Get RIPPED For Summer!
Looking to get ripped for summer? Most of us are, but unfortunately, even some of the most seasoned lifters don’t really know what to do when it comes to cardio! How much, what kind, how often? Should it be done on an empty stomach, or should you eat first? Doesn’t cardio destroy all your muscle mass? Read on for the answers to all these questions and more…
Diet Comes First
You have probably heard this before, but it bears repeating: NOTHING is going to replace a proper diet for fat loss (or muscle gain, for that matter). Except for those with the most elite genetics, it is just not possible to out-train a bad diet, period. Don’t let your efforts in the weight room, on the treadmill, and on the track go to waste by failing to follow a good cutting diet.
Now, there are tons of different ways to diet for fat loss, but there are a few principles which are sure to keep you on the right track. First, protein is key – get at least 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, not counting incidental amounts from grains and nuts, and make sure every meal has lean protein as the main component. After that, add some healthy fats, vegetables, and one or two pieces of fruit per day. If you’re really trying to cut the fat and get ripped, limit intake of starches, even the “healthy” ones like oatmeal, to right around weight training times.
Slow, Boring Cardio?
It seems almost every successful bodybuilder uses the treadmill, bike, elliptical, or stair-stepper for fat-burning. Does that really work for the average gym rat? The truth is, yes, it certainly can. By doing slow, slightly sweaty cardio on an empty stomach in the morning, you force your body to tap into its own fat stores for energy – you’re directly burning fat! However, there are several downsides to this type of cardio.
First of all, it’s long and boring. Many, if not most of us, do not have the time or patience to spend thirty minutes to an hour each morning toiling away like a hamster on a wheel. Also, this type of cardio essentially stops working the moment you step off the treadmill. You’ve burned your calories, you’ve blasted some body fat, but that’s it. Such low intensity work has very little effect on your metabolism over the course of the day, so as you get leaner, you’ll have to use longer and longer sessions to keep making progress.
Sprint to Get Ripped!
Thankfully, there is an alternative to slow, steady-state cardio for those who want to get ripped without spending hours on the treadmill. There is a trade-off, though – it’s actually hard! One of the best ways to force your body into “lean-mode” and strip the fat off is by doing interval sprints. These consist of ten to fifteen seconds of all-out effort, followed by thirty to sixty seconds of active recovery (jogging or walking). The best way to do interval sprints is to find a track and actually SPRINT, but you can also use the elliptical or stationary bike. Don’t use the treadmill – you’ll almost certainly fall on your face as you frantically change the speed!
The nice thing about sprint sessions is that the intensity of the work jacks up your metabolism throughout the day, forcing your body to burn more body fat than it normally would. While difficult, they also take far less time than slow cardio. Two or three spring sessions throughout the week is plenty to get your fat loss moving at a rapid rate, and each one only takes twenty to thirty minutes.
There is one major caveat, though. Sprinting can definitely cut into your recovery from intense weight training. Remember, you’re trying to strip the fat, not the muscle. If your weight sessions start to suffer, and if you are getting noticeably weaker, you probably need to cut down on the sprinting and do more slow treadmill work. Allowing your weight training to suffer is unacceptable if you want a lean AND muscular body!
Complexes for Ultimate Fat Loss
Despite the benefits of both of these types of “footwork” cardio, there is still another that remains my personal favorite: barbell complexes. These simply involve using one barbell loaded with a relative light weight (95 pounds or less for most people) and performing several exercises in a row without rest. For instance, you might do consecutive sets of ten reps on the military press, deadlift, row, squat, clean, front squat, and upright row, all without letting go of the bar.
Sound easy? Then you haven’t tried it! This type of exercise taxes all the muscles in your body and creates a HUGE oxygen demand, leaving you practically breathless at the end of each round. That may not sound too fun, but it is the best thing you can possibly do for losing fat. Like sprinting, barbell complexes will jack up your metabolism to the max, causing you to burn more body fat all day long. Create a circuit of six to eight movements, load the bar with a weight you can manage for all of them, and complete four to five rounds of ten reps on each exercise. It’s a killer!
The Overall Plan
So, when you put together your cardio, diet, and training plan for getting ripped, you have a few things to consider. First comes your diet – make sure that’s in order, or everything else you do will be for waste! Remember: lean proteins, vegetables and some fruit, healthy fats, and a little bit of starch around your weight training sessions. Keep the calories as high as possible while STILL losing fat – starving yourself will only shut down your metabolism, make you weak, and destroy your progress.
As far as weight training goes, keep doing what you did to build the muscle. Keep trying to get stronger, keep breaking PR’s, and keep lifting heavy weights. If you buy into that “high reps to get ripped” nonsense, you will almost certainly lose muscle, and your physique will lose its dense, full appearance.
Now, for your cardio, you have several things to consider. How much time do you have? How much intense work can you do before hindering your weight training recovery? Are you even in good enough shape to get in a good sprint workout? In general, you should start slow and build up. Perhaps begin with one or two slow sessions per week and one high intensity sprint or complex session. See how your fat loss progress and go from there. In general, it’s better to add activity than to subtract calories when your fat loss stalls, so expect that you will need to do more cardio as your diet progress and you get leaner.