Cutting Guide: How to Build Lean Hard Muscle

Lean Hard Muscle and The Athletic Physique

Summer Shred is On!
Do you want to sport the lean hard muscle of an athlete? Maybe you’re in a workout rut and no matter how few carbs you eat or how many squats you do, you’re sick and tired of not seeing those abs the magazines promised you. Or maybe you’ve been bulking and are ready to get that hard athletic body you always wanted. Whatever your situation, if you’ve been focusing on putting on muscle for a while and are finally ready to show it off, you need a solid structured plan to get you there.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: to have a shredded physique you don’t have to give up your beloved carbs or spend hours sweating on the treadmill. What you will have to do is a little planning and a lot of hard work. No one said this was going to be all sunshine and rainbows.
Luckily for you, we’ve done the hard work. From diet and supplements to cardio and weights, we got you covered. All you have to do is plug in your stats, hit the gym, and take some killer sweaty selfies to showcase your rockin’ bod.

Part One: Diet

Although you will definitely need a strong training program to get your body shredded, your diet will be your greatest ally throughout this process. One of the most effective ways to get your body to drop fat without losing the muscle you have worked so hard to put on is carb cycling. The method of cycling we are going to cover in this plan is fairly straightforward – on heavy training days, you will follow a high carb plan, on other training days you will follow a medium carb plan, and on cardio only or rest days you will follow a low carb plan.

Carb cycling will allow you to burn fat by lowering your carbs on days when you are either having a medium lifting day or resting, while giving you more on days you are doing heavy weight training sessions. Basically, you are revving up your metabolism one day by fueling your body with carbs on high days, and on medium and low days your body’s insulin lowers so that you burn fat and preserve muscle mass. Your protein intake should remain constant throughout the week. On high carb days, you will lower your fat intake, and vice versa. You will also be timing your carbs, consuming the majority of them before and after the workout which is when you have the greatest anabolic window.

Throughout the week, your protein intake will equate to 1.2g per lb of body weight. Fats will be 20-35% of your diet, meaning about 0.3-0.4g per lb of body weight. Finally, carbs will be about 1-1.5g per lb of bodyweight .

For example, a 200lb man will have a daily macronutrient breakdown like this:
Protein: 200lbs x 1.2g = 240g
Fat: 200lbs x 0.4g = 80g
Carbs: 200lbs x 1.25g = 250g

This equates to 2,680 calories a day, and about 18,760 calories a week. Since we know you want to keep protein constant, that number will always fall to 240g a day. This will allow for steady fat loss when you add in your workouts but isn’t so drastic a cut that you will lose the muscle you have been building.

For carbs, you want 50% to fall on your two high carb days, and 35% divided between your three medium carb days, and the remaining 15% on your two low carb days. If you consume 1,750g of carbs weekly (250 x7), that means high carb days will each have 437.5g, medium days will have 204g, and low carb days will have 131g per day.
Fats will be divided up similarly: you will consume 15% of your weekly fat intake between your two high carb days, 35% between your three medium days, and 50% between your cardio and rest day. Using the example above, you would consume 560g of fat weekly. This breaks down to 42g on high carb days, 65g on medium days, and 140g on low carb days.

Here are examples of all three types of days for a 200lb man:

High Carb (242g protein, 431g carbs, 41g fat)
Meal One: 6 egg whites + 1 whole egg, 1 cup oats, 1 cup blueberries
Meal Two: 1 can tuna packed in water, 2 cups cooked brown rice, 2 cups broccoli
Meal Three: 5oz cooked chicken breast, 10 oz (raw) sweet potato, 2 cups green beans
Meal Four (post workout): 2 scoops protein, 1.5 scoops (75g carbs) quick-digesting carb,
Meal Five: 8oz cooked tilapia, 2 cups brown rice, 2 cups asparagus, ½ tbsp olive oil

Medium Carb (240g protein, 210g carbs, 62g fat)
Meal One: 6 egg whites + 2 whole eggs, 1 cup oats, ½ cup blueberries
Meal Two (post workout): 2 scoops protein powder, 2tbsp almond butter, 2 rice cakes
Meal Three: 6oz raw turkey breast tenderloin, 8oz raw sweet potato, 2 cups broccoli
Meal Four: 5oz cooked chicken breast, ½ cup cooked brown rice, 2 cups zucchini
Meal Five: 6oz raw NY steak, 2 cup asparagus

