When we compare a lean bulk to a shredding phase the absolute majority of times we focus on the nutrition aspect of things. In doing so we tend to oversee an important detail i.e. the training aspect.
In this regard I have recently received a very valid question via our Facebook page and I thought it would be beneficial to you, our followers, if I could prepare a detailed answer and share it with you here. The question goes like this:
“How should my training/workouts differ between a lean bulk and a shredding phase?”
Before answering this question I would like you to have the following 3 points clear in mind:
1) In both phases, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting your nutrition right, whether you are in a controlled calorie surplus or controlled calorie deficit.
2) It is impossible to gain muscle on a shredding phase unless you are on some magic potion. Rather, the main goal during a shredding phase is to drop as much body fat % while holding on to the max level of muscle mass possible (or sacrificing the least level of muscle mass possible, whichever way you like to see it.)
3) You might have traditionally heard people telling you to do high repetitions and many sets using lighter weights to “tone” the muscle during a shredding phase. This is one of the biggest fitness myths in the history of the industry. It has been shown in hundreds of studies how this is totally wrong because their is no such thing as “toning” muscle – you can either make it bigger or smaller.
Now to answer the question…
In order to maintain the max level of muscle mass during a shredding phase, you will want to recruit all the muscle fibres and motor units possible. This means that you should continue lifting heavy, somewhere around the 8 to 12 rep range, except for the last week before a show when more than anything you will want to drop exercise weight to avoid injury during your peak.
On the other hand, what you should be looking at changing during the shredding phase is increased calorie expenditure. The easiest way to achieve this is by gradually reducing the rest time between exercises and sets. Since dropping body fat is a function of calories in vs calories out, by reducing rest times your heart rate will beat faster thus increasing calorie expenditure.
Additionally, in increasing calorie expenditure you can crank up workout volume by increasing number of sets or adding cardio, however in doing so you have to make sure you do not over-train as this would backfire, leading to inadequate recovery before next workout and/or injury. Finally, focus on big lifts rather than isolation exercises. Big lifts burn way more calories than isolation work, with the latter recommendable for the bulking phase.
During this phase you will want to elicit muscle gains by maximising muscle tension and overload. In order to achieve this here you can sacrifice rest times for lifting heavier weights, going for the maximum number of reps (the so-called “to failure”) at any given weight. Thus whereas during a shredding phase you will not want to rest more than 60 to 90 secs between sets, here you can rest for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on how hard you go.
Finally, the ultimate goal of a lean bulk phase is muscle progress so in order to avoid hitting a quick plateau you will need to periodize your workouts by systematically introducing different training protocols (or so called shock techniques) such as drop sets and super sets. This way your body does not adapt and your muscles keep growing.
If you have a question about your training, regardless of whether you want to gain muscle or drop fat, message me here and I’ll get in touch asap. Should you be looking for something more specific to your goals, I also offer the service of a personalised training program.
To fitness with love,