Have you ever wanted to know how some people can get so ripped? What do they do that’s different to everyone else?
I’ve always been fascinated by the ripped, chiselled look. I don’t care much for the bulky strong man type of physique. There’s something about the chiselled physique that’s pleasing to the eyes.
I assumed it was attained from an endless amount of crunches and running on a treadmill like a madman with hot coal under his feet. I never really knew how people got this way, (yes they are angry birds PJ’s under my joggers. It get’s cold in the UK, what can I say…).
I always heard that you have to do numerous amounts of exercises, hit the muscles from every angle with high repetitions and sets. So that’s what I did. I would train at the gym 4 days a week with a split routine. On separate days I would train, chest and triceps, back and biceps and shoulders and legs together.
I would train abs as often as possible and do endless amounts of running. I would lift weights in the rep range of 10-12 reps but I always seemed to be stuck on the same weight, I never really got any stronger. I ended up doing this for years with no significant improvements.
Finally, I got annoyed with the mediocre results, so I started to research. I found out that you cannot actually see muscular contours of the body when you have layers of fat over them. No matter how many reps and sets you are doing. Now, this may sound obvious, but I never saw myself as ‘fat’.
However, I always had a bit of a belly. Apparently in the bodybuilding world, this is known as ‘skinny fat’. This is when a person looks skinny with clothes on but has a round flabby belly underneath and that was me!
As I dug deeper I found out that, to see muscularity and definition which gives the ripped, chiselled look, men need to be around 10% body fat. For women, it’s around 16% body fat. Every human has six pack abdominals but these muscles are hidden underneath our belly fat.
I came to realise that diet is 80% of the work. There are many ways to manipulate your diet to lose body fat. This is called ‘cutting’. This involves lowering your calories and manipulating your macronutrients.
Macronutrients are simply proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. These 3 nutrients are the main factors in gaining and losing weight.
There are many great advantages of having lower fat levels. Lower fat levels for men increase the testosterone levels, therefore, making it allot easier to gain muscle with minimal fat afterwards.
Lower fat levels also leave you feeling more energetic. Furthermore, lower fat levels can raise self-esteem and confidence as your body aesthetics change.
In the bodybuilding world, gaining muscle is known as bulking. Whilst cutting, it is important to keep protein high as this helps prevent the least amount of muscle breaking down with the fat.
Contrary to some people’s beliefs (which was also my own belief) you cannot spot reduce fat.
This means you cannot lose fat from just one place of your body by exercising that particular part. So you cannot lose fat from just your belly or from just your hips etc.
Fat comes off the body overall. It will reduce as a whole, not just in one area. Now usually the belly region is the last place for fat to go, unfortunately, it’s usually also the first place fat gains occur too.
So What Did I Do?
I’m going to explain how I cut my body fat down. One thing that I advise is to set a goal in your mind of what body fat level you want to be. After you’ve done this, don’t turn back until it is achieved. You may get people commenting on how you’ve lost ‘too much weight’ or ‘you look skinny etc.
This is normal. People always tend to comment on other people but rarely take the time to look in the mirror and judge themselves. I say this because I ended up losing fat, then half way through my cutting phase, I would turn back and start to put it back on again based on people’s comments. This is a vicious cycle that wasted allot of time for me.
You know what you want so don’t bother listening to other people. If you do, you will neither see point A or point B. You will be stuck floating around the middle for years, like me. Set your goal and see it through until the end and you will be happy you did.
Afterwards, you will see the attitudes of people change when they see your new physique. You can then build upon the base you have built and add a lot of quality muscle, with minimum fat gain.
Once I stuck with my cut, I was happy I did in the end. I should have done it sooner, rather than listening to other people’s comments in between.
With that being said let’s move on…
How I Did It;
- I downloaded My fitness pal. It’s a free android calorie tracking app.
- I found out my calorie maintenance level. Click this link and you will be directed to a free online calculator.
