Everyone knows they have to exercise if they want to get ripped. But guys are confused about which exercises are most important. And guys don’t know how much (or how little) they should be doing.
So here’s a quick guide: which exercises to do to get completely shredded and how much to be doing.
So let’s look at the different types of exercises guys typically do…
Lifting is typically thought of as something guys do to build size and bulk up. This is generally true, however when you’re “getting shredded” you are eating at a caloric deficit to lose weight.
This means your body’s ability to repair itself and regenerate muscle tissues after a session of weightlifting is compromised, and no amount of weightlifting is going to make you bulk up. Lifting while on a cut serves to “maintain” your muscles, not to grow them.
Regardless of what type of exercise you do, by eating at a caloric deficit you can be sure that you will lose weight. And any weight lost is (mostly) a combination of fat tissue and muscle tissue.
Weightlifting during a cut is perhaps the most important form of exercise for a young guy seeking a killer body and a six pack. Lifting heavy weights in the gym will signal to your muscles that you still need them, despite the caloric deficit.
Cardio has always been at the center of every weight loss program. There’s no better way to burn as many calories as possible in a short period of time, right?
Actually, this line of thinking is being challenged recently…
Cardio is an excellent way to burn calorie however the issue is that most people get carried away with it. Guys who want to get shredded do long cardio sessions at too high of an intensity. Other guys do a lot of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and think that’s the key.
Guys who are trying to get shredded think “if I do another 3 hours of cardio per week I’ll burn an extra 1500 cals per week and get to my goal “X” weeks faster”. That might be true, but there’s a catch with cardio.
Cardio massively increases hunger. And hunger is the enemy of a 6 pack. Guys who use cardio to put themselves into a caloric deficit can expect their body to respond by ramping up hunger tremendously. Prepare for a mental battle!
I used to do 30+ hours of cardio per week. Plenty of long slow workouts and plenty of HIIT. You would think it would be easy to lose weight doing that much exercise, right? Wrong. My body was so hungry all the time it made losing weight impossible.
Cardio is an amazing tool for enjoyment and provides myriad health benefits. I would never tell the average person to stop doing all cardio. I still do a ton of cardio myself (but I do it for performance reasons, NOT for weightloss).
For young guys who are focused on getting shredded I recommend minimizing cardio and instead focusing on eating a clean and restricted caloric intake to achieve your caloric deficit.
The one form of cardio I recommend most for guys who want to get shredded is walking.
Walking is a fantastic way to burn fat without effecting your hunger. Interestingly, there are recent studies that show walking actually has a net negative effect on appetite.
So walking burns a little bit of calories, and it may even suppress your hunger! Double win for guys who want to get shredded.
I also find walking tends to put me in a meditative state. It’s a peaceful activity that allows you to slow down at the end of a crazy day and “unpack” the things on your mind. Give it a try!
A third form of exercise I get asked about a lot is yoga. Yoga is more popular than ever before these days, especially with young people. Where I live in LA, there’s a dozen studios in each city: there’s the old school traditional forms of yoga and increasingly popular are the many forms of hot yoga and yoga incorporating weights. Pilates falls into this category too.
Yoga on it’s own is neither weightlifting, nor is it cardio. So where does it fit in?
Similar to cardio, yoga is an excellent activity for stress reduction, lower blood pressure, flexibility, etc… there’s a long list of benefits that we don’t have time for.
However, when it comes to young guys getting shredded, yoga is not going to provide equal “muscle maintenance” benefits to weightlifting, nor is it going to provide equal “calorie burn” benefits to cardiovascular exercise.
But before you cut yoga out of the program entirely, it’s worth mentioning that some of these new yoga hybrids can give you a dose of both:
Anytime you’re in a yoga class and incorporating bodyweight lifting or weight lifting, you are effectively weightlifting (although using a lower resistance to what you might use in the gym).
And anytime you’re in that hot yoga class and you’re doing cardio movements like jumping jacks and your heart rate spikes, you are effectively doing cardio.
So a one hour yoga session is not the enemy. You might be burning a nice chunk of calories and also signaling to your muscles not to waste away. But is it going to be as effective as resistance training in the gym? Is it going to burn as many calories as going for a one hour run or a swim? No. It’s not.
