T Nation

Planning When To Start Cut

I’ve been eating at a calorie surplus for the past 6 months and know I’m starting to think about summer. My goal is to get to June at a 10% bf level, while retaining as much muscle tissue as the process will allow.

I’m currently weighing 171 lbs (78 kg) at a height of 5’ 10’’ (179 cm) and a body fat that I believe is around 16%
I’ll provide some pics below, along with a very recent video taken while training which gives a more accurate representation of how I look at the time (the pics are up to 5 weeks old)

I already know some of you will advise against a cut, but I do want to get pretty shredded for this summer and I don’t want to end up perma-bulking. I believe I will look decently good.

For the first months of my “bulk” I ate 2,700kcal a day (I do track calories), increasing them to 2,900 which hasn’t changed up to now. I’m eating 320 g of carbs, 220 g of protein, and 90ish g of fat a day. Currently on the fourth week of CT’s Best damn workout program.

I laid out a plan and I would like to get it reviewed by you guys.
I thought about the nutrition aspect of this, but I still have to figure out what to do training wise.

For the first two weeks of March, I’ll reduce my calories to 2,500 a day, so I’ll cut 400 cals mainly from carbs and fats. This means 75 less g of carbs and 11 g of fat.
So it’ll look like this: cals 2,500, pro 218 g, carb 251 g, fat 70 g

The second part of March will consist of another 300 cal deficit, from carbs only, so
2,200 cals a day, 218 g pro, 176 g carb, 70 g fat
Up to this point, I should be fairly close to my estimated TDEE, with only a deficit of about 400 cals, so virtually no need for refeed days.

Upon April, I will introduce a cardio workout a week, based on the “abs shredder” workout that CT posted some time ago. So I will try and use it to target the abdominal area during the cut.

On the third week of April, calories will be cut to 1,900, resulting in:
1,900 cals, 218 g protein, 101 g carbs, 60 g fat
In this phase, a weekly refeed day will be introduced, upping the calories to 2,500 with the increase coming mainly from carbs.
At this point I’m thinking of introducing regular feedings of BCAA during the day. As CT suggests in an article, 5 g taken:

  1. upon waking up
  2. between breakfast and lunch
  3. after lunch and before the pre-workout shake
  4. after dinner
  5. before bed

After this phase I’m unsure. I might cut calories further, another 200 cal, but I really want to add a second “ab shredder” workout per week, so I don’t know. If I do that, I might have to increase the refeed days to 2 per week. I would also like to play around with loaded carries (mainly farmer’s walk) for fat loss.

For what concerns training, I’m tempted to keep doing the program I’m currently following (BDW), which CT says it’s good for cutting because of the low volume, low cortisol approach. But that would mean doing the same program for nearly 6 months, and I don’t know if I can stick to it for that long, not to mention the possible drawbacks from doing only one program for so long.

What do you think of this plan?

I say don’t do it but it’s your call. You don’t have nearly enough muscle to look amazing at low body fat. You will have wasted your time and in the long run you will hinder your progress.

You will most likely start this, loose a bit of fat, feel small, deflated and not happy with how you look, will decide to bulk back to where you was until you get the desire to be shredded again forgetting all about what happened last time you tried.

The whole time this cycle goes back and forth you make very little progress.

I’m speaking from experience.

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then what would you do if you were me?

i understand that it might be too soon to cut, but i’m not happy with my bodyfat level, and i really want to look lean this summer

my long term plan actually, once i reach a lowish level of bf, is to start training again with a small surplus, but this time i will watch fat gain much more closely because i don’t want to end up “fat” again. it’s been said many times that one doesn’t need a huge caloric surplus to make optimal gains, and i’m really prone to think that the reason many (including me) have been doing that is because gaining both muscle and fat during a bulk gives the illusion of faster progress.

i want to break out of that delusion–if it’s going to be slow progress then be it, but i don’t want to be fat anymore

Currently are you gaining weight?
Have you been really fat ever?

Building muscle takes a long time, you just need to be consistent. Your not a robot and your body is not a machine, you won’t be able to exactly work how how many cals you need to maximise muscle gain with 0 fat gain. You just need to progress in the gym and eat enough clean food so that your weight is slowly creeping up. Then give it a few years.

I fully understand the position you are in, I have been the same for years. I regret every cut I’ve done and feel that if I didn’t do them a would have a good chunk more muscle.

weight gain has stalled a bit during the last weeks, but i’m a bit afraid of increasing calories past 2,900.

i read numerous times, here on t nation, that you never really need a surplus greater than 500 cals, which is exactly where i should be now.

I became the first time I tried to bulk, last year. I weighed about 80 kg, so not much more than I weigh now, but I had less muscle

How about your lifts and workload? I find that it’s a pretty good indicator of what’s going on whether I’m cutting or bulking.

My weight can be “stalling” or stable in a bulk but if I’m doing more work and my lifts are going up then the bulk is still going well. Maybe it’s recompositioning or weight gain going in up spurts or something even if it’s slowed down a lot on the scales?

I made very good gains in strength during the past months (although I wasn’t necessarily after that). I’ve always trained with mainly dumbbells and machines (only a few barbell movements) and I progressed in both kind of exercises.

