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How To Get Ripped & Cut: Definitive Guide

While I spend most of my time educating people about sustainable approaches to getting a lean, strong, healthy physique, I do have an interest in the extreme of body transformation, or how to get ripped.
There is a massive amount of confusion about how to get a ripped physique. It’s not about a specific exercise program, or diet as many would have you believe, and it’s not magic.
I wanted to create this guide for you as an honest, no B.S. resource so you can understand the key elements to help you achieve a ripped, cut physique.

Why should you listen to me?

I’ve achieved a ripped physique (photos on this page are of me) and helped guys with even “bad” genetics get ripped too. As the owner of a personal training and nutrition counseling practice, I’m constantly trying new workouts, reading the latest and greatest research on nutrition and exercise, and speaking with natural bodybuilders, nutritionists, personal trainers, and anyone else with a keen interest in physique transformation.
So here’s a definitive guide to getting a ripped physique that I’ve been wanting to share with you. I hope you enjoy it.

How Ripped is Ripped?

The term ripped is used to describe a very low body fat level relative to one’s bodyweight, which creates an appearance of clearly visible striations of muscle and separation between muscles.
What is the body fat level you need to get ripped?
In my opinion, anything under 7% body fat for a man is ripped. For more information on body fat percentages, check out Body Fat Percentage Chart: How Lean Should You Be?

Are You Sure You Want to Get Ripped?

When I present the information you are about to learn to a client interested in getting ripped, that initial interest usually subsides. Getting ripped is an extreme pursuit that requires extreme focus and dedication. There is no way around it. In addition, getting too ripped comes with health concerns. I’ve achieved around 3.5% body fat once in my life, and while I was very happy with how my body looked, my face was extremely gaunt and it looked like I was starving to death. I’m taking a wild guess that wasn’t very healthy.
So not only does getting ripped take a ridiculous amount of effort and discipline, but the extreme is that it may not be healthy either. For me, I can maintain 6-7% body fat while feeling great and looking healthy, but it’s still walking a tight rope.
Finally, the whole idea of an extreme physique opens up a can of worms regarding body image. I’ve gotten ripped as a hobby, out of curiosity, and I really like the look, but I hope you don’t feel any more, or less of a man if you do, or do not achieve a ripped physique.

Get Ripped Step #1: Overcome the Mental “Weight” Hurdle

How To Get Ripped And Cut #2
One of the most frequent questions I get from guys is, “I want to get ripped, but I want to stay the same weight. What do I do?”
This question tells me many guys (1) may not understand the basic arithmetic of getting ripped, (2) are too concerned about the scale and not body fat percentage, which is what it’s all about and (3) overestimate how much muscle weight they can naturally add to their frames (See: How Much Muscle Can You Gain Naturally?). Sadly, too many guys are doomed from the start!
Let me give you an example:
Let’s say there’s a guy Mike who weighs 180lb at 15% body fat and he wants to get ripped. What does Mike need to weigh in order to get a ripped physique (6% body fat), assuming he keeps the same amount of muscle?
The chart below shows you the basic arithmetic assuming Mike loses only fat without losing any muscle. You can also use the Ideal Body Weight Formula to arrive at the desired weight as well:
How To Get Ripped And Cut #3
The Answer: 163lb
Most guys with a few years of lifting experience have an LBM (a.k.a. lean body mass – everything in your body besides fat, including bone, blood, organs, and muscle) of 145lb. How do I know? Well, because I have data on tons of clients and it’s the magic number for the amount of muscle on the average guy who is 5’10, or 5’11”. If you have 145lb of LBM, that would imply you would need to get your body weight into the 150′s to look truly ripped. In the 2 photos on this page, I weighed 165llb with an LBM of 155lb, which is above normal LBM for my height because I’ve lifted for many years.
The build most guys want (it’s like the standard of ripped) is looking like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. From what I’ve read, he was 155lb for that role. To hammer this discussion home, even a natural bodybuilder (no steroids) at contest time is around 175lb, and that’s a bodybuilder! If you don’t want to look like a bodybuilder, but want a less bulky physique, you must overcome the mental weight hurdle. Again, it’s just basic arithmetic.
If you are having trouble overcoming the mental weight hurdle, when you take a step back to think about it, you are simply losing all the fat on your body without losing any muscle. The leaner you become, the more defined and muscular you become as well, which makes you look bigger. So the first step towards getting ripped is understanding the arithmetic, dispelling any myths of gaining muscle you may believe, and focusing on losing as much body fat as possible while retaining your LBM.

