Cutting Workout Plan – Your Guide to Losing Fat and Maintaining Muscle

Cutting Workout Plan

After weeks or months of bulking, you’ve hopefully gained an appreciable amount of muscle. You’re looking swole, bro! But, as well as adding inches to your chest, arms, and thighs, your waist has probably thickened up a bit (or a lot), too. Along with all that muscle, you’ve gained fat. This is a perfectly normal part of the bulking process.

After a bulk, most lifters want to get lean and embark on a cutting diet. This generally involves consuming fewer calories than what your body needs, cutting carbs and fat, and eating clean. You may even try something like intermittent fasting or keto.

However, while you will lose fat by following a cutting diet, there is a very real chance that you’ll lose muscle too. And that’s a shame, given how hard you’ve just worked to get bigger and stronger.

While some muscle loss is almost inevitable, you can minimize it by eating the right amount of protein, losing fat slowly, and adopting a decent workout program.

In this article, we reveal our latest workout for preserving muscle and torching fat.

The Problem with Many Cutting Workouts

Cutting workouts are generally designed to increase your calorie expenditure, often with lots of cardio. Unfortunately, while cardio does burn calories and fat, it can also lead to muscle loss.

Your body is amazingly adaptive. It makes changes based on the stresses it’s exposed to. If you do a lot of cardio, you’ll get fitter. But, to make you better at cardio, it’ll try and take stress off your heart and lungs by shedding muscle weight.

Man Run On Running Track

The issue of too much cardio is often made worse by poorly designed strength training workouts.

Traditionally, and quite rightly, bulking workouts are built around heavy compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and bent-over rows. This makes a lot of sense because these are the most challenging exercises, and therefore the best for building muscle mass.

For cutting, a lot of people replace these compound bulking exercises with high-rep isolation exercises. The idea is that these exercises are better for sculpting and shaping and increasing definition.

Incline Dumbbell Flye

However, your body works on a “use it or lose it” principle. If you stop lifting heavy, your body will think you no longer need such big, strong muscles. Combined with all that cardio, it’s hardly surprising that this approach leads to significant muscle loss.

Sure, lots of cardio and high-rep leg extensions and lateral raises CAN help you shed fat, but if you lose muscle too, your physique will be far less impressive. What you really want is to be muscular AND lean, and not just skinny.

Build Muscle And Stay Lean

The following workout is designed to help you lose fat while keeping hold of as much muscle as possible.

Related: 6 Week Cutting Diet for Less Fat and More Gains

Cutting Workout Plan

In theory, you can get cut using any standard bodybuilding or strength-building workout. Losing fat is largely a question of proper diet. If you eat less and create a calorie deficit, your body has no choice but to burn fat for fuel. Stick with it long enough, and you should get leaner and, eventually, ripped.

But, if you keep doing the same workouts and exercises over and over, you’re more likely to get bored of your workouts and may even end up stuck in a progress rut.

So, it makes sense to adopt a cutting workout plan that’s different from the program you followed for bulking. If nothing else, this will provide you with the training variation you need to avoid plateaus.

This workout is designed to preserve muscle mass, accelerate fat loss, and help you get ripped. However, you’ll get better results if you combine it with a sensible fat loss diet.

Follow this plan for the next 6-8 weeks:

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Lower Body Upper Body HIIT 1 Rest Full Body HIIT 2 Rest
Walk 10,000 steps Walk 10,000 steps Walk 10,000 steps Walk 10,000 steps Walk 10,000 steps Walk 10,000 steps Walk 10,000 steps

Related: Running Calorie Calculator

And these are the workouts you’ll be doing:

Lower Body Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Zercher squat 5 5 2 minutes
2 Romanian deadlift 4 8 90 seconds
3a* Hack squat 3 10 60 seconds
3b* Leg curl
4 Walking lunge 3 12 60 seconds
5 Seated calf raise 3 12 60 seconds
6 Standing calf raise 3 12 60 seconds

Finisher: Abs Medley – choose 3-5 different abs exercises and do 10-15 reps of each non-stop for seven minutes straight. Your only rest is the time it takes to transition from one exercise to the next. Choose dissimilar movements to hit your abs from all available angles, e.g.:

Upper Body Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps Recovery
1 Barbell bench press 5 5 2 minutes
2 Pull-ups/chin-ups 4 8 90 seconds
3 Incline dumbbell bench press 4 8 90 seconds
4 Pendlay row 5 5 2 minutes
5 Dumbbell clean and press 3 10 60 seconds
6a* Barbell drag curl 3 12 60 seconds
6b* Dumbbell skull crushers


Finisher: Run one mile as fast as you can. Not much of a runner? You can use a rowing machine instead.


Using an exercise bike, rower, elliptical, or treadmill, warm-up for 5-10 minutes and then do the following:

  • Sprint for 30 seconds
  • Slow down and recover for 60 seconds
  • Repeat 12 times to total 18 minutes

Finish off with another 5-10 minutes of cardio to cool down.