And does the high temperature in bikram yoga room really “burn fat” the way people think of a microwave melting butter? No. Unfortunately it doesn’t.
A hot room plus exercise will increase your body’s core temperature to the point where your body will desperately to cool itself down. The way our bodies do this is sweating.
When the surface of our skin is super hot, our hearts pump cool(er) blood to the surface of our skin and our sweat glands moisten the skin. When the sweat evaporates it creates a cooling effect, reducing our skin’s surface temperature. Sweat is basically just water with a small amount of other stuff like sugar, salt, fat and ammonia.
In a hot room, you’ll sweat more. Your heart rate will be higher. And you’ll burn slightly more fat, yes. But how much more than if you were in a cool room? The difference is negligible.
By doing hot yoga, you are losing mostly water. Not fat. You are hardly burning more fat than a person doing the same hybrid yoga routine in a refrigerated room. To all the CorePower lovers out there, I’m very sorry to disappoint you.
So be sure to rehydrate after that intense hot yoga session. Your muscles need to be hydrated before your next trip to the weight room 😉
Think of it like this: two mates, Sam and Johnny, both decide they want to get shredded. They go on a cut and eat at a caloric deficit of 500cal per day. At the end of 24 weeks, they’ve both lost 20 pound. Great!
Sam spent an hour a day running on the treadmill. Sometimes he did two runs per day. It was brutal. He threw in some yoga too, including hot yoga, because he read about how it burns fat in a fitness magazine.
Johnny did the opposite – he hates cardio so he lifted weights 4 times per week and to achieve his caloric deficit he just ate a stricter diet. He never did cardio except for when he walked his dog for 15-30 minutes each night.
Although Sam and Johnny both lost 20 lbs, the weight Sam lost might be 12 lbs of fat and 8 lbs of muscle.
By incorporating weight lifting, Johnny maintained more of his muscle mass. He lost 20 lbs as well but 16 lbs of weight lost was fat and 4 lbs of it was muscle. Johnny held onto an extra 4 pounds of muscle.
This is a huge difference! It might take Sam months before he can ever pack that muscle back onto his frame and look as ripped as Johnny. Another nice benefit for Johnny is that his metabolism is going to be faster due to having more muscle mass, so he can eat more food than Sam each day. More muscle mass = higher RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate).
It’s important to understand that looking “shredded” is about achieving a great ratio of (muscle:fat). It’s not just about losing all your fat.
In order to look shredded, you want to keep some muscle on your shoulders, on your chest, etc… Aesthetically, this is what most guys desire.
What does it look like when a guy loses all their fat but doesn’t have any muscle on their frame? They look like this. Low body fat? Yes. Amazing athlete? Yes. (understatement)… but is this really the look most guys want? No. It’s not.
So Johnny did less grueling cardio, kept more muscle and looks much stronger and more defined than his buddy Sam. This should be an important lesson for guys who want to look ripped, strong and “aesthetic”.
A few pounds really is a huge difference once you burn off all the fat to reveal what’s underneath. Just a few pounds of dense muscle on a lean frame can really make your body look more masculine and more impressive.
So you’re a young guy who wants to get totally shredded and look amazing. How do you put this information into practice?
Diet aside, here’s what I would recommend when it comes to exercise:
- Put together a 3 or 4 days per week weightlifting program and prioritize these sessions as your key workouts each week. As you lose weight, try to maintain or improve strength as much as possible on your main lifts. If you’re not losing strength, then you know you are not losing muscle.
- Do as much walking as you can, whether that’s walking from work to lunch every day, or doing your meetings on walks, or walking after dinner to unwind before bed.
- If you absolutely love cardio or if you’re training for an event that requires cardio training, then do the minimum effective amount of intense cardio that you must do. Just be conscious of the fact that more intense cardio = more hunger, which may make it more difficult to stick to your diet.
- If you absolutely love yoga or you’re into the mental/spiritual benefits, then absolutely do as much yoga as you please. But just recognize that the most effective way to maintain substantial, hard earned muscle mass while you’re on a cut is good old fashioned weightlifting. Not stretching, not body weight exercises and not aggressively sweating in a dark room.
I’m outta here, gotta go train!