These past few weeks, we’ve taken a look at some of the different fitness goals people have. Most commonly, they want to lose a little weight, or even a lot of weight. It’s also common for people to want to get toned up, and sometimes increase their size or strength. But sometimes, people tell me they’d like to get “ripped.”
While getting “ripped” means different things to different people, it’s usually associated with wanting to have good muscle tone everywhere, and such low body fat that all the abdominals and oblique muscles (sides) are showing. This type of physique is pretty unusual, especially in adults.
Being ripped is much more common in males, especially in the teenage years. This is partly due to metabolism and partly due to activity level. The more active they are, the leaner they are. Girls tend not to be quite as cut, even if they’re just as active. There are several reasons for this.
Guys have extremely high levels of testosterone, especially at that age, which results in greater muscular development. Their additional muscle mass increases metabolism which burns more calories, even while resting.
On the other hand, females tend to maintain higher levels of body fat. This is due to much lower levels of testosterone, but much higher levels of estrogen and other hormones. This means their muscle mass will typically be much less than that of males. Women also tend to have more body fat around their midsection for protection of their reproductive organs.
For these reasons, I’ve observed that women wanting to get cut or ripped usually have to work harder than men to get the same result. But that doesn’t make it easy for guys either, especially as they move out of their younger years. For every decade it gets harder.
Someone in their 20’s will find it easier to get ripped than someone in their 30’s. Those in their 30’s will find it easier than someone in their 40’s or 50’s, and so on. This is partly due to metabolism changes as we age. Activity levels also play a huge role, as does decreased muscle mass in both men in women.
But the biggest difficulty in getting ripped is due to our diet. We tend to eat more than we need, especially guys. And even regular fitness enthusiasts often have poor diets, too high in carbs and too low in protein.
If these problems weren’t enough, there’s one more. The easiest pounds to come off are the first few, early in the process. In contrast, the hardest pounds to lose are those stubborn last few, especially around your abdominals and obliques (side muscles).
That will take a very complete and focused effort, with little room for error. This means you’re going to have to maximize your muscle mass but also burn away most of your body fat. But these are conflicting goals.
Pros build up their muscle mass and then do a cut phase where they eat less and more cleaner, eliminating most carbs altogether. Most people find it hard to stick with such a restrictive diet.
To see the top row of abs, your body fat needs to be around 10%. To see the next row, you’ll have to lose another percent, getting down to around 9%. To see another row, you’ll have to be around 8%. The last row will get you down to around 7%. And to eliminate the rest of the body fat below your belly button and around your hips, you’ll need to get down to around 5-6%.
Not only is this difficult, but it usually can’t last very long. Those fitness models and professional bodybuilders you see in the magazines are photographed at a time when they are at their absolute peak fitness and lowest body fat.
They know when the photo shoot is, and train and diet to peak at that moment. They pull back on the heavier weights, focusing on lighter weights and more repetitions, and also increase their cardio. They’re often dehydrated, sometimes even using artificial means to get there.
A good example would be an MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter who cut weight before a fight. They look extremely ripped because they’ve gotten as dehydrated as possible to eliminate any weight due to water weight so they can make their weight.
But once the photo shoot, bodybuilding competition, or MMA fight is over, they have to return to a more normal diet. In the case of fighters, they hydrate and eat right after the weigh-in. Fitness models and bodybuilders typically resume a more traditional muscle building phase. As a result, their body fat can quickly go back up as much as five percent or more.
There’s another way to do it that might work better for you. High intensity exercise programs like P90X, Insanity, or Cross Fit can help get you there. Eliminate rest periods during your weight lifting by doing supersets of opposing muscle groups or adding ab exercises between sets.
Do higher repetitions in some of your sets, and add burn-out drop sets to failure. Add an extra cardio session each day, like going for a 20 minute walk every morning, or riding the bike an hour every night. Or do 20 minutes of cardio like the rower and bike before your workout and then another 20 minutes after. It doesn’t have to be hard, just burn those calories.
At the same time, adjust your calories enough so you can lose a little bit each week. You don’t have to eliminate carbs, just the junk. Make sure the rest of your carbs are high quality, like fruits and vegetables.
Do only low fat dairy, and if you like breads, limit yourself to about half of what you’re used to. Make a sandwich with only one piece of whole grain bread. Use the smaller, lower calorie breads, or rye, which is lower in calories, and has a smaller insulin response. Learn how to quit eating when you’re full.
If you’re already near your ideal weight and in excellent shape, these steps will get you there but you have to stick with it. Little-by-little you’ll start seeing more and more definition, and if you want it bad enough, and don’t give up, you too can “get ripped!”
Don’t worry if you’re not ready for that yet. Most people just want to lose weight and get their life back, so Biggest Loser “17” is starting this week to help you get the ball rolling. If you want to participate, you need to get with me right away! Feel free to contact me through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tomdolanfitness if you have any questions or comments.