Getting ripped is the absolute best way to get back at an ex who left you for no good reason – fact! Okay, jokes aside, getting ripped is actually a pretty intense thing to do, but it can teach you a lot about training, dieting, and – more importantly – yourself.
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You only need 5 steps to get ripped, so hold my hand as I lead you down the Aisle of Shreds.
Before We Start – What Does Ripped Mean?
Before I can delve into the 5 simple steps, we need to establish some language markers first – if you don’t even know where you’re going, how are you planning on getting there?
By and large, being ripped simply refers to someone who’s muscular and quite lean. However, this isn’t a fact but rather an opinion. Yes, that’s right – take out your “PC Culture Handbook.” Being ripped has never been defined by a governing body or someone as an exact measurement.
“Must have 10% body fat!” – Okay, but what if they’re 400lbs and a Strongman athlete with abs? To me, that’s ripped.
“Must have 100lbs of lean muscle!” – Alright, but what about the 140lbs Figure Competitor at the Olympia with 6% body fat, who certainly has more than 40lbs worth of bones? To me, that definitely is ripped.
It’s all about interpretation. What’s ripped to you doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone.
That said, there are generally two truths to whenever anyone is referred to as “ripped”…
- They have to have a decent amount of muscle mass (for the person they are).
- They have to have very little body fat on their body, mostly below 13% for men and 20% for women (again, this varies from person to person).
If you find yourself thinking, “Wow, that’s actually really simple,” you’d be damn right. Social media, fitness magazines, and certain fitness celebrities have made many believe they need a personal chef and 17 different whey proteins to lose weight and build muscle.
But it’s not true!
Unlike all of those people, I’m not here to make a quick buck. I’m an educator. So, if you’d please, let me share the 5 steps behind getting ripped in 4 months.
Step 1 – Get Ready
This is a crucial step, and, unfortunately, many will skip it – especially females. Getting ripped on any timeline – whether it’s a year, three months, or a single month – means you have to shift your mind, your values, and your goals.
You might think I’m being dramatic, but take it from a man who’s been 4% body fat at various stages in his life: everything changes.
For one, make sure you’re financially and emotionally ready to invest and spend a lot of time per day in the gym. Also, ensure you’re healthy, to begin with. This means (primarily) that you have a healthy relationship with food, as eating disorders are rampant in the fitness community.
If you’re ready to invest in everything that’s needed, you have to make the final call before we can start.
What do you need to do?
- Lose fat first because your body fat is already high (>16% for men and >24% for women). This means you’ll start at step 4!
- Build muscle first because you have low body fat levels, and you’re in a position to build muscle tissue. If so, you start at step 2!
Step 2 – Build Some Thickness
Welcome to Muscle-Building 101. Please, take your seat. There are mass gainers on tap to your right and chicken mayo sandwiches on whole wheat to your left.
Is everyone ready? Let’s go!
Building muscle can be a tricky, arduous, and time-consuming journey, and unless you’re already pretty close to being ripped, it’ll take a lot longer than a matter of days to get truly shredded.
Most people would be happy to build 10 lbs in a year, and the more experienced you are, the harder it becomes! But it’s not all doom and gloom.
To make things simple for you, the main goal of this 8 – 12-week long phase is to build as much muscle as possible, and if we can restrict the amount of fat mass we build, that’d be rather nice. That said, the goal is muscle – not leanness!
The Diet Guidelines
First, let’s break the diet down:
- Firstly, calculate the number of calories you need to sustain your current body weight (Here). From there, add 150 – 250 calories or 10% – whichever comes first. That’s the number of calories you need to consume daily.
- You need to consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight to build lean muscle mass. If you’re over the age of 40, you might stand to increase it even more.
- Split what’s left of your calories between carbs and fats as you please. There’s some evidence that a higher-carb diet could be better for recovery and hypertrophy. However, you can’t go lower than 0.3 grams of fat per pound of body weight.
