Your first priority should be setting your calorie and macronutrient intake correctly. This will ensure steady fat loss without compromising recovery, workout performance, or hormonal balance.
Food choices and nutrient timing don’t really matter for body composition but they are very important for health, satiety and consistency.
A caloric deficit of about 25% would be the maximum recommended for most people in this category. If you try to cut calories more than this,
strength and muscle loss will likely occur. See the table below for the maximum recommended fat loss per week depending on body fat percentage:
Body fat% Maximum recommended fat loss per week
20-30 2 lbs. / 0.9kg
15-20 1-1.5 lbs. / 0.45-0.7kg
10-15 1-1.2 lbs. / 0.45-0.6kg
Provided you make strength gains in the gym, muscle growth can still occur during this time but your weight will decrease substantially.
Relative strength is the best indicator of muscle retention or muscle gain on a diet. While in a caloric deficit the main goal of an advanced or intermediate lifter is to maintain strength on the main compound lifts (beginners can make gains of course).
If relative strength is going down while cutting, chances are they’re losing a bit of muscle. According to Lyle McDonald, when the goal is muscle retention the total
workout volume can be reduced by 2/3rds as long as the intensity stays the
Put another way, you could maintain volume and frequency at the same level but if you cut intensity, you will lose the adaptation.
Now that doesn’t mean we should
reduce volume by 2/3rds, it’s just good to know that we can.
An energy deficit is also a recovery deficit so if we’re losing strength
on a cut, changing to a lower volume routine may be beneficial.
So here’s a low-volume routine you could do while leaning down for free:
Workout A – Back and Shoulders, arms
- weighted chin ups: 4-6, 6-8, 8-10 (reverse pyramid sets)
- militair press: 4-6, 6-8, 8-10 (reverse pyramid sets)
- barbell row: 6-8, 8-10, (reverse pyramid sets)
- Arnold press: 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps
- incline dumbbell curl: 3 reps of 6 to 10 reps
Workout B – Chest and Legs, arms
- bench press: 4-6, 6-8, 8-10 (reverse pyramid sets)
- front squats: 4-6, 6-8, 8-10 (reverse pyramid sets)
- Romanian deadlift: 6-8, 8-10 (reverse pyramid sets)
- incline dumbbell press: 3 sets 6 to 10 reps
- hammer curls: 3 sets 6 to 10 reps
When you reach the top of the reps increase the weight.
With reverse pyramid training you’re going to perform your haviest set first
when you’re completely fresh and then pyramid down to a lighter weight usually with more reps,
for the latter sets. What makes RPT particularly suitable for a cut is the very low
volume needed to produce results. Click here to learn how to implement it.
For Straight Sets when you hit the required reps for all sets, increase the
weight on all sets the following workout. This will probably cause you to lose
1 or 2 reps in the last 2 sets.
That’s normal and the goal for the following workout is to add back the reps in those last sets so you can increase the weight again. Rest a full three minutes in between sets for the compound movements.
Rest 60-90 seconds for the assistance exercises. Stop one rep before failure. Failure in this context is when you cannot lift the weight for one more rep without help and without severely compromising form.
Reaching base level.
Once you reach 10-12% body fat (your waist is 45-47% of your height)
it’s time to choose which type of physique you’re going after.
(The time it will take a person to reach the Base Level depends mainly on how
much fat they have to lose.)
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