“If I want to bulk, I have to do heavy low-rep work, and if I want to cut, I have to do light high-rep work, right bro?” No bro, it doesn’t work like that.
This is a myth that needs to die.
What makes a muscle look more defined and “cut” is its degree of development and the lack of fat over it. It has nothing to do with high reps and light weight or anything like that. The bigger your muscles are and the leaner you are, the more visible they will be, it’s that simple.
Summer is quickly approaching and that means that most of us are going to start cutting soon, so today we are going to talk about how you should train in the most effective manner during a fat loss phase.
Let’s dive into it!
MUSCLE RETENTION AND STRENGTH TRAINING
One of the big (if not the biggest) goals you should have when you start a fat loss phase, is to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. If you are doing a cutting phase, it probably means that you have been bulking until now so, the last thing you want is to lose all that hard-earned muscle you have been building over the last few months.
In fact, you should approach a fat loss phase by focusing on maintaining as much muscle mass as possible instead on losing fat. Losing fat can be relatively easy: as long as you are in a deficit and you are training hard, you will lose fat, so you don’t have to worry about it.
Instead, focus on keeping your muscle mass intact. And how do you do that? By training in the exact same way as you do when bulking. You need to tell your body that, even though you are on a weight loss phase, it needs to maintain its muscle mass. You do that by using the same medium/heavy loads you use when building muscle. This way your body understands that it can’t get rid of its muscle since it needs in order to be keep up with your training.
If you start using lighter weights and training with less intensity however, your body thinks this: “I am not moving heavy loads anymore so I don’t need so much muscle, and since I am on a caloric deficit and I have to lose weight, I am going to get rid of this useless muscle that I don’t need anymore.” And we don’t want that, right?
Another thing you should try while cutting is to actually get stronger. You probably won’t (some people do tho) but what you are doing by actually trying is telling your body, once again, that it needs to maintain its muscle mass since you are trying to move heavier weights (aka you are using progressive overload).
Summing up, your workout program while cutting should look exactly the same as your workout program when bulking.
Even though I just told you how to train in order to maintain your muscle mass during a cutting phase, it is very hard to fully maintain it. Specially if you are looking to step on stage. In this case there will be some muscle loss, its inevitable. Obviously, there are ways to minimize it (basically optimal training, optimal nutrition and optimal rest), but you will experience some degree of muscle loss, guaranteed.
Even if you are not looking to step on stage, if you are trying to get really lean (8-9% BF or lower) chances are you will experience some muscle loss, even if it’s just a little.
Optimal training, nutrition and rest will ensure you maintain as much muscle mass as possible, but you won’t maintain 100% of it. It’s part of the process and you need to be aware of it.
ARE YOU GOING TO GET WEAKER?
Yes and no.
Yes because 1, you are eating less and that means you will have less energy; and 2, because as I’ve just said, you will experience some degree of muscle loss, and that usually implies getting a bit weaker.
No because you won’t get as weak as you think. On a weight loss diet, what we usually lower the most is our carbs. Obviously, it depends on what diet style you follow (if you want to find the best diet style for you, click here), but let’s say as a general rule that our carbohydrates intake is what suffers the biggest hit. Not because carbs are bad or anything like that, but because you need to consume enough protein in order to maintain your muscle mass, and you need to consume enough fat in order to keep your hormonal system under control, so carbs is what we usually lower.
So, during a low-carb period, will notice how you still feel pretty strong on those 3 – 5 first reps, but then suddenly it feels like if you have lost all your strength. Sounds familiar?
Once ATP gets depleted (hence the importance of consuming creatine while cutting), your body starts using muscle glycogen as its main fuel. When there's not a lot of fuel (glycogen) in the tank, you're going to feel weak. It’s not that you have gotten weaker, it is just that you don’t have the same levels of energy as you do when bulking/maintaining.
This is one of the most frustrating feelings while cutting, at least it is for me. However,
put your ego aside for a while and understand you're not going to "feel weaker" forever. It is just a matter of time.
Besides, if you are doing things correctly, you shouldn’t feel that much weaker.
Cutting is easier than it looks. Just stay in a caloric deficit, train as hard as always, train as heavy as always, rest well and be patient.
If you want a complete guide on how to properly do a cutting phase step by step, go check out my new eBook “The Shredded Guide”. It has absolutely everything you need in order to do a perfect cutting phase: it teaches you, step by step, how to properly elaborate your own diet program personalized to your specific needs and it has a 12 weeks science based workout program that will help you get optimal results and to maintain as much muscle mass as possible (plus a lot more)!! You still got time to get ready for summer ;)
That’s it for today’s post!! If you have any doubt, question, suggestion or constructive critic, please do not hesitate to let it in the comments section or use my social media.
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See you in the next one! :)