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Cutting Workout and Meal Plan (Complete Guide)

February 3, 2020

Cutting Workout and Meal Plan

The most challenging feat in the world of bodybuilding and weightlifting is getting shredded without losing (or at least losing too much) muscle mass.

One sure way you’ll fail at this is by not having a plan…

In this post, you’re going to get an entire cutting workout and meal plan.

But it’s important to note that this isn’t about getting skinny or merely losing weight. I’m going to help you maintain your hard-earned muscle as much as possible during this cutting phase.

You’ll also learn some simple techniques to make your workouts more effective for fat burning, and what and how you should eat to get defined and cut. We’re going to attack this from every angle!


**Here are the contents, but I ‘strongly’ encourage you to read this from start to finish…

Get on the fast-track to getting ripped with this lean muscle recipe guide. You can learn more in my post here.
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How to Changing Your Mindset for Getting Shredded

get pumped - jason stallworth

The reason most people fail at getting cut and in top shape is they do not have the proper mindset. Your mental state is crucial to achieving this goal, and here’s why…

  • Training (and eating) to shed fat while hanging onto lean muscle is tough!
  • Not being 100% focused is going to hold you back
  • You need to be able to push your body beyond what you think your limits are
  • Your mind is going to constantly trick you into making excuses (don’t have time, too busy, I can’t do it, etc…)
  • You are going to experience discomfort during the process
  • Your results will not come right away so you’re going to need that personal commitment to yourself that you’re going to stick it out

Your mind is like your muscles. Your muscles don’t grow by you just sitting around. They grow through the stress that you put them through in the gym.

So, here are 7 simple ways to make that shift in your mindset to stay focused on your goal of getting ripped:

  1. Do early morning workouts! When you start your morning in the gym, it sets the tone for the rest of your day.
  2. Be sure to integrate deep stretching and some form of Yoga once a day (we’ll more about how that helps you get lean later in this post!).
  3. Immediately wake up thinking of something or someone in your life that you’re extremely grateful for and take a few minutes to dwell on that.
  4. This is going to be obvious, but put a stiff-arm to negativity and anything that even remotely resembles negativity.
  5. Don’t accept or argue for the limitations you think you have.
  6. Every day, visualize the physique you aspire to have. Embed that mental image of yourself deep int your mind and see yourself as that person.
  7. As retired Navy Seal Jocko Willink suggests, ‘when you don’t feel like it, do it anyway!’

**I mentioned early morning workouts. If that doesn’t sound feasible to you, be sure to read my post: How Early Morning Workouts Can Help You Build More Muscle

Cutting Workout Plan

chest exercises: cable flyes crossovers

Your cutting workout plan is going to be a mix of weight training and integrating different types of cardiovascular work.

You can do your weight training and cardio in the same workout but it would be best to separate them if your schedule allows.

You could do this…

  • AM: Cardio
  • PM: Weights

Or something like this…

  • Same session: Weights followed by cardio

Remember, your goal isn’t to pack on more muscle during the cutting phase. But you do want to maintain as much as possible while you’re training for definition and deep muscle separation.

Cutting Training Split

You’re going to be working out 6 days a week on this plan. I know that sounds like a lot but you want to keep your body in motion, continuously burning calories.

You’ll notice that you’re also hitting most muscles more than once a week. But you won’t be doing the same workouts the second time. The same with cardio.

I encourage you to take these workouts seriously. But you also know that training hard is only half of it

The other part is your nutrition, which we’ll get into more below. But, real quick, I want to share a guide with you that helped me tremendously.

Read my post about Anabolic Cooking here.
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Here’s your training split for your cutting workout:

  • Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, and Cardio
  • Tuesday: Back, Biceps, and Cardio
  • Wednesday: Legs and Cardio
  • Thursday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, and Cardio
  • Friday: Back, Biceps, and Cardio
  • Saturday: Legs and Cardio
  • Sunday: Rest

Let’s break this down further. You’ll see below how your weight training workouts work in conjunction with your cardio workouts.

As your heavier workouts will typically be longer you’ll follow that up with shorter and more intense cardio (using the Hight Intensity Interval Training method, also called ‘HIIT’).

And on your high-rep days, which will typically take less time, you’ll follow up with a longer and more moderate cardio session. This helps you attack fat at all angles while maintaining muscle.

