How to Get Shredded Muscles
Getting Shredded for a Bodybuilding or Physique Competition – By Vince Del Monte
I have a lot of people ask me how they should train in order to get impressively shredded for a bodybuilding or physique competition. Most often, it comes from people that are entering their first competition.
Unfortunately, there’s no single answer to that question, because every person’s body is different, and the timeframe can vary by the way their body responds. What I can do, though, is give them some guidelines that they can use to build the method that works well for them.
The thing is, getting shredded is partly science and partly art. The science is knowing how, when and why your body burns fat, what causes spikes in your insulin and cortisol levels and what causes your body to retain or excrete water. The art comes into play in learning exactly how your body responds to the steps in your plan. It can often take several competitions to figure out exactly what your optimal method is.
There are three main areas to concentrate on in order to give your body that shredded look for a bodybuilding or physique competition: caloric deficiency, carb intake and water intake.
Notice that I didn’t say anything about ramping up your weight training prior to the competition. There’s a good reason not to do so. When you’re cutting, your weight training is limited to maintaining the muscle you already have. You’re trying to lower your body fat a couple of points, and you don’t have sufficient nutrition to be building new muscle tissue. The idea of shredding is just to accentuate the definition of your existing muscles.
Identify your Starting Point
You’ve all heard me say plenty of times before that you have to set goals – goals that can be measured. A goal without a deadline is just a dream, not likely to ever come true.
Your deadline will be the date of the event you’re competing in, but you still need to have a goal, and in order to know what body fat level you’re targeting, you really need to know where you’re starting from.
A good rule of thumb when cutting to get shredded for an event is to target a loss of about 1% of your body fat per week. If your body fat is 12% now, you should start working on losing fat about 6 weeks prior. Adding another week isn’t a bad idea, just in case you get thrown off track.
Plan on Some Intense Cardio
Throughout this period, you should be doing some high intensity interval training for your cardio workout, to get into a calorie deficiency mode. Don’t try to create all the deficit with cardio, though, because it’s a lot harder to burn 3500 calories (that’s about 1 pound of fat) per week than it is to cut 3500 calories per week. The ideal approach is to split that between the two, so you’re burning an extra 250 calories, while cutting another 250 calories, each day.
Lower your Carb Intake
A great way to do this is to totally stop your carb intake in the mornings, replacing them with a high protein, no carb breakfast. I got fantastic results using a nut and meat rotation diet for breakfasts, and achieved my all-time low of 4% body fat.
About 6 days before your event, you should cut your carbs back more yet, to anywhere between 0 and 150 grams per day, depending upon your body and your workout schedule. Keep it like that for 2 days, then return to your normal low-carb diet. Then, the last two days before your competition, you’ll went to increase your carb intake.
Regulate your Water Intake
A lot of guys ask me about how to adjust their water intake for shredding muscles, too. This is another factor that depends upon your starting point. I give them a formula, based upon the amount of water they normally consume.
I increase my water intake by 50% about 8 days before my competition. SInce I normally drink around 4 liters per day, that means I jump it to 6 per day. This gets my body accustomed to excreting more water.
Then, about 2 days before my competition, I drop it back to half of what it normally was. In my case, that means 50% of my normal 4 liters per day, or 2 liters. Finally, on the day of competition, I cut it in half again – to 1 liter, in my case.
This will help you shed water, which will help define your muscles. Combined with a lower body fat level and well developed muscles, it’ll give you that head-turning shredded look you’re looking for.
Adjusting your Process
As I already mentioned, you’ll need to vary this process, depending upon your body, its condition and the timeframe you’re dealing with. What works for your buddy might not work nearly as well for you. More importantly, though, what worked for you six months ago might not work well at all, this month.
Remember, your body is changing all the time, not just in condition, but in metabolism. That means you may be at a different starting point, and that your body may respond differently to the same diet and exercise program that worked great last time.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t any perfect program detailing how to get shredded muscles – just general guidelines. You’ll have to experiment a little to fine-tune it to your needs, and be ready to adjust it from one competition to the next, if necessary.