For example, I used to struggle doing Incline presses with 26 kg dumbbells for sets of 6, whereas I now easily press 30 kg dumbbells and I can work up to 34 kgs.

Before starting my current program, I used to rely on Seated Cable Row for my back training. I started by doing sets of 8 with 60 kgs and in the last weeks of the program I could do rest pause sets with 80 kgs

This has ultimately led me to think that I might not have trained intensely enough in the previous months up to then, so now when I train (especially now that I’m doing a program that relies on taking every set to failure and beyond) I try and “reality check” myself during sets. Can I do one more rep? Is the weight heavy enough? Am I capable of doing more?

I recently read a T nation article which was about how people tend to choose weights, when training, that aren’t heavy enough to stimulate growth. I’m afraid I might have been (or still be) guilty of this too.

You are not fat at all at the minute, I would say we are both similar body fat levels currently. The amount of muscle you have massively effects how a certain body fat looks.

I would not be afraid at all to up your cals slightly if the scale has not moved in a while, you are not even close to looking fat and an extra 200 cals is not gonna make you a whale over night.

Time is a major factor that fucks a lot of people up, building muscle is a slow process and it’s easy to get distracted by other goals. Keep doing what your doing for a year or 2, upping cals when needed.

It may take you 5 years to build a good amount of muscle but only a few months to cut. I would be chipping away at that 5 years growing time if I was you and worry about a cut when it’s needed.

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Yeah maybe, but since I’m training to look good and having abz is part of that, I would like to have something to show off in virtually the only period of the year that I go around shirtless.
I consider that as part of the game.

I agree with that. What in worried about isn’t necessarily the extra 200 cals per se, as much as the consistent 700 surplus on top of the fat I already gained so far.

It surely is a slow process. What I’m questioning is: is all the fat gain and extreme surplus necessary?

I remember reading about how more calories speed up the muscle building process only up until a certain point, and going past that only means more fat gained. I don’t want to have the illusion of getting bigger while I’m actually only getting fatter… If that’s not strictly necessary for gains.

So provided that in the lint run it would only be a couple of months, would you still tell me not to cut?
I do realize you have more experience than me so I would trust what you and the other experienced users say.

But if a cut like the one I proposed is still advised against—would it be viable to eat at a small deficit (like maybe 2,200 cals on training days and 2,000 cals on non-training days) to cut some fat and start again in a few months from a “cleaner,” more insulin sensitive base?

If I do that properly, I might even build a little muscle in the process, am I right?

There is a lot of information out there and whenever I browse the articles section I end up with 100 different ideas going around my head. So I understand that all the articles you are reading may make things seem complex.

My basic view is this, if it’s a case of eating very close to the limit to try and build muscle you run the risk of not eating enough to build anything, you won’t put on any fat but you may be wasting your energy. Now if you make sure you are eating a good chunk above (without being stupid) you may gain a little fat but as long as the training is right you will have the reserves to build muscle, any effort you put in at the gym will be for a good cause.

It’s like breaking a coconut, you could precisely attack it with a very small hammer, you may have success you may not. Now if you had a sledge hammer you will be having some coconut, might need to tidy up later but you will definitely be getting your reward!

If your hell bent on doing a little cut that’s your call, some people just love abz!

Addressing the slow cut/ re comp you mentioned, you may be able to pull it off. You may improve your body composition, especially if you do a demanding routine like 6 week super hero or EDT. But at this stage your biggest challenge is lacking the muscle mass.

I just took a quick look at 6 weeks to superhero and it looks interesting to me.

One quick thing that I noticed while reading the article though: it makes heavy use of Olympic lifts, which I never performed. What do you suggest? Is it viable to learn them in a few weeks before starting the program? I’ve heard it takes up to years to totally master them.

Also I don’t know if my gym is equipped with medicine balls or sleds but I’m not positive. I will have to ask

Yeah the realities of running that program as written in a a busy gym is it’s pretty much not gonna happen! I took some ideas from it and used them but also couldn’t run it written.

I think running a program that is intense and physically taxing but still has you lifting heavy is a good choice hence the 6 weeks recommendation. Complexes and finishers can help burn that extra bit of fat and stoke up your metabolism.

With that said I still think you should stick to your best damn routine and keep eating above maintenance, I don’t want to put too many ideas in your head.

I’m thankful to you for providing me with that insight on complexes for fat loss and similar training strategy. As it turns out, I’m a pretty stubborn individual, and although I do believe that for my long term progress it may be better to skip a cut phase, I also don’t want to lose focus on why I started lifting—to look good. So I’ll still “concede” myself to look good for a little time at least and do a 2 month recomp starting mid March. At least, I’ll try and do it as effectively as possible so it’s worthwhile. At worst, it’ll slow progress down for 8ish weeks. As much as it could not be optimal, it won’t be the end of the world. One has to be easy on themselves psychologically from time to time and seeing myself soft every time I look in the mirror for 8 months isn’t a great great feeling.