Full Body Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps
1 Front squat 4 8-12
2 Barbell hip thrust 4 8-12
3 Incline bench press 4 8-12
4 Yates row 4 8-12
5 Arnold press 4 8-12
6 Lat pulldown 4 8-12
7 Parallel bar dip 4 8-12
8 Dumbbell biceps curl 4 8-12
10-15 seconds between exercises, 1-2 minutes between laps

This workout is to be done as a circuit. Perform each exercise in turn, moving quickly from one exercise to the next. Only rest after completing the final exercise.

Finisher: Abs Medley – choose 3-5 different abs exercises and do 10-15 reps of each non-stop for seven minutes straight. Your only rest is the time it takes to transition from one exercise to the next. Choose dissimilar movements to hit your abs from all available angles, e.g.:

6 Pack Abs


Using an exercise bike, rower, elliptical, or treadmill, warm-up for 5-10 minutes and then do the following Tabata circuit:

  • 20 seconds burpees
  • Rest 10 seconds
  • 20 seconds fast feet
  • Rest 10 seconds
  • 20 seconds box jump
  • Rest 10 seconds
  • 20 seconds jump rope
  • Rest 10 seconds
  • Repeat eight times to total 16 minutes

Finish off with another 5-10 minutes of cardio to cool down.


Bradley Martyn Walking

Five workouts per week might sound like enough to get ripped, but if you are sedentary the rest of the time, it probably isn’t. The less active you are, the stricter your diet needs to be, and the longer it’ll take to lose that unwanted fat.

Walking 10,000 steps per day will help speed up fat loss without tiring you out. In fact, it’ll probably help you recover faster.

10,000 steps is about five miles, which may sound like a lot. However, you don’t have to do it all in one go and, spread throughout your day, 10,000 steps should be a very manageable target. Use a fitness tracker or pedometer to make sure you walk at least 10,000 steps every day.

Hints and Tips for Even Better Results  

Get even more from this cutting workout plan by putting the following hints and tips into action:

1. Don’t starve yourself

Dieting aggressively will lead to faster fat loss, but you’ll lose more muscle too. Aim for a 300-500 calorie deficit to minimize muscle loss. Ideally, you should lose 1-2 pounds per week. If you have a lot of fat to lose, diet for longer rather than cut your calories more. Slow and steady is the way to go.

2. Get plenty of sleep

Sleep and fat loss are inextricably linked. Too little sleep can cause hunger and cravings, slow your metabolism, and rob you of the energy you need to work out. Do your best to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Not just at weekends, but from Monday to Friday, too.

3. Strive for strength

Minimize muscle loss by doing your best to maintain your strength. While it’ll be a challenge, try to increase your weights week by week. If that’s not possible, avoid lowering them unless absolutely necessary.

Eat More Protein

4. Pump up the protein

Minimize muscle breakdown by making sure you build all your meals around high-protein foods and snacking on protein, too. You may also benefit from using a protein powder. Your body needs protein to preserve your muscle mass and repair the damage caused by your workouts. Protein is also satiating and increases your metabolic rate.

5. Supplement wisely

While you don’t have to use supplements during your cut, they can be beneficial. Consider adding these products to your diet:

6. Eat clean

When it comes to losing weight and getting ripped, calories count. Without a calorie deficit, your body has no reason to burn fat. However, as well as eating less, you also need to make sure you provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly, and that means vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

You’ll probably get ripped faster if you eat clean. That means filling up on nutritious vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean proteins, and natural fat. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat the occasional treat (see tip #8), but most of your meals should be healthy. 

Healthy Eating

7. Track your progress

Make sure that your workout and diet are producing the results you want by tracking your progress. If you aren’t seeing changes, you may need to increase your calorie deficit. Practical tracking methods include:

 8. Treat, don’t binge

The less you cheat on your diet, the sooner you’ll reach your fat loss goal. That said, it’s only natural to want the foods you’re not supposed to eat. Give yourself a break by having the occasional treat meal. This, as the name implies, should be just one meal and not an entire day or weekend of binging. A couple of slices of pizza is an acceptable treat meal. Eating a family pizza on your own is not!

How often should you treat yourself? One meal out of every ten is a reasonable target for most people. So, if you eat three meals a day, you can enjoy a treat roughly twice a week.  

However, you must get back on the diet wagon immediately after your treat meal, taking take care not to overdo it and undo your progress. Ideally, consume your treat meal shortly after a workout.

It’s also worth adding that you need to earn those treats. If you are skipping workouts or having unplanned breaks from your cutting diet, added treats will just delay your progress.  

Wrapping Up

Unless you take a boatload of steroids, it’s a terrible idea to use lots of cardio and high-rep isolation exercises to get ripped. You’ll lose fat, but you’ll also end up losing a lot of muscle too.

Retain as much of your muscle mass as possible by using compound exercises and lifting heavy weights. And while you can do cardio, if your diet is on-point, you shouldn’t need much to enhance fat loss. If you feel like the only way you can lose fat is to do hours of stationary cycling, jogging, rowing, etc., you are probably overeating.

Combine this program with a sensible calorie deficit and clean eating to lose fat, preserve muscle, and stay healthy!


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