Here’s a more in-depth view of your workout schedule for cutting:

MondayHeavier with moderate repsShort with high intensity
TuesdayHeavier with moderate repsShort with high intensity
WednesdayHeavier with moderate repsShort with high intensity
ThursdayLighter with higher repsLonger with moderate intensity
FridayLighter with higher repsLonger with moderate intensity
SaturdayLighter with higher repsLonger with moderate intensity
SundayRestRest (or walk)

*Make no mistake that this workout plan is intense and is going to take a serious commitment on your part.
Like that song in Rocky IV, ‘There’s no easy way out, there’s no short cut home’ when it comes to getting shredded.

Monday Cutting Workout: Push

incline dumbbell flyes for defining and shaping your chest

This first workout is going to essentially be a ‘push workout’ with chest, shoulders, and triceps. You’ll start with the largest muscle, your chest.

You will be training semi-heavy here, at least in the beginning. Now, that may not be what you had in mind for a cutting workout.

Remember, your goal is to get shredded while maintaining muscle mass. The last thing you want is to lose muscle and get skinny!

Also, you’ll see a substantial change when you train these muscles again on Thursday.

Workout Notes:

  • Warm-up with a couple of light sets before diving into your workouts sets for the first exercises (follow this rule for the remaining workouts as well).
  • Rest about a 1:30 between sets where you’re doing 6-8 reps
  • Rest for 1 minute when doing sets of 10 reps
  • Do a drop set on the final set where you see an asterisk *
  • You’ll also notice an ab exercise at the end; this will be the case at the end of every workout
ExerciseSets x Reps
Incline Bench Press4 x 6
Dumbbell Press4 x 8
Cable Flyes3 x 10*
Seated Arnold Press3 x 8
Lateral Raises3 x 10*
Seated Overhead Dumbbell Extensions3 x 8
Cable Pressdowns3 x 10*
Decline Situps4 x 12

You’ll notice that you start your chest workout with incline bench instead of regular bench press.

Many lack upper chest development, and as you drop more body fat that will become even more evident. So starting out with heavy incline bench press will help you ensure your chest is looking awesome as you get more ripped.

If you want to learn more about upper chest training, once you finish this workout read my post: Upper Chest Workout: How to Build a Bodybuilder Chest

Monday Cardio

Now it’s time for cardo. As I mentioned before, you can perform your cardio after the weights or you can do it at another time during the day (ex: cardio AM, weights PM, or vice versa). If your schedule allows, you may find it best to split these sessions up.

*You can choose any cardio machine for this such. Here are some common choices:

  • Elliptical
  • Recumbent or stationary bike
  • Treadmill (walk/run)
  • Sprints (walk/run)
0:00 – 1:59Low
2:00 – 2:19High
2:20 – 2:59Low
3:00 – 3:19High
3:20 – 3:59Low
**Repeat to 14 minute mark

Important Note: Your Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday cardio sessions will be the same.

These sessions are based ‘going hard’ followed by a ‘backing off’ phase, hench high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Tuesday Cutting Workout: Pull

lat pulldowns for back

Today you’ll be working the opposing muscles, training with pulling movements (Pull Day) that primarily hit your back and biceps.

Like yesterday’s workout, you’ll start out with heavier weights. After that you’ll stay in that 8-10 rep range, also doing supersets at the end of a couple of exercises (this ramps up the intensity and helps you exhaust the muscle, preparing it for growth!).

Workout Notes:

  • You’ll do a little more for your back than you did for chest; this is because your back is so much larger than your chest and requires more attention.
  • Rest about a 1:30 between sets where you’re doing 6-8 reps
  • Rest for 1 minute when doing sets of 10 reps
  • Do a drop set on the final set where you see an asterisk *
  • There’s a different ab exercise at the end (and there will be a different one tomorrow!)
ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell Rows4 x 6
Dumbbell Rows4 x 8
Lat Pulldowns4 x 10
Seated Rows4 x 10*
Dumbbell Hammer Curls3 x 8
Preacher Curls3 x 10*
Rope Crunches4 x 12

Tuesday Cardio

As we all know, cardio can be boring. So although today’s session is the same as yesterday, you can mix it up by changing the cardio machine you use. For example, if you did the elliptical yesterday, do the recumbent bike today.