Anyway, since we are talking about BDW, I would like to get your feedback on some of the executions of the exercises. I am having a hard time feeling the right muscles work with some of these and I wonder if I’m doing something wrong or if it’s meant to feel like that.

  1. I’ve been having problem with the lat mTor activation exercise. I tried both dumbbell and cable pullovers but nothing seems to work. Someone suggested I try Rope J pulls and so today I did. Here’s the video

While I did feel a contraction in my lats upon the squeeze, I didn’t really feel much fatigue in them during the eccentrics. And even if I tried to focus on initiating the movement with my lats, I believe my biceps and Triceps might have taken over a bit too much. The stretch part also felt like resting. I also selected a weight that was too light and ended up doing way more reps than the program calls for (6-8). My bad, first time with that exercise

  1. MTor Incline curl
    I played around a bit with bench angle but I still feel as if I’m just resting at the bottom position (although in theory my biceps should be being stretched). I caught myself using the my brachioradialis to help on the very last reps, and I definitely had more pain in them from having to hold the weight than in my biceps during the last loaded stretch part. If I lower the weight, though, I think I’ll just end up not going close enough to failure (I already felt as if I could do more reps if I had changed the tempo to a faster one)
  1. Double rest pause curl

I think my form is decent on these. Just want to get green lights from you

  1. Double rest lat pull down

Am I cheating the last reps too much?

  1. For the mTor Triceps exercise I’m doing cable overhead push aways. I really don’t feel a stretch in my Triceps and I don’t know how to.

  2. For the rest pause exercise, especially the chest supported db row, I’m having a hard time choosing the right weight. I feel like I can use a heavy db but I’ll have difficulties going full rom (I’m usually not able to fully squeeze my muscles at the end of the reps) towards the end of the set. And if I choose one that’s too light, I’ll do a ton of reps and it won’t even feel right. Thoughts?

  3. Lastly, on the 6-8-10 dropset for laterals and rear delts: I’m using a weight that forces me to cheat a bit, especially for the heavier first part of the set. If I scale down, I might get too much reps and turn it into a 12-15-20 or something like that, doing very differently from what the program says. I know these exercises aren’t meant to be done with lots of weight, but doing 6 hard reps calls for a heavier weight than I’m used to.

I apologize for being a pain in the ass with all these questions and I’m thankful for the time you are spending to guide me.

I might be overly analytical, but since the program is based on doing few sets with maximum effort, I’m anxious about getting them all right or else I might not make any gains.

You are majoring in the minor. Stop it.

Consistency to a balance program trumps all the above questions.

I’m actually following a program. It’s just that it calls for some techniques and special kinds of execution that I’m not sure I’m performing correctly. That’s why I’m asking

@JFG is right on this one. I 100% agree.

But I will give some brief insight. Form on accessory exercises is pretty subjective as it’s all about feel, and I can’t feel what your feeling.

  1. Possibly try cobra pulls, I find I can recruit my lats best with and feel a better stretch.

  2. Don’t look to bad, if it don’t feel good you could try spider curls.

  3. Could possibly lean forward a little and stop your body sway.

  4. Looks fine to me but I’m not against a little cheating with back.

  5. Have you ever done dumbbell overhead tricep extensions with your training partner putting a bit of pressure whilst your lowering?

  6. Pick a weight between the 2!

  7. I’m not a fan of heavy side laterals, used them in a program before and never got anything out of them. Lower weight higher reps all day long with side laterals.

Maybe this program is causing you to over think, maybe a simpler routine would help you take your brain out of it. I have a go too for adding mass but it’s so simple you may not like it, I’m running it myself now. It’s in my log.

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Problem is, this program doesn’t necessarily make a distinction between a main lift and accessory work. Its very low volume nature makes it necessary to do all the sets perfectly otherwise you’ll leave that muscle severely understimulated for that session. I might be exaggerating but that’s the way I see it.

I swear that I had thought about that too! Actually, I was thinking of trying to apply this concept to all the mTor eccentric-accentuating exercise where this is applicable (namely, the pec deck, whatever lats exercise being done with cables, and the leg machines)

Problem is, I’m talking about a 2-kg difference, so the dumbbells are one immediately next to the other, there are no in-between weights. What should I gravitate more towards? A stronger feeling of the right muscles contracting (as I found myself basing on to judge the effectiveness of a set—which incidentally is one of the reasons why I identify myself as a type 2B according to CT’s neurotype system) or moving more weight albeit not through a 100% complete rom towards the last reps?

So any suggestions? Do you think I should try and go for higher rep dropset to failure? Could that work just as well?

I’m liking the program so far. Might just need to get the hang of the special techniques and get the weights right. I’m too fixated on selecting the highest weight possible while forgetting that when going to failure load ceases mattering that much. Once I get proficient with this program I believe the anxiety about getting everything right will go away. After all, I’m only 4 weeks in.

Will make sure to check your log anyway.

Thank you again

The lighter weight would be the best option whilst you work on your form.

My absolute favourite side lateral rep scheme is from Paul Carter. It’s 25-15-10 drop set then short rest then 10-15-25 drop set. To give an example of weight I use 5kg for 10, 3kg for 15 and 2kg for 25.