There is no greater feeling than the confidence boosting look in the mirror and thinking ‘ I did it’ and realizing you have managed to make your body lean and muscular, you generally look bigger even though the numbers say smaller.
The process of achieving this has downsides as well, most individuals see a big drop in strength and lower energy levels make familiar workouts feel more difficult, is this a necessary trade-off?
After many different trials, I have come to the conclusion that you can get lean whilst retaining strength, here is how you do it.
1) Use A Strength Split
Losing a bit of muscle size in a cut is inevitable but strength doesn’t have to be. That is an important distinction and is best achieved by following a plan structured around maintaining strength in the four major barbell lifts. Bench press, overhead press, squat and deadlift. Focus on one for each workout and perform it first in your lineup when energy levels are at their highest, use the most demanding weights. During those lifts, take 2 to 3 minutes rest between sets so you are fully recovered before the next working set.
It is fine to add in some multijoint assistance exercise to further maintain strength in that workout’s big lift, the remainder of the movements and techniques in your training session should be devoted to burning calories, here are some ideas:
- Perform push-ups between sets on lower-body days.
- Perform bodyweight squats between sets on upper-body days.
- Superset movements using dropsets to train past failure.
- Add in cluster sets, choose your 12-rep max and do sets of 5 reps, resting 15 seconds between each set. Continue like this for 4-5 minutes.
All these techniques allow you to do more work in less time and raise your metabolism so you burn more calories during and after each training session.
2) Keep It Heavy On The Big Lifts
Nothing will ruin your strength faster than switching to a purely high-rep scheme in the name of burning more calories. Maintaining strength requires that you perform the correct training stimulus and that means well-intentioned sets of 15-20 need to stop for a while.
When cutting, after properly warming up, perform few working sets that go higher than 10 reps, don’t exhaust yourself doing 3 sets with a high rep count because your strength will fall off. If you want to do more sets, add 3-4 sets of only 2-3 reps apiece, the heavy weight ensures the body part is still getting the strength stimulus.
This is when it is worth having a spotter, you don’t want someone who does not have a clue spotting you and ruining your focus and sets, especially for the big four lifts, it is best to use a spotter for the last couple of sets on that day’s heaviest lifts, just make sure you trust your support system and that they know the rules of the a good spot.
3) Cycle Cardio Seasonally And Time It Weekly
I don’t always step on a cardio machine as I like to save it for when I really need it, my body responds much quicker when it isn’t a usual routine. When doing cardio, I switch between high-intensity interval training (HiiT) cardio and stready pace cardio.
Cardio cycling is important and so is the scheduling of it so you can do it whilst cutting, you don’t want your legs to feel burned from yesterday’s sprints while trying to power out of a squat.
HiiT cardio can help to keep your metabolism elevated long after your workout ends and is very beneficial if your next lifting session involves upper-body musculature as it won’t interfere with muscle glycogen stores. Conversely, stick to lower-intensity steady-state cardio if your next weight workout involves the lower body.
4) Cut Energy Foods In Stages
Carbs are one of the first macros your are likely to lower when following a calorie-reduction diet to get lean but it is important to target the right kinds of carbs. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains and starches have a longer molecular structure and take more time to digest which helps with stabilizing blood-sugar levels. They are also important for replenishing used muscle glycogen stores which help you to power through a workout.
Sugary foods are more likely to be stored as fat because they quickly raise insulin levels. Foods like cereals, cakes, ice cream, soda and refined grains like white bread and white rice can spike insulin, save your higher-glycemic carbs for before and after workouts or for phases where you’re trying to gain size.
If fat-loss efforts have come to a grinding halt, be careful about further drastic cuts in carbohydrate intake, you want to have enough energy in store to feel strong going into every workout. This is where carb-cycling can be especially effective, limiting them on some days, especially rest days and increasing them on days with demanding workouts.
5) Prioritize Supplements That Preserve Muscle And Strength
I keep stacks simple when cutting, focusing on supplements that can help minimize muscle loss, maintain strength and help chip away at fat stores.
During a calorie reduction phase, protein consumption becomes even more important, so I include at least one serving of whey protein each day. Then, with my first actual meal, I take a product known as Clear Muscle which helps with protein synthesis and keeps my body functioning in an anabolic state.
