finished the set of five reps, you should be dreading what’s to come. (If not, the weight you lifted was too light.)

Another benefit of this system is that by using these “mini breaks” within your sets, you’ve just sidled your way into performing 20 reps with your 10-rep max – a great tip for improving general strength and muscular endurance!

Here’s a list of the exercises that make ladder sets work like a charm:

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Standing Overhead Barbell Press
  • Barbell Bent-Over Row
  • Barbell Back Squat
  • Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press
  • Pull-Up/Chin-Up
  • Under-the-Bar-Row
  • Barbell Push-Press
  • Leg Press
  • Barbell Biceps Curl
  • Wide-Grip Seated Row
  • Lat Pulldown

TUT Training

Applying time under tension (TUT) can be employed in a variety of ways as a means of increasing lactate. You can have sets that last 20 reps – just like the above system uses. But if you want to be able to save your ego and train with somewhat lighter weights on your submaximal effort scale, this protocol may be for you. This works especially well with exercises that involve pushing muscles (although you’ll do just fine using them on the big pulling movements, too). Use a 4x1x1 tempo: 4 seconds to lower the weight, 1 second pause at the bottom, then explode through the rep itself, and pause for one more second at the top.

The ultra-slow negative reps using this method make the body produce one helluva lot of lactate. Doing a rep over 5 seconds doesn’t seem like a long time, but don’t be fooled – in the crux of fatigue, it feels like an eternity. Work for sets of up to 10 reps.

Poliquin’s GBC Method

As I noted earlier, Poliquin appreciated the benefits that could be reaped from stimulating the pituitary to release more HGH. To exploit them, he came up with his advanced German Body Composition, which I think is sheer genius.

It’s a very simple method. On a given isolation day, you choose three movements – normally ranging from most challenging multijoint movement to least compound (in this case, a single-joint movement). Perform them as a tri-set using a 6 rep/12 rep/25 rep approach. Here’s an example of a leg tri-set:

  • Squats – 6 reps
  • Lunges – 12 reps
  • Leg Extensions – 25 reps

The key here, besides exercise selection, is to choose your weights wisely. Each set should be utilizing weight that asks the most of your muscles for said rep range. Your sixth, 12th and 25th reps respectively should be ball-busting. If you really want to kick things up a notch, then use a tempo for the 6-rep set like the TUT example in the last section. In any event, chances are you’ll need to take the elevator to your second-floor apartment for the balance of the week.

Burnout Sets

Even if the whole high-lactate method isn’t your cup of tea, you can still employ them sparingly in your top-end strength-training days.

We all like the “big bang” exercises to lead off our bodypart workouts – some form of the bench press for the chest, squats for legs, standing presses for the shoulders, weighted pullups or deadlifts for the back. In order to snag the profits of hormonal release, tack on a “burnout” set at the end of your last heavy work set for one of these bodypart exercises. After a shortened rest, lower your training weight to about 60% of the weight you lifted in your work sets, and perform as many reps as possible. I’ll be damned if there’s a study to back this up, but for most lifts, based on my experience with clients, the general outcome is somewhere in the region of 17 reps to failure. I’m sure this result varies with a particular client’s conditioning, and the rep ranges used in his work sets, but be sure to lift fast. Tempos need not apply in the burnout. Use a spotter and extend your set for as long as possible, trying to maintain proper form. That’ll send the lone 8×3 or 5x5s to the crypt any day of the week.

Burn Your Way to Lean Muscle

Most of you reading this aren’t competing athletes – rather, just lifting enthusiasts in pursuit of muscle, functionality and a solid lean presence. That means the programming doesn’t have to be elaborate. The search for the absolute “best method” to train can prove to be a futile one, and sometimes simple variety within programming can be your best friend.

The truth is, this stuff is just a game with science. If we learn the rules, we’ll be able to play the game with the best of ‘em. Take the time to put these tricks of the trade into practice and you’ll be glad you did.