Twelve action-packed weeks stuffed with cardio and lifting, 84 workouts, absolutely no rest days, and a promise of an aesthetic lean physique three months down the line (well, if you survive).
What do you say? You in?
The so-called “Mass with Class,” Lee Labrada, spawned that exact program almost a decade ago in the form of Lean Body 12-Week Trainer on Bodybuilding.com’s BodyFit platform.
But before you leave the next three months of training in the former Mr. Universe’s hands, read this program review first!
About the Creator – Lee Labrada
The Golden Age of Bodybuilding was already winding down by the time Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, and Serge Nubret were calling it quits on wildly successful careers.
Lee Labrada joined the bodybuilding craze in 1982, placing first in Texas-based and junior competitions before advancing onto the pro world.
His stage career eventually spiraled into:
- At least 22 bodybuilding titles in the professional circuit (including Mr. Universe)
- Seven straight top-four finishes at Mr. Olympia, tying the Austrian Oak
- Over 100 magazine covers
- A nutrition brand aptly named Labrada Nutrition
- Induction into the IFBB Hall of Fame (2004)
Since retiring in 1995, Labrada’s been quite candid about his … questionable journey toward IFBB titles. He admitted to anabolic steroid use (but he’s adamant they didn’t help him on stage).
Labrada later accepted the role of Houston’s first-ever “Fitness Czar” back in 2002, rolling out the “Get Lean Houston” campaign to lower the epidemic-level obesity rates in Texas.
The very next year, Houston forfeited its title of “Fattest City in America,” though obesity rates lingered above the national average at 33% in 2017.
(That unfortunate title now belongs to Little Rock, Arkansas. Congratulations!)
What is Lee Labrada’s Lean Body 12-Week Trainer?
Ridiculously exhausting with a hint of overtraining.
Lean Body 12-Week Trainer strikes a delicate balance between your mortal enemy — cardio (& fat-burning) — and the one you tell your girlfriend not to worry about — lifting (& muscle-defining).
This body recomposition routine should inch you closer toward a more aesthetic physique with:
- Seven workouts per week, including five lifting & two cardio sessions
- (… wait for it) 84 straight workouts with no rest days whatsoever
- A triple threat: nutrition, exercise, and supplements
- Up to two hours of cardio every week to melt fat
- A focus on the 10–12-rep range, which is on the upper end of the hypertrophy spectrum
Hard disagree … we’ll get to that in a moment.
Lean Body 12-Week Trainer Details & Features
Legend has it, if you say cardio three times in one post, the “real bodybuilders don’t do cardio” crowd will stage an uprising and ready their pitchforks. (Oh, you’re still here?)
Here’s a closer look at this Lee Labrada program:
Labrada deserves some credit here. The Main Page is so no-holds-barred honest that you’ll know to get the hell out of Dodge before firing up workout #1 (if you pick up on any neon red flags).
This page is a Q&A-style course intro:
- Who’s this program for? “Anyone” with 45–60 spare minutes a day lying around.
- How often will you exercise? Literally every day (pure cardio days are “rest” days).
- What gear do you need? Basic gym equipment — machines, free weights, cardio equipment, and a pulley machine.
- What should you do after this program?
Probably run and never look back. If the thought of another 12 straight weeks of this program haunts you, Labrada recommends four other alternatives for mass and strength.
From the offset, this program looks like overkill. Eighty-four consecutive days of high-intensity training (sometimes to failure) can move you dangerously close to overtraining territory.
The longer you hammer your body with more than a dozen daily sets at 70–75% of your 1RM and four HIIT sessions/week, the more likely you’ll notice the classic OTS signs, particularly plateaus.
Labrada divides the program into a 2/1 cycle: two days of weightlifting followed by one day of cardio, and repeat! In the Workout Schedule tab, you’ll discover the 12-Week Trainer pattern:
- Back, Biceps, & Cardio
- Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps
- Legs & Abs
Or, how we see it: cardio (leg day in disguise), rest, cardio (leg day in disguise — part two), leg day (real leg day this time), repeat.
Many reputable outlets, including this study published back in 2019, suggest 48–72 hours of rest between same-muscle workouts to maximize 10RM performance.