Get Ripped Step #2: Create Your Nutrition Spreadsheet

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Losing fat without losing muscle (the key to getting ripped of course) is primarily a nutritional challenge.
The Energy Balance Equation – a scientifically proven fact – states that if you eat less calories than you burn, you will lose weight. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you would like to learn more about target calorie intake, you can check out this article (See: How many calories should you eat to lose weight?).
The leaner you become, the trickier this energy balance. Fat can be very stubborn, so you really have to nail the target calories you are eating. Can you get ripped without tracking your calories? Possibly. But every serious physique competitor in the world knows EXACTLY what they put into their bodies, which includes:
1) Number of Calories (most important)
2) Macronutrient Breakdown (protein, carbs, and fat grams) of each meal/snack and each day
3) Timing of Calories (when the calories are eaten, a controversial topic like everything else)
As in the sample nutrition spreadsheet above, the nutrition spreadsheet you create will have the grams of protein, carbs, and fat and total calories for each food item in each meal and snack. Then, you create percentage breakdowns of protein, carbs, and fat for each day, which is called the macronutrient breakdown. Depending on who you ask, you will get wildly different breakdowns of what is optimal for fat loss.
Some believe the protein, carb, fat breakdown respectively should be 40%, 40%, 20% (high carb, low fat) some believe 30%, 20%, 50% (low carb, high fat), and others 30%, 50%, 20% (moderate carb, low fat). You can manipulate the carbs and fat that you eat, but I would recommend relatively more protein because research has shown a high protein diet is very effective at helping control hunger.
I personally create one spreadsheet, but feel free to create a few. I strongly prefer creating a spreadsheet over counting calories all the time, which is just too tedious. Once you are ripped, you don’t need this spreadsheet anymore, nor do you need to count calories. But I will emphasize if you are serious about getting ripped, this spreadsheet will prevent you from spinning your wheels.

Get Ripped Step #3: Choose Your Strength Training Method

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While every fitness program with an infomercial is going to tell you their system is the best (P90x for example), I can tell you the truth about all these various exercise methods. They are overrated.
Here’s the truth:
You can get ripped powerlifting
You can get ripped doing circuit workouts
You can get ripped using bodybuilding workouts
You can get ripped doing bodyweight lifting workouts
You can get ripped doing kettlebell workouts
Do you know what all these workouts have in common? They are all based on strength training. Strength training is the key (in combination with ample protein intake) to help you retain your muscle as you are shedding fat.
What specific type of strength training should you do? Do what you can sustain is the simple answer. They all work. At Builtlean, we developed our strength circuitsTM method, which is a very efficient way to get both cardio and strength benefits in a short workout. This method focuses on compound movements involving large muscle groups that are combined into circuits. In addition, depending on your results, you may have to create more progression in your workouts to shed the extra layer of fat. This strength circuitsTM method combined with progression is the foundation of my 8-Week BuiltLean Program.
Remember that getting ripped is primarily a nutritional challenge, so strength training is secondary, but still essential.

Get Ripped Variable #1: Carbohydrates

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What you see all the time is “nutrition” experts pontificating about the right number of carbohydrates to eat, and what types of carbohydrates are allowed. I want to impress upon you the deep flaws with the “one size fits all” approach to nutrition. Everyone is different. We all respond differently to food.
What I’ve found is that carbohydrates is a variable in the getting ripped equation, which depends on your genetics. Some people (myself included) can control hunger and calorie intake much better on a moderate carbohydrate, even high carbohydrate diet, while others drop fat like it’s going out of style with a lower carb approach.
The delicate balance is that for some, eating too many carbs can encourage overeating and limit fat loss potential. On the other hand, too few carbohydrates may have you dropping hard earned muscle, which is obviously undesirable. I’ve tried the more extreme Paleo/Ketogenic low carb diets in the past and I was extremely hungry all the time and my results were disappointing.
If you have carried excess weight your entire life, my guess is lower carb may be effective, but this is a variable you ultimately have to play with.

Get Ripped Variable #2: Cardiovascular Activity

How To Get Ripped And Cut #6
Similar to the amount of carbohydrates you eat, the amount of cardio you complete to lose the excess fat depends on your genetics. I don’t have to do any cardio to drop body fat, but some people must hit the cardio hard to get rid of that last layer of fat. If you are busy, HIIT cardio is very effective at helping you burn more calories and drop body fat.
While I didn’t cover all the minutiae for how to get ripped, if you focus on the key elements I outline above, you will be able to achieve the very rare “ripped” physique.

