19 Days to ShredsVille – Population: You

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Q:  So I have 19 days until a big trade show in Vegas. I want to look my best, which means getting as lean as I can in that ime, but I want to protect lean mass. What would you do?

A:  Based off the title of today’s post alone, I know what you’re thinking:  Tony’s gone off the deep end, and he’s resorted to touting some looney fitness product similar to those redunkulous 7-Minute Abs infomercials you see late at night while watching re-runs of Walker: Texas Ranger.

Okay, lets not jump to conclusions.  While I’ll be the first to admit that I may watch my boy Chuck Norris kick ass and take names from time to time, you know better than to think I’d lower myself to promoting some gimmicky, flash-in-the-pan product that’s about as useful as a poop flavored lollypop, right?

Although, to give some credit where credit is due – the Shake Weight has been a god send it terms of never ending jokes.

All joking aside, 19 days isn’t much time – but assuming you’re not a disaster and/or delusional (i.e. you’re not going to go from looking like Chris Farley to Fabio in 19 days), and that you have a decent base to work with from the start, you’d be surprised at how much headway you CAN make.

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t start any conversation about getting shredded in “x” amount of time without first discussing the nutritional side of things.

I don’t like crash diets.  I think they’re dumb.  And I think they cause more harm than good.  That said, I’m going to assume (again) that you already know the basics, and understand that no matter what, it comes down to calories in vs. calories out.   I say this because for some reason, despite knowing better, some people still think that just because they’re eating “clean” food, that they can still eat a surplus of it, and lose fat.


Just to save face, I recommend that you start with a 10 to 20% caloric deficit (given your time constraint, I’d lean more towards the 20ish end of the spectrum), and go from there.  A few key points to note, however:

  • Keep it low carb.  Studies have repeatedly shown that, all else being equal, those who follow a low(er) carbohydrate diet will generally lose more bodyfat – given a certain time frame – than those who don’t.
  • Keep the “bulk” of your carb intake to AM (breakfast) and/or post-training times only.  Of course, training time will throw a monkey wrench into things, but playing the odds, I’m going to guess you’re a 9-5 guy and most likely train later in the afternoon.  If that’s the case, starchy carbs (oatmeal, sweet potatoes, cereal, pasta, etc) should be saved for POST-TRAINING only.  Veggies and fruit can be used judiciously throughout the day (although, with fruit, I’d be more inclined to stick to breakfast only).
  • When in doubt, stress protein.  Have some sort of protein with each and every meal.  This can be anything from dead animal flesh to yogurt.  I don’t care.  Make it happen.
  • In addition, outside of post-training, “healthy” fats should be stressed.  Things like fish oil, coconut oil (which is dense in Mid-Chain Triglycerides, which are more readily used for energy by the body), extra virgin olive oil, nuts, (real) butter, so on and so forth are all fair game.
  • Honestly, there is no set formula that I can recommend, as they’re all a crap shoot, and just give you an idea of where to begin.  That said, as I noted before, start with a 20% deficit (maybe go with 10% on training days, since you’ll need the calories), and keep protein fairly high – say 1-1.5 grams per lb of LEAN bodyweight.  Keep fat around the same ballpark, and then use carbs as the caloric ballast (whatever is left over).
  • Again, it’s a crap shoot.  Is it perfect?  No.  But it’s a start.
  • Oh, and let me just say that that whole “you have to eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism going” is bullshit.  If anything, I’d say with the lower kcals you’d be taking, spreading out your calories into LESS meals would be ideal.  I don’t know about you but if I’m only allotted 2000 calories for the day, I’d much rather divide that out over FOUR meals (500 kcals each), than six meals (333 kcals).

Outside of that, one major mistake (I believe) many trainees make when trying to get lean is amping up the training volume.  Going against the grain, I believe that if you want to maintain LBM (and get shredded), I’d still make a concerted effort to lift in the low(er) rep ranges.  Say, in the 3-6 rep range with your compound movements.

As I’ve noted in the past, “what makes muscle, maintains muscle.”  And, since you’re trying to get hella lean in 19 days, and given you’re going to be in a slight caloric deficit (you don’t need to go too crazy), it only makes sense that you’d want to continue to give the body the stimulus it needs to MAINTAIN lean body mass.

You DO NOT need to go bat shit crazy with training volume.  This is a notion that falls on deaf ears for some reason.

In any case, I’d say you want to start each training session with one of the big three movements (squat, DL, bench) – and stick with something like 4 sets of 3-6 reps. From there, you can spend the rest of your session doing “density” or “chaos” type training utilizing tri-set or even quad sets to break a sweat and kick your own ass.

So, for example, one day may look something like this:

A1.  Deadlift 4×3-6 reps
A2.  Some sort of filler exercise like wall hip flexor mobilizations, or Wall Glute ISO holds, or just sit and chill and watch people manually unclench their butt cheeks as they watch you lift heavy things.