- I then enter my goal calories into My fitness pal. This should be 500 calories under your maintenance level. So if your maintenance is 3000kals, set your goal for 2500kals.
- I set my macronutrients to 40%Protien, 30%carbs and 30% fats. This can be done under the ‘nutritional goals’ section in the app. This is a basic macro split for cutting (remember protein is kept high).
This app is brilliant. It calculates all the calories you eat and it also tells you the percentage of carbohydrates, proteins and fats consumed. I used the barcode scanner to scan the food into the app, or you can just type the name of food into the app manually. Basically, it does all of the counting and tracking for you!
What Type of Foods to Eat?
I tried to eat as healthy as I could. It is okay to eat some junk food now and then, just make sure you don’t go over your calories that you set. Obviously, try to keep junk food to a bare minimum.
Try to keep sugary foods down. I replaced white foods for brown. What I mean by this is, instead of white bread I ate brown whole grain bread, instead of white pasta I ate brown pasta, instead of white rice I ate… you get the picture.
I drank as much water as I could. Don’t overlook this step. Drinking water regularly, helps the body release stored water. I noticed a big difference in the speed of weight loss when I started drinking water regularly. I tried to drink 8 glasses a day. This sounds like a lot if you’re not used to drinking that much water like me, but you will get used to it.
Whatever you do don’t eat under your daily calorie goal hoping you will lose more fat. Only two things can come from this, either you will send your body into starvation mode, where your body will start to store fat and hold onto it for dear life, or you will lose a huge amount of muscle. I say this from experience.
How did I Workout?
The best way to keep as much muscle as possible while cutting is to train with heavyweights. This tells the body to keep hold of the muscle because it’s needed for exercise. Long duration cardio is NOT the way to go. It will burn off your muscle as well as your fat. Have you seen long distant marathon runners? They are skinny for a reason!
I worked out 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday using compound exercises. I had 2 routines, A and B which I would alternate. For example,
Mon- A, Wed-B, Fri- A
Mon- B, Wed- A, Fri-B
Compound exercises are very important in muscle building and fat loss. It’s the best way to go in my opinion. You can download the Modest Dragon free eBook about how to perform them correctly allowing you to lift heavier weight and avoid injuries. Just enter your name and email in the form on the top left or bottom of this page and it will be sent directly to your inbox.
Squats, Bench Press, and barbell row
Pretty simple right? This is a routine known as ‘strong lifts’. The difference is strong lifts incorporates 5 sets of 5 reps with the weight increasing on each exercise, every time you train. This is not ideal for cutting as it will most certainly lead to injury or over training if you are eating under maintenance calories (tried and tested!)
Before I trained I made sure I PROPERLY warmed up. I made sure I was hot and had built up a light sweat before I started. If your training with weights here’s 4 reasons why you should be foam rolling!
I kept the weight as heavy as possible (this is important) and I did 3 sets of 5 repetitions on all exercises apart from deadlifts. I only used a weight that I could complete with good form. If you cannot complete the weight with perfect form then the weight is too heavy.
The form is very important in building strength and muscle. It also prevents injury. I can’t stress enough the importance of good form. Squats are the only exercise I did 3 times a week.
I started light on squats then slowly added weight each session over a period of time to get my legs used to being trained that many times a week. This was very important.
Once I was squatting with a heavy enough weight where I could just about complete 3×5 reps, I stayed at that weight. Squats are known as the King of bodybuilding exercises for good reason. They build core strength and give you one heck of a workout.
If you keep this up for a few months you will see a significant change in your body fat levels. With further persistence, you will start to see your abs and the muscular contours of the body. After you have cut the fat down to the right levels you want, you can then concentrate on bulking and adding mostly muscle to your frame.
I went from 15% body fat to 10% using this method. I gained a six pack all without doing abdominal specific exercises like crunches or sit-ups. I had a lot more spare time as I was only training 3 days a week. Try it and you won’t be disappointed.