0:00 – 1:59Low
2:00 – 2:19High
2:20 – 2:59Low
3:00 – 3:19High
3:20 – 3:59Low
**Repeat to 14 minute mark

Wednesday Cutting Workout: Legs

Today is the most awesome day of all…it’s leg day!

You’re going to stick with the same theme as the past two days for your first exercise. However, you may notice that your legs may respond better to higher reps. So you’ll be cranking out more reps for the rest of your leg workout, especially for quads.

Workout Notes:

  • You may opt to warm up your legs on the recumbent bike or even doing a couple of sets of leg extensions before you squat
  • Rest about a 1:30 between sets of squats
  • Rest for 45 seconds to a minute for all other exercises
  • Do a drop set on the final set where you see an asterisk *
ExerciseSets x Reps
Squats4 x 6-8
Leg Press4 x 12
Lying Leg Curls4 x 12*
Single-Leg Extensions4 x 12*
Dumbbell Lunges3 x 12
Seated or Standing Calf Raises5 x 15*
Leg Raises4 x 12

Your legs, specifically quads, may take a different approach than upper body due to the different muscle fiber types. I’ve found that higher reps (and higher volume) are what will make your quads respond and grow.

You can learn more about why I recommend high reps for legs in my post: High Reps for Legs for Ripped Quads

Wednesday Cardio

This will be your last HIIT cardio session for the week, so make it count!

0:00 – 1:59Low
2:00 – 2:19High
2:20 – 2:59Low
3:00 – 3:19High
3:20 – 3:59Low
**Repeat to 17 minute mark

Thursday Cutting Workout: Push

incline barbell press chest day chest exercises

Now you’re back to training those ‘push’ muscles; your chest, shoulders, and triceps. But this workout will be quite different from Monday’s workout.

Today is all about pumping more blood into your muscles, getting that pump, and also jacking up your heart rate to burn more fat.

You’ll also notice below that your rest between sets will be decreased. And you’ll be doing some supersets as well.

Workout Notes:

  • Rest 40 seconds between sets of your first exercise
  • Rest 30 seconds between sets for all other exercises
  • For any ‘Machine Press’ use Hammer Strength if your gym has that; if not, you can use any machine, including the Smith Machine
  • Superset with the exercise below where you see an asterisk **
ExerciseSets x Reps
Incline Dumbbell Press4 x 12
Machine Chest Press4 x 12
Pec Dec Flyes3 x 15
Machine Shoulder Press3 x 15**
Bent-Over Raises3 x 12
Reverse Overhead Rope Extensions3 x 15**
Rope Pressdowns3 x 12
Decline Situps4 x 15

Thursday Cardio

Here’s where you’re cardio is going to change. Because your weight training workouts are shorter, higher reps, and more intense, you’ll do the opposite for cardio for the next 3 days.

You can choose any cardio machine but just a simple walk will do the trick as well. Now, this doesn’t mean you should go ‘turtle speed.’ You need to be moving but you won’t be going all-out during these sessions.

0:00 – 35:00Moderate

Important Note: You’ll do the same for cardio tomorrow and Saturday. Feel free to use a different method to change things up.

With your prior cardio sessions earlier this week you probably needed some upbeat music to get you through it. But for these longer, moderate sessions, this is a great time to listen to a Podcast and soak in good information.

Friday Cutting Workout: Pull

dumbbell rows back exercise

Friday’s cutting workout you’ll be hitting back and biceps for the second time this week. This is going to be similar to what you did yesterday on your ‘push day.’

Workout Notes:

  • Rest 40 seconds between sets of your first exercise
  • Rest 30 seconds between sets for all other exercises
  • Use Hammer Strength machines for back every chance you get; these machines really target your lats and cane grant some pretty awesome results for getting definition and striations in your back muscles
  • Superset with the exercise below where you see an asterisk **
ExerciseSets x Reps
Reverse Grip Barbell Rows4 x 12
Wide Grip Seated Rows4 x 12
Reverse Grip Pulldowns4 x 15**
Cable Pullovers4 x 12
EZ Bar Curls3 x 15**
Incline Curls3 x 12
Rope Crunches4 x 15

This workout is all about bringing out those details in your back muscles. And that can be frustrating but I have some additional info that may help you…

After you finish reading this post, go check out my blog post: How to Make Your Back Muscles Stand Out

Friday Cardio

Same as yesterday…(yes, I know, it’s boring but do it anyway!)

