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How To Plan A Cut

It's coming up to the new year, which can only mean one thing....

People are going to try and "lose weight".

Sam Barnes Lifestyle ftm fitness personal trainer

I hate the term "lose weight". It's too fixated on the scales. As a bodybuilder, I typically find myself in either a "cutting" or "bulking" phase. A bulking phase is when I spend time trying to add on muscle, and a cut is when I spend time trying to drop body fat.

The other problem with the term "weight loss" is it's not specific enough. If you lose weight on the scales, you'll have lost one (or more) of the following:

A. Fat

B. Muscle

C. Water

I'm pretty sure it's only fat you want to lose, right? So how do we go about that? And how do we plan a cut, so we can get the most from it?


This is the first thing we need to consider. We need to plot our start date and, possibly, our finish date.

The starting date is the most important, as you need to spend the time up to this preparing (writing out your meals, planning workouts, mental prep, etc.). However, the other thing you need to do is consider when the best time to start is. We hear it all the time, "start now" or "don't wait until Monday", which is all very true. However, if you plan on starting your cut next Monday, but on Tuesday you have a birthday celebration to go to, Wednesday you'll be seeing your parents for a meal, etc. Then you might want to look at what the best time to start is, that's going to give you a good run of (unplanned) interruption.

In terms of a finishing date, this is only something I would include if you're cutting down for a competition, or you're preparing for a surgery/ holiday. Otherwise, just keep going until you're happy!


In my opinion, there's 3 very important rules for your training during a cut (and, to be honest, this also applies most of the time anyway):

  1. Train everything 2 times per week (Possibly more for smaller areas/ areas that need bringing up).

  2. Train to failure (levels of failure will depend on your training age). Safe form should always be a priority though.

  3. Only swap out an exercise when you're no longer progressing it (i.e. no progress in reps, sets, weight, form, etc.).


Our main area of concern is, of course, going to be our nutrition when entering a cut. Your training could be top quality but, if you're not in a deficit, you're going to see minimal if any progress when trying to drop body fat.

First things first, establish your current maintenance calories (what you need to eat in order to stay the same as you are now). Once we know this, we can look to drop around 200-300 calories (from either fat or carbs), on day one of our cut. Protein MUST remain high through out the cut, we can't take calories away from this area. We should be aiming to eat around 0.8-1g per pound of bodyweight.

You need to stick to these calories for at least one week, whilst assessing your progress (more on this below), before making decisions on what to do next. If/ when progress begins to stall, we can either remove more calories or add in more cardio.


I hate cardio. In fact, I don't know many people that enjoy cardio. However, not only is cardio a great tool for fat loss, it's also something we should be doing year round for overall health. And that's what I want you to think about when programming it in. Here's a handful of benefits of using cardio for promoting overall health:

• Decreased resting heart rate and decreased heart rate during sub-maximal exercise.

• Decreased resting blood pressure and decreased blood pressure during sub-maximal exercise

• Increased insulin sensitivity

• Reduction in cardiovascular disease risk and stroke

• Reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes

I want to remove this mindset of "I'm on a cut so I'm going to do cardio now". Let's change that mindset and add in 30 minutes of cardio every week, regardless of what phase we're in and, if we need to, we can add in more during a cut. However, this whole thing of adding in 5 rounds of cardio from day one of a cut needs to stop.

Not only is it unnecessary, you also leave yourself with nowhere to go when things start to stall (which they will, because you can't cut on the same calories forever).

Let's say you've been cutting for 4 weeks and now the scale has stopped moving. You're already on 1,500 calories (poverty calories basically), and you're doing 5 sessions of 30 minute cardio a week. What are you going to do? Add in MORE cardio? Drop down to even LESS food? You've now got no option but to exit your cut and work your calories back up again, in order to drop them back down. There's no prize for making things really difficult. The idea is to do as little as possible, to get the most results possible. Add in more cardio slowly.


Before beginning your cut, take the following:

• Morning scale weight (when you first wake up, before you eat or drink but after you've been to the toilet). Retake this every 1-2 days and keep track of every weigh-in you do.

• Body measurements (waist, hips, chest, shoulders, calves, quads, and biceps). Retake these every 4-8 weeks.

• Photos (Wear minimal clothing, use good lighting, and try to get someone else to take them for you/ use a tripod). Retake these every 1-8 weeks (depending on how lean you were when you first started) standing in the same spot, during the same time of day.

For a deeper and more detailed walk-through of everything mentioned in this blog post, sign up to my members site here to watch my latest video titled "How To Plan A Cut". In this video I'll show you how to work out your maintenance calories, give you an outline for your training sessions, and show you how to use tracking tools for your nutrition.

If you're looking to go even further, and make a big physical and/ or mental transformation in 2021, fill out my free consultation form here and I'll get back to you within 48 hours.



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