Some of us mere mortals walk around in our day to day lives satisfied with the feeling that we are in pretty damn good shape. Others not so....
However, there are those that grace the screens and magazines, those that litter the narcissistic pages of social media that are well beyond 'good shape' - they are shredded. Their bodies are so lean and cut that they make Michelangelo's David look chubby. So how do you go from good shape to finger-slicingly sharp?
This would not be one of my articles if there weren't a few brutal home truths before I get into the nuts and bolts of how to do it. I can speak honestly on this as I am a seasoned natural bodybuilder and I know what is needed to get shredded.
Annoyingly a lot of what you see is false. False in the way that pictures are often manipulated with filters, angles and lighting. I've actually seen a photoshoot of a before and after shot done on the very same day. Secondly, there are many people who take banned substances and steroids, more than you can ever imagine, or, will ever admit to. This is not everyone, I know some amazing athletes who are clean as a whistle. Not to berate those who chose to be assisted as you still have to put the work in, it does however, help things dramatically. Thirdly, most of the great shots you see are a snapshot of a few weeks in the year of that person, it's nigh on impossible to stay razor sharp year-round.
If we put the negativity aside as assume you're ready to work hard then here is my plan on how to get shredded. This often flies in the face of traditional dieting, so it may take time to even be ready to start to become pin sharp.
It's all about the ground work. I may spend 16-20 weeks in a diet phase to get competition ready but it doesn't mean I go from pizza, ice-cream and sitting on my ass to full out competition mode. Year-round I eat well and train hard. I do the least amount of training possible to stimulate growth and stave off unwanted fat gain. That doesn't mean I do very little, I just leave room to add more as and when I need to. I train weights intensely 4-5 times per week for 90-120 minutes and I do a small amount of cv most days. This should be your default training. No excuses.
In this phase, you're looking to add as much lean mass as possible. All the training in the world won't produce results if you don't fuel it appropriately. I work all my macronutrients around science, personal preference, and practical experience. It differs from person to person so I'd recommend you play with it in your off-season phase until you find what works for you. I tend to keep my proteins high and pretty constant at around 3g per kg body mass. I then work with fats around 1g per kg body mass. The variation comes in from my carbohydrates. Carbs are your fuel, the bigger you are, the harder you train, and the higher your metabolism, means the more you can handle. They are often demonised, but I don't go lower than 300g of carbs per day even at the lowest ebb of my diet phase. I simply need that much to function.
Carbohydrates do a few things. They are basically the 'go-to' fuel for intense training. If they're absent from your diet you must rely on proteins for fuel, this will of course risk losing muscle mass. The physiology is, as exercise intensity increases, your fuel selections leans more heavily on carbs. Fats cannot be burnt at high intensities so your workout depends heavily on carbs. That's not saying you can't exercise using high fats but they're not optimal, and, chances are you'll still compromise muscle tissue and your performance will suffer, this will hinder muscle growth. Carbs are anabolic which means they promote a growth environment and they protect muscle tissue. Remember, getting shredded relies on muscle retention. With this in mind, I teach my body to handle as much carbohydrate as humanly possible without gaining too much body fat. This usually goes north of 500g per day, that is the equivalent of 2.5kg of potatoes daily. This is not done straight away as you'll gain fat too fast. It is an incremental increase over weeks and months.
This pushes my metabolism through the roof. My training is good. I recover well. My food intake is high, I'm getting bigger and stronger each session and all the while staying reasonably lean. Getting yourself to this point is critical to even start to try to get super lean. If you get this down you're ready to start the cut strategy.....
Look out for part two of how to get shredded.
You can find me at www.FatAlsGym.co.uk or contact me at Ali@FatAlsGym.co.uk