When you are training hard and depleting your system, your body is under a lot of stress which is what makes supplementation so potentially valuable. You need to help fill in the gaps during that process, ensuring your body is working at peak efficiency,
The Get Ripped, Stay-Strong Program
Every training day in this program revolves around one main lift, a deadlift, bench press, squat or overhead press, all for 4 sets of 4 clean reps, no failing here.
For the 2nd exercise of each training day, called an assistance exercise, choose from different variations of the lift:
- Deadlift: Rack pull, Romanian deadlift, sumo deadlift.
- Bench press: Incline barbell press, floor press, dumbbell bench press.
- Squat: Front squat, box squat, Zercher squat, double-kettlebell front squat.
- Overhead press: Seated military press, dumbbell overhead press, double or single kettlebell overhead press.
Straight after the main lift, you will include one assistance exercise in the 5 to 8 rep range, also never take them to muscle failure. After the strength work, you will increase the density of your training using supersets, dropsets, cluster sets and cardio-acceleration techniques. Throughout these movements you will work closely to muscle failure.
Feel free on this half of the workout to try different exercises and try alternate techniques so you are not always repeating the same workout. The sets I have put below do not include warm-up sets. Perform as many warm-up sets as needed but never take them to muscle failure.
Sample Get Ripped, Stay Strong Workout
Day 1: Deadlift Focus
- Barbell deadlift – 4 sets of 5 reps, 85% of 1Rep Max (1RM).
- Rack pull – 3 sets of 5-6 reps, 80-85% of 1RM.
- Super set – Standing T-bar row – 3 sets of 10-12 reps.+ Push-up – 3 sets of 45 seconds AMRAP, rest 30 seconds.
- Single-arm dumbbell row – 3 sets of 10-12 reps with a single dropset after every set.
- Wide-grip seated cable row – Using your 12RM, do max reps, rest for 15 seconds and repeat for 4 minutes. Note: Use a wide grip on a lat bar.
- Standing barbell curl – 4 sets of 8-10 reps with a double dropset on final set.
Day 2: Bnech-press focus
- Bench press – 4 sets of 5 reps, 85% of 1RM.
- Barbell incline bench press – 3 sets of 5-8 reps, 80-855 of 1RM.
- Superset – Decline dumbbell press – 3 sets of 10-12 reps, Bodyweight squat – 4 sets of 45 seconds, AMRAP, rest 30 seconds.
- Seated machine bench press – 3 sets fo 10-12 reps with a single dropset after every set.
- Smith machine low-incline bench press – Using your 12RM , do max reps, rest for 15 seconds and repeat for 4 minutes.
- Triceps dip machine – 4 Sets of 8-10 reps with a double dropset on final set.
Day 3: Squat focus
- Squat – 4 Sets of 5 reps, 85% of 1RM.
- Front squat – 3 Sets of 5-8 reps, 80-85% of 1RM.
- Superset – Barbell walking lunge – 3 sets of 10-12 reps + Push-up – 3 sets of 45 seconds, AMRAP rest 30 seconds.
- Romanian deadlift – 3 Sets of 10-12 reps with a single dropset after every set.
- Leg extension – Using your 12RM, do max reps, rest for 15 seconds and then repeat for 4 minutes.
- Standing calf raises – Using your 12RM, so max reps and rest for 15 seconds, repeat for 4 minutes.
Day 4: Overhead press
- Overhead press – 4 Sets of 5 reps, 85% of 1RM.
- Seated dumbbell military press – 3 Sets of 5-8 reps, 80-85% of 1RM.
- Superset – Wide-grip upright row – 3 Sets of 10-12 reps + Bodyweight squat – 3 sets of 45 seconds, AMRAP, rest 30 seconds.
- Superset – Dumbbell lateral raise – 3 Sets of 10-12 reps with a single dropset after every set + Bent-over rear-delt raise – 3 Sets of 10-12 reps with a single dropset after each set.
- Front cable raise – Using your 12RM, do maximum reps and rest for 15 seconds and repeat for 4 minutes, tip: use a rope with both arms simultaneously.
So if you are looking to get your body lean to enjoy the summer comfortably then read the guide and take action on your goals., click here and torch that stubborn belly fat.