Low Carb (240g protein, 130g carbs, 142g fat)
Meal One: 6 egg whites + 3 whole eggs, ½ cup oats, ½ cup blueberries
Meal Two (post cardio): 4oz cooked chicken breast, 2tbsp almond butter, 2 rice cakes
Meal Three: 8oz salmon, 4oz raw sweet potato, 2 cups broccoli, 1tbsp olive oil
Meal Four: 2 scoops protein powder, 1 cup strawberries
Meal Five: 6oz cooked NY steak, 2 cups asparagus, ½ tbsp olive oil
Meal Six: 2 scoops Casein Protein

Part Two: Cardio and Abs

No one likes cardio, but to get where you want to be, you will have to do things you may not want to do. There are two different cardio components to this plan – fasted cardio and HIIT cardio. Fasted cardio will be performed twice a week upon waking, before leg day and back day. HIIT cardio is done twice a week.
Cardio and Abs

Fasted cardio burns more fat because you haven’t taken in any other nutrients yet for the day. This means your body focuses on tapping into stubborn fat stores rather than digesting food or shuttling those nutrients to your muscles. This should be done at a moderate intensity for 30 minute sessions on either a treadmill, elliptical, or step mill.

HIIT cardio is proven to burn more calories and fat, tapping into the afterburn effect by raising your metabolism for the rest of the day. We are incorporating both types in order to hit your body from different angles and it keep it guessing.

To perform a HIIT session (treadmill, elliptical, or step mill), we will be using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale of 1-10, with 1 being sitting on the coach and 10 being an all-out sprint like a bear is chasing you. You will start and end your session with a 5 minute warm up and cool down session at a 4 on the RPE scale.

Intervals will be performed as followed: 30 seconds at a 9-10 RPE with a one minute recovery period at a 6-7 RPE. Perform 10 intervals for a total of 15 minutes.

Abdominal training will consist of 100 stick turns for 3 sets, followed by a circuit of 4 exercises with little rest in between. You may pick from: leg raises, decline crunches, crossover crunches, reverse crunches, Russian twists, variations on planks, etc. Complete 15-20 reps per exercise.

Part Three: Weight Training

Weight Training
If you thought the cardio element stopped in the last section, you were sorely mistaken. Your weight training split is going to consist of short rest periods, super- and trisets, drop sets, and burnouts. You will be in the gym to do work – not to text your buddies about how much you just benched for three reps while you take a snack break.

You will be performing midrange repetitions – meaning 8-12 reps per exercise – in order to stay close to the hypertrophy training range which means lifting heavy, but also towards the endurance range to keep your heart rate up. Rest periods will be kept to no more than 60 seconds between sets; if the plan calls for a triset, you will complete all three exercises back to back before taking a rest. Make sure to pick a weight that allows you to complete all the reps but is still heavy enough to make you struggle on those last few reps of each set. You will be performing four sets for all exercises unless otherwise noted. Some routines include a burn out set, which means going until failure on the final set for a body part with medium weight

Your “heavy” training days are going to be legs and whichever day you are training your lagging body part. That is, the body part that you have the hardest time growing or keeping up with the rest of your physique.

Here is your split:
Monday: Cardio + Legs
Tuesday: Chest and Triceps
Wednesday: HIIT + Abs
Thursday: Back and Biceps + Cardio
Friday: Shoulders + Calves
Saturday: Arms + HIIT + Abs
Sunday: Rest
High Intensity Interval Trainning

The Plan:


Set 1:
Back Squats x 10
Step Ups x 8 per leg

Set 2:
Romanian Deadlifts x 10
Leg Press x 12

Set 3:
Walking Lunges x 12 per leg
Hamstring Curls x 10

Drop Set: Leg Extension – go as heavy as you can for 10 reps, then drop the weight by about 20% and go to failure, then drop the weight one more time by another 20% to failure. Repeat for 3 sets total.

Chest and Triceps

Set 1:
Bench Press x 8
Flat Bench Flyes x 12

Set 2:
Incline Dumbbell Press x 10
Incline Dumbell Pullovers x 8

Set 3:
Low Cable Crossover x 12
Decline Flyes x 10

Set 4:
Overhead Triceps Extensions x 10
Underhand Grip Cable Pushdowns x 8

Burn Out Set: Machine Chest Press

Back and Biceps

Set 1:
Pull-ups x 12
Bent-over Rear Delt Flyes x 10

Set 2:
Wide-Grip Lat Pulldowns x 10
One-Arm Rows x 8 per arm

Set 3:
Straight Arm Cable Pushdowns x 12
Seated Cable Row x 8

Set 4:
Alternating Dumbell Biceps Curls x 10
Preacher Curls x 8

Burn Out Set: T-bar Rows


Set 1:
Military Press x 10
Thumbs Up Lateral Raises x 12

Set 2:
Arnold Press x 8
Cable Rear Delt Flyes x 12

Set 3:
Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises x 10
Dumbbell Shrug x 8

Set 4:
Standing Calf Raises x 10
Seated Calf Raises x 12

Drop Set: Machine Lateral Raises – go as heavy as you can for 10 reps, then drop the weight by about 20% and go to failure, then drop the weight one more time by another 20% to failure. Repeat for 3 sets total.