B1.  Spiderman Push-Ups (band resisted if necessary) 3×4/leg

B2.  Kettlebell Swings 3×10
B3.  Seated Cable Row 3×8
B4.  ValSlide Bodysaws 3×8

***do in circuit fashion for 3-4 rounds, with 60s rest at the end

C.  Med Ball Circuit – 50 Hits or anything else that will make you hate life for 10 minutes (EDT circuits, Airdyne Bike, battle rope, Prowler etc).

And that’s about it.  I know I was kind of all over the place there, and I certainly wasn’t super thorough, but I hope it at least sets off a few light bulbs and gives you some idea of how I would approach things.  Hope that helps, and good luck!


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Comments for This Entry

  • Patrick

    Very nice article Tony....and Mr. Norris IS...the man!

    July 6, 2011 at 7:10 am | Reply to this comment

  • Nock

    Tony, great post but I didn't see you recommending any kind of Cardio work for this guy? Is that for a reason or that was suppose to be a given.....:D

    July 6, 2011 at 7:11 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mosley

    Lyle McDonald's Rapid Fatloss Handbook: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/the-rapid-fat-loss-handbook I've used it before with excellent results.

    July 6, 2011 at 7:34 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Nock: since when is doing a circuit with four exercises, not to mention a med ball circuit NOT cardio???.....;o) In reality, I understand what you're getting at and am not opposed to throwing in some dedicated "cardio" assuming someone has the time to do it. I will say, though - the diet will serve as the main "source" of fat loss.

    July 6, 2011 at 8:00 am | Reply to this comment

  • Stephane

    You seen the Shake Weight commercial for guys yet? I feel bad for the guy in the commercial...will probably never have a chance with the ladies ever again.

    July 6, 2011 at 8:08 am | Reply to this comment

  • R Smith

    Tony, Let's just say, I MIGHT know the guy who asked such a question. He reports that your advice has worked expertly, even though he's getting little sleep, his training schedule is off, he's more sedentary than usual and he's not eating as much as he needs. Food: greek yogurt, PB, lean meat and veggies. (No fruit, no starchy carbs.) Workouts: exactly as you lay out above. (Only able to get in 3 training days a week, however, so no interval days.) Results: pants are looser without much change in weight. Satisfactory level: Through the roof.

    July 6, 2011 at 9:10 am | Reply to this comment

  • Michael Gray

    @Nock, I've always said that if someone doesn't feel a cardiovascular effect from lifting, they're doing it wrong. Also, with my clients, whenever the are dropping body fat, I tell them to be as active as they can be outside of the gym (playing basketball, going for a walk, riding bikes with their kids, etc) as this provides a great way to burn some extra calories while being able to recover from it easily. Between this and their training, they usually don't need any traditional "cardio".

    July 6, 2011 at 11:12 am | Reply to this comment

  • Greg R

    I respect what you're saying Tony but I believe Tracy Anderson has the better answer for this guy's problem. In reference to Kim Kardashian's wedding efforts: “We don’t want to take away Kim’s amazing curves,” Tracy Anderson, one of Kim’s trainers, says. “We just do specific movements to tighten the skin and to pull the muscles tight against the bone.” While I don't know these specific movements personally, they seem to be exactly what he is looking for. Given the short time frame, weight loss might not be as effective an approach as just getting tttwwwiiiiggghhht, like a tiger.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Nock

    The reason I suggested some kind of cardio was the fact that this guy is looking at 19 days to maximize his ability to loose as much fat as possible. I understand the theory behind, if we have some kind of circuit training then we shouldn't really need any cardio but in this specific situation it just looks like this guy needs to do a little more than his great diet and circuit training. I'm I missing something here?

    July 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Michael Gray

    @ Nock-I don't want to be the only voice on this here, but from my experience it doesn't hurt to throw in some traditional cardio stuff. However, I would rather see someone do a couple 10-15 minute interval sessions on the treadmill per week and go for a 30 minute walk every day. From what I've seen with clients, when they are in a pretty big caloric deficit, long bouts of running or jogging can really leave them feeling fried. Then again, it's less than a three week time frame so maybe they could get away with it, or wouldn't mind feeling like a turd for bit to get as lean as they can.

    July 6, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Reply to this comment

  • R Smith

    @Tony: As you make clear, the diet is the key here since I'm not working near as hard or as often as I normally would in the gym. (A Show & Go devotee.) Since food in and of itself is not that big a deal for me, I'm focused on eating a little below maintenance and not worrying at all about "cardio." But you cannot tell my heart that after a brutal density set like the one above. And because I don't have THAT much muscle to salvage, maintaining lean mass IS the focus.

    July 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Reply to this comment

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