- Opting for foods that digest easier could help your overall hunger and experience. But you’d still benefit from having at least 30 grams of fiber in your diet per day.
- Having a cheat meal once or twice per week should be fine for most people.
The diet should be simple, effective, and (preferably) easy to prepare! There’s no honor in spending hours meal-prepping daily (unless you’re dating Gordon Ramsay!). Go for foods you enjoy but still fit in your macros.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should be eating McDonald’s daily because “it fits my macros, yo.” You’ll never have results as good as someone who eats chicken and rice daily. Facts. Plus, eating McD’s daily is a recipe for eating disorders.
The Training Guidelines
When it comes to training, there’s also a set of guidelines:
- You should be training with resistance, whether that be free weights, body weights, or machines. Anything that will grant your body resistance.
- It would help if you were trying to get stronger week-to-week. This means increasing the load or the number of reps you’re doing from one week to the next.
- Your volume should allow you to grow, but it shouldn’t be so high that you can’t recover. This means you might need to spend a few weeks sussing out the number of sets you can do per week, per muscle (and per session).
- Aiming to get within 3 reps of failure seems to be what’s best for hypertrophy. However, it depends on who you ask and which literature you’re reading.
Things to Keep In Mind
When it comes to both dieting and training, find something you enjoy and that’s sustainable! Doing something you don’t like or love will only lead to a half-hearted attempt, poor results, and a bad vibe. Only good vibes here, please.
You should be gaining 0.5 – 1.0% of total body weight per week, and when weight gain stops, you can simply increase your daily calories by 150 – 200. That way, you’ll see a gradual and decent increase in lean muscle mass.
Stop bulking at 16 weeks or when your body fat percentage extends past 16% – whichever comes first.
Step 3 – Maintain
This step is a bit of a controversial one, to say the least! The maintenance phase isn’t loved or appreciated by all people, mostly because it isn’t sexy. See, it simply is a time when you “saturate” this new weight you’ve achieved.
Often, when people finish a bulking period, they’ll rapidly lose weight. This is because they lower calories too quickly, and the body hasn’t really had the time to adjust to this new weight or increase in muscle mass.
While not technically essential, it’s still highly advisable. The largest and strongest individuals in the industry all make use of these, especially prior to a cutting phase – which is what’s next on the menu for you.
A maintenance phase can be executed as follows:
- Lower your calories slightly from your surplus, around 200. You shouldn’t see a great drop in weight, but you might see some weight loss, mostly coming from water and glycogen.
- Keep your training the same. However, this would also be the perfect time to make use of a deload week.
- You can decrease your calories for a while – up to 4 weeks. But you should still be well above your maintenance calories before you did the bulk.
- When you’re ready, move to step 4.
Step 4 – Get your Shredzzz
Instagram terms aside, this is (for lack of a better term) the time we finally get shredded, peeled, or simply get lean.
This will include hunger. This will include cardio. This will include a lot of sugar-free soda. If you don’t feel ready, go back to step 3!
In this phase, the main goal is losing fat. However, a very close second goal is to retain as much muscle mass as possible. Why? Well, if you end up losing all your muscle, you’ll simply end up looking flat and weak.
Alright, so how do we go about retaining muscle mass? Well, to quote Goku, “Power comes in response to a need, not a desire.”
Basically, you need to give your muscles a reason to stick around, so you need to keep training with vigor and intent.
That’s not all, though.
Dieting for Shredzzz
Let’s go through the dieting part of … dieting:
- Firstly, calculate the number of calories you need to sustain your current body weight (Here). Remove 150 – 250 calories or 10%, whichever comes first. This is the number of calories you need to consume every day.
- You need to consume at least 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight to build lean muscle mass.
- Again, split the carbs and fats as you wish for the remaining calories.
- In this phase, you’d also benefit from eating higher-fiber foods (whole grains, veggies, etc.) to help you keep fuller for longer.