Set 1:
Standing EZ Bar Curl x 12
Skullcrushers x 10

Set 2:
Alternating Hammer Curls x 10
Triceps Kickbacks x 12

Set 3:
Cable Rope Triceps Extensions x 12
Standing Cable Curls x 10

Set 4:
Barbell Spider Curls x 8
Triceps Dips x 12

Run the Rack: Starting with light weights (we’re talking 5-8lbs here), perform 8 biceps curls, then grab the next weight up and perform another 8, then the next weight up and perform 8 more, and so on until you cannot complete the full 8 reps. From there, reverse the process, dropping down each time for 8 reps until you get back to the light weight. Rest for 2 minutes, then complete one more time through.

Part Four: Supplements

When you are working for a chiseled body, diet and exercise alone isn’t always enough.  A prohormone like Androvar or Anabolic Trinity can not only accelerate your muscle development but also help you gain more muscle than you might otherwise be able to.  In addition, you will be putting wear and tear on your body and you need it to keep working like a well oiled machine. One of the pitfalls of carb cycling is every day will have a different range of nutrients which can lead to gaps. Supplementing your food intake with a multivitamin is a surefire way to keep your nutrient levels where they should be for optimal health.

Taking fish oil 2-3 times per day will help keep your skin healthy and provide important Omega-3s to support brain function which can decline as a result of consuming fewer calories than you are used to.

Using an intensity boosting preworkout, like Wild Thing or Mesomorph are also a great way to increase your energy levels when it comes time to train. We all have those days where we feel sluggish or didn’t get enough sleep, and carb cycling may make those days a little harder. Using a preworkout formula will give you that extra dose of motivation to not only hit the gym, but complete your workout with enthusiasm and energy you may not have known you even had.

During fasted cardio, you need to sip BCAAs in your water. One of the criticisms of fasted cardio is that it can burn through muscle instead of fat. Taking in a steady stream of amino acids during this exercise will help prevent such a tragedy.

A good, quality protein powder is important after a weight training session to help your muscles repair and recover faster. Stay away from protein “blends” – you want high quality whey or vegetable protein that will provide plenty of amino acids, the building blocks of muscle, straight to your body. It’s an easy way to get protein on the go as well, but don’t rely on protein shakes.

Along with your postworkout protein shake, on high carb days you will take a simple carbohydrate formula. On high carb, heavy training days, you will exhaust your muscles glycogen stores. The carbohydrates will go straight to replenishing your muscles at the optimum time for consumption.

A fat burner will not only help suppress your appetite, but will also boost your metabolism when simply dieting and exercising no longer seem to have an effect. Despite its name, a fat burner alone will not do the work for you – you still have to put in your hours at the gym and in the kitchen. The ingredients are designed to work with your body to enhance metabolism and fat loss while providing a steady stream of energy, and will also help you get to a lower body fat percentage when your body is desperately trying to stay where it is.

Finally, add in CLA with your three main meals. CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, helps your body convert fat into fuel and boosts your metabolism.


A crucial step in monitoring the effects of this program lies in tracking your progress. Make sure you take before and after photos in natural light in boardshorts from a front, side, and back angle. Take measurements: chest, waist, hips, thighs, and arms. Get your body fat percentage taken (trainers at most gyms can do this for you). And even more importantly – retake your photos and measurements monthly to check your results. If your progress begins to slow down, reevaluate your diet. Always be looking to lift heavier weights when your workouts begin to seem easy.

Stay consistent and you will reap the benefits. Whether you are already close to seeing those abs or fresh off a bulking cycle, if you follow the plan you will see the difference. Are you ready to commit to getting in the best shape of your life? Comment below with I AM STRONG and share your before and after photos with us.

The post Cutting Guide: How to Build Lean Hard Muscle appeared first on Strong Supplements - The Pursuit of Strength.

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