0:00 – 35:00Moderate

Saturday Cutting Workout: Legs

leg press leg workout

Your final workout of the week will be your second leg day. And this leg workout will be similar to Wednesdays but without the heavy squats.

You’ll also be doing some supersets and your overall goal is to really exhaust your leg muscles by pushing them to the next level.

And although you’re on a cutting workout plan, you can actually expect to gain a little more size in your quads from this style of training.

Workout Notes:

  • Rest about 40 seconds between all sets (you will be doing more supersets in this workout than you did on Thursday and Friday; those, of course, will have no rest between the superset part)
  • Superset with the exercise below where you see an asterisk **
ExerciseSets x Reps
Single-Leg Leg Press4 x 12
Leg Extensions4 x 15**
Seated Leg Curls4 x 12
Leg Press (close-stance)4 x 15**
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts4 x 12
Leg Press (close-stance)3 x 12**
Seated Calf Raises3 x 15
Standing Calf Raises5 x 15
Leg Raises4 x 15

If there’s any body part that should be trained twice a week, whether cutting or bulking, it’s legs. Like I mentioned earlier, you have to take a different approach to build your legs than you do with upper body.

If you’re not convinced, read my post: Training Legs Twice a Week: How to Build Bigger Legs

Saturday Cardio

0:00 – 35:00Moderate

Sunday – Rest Day

When you’re training six days a week, it’s important to have a rest day. Give your body a little break.

You may decide to spend most of the day relaxing. You may even have a cheat meal, which we’ll talk about more in the next section ‘Cutting Meal Plan.’

These things are okay. However, don’t allow yourself to become completely unfocused. In other words, I still encourage you to do something active that day. It could be a 20-minute walk or doing 15 minutes of Yoga. You don’t want to be completely stagnant the entire day.

And you don’t want to load up on a bunch of junk food the entire day. All that’s going to do is kill your energy for the next days’ workout.

So, yes, you can rest for that day. But keep everything in moderation and keep yourself in check.

Remember, training and eating for getting cut while maintaining your lean muscle is one of the toughest challenges you’ll ever put yourself through! But it’s so rewarding and worth it!

You may be tempted to overeat on your rest days. While a cheat meal is okay, it’s a good idea to stick to your planned meals (in other words, plan your cheat meal!).

One thing that’s helped me in that area is Anabolic Cooking. It features over 200 lean muscle-building recipes that are also quite tasty.

One of my favorites is the protein pancakes. You can read more in my post: 200+ Muscle-Building Recipes

Stretching and Yoga Plan

You may not realize this but stretching is a crucial part of helping you bring out more muscle definition. Of course, there are many other benefits that come along with it.

One of the best types of stretching can be Yoga. In fact, you can combine some Yoga poses with deep stretching methods to get the best of both.

Stretching and Yoga don’t necessarily help you get cut, but it can help enhance your muscle tone. And that you’re ultimate goal; a lean, muscular physique.

When you stretch your muscles, you allow them to recover more efficiently, which is how muscles grow. You’ll also increase your flexibility. This is going to help reduce injury as well as help you get stronger. All of this compliments your efforts in the gym.

There’s also a mental healing that happens, especially with Yoga. I’ll again refer back to the beginning of this post where I talked about mindset.

Here’s a simple stretching plan you can do that integrates some Yoga poses:

  • Standing toe touches
  • Standing quad stretch
  • Standing quad stretch with arm raised
  • Kneeling hip flexor stretch
  • Downward dog pose
  • Spinal twist pose
  • Seated forward fold pose

**For ‘how to’ instructions and images of these poses, read my post 11 Yoga Poses for Bodybuilding.

For the first three poses (standing), start by holding each pose for 10 seconds and gradually increase the time.

For the other poses, start with 30 seconds.

Go through this routine three to four times a week, for about 15-20 minutes each session.

One trick I learned was doing Yoga and stretching about 30 minutes before bed helps me sleep better!

Cutting Meal Plan

You can workout all day, every day but if you don’t have a meal plan strategy for cutting you’re setting yourself up to fail.

So I’m going to give you a template to follow below to help you create your own cutting meal plan.

PLEASE READ FIRST: This is not one of the trendy meal plans or fad diets. It’s a sensible meal plan that includes a balance of all macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats).

Since you’re cutting, you won’t eat as many carbs. But again, you will still eat some carbohydrates. The thing that matters here is the type of carbs. The same goes for fats.