With so much leg attention, your lower half will rarely return to the gym at 100% strength. So you may exhaust yourself at the gym … but still not have much to show for definition-wise.
The Training Guidelines tab is also a quick skim organized in an easy-read Q&A layout.
Here, Labrada describes the program’s cardio and resistance training guidelines (which will determine 20% of your success, according to the Mass with Class himself):
- What’s the training style? Most exercises fall into the 3×10–12 pattern.
- How heavy should you lift? Heavy enough that you’ll fail by the final rep.
- What’s the cardio routine like? Brutal. Cardio sessions typically drag on for 26–30 minutes and cycle through easy, moderate, and high-intensity training.
- What should you do on rest days? Cardio. Your rest days are cardio.
- Should you take rest days if you feel sore? No.
(The hole just keeps getting deeper, and deeper, and deeper.)
Of course, there are quite a few high points here, aside from the fact that the guy dubbed “Mass with Class” clearly knows how to sculpt an aesthetic physique.
It kinda sounds like a reference back to Steve Cook’s Big Man on Campus College Trainer.
- The ACSM recommends 8–12 reps per set for hypertrophy; it’s a good thing, too, because it seems like every set within this routine has 10–12 reps (it can get repetitive!).
- The American Heart Association recommends at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity plus two strength-training sessions each week. If you have a family history of heart disease or are bordering on high blood pressure or diabetes, this routine is like a one-two punch for your entire body (though nobody likes 30-minute cardio sessions).
- There’s a brief 60-second rest between all sets. A meta-analysis from 2009 uncovered that falls nicely within the sweet spot: 30–60 seconds of rest between sets raises growth hormone to an ideal level, amplifying your muscle growth even further.
- It’s essentially a push-pull-legs (PPL) routine, leaving you at least 48–72 hours of rest before targeting the same group again (though your lower body will take a beating).
- Most cardio sessions consist of interval training. Hop on your cardio equipment of choice — treadmill, bike, elliptical, or rowing machine — and alternate between spurts of moderate and high-intensity training. If you do chisel down excess body fat with this routine, it’ll be here. Research suggests that HIIT could be the key to fat-burning, responsible for burning up to 28.5% more absolute fat mass than steady-state cardio.
- The exercise choices are traditional and doable (with modifications), even in a home gym: dumbbell bench press, EZ-bar preacher curls, stiff-legged dumbbell deadlifts, etc. There’s also a little more exercise variety each time workouts roll around.
- Though training to failure is a sure ego-booster, it’s more a fad than anything else. The results of a 2016 meta-analysis found that pumping out sets until your muscles give out provides no additional benefits. In fact, not training to failure reportedly increases strength by 0.6–1.3% more!
- Twice a week, you’ll squeeze back/biceps day and cardio training into the same workout. Unfortunately, experts recommend at least six hours between cardio and resistance training if you don’t want to sacrifice performance in either.
Lean Body’s Nutrition Plan is more detailed than others we’ve seen. However, it’s still a little bare if your current diet is 60% ordering DoorDash and 40% mooching off mom’s homemade dinners.
You’ll eat five meals per day, alternating between standard meals and so-called “mini-meals.”
He also briefly (very briefly) explains the diet plan, including:
- 1g of protein per pound (the ACSM recommends at least 0.8g for hypertrophy)
- 1.5g of carbohydrates per pound
- Meals divided into equal thirds: protein, complex carbs, and fruits & veggies
- Choosing servings equivalent to the size of your open palm or fist
- Avoiding high sugar, salt, fat, and processed foods
- No soda. White Claws, whiskey, etc. (replace ‘em all with 10 cups of water a day!)
The list of suggested foods is a great start if your kitchen expertise would send Gordon Ramsay on an insult-laden rampage. The ingredient choices are quite standard for a clean eating plan.
There’s also a “cheat sheet” if you’re craving a cheat meal. If oddly specific cravings like corn muffins, raspberry tarts, and Neapolitan sundaes strike, Labrada has a healthier alternative.
(We didn’t mention calories because, well, neither did Labrada.)
Lean Body-Friendly Recipes!
Tired of the typical chicken breast/broccoli/brown rice combo? (You can admit it; it doesn’t make you any less swole.) Labrada also includes 17 recipes that fit within the nutritional plan.
