Depletion Workouts | What Are They?

Depletion Workouts

When it comes to training for hypertrophy, we usually have a date we want to aim to be looking our best for; whether it be for a competition, a holiday, or simply just for your own personal satisfaction. Ideally, we want to look as big and lean as we can, this can be possible. In order to look your absolute best there are a number of methods which can be carried out leading up to the big day (or week). One of these methods is using depletion workouts.

depletion workout

What’s Depletion And What Exactly Are We Depleting?

Your body uses carbohydrates as energy, which are stored as muscle glycogen. Glycogen depletion is a method which involves training hard to exhaust your body’s supply of muscle glycogen; which will in turn increase your sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is a hormone which is in control of the glucose levels your blood carried; and once you’ve exhausted your body of muscle glycogen your insulin will become very sensitive as you haven’t had an adequate amount of carbohydrates to perform and then recover effectively.

Once you’ve trained to depletion and you’ve increased you insulin sensitivity, your body will be ready to handle a big hit of carbohydrates without increasing the risk of gaining fat. This concept is similar to when you eat barely any food for a day or two for instance possibly due to illness and then you begin eating normally the next day; your body realises it hasn’t had enough fuel to function properly and begins to cling onto everything you put into it. So, when we exhaust our carbohydrate supplies and then give our body a re-feed of them, we manage to hold onto the carbohydrates more than we usually would.

depletion workouts

What stops us from gaining the fat is our bodies need to replace the muscle glycogen, as after resistance training the body usually uses those carbohydrates to aid in repairing broken down muscle tissues and this makes our muscles fuller.

When it comes to knowing how to exercise, the concept is pretty simple; train muscles until exhaustion. Typically a person would perform 5 sets of 15-20 reps on the majority of exercises in order to exhaust it.

Of course, training like that for a prolonged period of time before re-feeding would be very intense and taxing; using a typical bro-split where you train one body part at a time would simply not be optimal.

depletion workouts

Depletion Workout Routine

I personally use a Push/Pull/Legs routine, but if I want to deplete my glycogen stores I’ll have minimal to no carbohydrates for just ONE DAY and perform an “Upper” and “Lower” training session; this is done by training lower one day, and upper one day… and at the end of the second day after you’ve trained you’ll re-feed all of your carbohydrates. This means that you’re only without carbohydrates for one day, but you’re able to train twice over two days and then re-feed straight after the second training session.

Example Upper/Lower Split


  • Exercise 1: Incline Bench Press – 5 sets of 15
  • Exercise 2: Rack-Pulls – 5 sets of 15
  • Exercise 3: Triceps Dips – 5 sets of 15
  • Exercise 4: Lat Pull-Downs – 5 sets of 15
  • Exercise 5: Shoulder Press – 5 sets of 15
  • Exercise 6: Seated Cable Row – 5 sets of 15
  • Exercise 7: Cable Flyes – 5 sets of 15-20
  • Exercise 8: Rear-Delt Flyes – 5 sets of 15-20
  • Exercise 9: SS: Biceps Curls & Triceps Push-downs – 5 sets of 15-20


  • Exercise 1: Squats – 5 sets of 15
  • Exercise 2: Rear Leg Deadlifts – 5 sets of 15
  • Exercise 3: Hack Squats – 5 sets of 15
  • Exercise 4: SS: Hamstring Curls & Leg Raises – 5 sets of 15-20
  • Exercise 5: Walking Lunges – 5 sets of 20
  • Exercise 6: Calve Raises – 5 sets of 20
  • Exercise 7: Leg Press (High Stance) – 5 sets of 20

Note: SS = Super Set.

Take Home Message

Remember: In order to deplete your muscle glycogen stores you’ll need to be in a calorie deficit and more specifically a deficit in carbohydrates. Try this depletion workout routine and let us know how it goes!

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