There is a season for everything- a season for gaining and a season for cutting. While only the most enthusiastic lifters choose to bulk during some months and cut down in others, the constant truth is that most, if not all gym goers dedicate time to reduce body fat.
Whether it is for the summer, or for a competition, cutting does help your physique appear more muscular. In a universe that is continually enthroning aesthetics over mass, knowing how to cut has become a necessary lesson that every fitness enthusiast must learn.
The ultimate goal of cutting is to reduce as much body fat as is necessary, all the while preventing lean muscle loss. It’s a tricky balancing act, but one that can be learnt and perfected by understanding its two facets.
Your diet is the first. Unlike during bulking when the goal is to increase your intake to create a calorie surplus, cutting calls for a delicate balancing act between the calories taken in and those expended. There are different variables to be accounted for, such as the kind of exercise routines to be adopted, resting metabolic rate and so on.
Ideally, your diet should emphasize on protein for preserving muscle, carbohydrates for energy provision, fats as well as vegetables. There is no one-size-fits all diet. Thus you should endeavor to find the kind that works best for your body.
For that aesthetic look, you need to change your routines a little. Cardio has to feature more significantly, as its fat burning effects are more pronounced as compared to weight lifting. You basically have two options:
HIIT, or High Intensity Intermittent Cardio is quick and arguably more effective in burning calories. It is easy to conduct, and it doesn’t have to be limited to running. You can use whatever cardio equipment available. A typical cardio session looks like this, assuming cycling is your preferred exercise, and you have already warmed up.
- Cycle 1 minute at 70% of your maximum heart rate
- Increase speed for 20-30 seconds at 90-95% of maximum heart rate
- Repeat, ten times for an average fifteen minutes.
Do this three times a week and ideally on the days when you are away from the gym. Remember to change the exercise to forestall a plateau.
Low intensity cardio also produces desirable results, when done 3-4 times a week. It will not lead to muscle loss, as most people believe, as fat is the energy resource used. 30-60 minutes should suffice and keeping the intensity low will ensure that your body does not turn to carbohydrates for energy provision. Low intensity cardio is great for building endurance.
Weight training cannot be exempted during the cutting phase as it helps with muscle preservation. Ideally, your routines should be built around compound exercises. These recruit the longest and largest number of muscles, and the net result is a greater caloric expenditure. The workout should look like:
- Bench Press
- Shoulder Press
- Side Bends
This constitutes one circuit, which should be repeated for 2-3 times. There should be no more than 10-20 seconds rest in between. Keeping your heart rate up is critical for maximum fat loss. Ensure you include assisting exercises in between for best results.
Alternatively, you can opt for hypertrophy specific training. It works the main muscle groups, and lets you get a full body workout. The main muscle groups are legs, back, arms, chest, shoulders, calves and abdominals. Doing two exercises per muscle group, with three sets for each (4 for legs, back and arms) is the best route of execution.
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