Training Tips: Mike Chang Can Get You Ripped

Three Keys to Dieting Success

1) Plan for Everything

“Almost everyone can agree that you need to eat about five times a day,” Chang says. “But over the course of a month, that’s 150 decisions you need to make. If you don’t plan it all in advance, you’re bound to fail. You have to take the day-to-day guesswork out of it.”
2) Remember: Chewing is Hard Work
“This sounds like a weird one, but if you’re eating chicken or steak at every meal, that’s a lot of chewing, and that becomes time consuming,” Chang says. “If you eat more fish like tilapia that just falls apart, that makes it a lot easier. I don’t always have time to sit down and savor a meal. Most of the time I need to eat quickly and get back to work.
3) Put “Bad” Sauce on “Good” Food
“I’d rather see someone put a little bit of unhealthy sauce on healthy food than see them do it the other way around,”
Chang says. “If you can’t make healthy food taste good, nobody’s going to eat it.” For example, blue cheese or Caesar dressing on grilled chicken breast is still a better choice than fried chicken with no dressing.

At-home Abs and Cardio Workout

Directions: Perform the following workout as a circuit four times through—doing 30 seconds of each exercise—without resting between circuits.


Half Burpees*
Elbow-to-Knee Crunch
Mountain Climber
Jackknife Crunch**
*With your hands on the floor, kick out to the top of a pushup position then jump your feet back to your hands. Don’t stand up; your hands never leave the ground.
**You can hold a single dumbbell or weight plate in your hands to add resistance. 

Michael Jordan's Nutrition - "Eat Like Mike!"

Michael Jordan works hard to stay at his esteemed peak. He is tireless during practice, seemingly even more so during games. He gets up early during the season to lift weights with his trainer.
Perhaps as important, he watches what he eats. This is not lost on teammates. When he returned to the Bulls in the spring of 1995, the previously unpopular locker-room stash of nutritional energy bars started disappearing once players realized Jordan ate one or two before each game.

"Michael is not a big eater," said Tim Grover, Jordan's personal trainer for the last eight years. "He eats only when he's hungry and only until he feels comfortable rather than full."
Grover, who works with several other NBA players, says Jordan is a model client.
"I don't monitor Michael's nutrition plan anywhere near as much as the younger players I consult," Grover said. "He's learned more each year what works for him, what gives him the most energy and stamina."
Jordan is stricter about meals during the season, Grover said. (The team starts training camp later this week.)
"But it's not like I worry about Michael eating junk food during the off-season," said Grover, who has been working daily (lifting, running, cycling) with the Bulls star during the past several weeks. "I actually worry about him not eating. He tends to lose weight quickly; he has a high rate of metabolism."
Grover addresses Jordan's metabolic rate by advising more frequent but smaller meals during the day.
"This helps regulate the blood sugar or insulin level in the body," Grover said. "If he were to eat a big breakfast and then not have any food again until after practice, say around 3 p.m., then his insulin and energy levels would raise up in the morning for a while but crash in the afternoon. It could affect his mood along with his activity level."
Instead, Grover suggests a good-sized breakfast--the biggest meal of the day--followed by a midmorning fitness shake, lunch, a midafternoon fitness shake and a light dinner. On game nights, Jordan might eat a larger dinner instead of the midafternoon snack, then maybe a light snack after the game.
"Skipping breakfast is a bad idea and a common mistake," Grover said. "Eating some food is a good way to get your metabolism going in the morning, especially if you don't like to work out that time of day. After that, you want to have something about every three hours."
A key component of Jordan's nutrition program is the fitness shake. Grover mixes a combination of Gatorade, protein powders and fruits (when a blender is available) that appeals to Jordan's palate and contain the vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and even some fats necessary to hit the big shots and shut down opponents on the defensive end of the court.
"When people hear `five or six meals a day,' the first reaction is usually, `How will I find the time?' " Grover said. "We have developed a routine with the shakes that allows Michael to get his nutrients before or after practice or even on the golf course. You don't necessarily have to eat five meals as much as replenish your body five times a day."

Jordan drinks plenty of fluids (mostly Gatorade or water) to avoid dehydration. He also includes a mix of carbohydrates and proteins at each meal while avoiding fatty foods, though he doesn't use an exact formula.
"Exercising can be the easy part, whether it's lifting weights, running on a treadmill or playing basketball," Grover said. "Proper nutrition is often the harder proposition."


As the Bulls get ready to start training camp, let's look at a typical day's menu for the Chicago superstar:
Breakfast: Large bowl of oatmeal with strawberries, blueberries and raisins; scrambled egg whites; glass of orange juice.
Midmorning: Fitness shake of Gatorade, protein powder and fresh fruit
Lunch: Chicken breast sandwich or lean hamburger; pasta or baked potato; small green salad.
Midafternoon: fitness shake or, on game days, precompetition meal of chicken breast or lean steak, pasta or baked potato, steamed fresh vegetables
Dinner: "Whatever he wants," said Tim Grover, Jordan's trainer.


Tony Robbins - Make small changes to get BIG results..