Just click one that gets your taste buds swirling — maybe tangy new potatoes or a Mediterranean sandwich — and consider dinner complete.
Labrada’s dead-on about one thing: supplements won’t replace a well-balanced diet and an intense training regimen (though it’s debatable whether this plan will fill that gap entirely).
Chances are, you already have most of these supplements in your cabinet:
- Protein powder & protein bars: He lists them both separately. But as long as it’s low in fillers and artificial ingredients, high in protein (20–40g), and high in protein content (>80%), one isn’t necessarily better than the other.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate
This is one of our top recommended whey protein powders because of it’s high protein content per serving, extreme deliciousness, and the fact that all Swolverine products are sourced from GMP-certified facilities
- Multivitamins: These daily vitamins can certainly help if you’re slightly low on vitamin C, D, and micronutrients. Yet, the effects won’t be earth-shattering; research suggests that multivitamins don’t lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other deadly diseases as previously claimed. Though the vitamin B content — along with other trace nutrients — can help with energy levels, muscle health, and hormone levels to an extent.
- Fish oil: Odor aside, the findings of at least one study from 2017 suggests that supplementing with fish oil can lessen delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) by some 33–42% — which would be particularly useful for such a high-intensity daily routine. But don’t build your hopes too high; this 2002 clinical trial didn’t find that same evidence.
- Pre-workout supplements: While many researchers suggest that pre-workout supplements are little more than placebos convincing you that you feel more energized, some powders can boost anaerobic mean and peak power (2016). Those with caffeine can also improve your concentration and energy levels during draining workouts.
C4 Ripped Pre-Workout and Cutting Formula
Formulated with CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine and caffeine to improve your muscular endurance and keep fatigue at bay as you crush it in the gym.
- Creatine: This definitely-not-suspicious white powder is a favorite amongst aspiring amateur bodybuilders, and for a very good reason. A research review from 2003 compiled the results of 22 creatine-focused studies, determining that its average boosts include 8% in strength, 14% in performance, and up to 45% in bench 1RM. Greater performance = more noticeable gains.
Swolverine Kre-Alkalyn Creatine
If you want more strength, muscle, and power, this supplement is 100 servings of pure creatine to speed up recovery and increase your gains in the gym. Mixes easily in any drink without any added ingredients.
Short of the multivitamin push, Labrada’s choices in supplements are pretty spot-on. Just don’t expect 5g of creatine or a daily scoop of protein powder to make a world of difference here.
7 Important Benefits of Lean Body 12-Week Trainer
- You can’t dispute that Lee Labrada knows how to sculpt a stage-ready, aesthetic physique, even if this routine has its flaws.
- Body recomposition is possible if you add in real rest days as needed, eat enough calories and protein, and maintain a regular supplement schedule.
- The routine is doable with time, effort, and a gym membership (or a decently stocked home gym).
- It’ll definitely scratch your training itch — maybe to an extreme!
- Those already in decent shape report seeing results, so it definitely can and does work for some portion of the population.
- Most of the supplements were well-selected.
- It’s a great program for anyone with an extensive training background, and since each workout is a different mix of exercises, boredom isn’t too common.
4 Negatives of Lean Body 12-Week Trainer
- Twelve straight weeks of training with active, cardio-filled rest days will put your mind and body through the wringer with no guarantee of impressive results.
- The nutritional plan is a bit bleak for anyone with little experience in the kitchen, though the 17 pre-planned recipes are a shining light on that front.
- Possible overtraining. Wait, did we mention that one already?
- There is no mention of calories or specific suggestions for fat intake. Complete newbies might feel like they’re stuck up shit creek without a paddle. Plus, without a good diet, what’s the point of the training and supplements?
Wrapping Up This Lean Body 12-Week Trainer Review
Lean Body 12-Week Trainer is okay (yes, just okay) program if you’re a gym rat hoping for a change in pace, tons of lifting and cardio, and no concerns about overtraining.
This program is redeemable if you break the program up with real rest days every 2–3 workouts, commit both the cardio and resistance training aspects, and take charge of the diet.
But this routine brings tons of overtraining potential, the rave reviews are far and few between, and the nutritional aspect is weak. It’s a better program for those with a decent bit of training.
It can work, but it’s best to follow this program with some modifications.