- Cardio can be implemented as a means to create a calorie deficit, but we’ll talk more about this later.
As you can see, the dieting aspect is rather simple. The only thing is – it’s unbearably boring to some, and if you live a life that’s filled with stress and fatigue, you might find this really hard.
This is why you should choose a diet that you can actually sustain. Keto, vegan, paleo, or whatever catches your fancy, as long as you follow these guidelines.
Lifting for Shredzzz
Now, let’s move on to the lifting. If you think we’ll be doing burpees and “20-Minute Fat Burners!” to lose weight, you’d be wrong – dead wrong. We’ll be doing deadlifts.
That’s right. You’ll still be training with big ‘ol heavy weights.
Here are the new training guidelines:
- You should be training with resistance, and you can use any split that allows you to recover optimally. Personally, I prefer Push Pull Legs, but you can do what’s best for you.
- You should be aiming to get stronger week-to-week. This will be hard the closer you get to your peak leanness, but keeping strength high should still be the goal.
- Your volume should decrease as the weeks go on. For example, you might start your cut with 10 sets on the chest and end with only 6.
- Cardio can be done after workouts or fasted in the morning. Either works fine. But do not push past 60 minutes of cardio per day.
- Aim to lose 0.5 – 1.0% of total body weight per week only, as trying to lose more than this can result in muscle loss.
And that’s that! Training really doesn’t differ too much from bulking to cutting. However, due to the increased food, you’ll be able to handle more volume when bulking.
Don’t Go Overboard on the Cardio
Don’t overdo it with the cardio, either! Sure, it’s an effective way to burn calories (and listen to podcasts), but it can cause some bad effects, too, if you push it too far:
- A greater increase in cortisol, a stress hormone that might slow down fat loss
- Too much cardio might slow down overall recovery
- Bodybuilders have pointed out their legs lose size when they do too much cardio
- Dehydration will literally negatively impact your entire body
Try to increase your cardio as needed slowly. Usually, increments of 10 minutes work best.
Opting for lower-intensity cardio options could also help you lose fat while not adversely impacting recovery. So options like incline walking or elliptical would work best and at a general heart rate of 100 – 120 beats per minute.
Basically, you should be able to have a conversation while doing cardio.
Also, never do cardio before weight training!
Step 5: Remain (Somewhat) Lean
Remaining super lean isn’t healthy. Somewhat lean, however, isn’t that unhealthy. It simply means you remain in a “strike zone” where you can still get to that super-low body fat level within 4 weeks.
This means you get to live a (somewhat) normal life with regular lifting, cardio, and at least one unplanned meal per week. This phase isn’t ideal, and you won’t gain muscle here, but it’s a sweet spot between shredz and life quality.
Your girlfriend loves this phase because you look good, but you don’t get hangry…
5 Steps to Ripped Conclusion
It’s been quite a journey we’ve been on in this article, right?! We’ve gone from blending smoothies to gaining weight to fighting off Karen’s for kale in the produce aisle…
Ah, I miss Karen number 4. She had a mean left hook.
Getting (and staying) ripped is certainly not for everyone. It’s a hard and difficult journey, and most would always prefer the easier way out. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill. There’s no secret way. It simply is time and effort that’ll get you the results.
That said, the journey is amazingly simple!
You calculate the amount of food you need, then your macros, and you get your a*s to the gym! In a few simple steps:
- Get ready.
- Build some thickness.
- Get your shredzzz.
Before we end, remember that consistency will always trump perfection. You don’t need to be perfect – no one is. Even Olympians sometimes mess up, and that’s okay.
We’re all human. Don’t let it derail you, and don’t let it discourage you. Simply try and find solutions for the reasons you fall off the path.
Meal prep, spicy foods, whatever niche you need to fix to stay on track, go for it. There’s no right or wrong way for everyone. There’s just the way that works best for you.
Sure, some methods might be marginally better when looking at the literature. However, for you, adherence to the plan is the most important thing.