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How Much More Should I Cut?

Hello everyone. My end goal is to get stronger, bigger, leaner, etc. Same thing as pretty much everybody, right? My problem is that for the majority of my life, I really loved food (let’s be honest, I still do). I’m in the military, so I’ve always been forced to maintain a certain body fat % (no more than 22%), and I’ve done physical training daily for the past 6 years, but never any real lifting.

I’m currently deployed, with nothing to do but work and work out. Where I’m stuck is how much should I cut? In February, I was 210 and 22%. I completed a row marathon (42,195m) and the 10K KB swing challenge since then, and in mid-march, I was 200 and 18%. I’m currently sitting at 191, and my chest, abs, arms, legs, back, etc are all stronger and better looking than ever. I’m sitting at about 14-15% depending on who tapes me.

I’ve been following the 531 progression for my main lifts with a decent amount of accessory work to where I try to hit every body part at least twice a week.

Monday: Chest (531) and Biceps
Tuesday: Deadlift/back (531) and Shoulders
Wednesday: Squat/legs (531)
Thursday: Chest (more bodyweight intensive) and Biceps
Friday: OHP/Shoulders (531) and Back/Triceps
Saturday: Just move heavy shit around the gym. Farmer Carries, sled pulls/push, tire flips, whatever comes to mind until I want to die.
Sunday: Rest.

I’ve been doing this for about two months, and I’m in the best shape of my life. I’ve been taking some basic supplements, as it’s tough to get a lot of stuff over here. But, I’m still in a caloric deficit and I miss eating food which leads to the crux of my post…

What body fat % should I aim to get at before shifting focus to building lean muscle mass? I plan to follow the guidance in the simple diet for athletes. Just eat right, adjust my calories accordingly, and work my way to massive.

Any help figuring out when the right time is to shift gears would be great. I still feel like I have fat to lose, but I also don’t want to miss out on the hard effort I’m putting in. Any and all thoughts are appreciated! Thanks everyone.

How are your PT scores?

How close are you to getting off the tape, and back to weigh-ins?

How are your PR sets progressing?

You don’t want to starve yourself to the point where your overall performance suffers. Or lift so hard, PT tests suffer. Or do so much total work that your PR sets slow down.

I’m on a permanent no-run profile because my knee is jacked up, but I max push ups and get about 90 points in sit ups, so no issues on that front.

As for tape, the Army wants me at 184. It’s probably doable, but definitely not my goal. I don’t mind getting taped. I do think it’s funny that Phil Heath is 15% body fat during competition according to the Army’s way of taping (waist and neck only).

As for PRs, I think I started 531 too low. For the best, as I’m still figuring everything out, but I know I can go heavier.

OHP: 115lb x 8, started this one late, started at 115lb x 5.

Dead: 275lb x 10, started and I was doing 135lb x 10s. Grip strength was nil.

Squat: 250lb x 6 (this one terrifies me because of my knee. I could probably do more reps if I pushed it.)

Bench: 215lb x 6, started and I could hit 205lb x 5 if I was lucky.

That’s one of the tenets of the program. Don’t rush it. If you do it for a year you’ll add 60 pounds to upper body and 120 pounds to lower body lifts. Nothing wrong with that.


You’ve dropped 20 pounds pretty quickly. Your performance seems “Good.” Your sound like your pleased with your physique.

You could play it safe, figure out what Maintanence calories are, and eat that way for a couple weeks and see what happens. Do the nice “Recomp” with a reasonable diet, and nice reasonable workouts. See how you feel. You might like strength in the gym more than losing weight. Your doing lots of work, in a deficit, on a stressful deployment. You may not be able to keep on at this pace anyway. Settle down, eat a little more and develop slow and steady.

On the other hand, you have great Indicators. Between your workouts and PT tests you have 2 ways to measure performance. You have the scale, and your B.F. tape test to measure your weight and lean mass. You have time to lift and rest. You could keep pushing, get a little leaner, and just follow your indicators. Eat more or do less when your performance drops. Eat more and do less if you start to lose muscle mass. Live fast, take chances.

Man, that’s an awesome answer. I like it, live fast and take chances. That makes sense. I’m coming up on the end of the deployment, so why not see how lean I can get. I’m sure I’ll be celebrating when I get home and I can use that time to try and bulk up a bit. I know I love my workouts right now and don’t really notice too much effect from the caloric deficit. I still feel strong, I see the weights increasing with every week that passes. So you’re right, maybe I should just keep pushing. See where it takes me.

Nobody ever wants to go slow!

Don’t go too crazy. Build up some hamstrings, and hit some calves to support that knee.

Good luck!

Hamstrings are definitely something I need to improve on. I’m really flexible for some reason, so I try to do RDLs, but I don’t feel it in my hamstrings at all. I’m sure it’s still working them, but without feeling it, it just seems off.

Hamstring curls kick my ass though. I do the accessory work from 12 weeks to Ridiculous Wheels to augment my 531 squat day. My quads have ballooned up, and I was lucky enough to be born with genetically massive calves. Everyone is jealous. I tell them to thank my mom.