What is cutting?
The aim of a cutting programme is to make the muscles you’ve sculpted visible. To achieve this, you’re going to need to lose fatty tissue (or adipose tissue) without losing muscle, which is also the main difficulty. It all comes down to the right balance, rigour and precision. It should never be combined with a strict diet whose aim is for you to lose weight (and muscle). A cutting programme is therefore about a balanced diet paired with basic bodybuilding.
When should you start a cutting programme?
Cutting is generally done twice a year. To be effective, it should last for at least two months. It’s generally time to start a cutting programme once your fat (or adipose tissue) begins to hide your muscles. This is quite simplistic and in reality it depends on your body shape, metabolism and personal criteria. Nevertheless, you can calculate your body fat percentage (BFP, not to be confused with your body mass index, BMI) to give you an idea. If it’s above 15% then you can start a cutting programme, but be careful: do you have enough muscle mass? You should always take both of these aspects into account because the difficulty with cutting is avoiding muscle wastage.
Should you modify your bodybuilding programme when cutting?
Yes! When you’re cutting, you follow a hypocalorific diet. This reduced energy intake means you’ll need to change your bodybuilding programme. You should train at the same pace but adapt the content of your sessions (volume and intensity of exercises). Our advice is to do a few extra basic exercises at the start of the session (so-called polyarticular exercises such as bench presses for your pecs / squats / biceps curls shouldn’t take up your entire session. We recommend doing them after you have warmed up) then combine them with two or three isolation exercises. Muscle trainingcan include 5 to 10 sets of 20 to 30 reps with a weight of between 50 and 60% of your 1RM at a fast pace (of course, the training programme should always depend on your body type). To achieve visible results, do three of these sessions each week.
Are there any other effective methods that you can use when cutting?
Experienced bodybuilders may choose to vary their sessions by doing things such as HIT (high-intensity training) or HIIT (high-interval intensity training). These express sessions will let you burn fat without losing any muscle (you should avoid long cardio sessions which could promote muscular catabolism). In the world of fitness and bodybuilding, TABATA is a very popular option. It involves doing eight 20-second intervals of an exercise (burpees, sprints, thrusters, jump squats, etc.) followed by 10 seconds of recovery (a total of 4 minutes of exercise done at the end of a bodybuilding session).
Should you boost your cardio programme when cutting?
The most important thing when cutting is to limit muscle loss. This is why you can effectively combine cutting with a cardio activity as long as you follow this rule: work in the lypolytic zone, in other words at 70-75% of your maximum heart rate (in theory, your maximum heart rate is equal to 220 minus your age). To get this right without harming your progress, do a few cardio sessions at a moderate pace between each bodybuilding session. Stick to two 30-minute sessions per week, no more.
As you’ve seen, cutting is a training programme that you shouldn’t take lightly. Our best advice is to get a sports coach to come up with a personalised training programme that suits you.
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