After a season of bulking up and putting on muscle, there's a chance that some of the mass you've put on has been in the form of fat. Now you're ready to focus on shredding exercises so that you can trim down, making the muscle you've gained more prominent and defined.
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That's great — but the problem is that proper shredding exercises can be a little trickier than you would expect. How can you trim some body fat without losing muscle mass along with it? And how can you keep yourself focused on fitness and overall health without letting your drive to look your best become unhealthy?
Shredding: A Brief Explanation
You might be wondering about a shredding workout, meaning, getting shredded, getting ripped or getting cut. Whatever you call it, the idea is generally the same. You want to lose body fat (and, in some cases, excess water weight) so your muscles are as defined as possible. (In some bodybuilding circles, there's a distinction between shredded, cut and ripped based on the extremity of fat loss, but in this context, assume they're the same thing.)
Before considering the best shredding exercises, understand why strength training is such a crucial part of losing weight, improving your body composition and being healthy overall. As the American Council on Exercise explains, weight training is important because focusing strictly on cardio means that you'll get smaller, but your body won't have the muscle tone you need and want.
Additionally, as you increase your lean mass, your muscles will burn more calories, ultimately boosting your metabolism and making it easier for you to lose excess body fat.
The best shredding exercises are those that involve high-intensity intervals for preserving muscle tissue while you burn calories, as the American Council on Exercise further notes. Ideally, you should aim for bursts of exercise that help you reach 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Determine your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220: For example, if you are 35 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 185 beats per minute, and 80 to 90 percent of that would be 148 to 167 beats per minute.
Read more: The Best Supplements for Shredding Muscle
Shredding Exercises and Tips
Some people will go to the extreme to get shredded, such as people who are entering bodybuilding competitions or even those who just want to look trim and defined at the beach. The American Council on Exercise offers a few tips for losing the last little bit of fat along with excess water weight so that your muscles look their most pronounced:
- Eat frequently to stay satisfied and control your blood sugar, which will help you avoid cravings and overeating.
- Stay hydrated so your body doesn't try to retain water.
- Although small amounts of sodium are necessary for optimal health, especially for athletes, reducing sodium will stop your body from retaining water.
- Eliminate artificial sweeteners from your diet, as these can cause gastrointestinal upset and bloating.
- Decrease the carbohydrates in your diet, eating them primarily at your most active times of the day and focusing on complex carbohydrates. Be sure to eat plenty of protein and healthy fats.
- Avoid highly fibrous vegetables, which can make you gassy and bloated.
ACE emphasizes that these practices are intended to be followed only temporarily, and that after you go back to a normal lifestyle, it's both healthy and normal to gain back some weight. However, some of these practices, such as avoiding artificial sweeteners, excess sugar, excess sodium and simple carbohydrates, are good for your health in general.
Be Careful With Shredding
It's important that you should keep a healthy mindset if you're aiming to do a shredding workout, meaning be cautious and realistic about it. When some athletes aim to drop weight too quickly, it can have a negative effect on their performance.
As the Children's Hospital Colorado notes, athletes like wrestlers can lose weight in a healthy way, ultimately being able to become stronger and more competitive in a lower weight class. However, those who overexercise, restrict their calories too much, fast or dehydrate themselves to lose weight too quickly end up doing harm to their bodies.
Children's Hospital Colorado further explains you should maintain your strength training routine to retain your muscle. Meanwhile, adopt your eating patterns so that you're getting all the nutrients you need — particularly carbohydrates and protein, along with moderate amounts of healthy fat. You should also stay hydrated. These tips will ensure you stay at your peak performance while you lose excess weight.
If you're feeling committed to shredding exercises and are prepared to do it in a healthy way, the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) recommends that you can maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss by alternating between high-intensity anaerobic exercises and low-intensity aerobic exercises.
While you do this, it's important to fuel yourself with plenty of carbohydrates on days with high-intensity exercise and avoid simple carbohydrates on days of low-intensity exercise. Overall, avoid fad diets and cleanses, and instead focus on an approach to exercise that is disciplined, healthy and sustainable in the long term.
- American Council on Exercise: “Weight Lifting for Weight Loss”
- ISSA: “The Right Way to Burn Fat, Not Muscle”
- American Council on Exercise: “9 Ways to Look Shredded for Your Best Swimsuit Body”
- Children’s Hospital Colorado: “Wrestlers: Tips on Losing Weight Safely”
- American Council on Exercise: “Treadmill Interval Workout: Try this Fat-Blasting Workout”