This is explained deeper in my post about Anabolic Cooking.

Calories and Macros for Cutting

One of the most common formulas for how many calories you need for getting cut is:

Multiplying your body weight by 14-15

That should decrease your calories enough to cut body fat but will also give you enough nutrition to hang on to your hard-earned muscle. Remember, weight loss is NOT the goal here. Nor is the goal to sacrifice muscle, though it is possible to lose a little muscle when your goal is to get shredded. But we want to minimize that.

Another part of basic bodybuilding nutrition is being aware of your macronutrient ratios.

Macros is an extremely subjective concept. Many fitness gurus and experts have conflicting opinions on this. So I’m going to help you keep your nutrition plan simple.

Here’s a ratio I suggest you start with:

  • 40% protein
  • 35% carbs
  • 25% fat

Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all nutrition plan that works for everyone. So you may need to adjust your macros along the way.

The important thing is to make sure you’re eating the types of foods your body needs to fuel your workouts, keep your metabolism up, and recover properly from your workouts.

Types of Foods for Getting Cut

Here’s a quick guide with some examples of some foods for getting lean and shredded while maintaining muscle. After that, I’ll give you a sample meal plan.

Chicken breastWhole grainsAvocados
Lean beef (sirloin)All green vegetablesNuts
Lean porkOatmealFree-range eggs
Free-range eggsDark berriesOlive oil
NutsApplesSalmon (fatty fish)
Greek yogurtLentilsSeeds
FishSweet potatoesTofu

**You’ll notice that some foods are in more than one category, especially with protein and fat. These are some extremely beneficial types of foods because of their high nutritional value and often times their amino acid profile, which helps build muscle.

Cutting Meal 1

6:00 AM

  • 2-3 whole eggs
  • 2 sausage links
  • 1 serving of oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup of blueberries (these can go in your oatmeal; also serves as a sweetener)

Cutting Meal 2

9:00 AM

  • 8 ounces of almond milk
  • 1.5 scoops of whey protein powder
  • 1/3 cup of frozen berries

Cutting Meal 3

12:00 PM

  • 6-8 ounces of lean chicken breast or sirloin steak
  • 1 serving of brown rice
  • 2 servings of green vegetables (spinach, broccoli)

Cutting Meal 4

3:00 PM

  • 1 cups of Greek yogurt
  • 1 serving of almonds or cashews

Cutting Meal 5

6:00 PM

  • 6-8 ounces of fish or turkey
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 servings of combined carrots and cauliflower

**For more meal plans for lean muscle, check out my post Meal Plans for Getting Lean Muscle.

More Resources for Cutting

In addition to your cutting workout and meal plan, I want to provide you with some more resources to help you get lean and shredded faster.

One of those resources is the video below by ‘The Rock’ Dwayne Johnson. This is a super inspirational and motivational video of him showing you his daily cardio, workout, and how he keeps his mind strong. Remember, we talked about that at the beginning of this post!

I’m also covering a couple of supplements that can help you get faster results.

However, I want to make clear is that taking supplements is not a substitute for hard work and consistency.

Get that down first and then start adding supplements. Of course, the fact that you read this far into this post is proof that you’re serious about getting shredded!

  • Whey protein: This is great for making quick meals like post-workout smoothies and it’s a great source of high-quality protein.
  • Multivitamin for athletes: I know it sounds obvious, but when you’re training hard like this you’re depleting your body of micronutrients. So it’s important to get a high-quality multivitamin that’s made for people like us.
  • Instant Knockout: This is one of my favorite conditioning supplements. It was originally created for MMA fighters to help them maintain the muscle they needed while cutting weight before fights. The link goes to my complete review.
  • Anabolic Cooking – The ULTIMATE muscle-building cookbook and recipe guide (and super inexpensive; it’s a no-brainer to get it!). This link goes to my complete review.

I hope this cutting workout and meal plan helps you achieve your goal of getting ripped and shredded! Have fun with it and stay positive.

You will see some awesome changes in your physique!

Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,


About the author

Jason Stallworth

Hi, I'm Jason Stallworth and I created The Muscle Program in 2010 for the purpose of helping you build muscle. I know first-hand how weight training and being in the gym has shaped my life in more way than one. And here is where I share that experience with you so that you can continue pushing yourself and becoming the best version of yourself each day!