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How To Get Ripped Naturally

Jan 27, 2024

Getting ripped is something that only a few people aspire to. An even smaller group of people is actually able to achieve a physique that most people would consider ripped. There’s no consensus, but for our purposes let’s define “ripped” as having some decent muscle mass and having a low body fat percentage. For women, that percentage might be below 14% and for men it likely starts around 10% and goes into the single digits. The important distinction will also be visible abs that have definition.

This guy is ripped:

ripped lean man naked upper body

This guy is NOT ripped (even though he’s skinny and may have a low body fat percentage):

skinny guy flexing arms white bandana glasses

You CAN do it Naturally

It’s possible and it’s sustainable to be ripped naturally. It’s easier if you’re using chemical enhancement, of course, but I’m a lifelong natural athlete and bodybuilder and I’m only going to address the natural methods I know. There are plenty of bros out there that can help you if you want to get ripped with drugs. Getting ripped naturally is a challenge and it takes hard work to get there. If you’re into chicken wings and plenty of beer every weekend then getting ripped probably isn’t an appropriate goal for you. Aim to get lean instead.

Still want to get ripped?

Here’s how to do it:

1) Train Heavy with Weights

In order to get ripped, building as much muscle as possible while retaining as much muscle as possible as you get leaner should be your primary goal. You’re probably already doing weight training (if not, you need to start NOW), but are you doing enough to get ripped? Although 3-4 days a week is ok if you’re trying to get lean, you’ll probably need 5-6 days a week, about an hour each, of training to get ripped.

Muscle growth is what you’re after, and you’ll develop that best by arranging your workouts like this:

  • Number of reps – Focus on the 6-12 rep range, which is where maximum hypertrophy occurs.
  • Number of sets per exercise – More muscle growth normally requires at least 4 sets of the same exercise in experienced trainees. Five or six sets might be needed to get extra hypertrophy.
  • Volume – This is a way of describing the work done for a particular exercise or body part in each workout or each week. The amount of volume that an individual can tolerate varies widely, but if you’re looking for more muscle you probably need more volume. If you’re already working in the higher rep range of 8-12 and doing 4 or 5 sets then you’ll have a fairly high volume of 40 or 50 reps for each exercise, which is ideal.
  • Rest Period – To achieve maximum muscle, the 60-90 second range normally works best.
  • Time under Tension (TUT) – TUT refers to the amount of time that your muscle is working for one set of an exercise. Optimal muscle growth seems to happen when TUT is about 40-70 secs. Do your reps slowly and with good control and you’ll increase your TUT and reduce your risk of injury from flailing the weights around.

2) Start Your Day with Protein and Fat

You’ve probably been sold on the idea that you need carbs in the morning to have energy. For most people, that’s NOT true. We’ve got plenty of energy stored in the fat in our bodies…and you want to burn that off. Keeping your carbs to a minimum in the morning can help train your body to use fat for fuel. Reducing your carb intake in general forces your body to rely on fat stores more frequently.

Treat breakfast like any other meal and don’t just rely on traditional breakfast foods (pancakes, oatmeal, waffles, toast, muffins), most of which are high in carbs. Eggs can be great, for a while, but if you’re getting bored then try a turkey burger (minus the bun), a chicken breast or two, a salmon filet, or a lean cut of sirloin steak. Add 1/4-1/2 cup of nuts, like almonds, pistachios, macadamias, walnuts, or cashews, and/or an avocado, and you’re set. You’ll probably find that you’ll stay full for longer and be less likely to “crash” in the afternoon if you start your day off with a breakfast of protein and fat.

3) Skip the Medium-Intensity Cardio and Just Walk

Spending hours jogging or cycling mindlessly on the stationary bike isn’t likely to get you ripped. Doing too much long-duration, moderate intensity cardio can actually reduce your ability to get leaner. This may be because too much cardio may reduce your muscle mass (we know we don’t want that!). The other reason may be that your thyroid hormone production is reduced when the stress of too much cardiovascular training is inflicted upon it. You should be active, for sure, for the sake of your health. Stick to walking regularly and you’ll get some fat loss and minimize muscle breakdown.

4) Change your Carb Strategy

If you’ve gotten lean, you probably initially did it by reducing your carb intake. That’s fine, and is normally a good way to start. As you get leaner, your insulin sensitivity and your tolerance for carbs is likely to increase. Which means…more carbs!

Rather than having carbs in the morning for “energy”, use carbs to help you recover from your intense workouts. Carbs help to replenish your glycogen stores, which become depleted after challenging workouts of higher volumes. Introduce your post-workout carbs in 50 gram increments, and see whether you start to get leaner. Keep adding more post-workout carbs until you stop losing body fat.

5) Up Your Protein Intake

Protein is needed to build and repair muscle, and if you’re training hard regularly then you’ll need more than most people. I generally recommend 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (i.e. If you’re 180lbs you take in 180 grams of protein) per day. When you start to reduce your calories to get leaner, it’s important to maintain a higher protein intake because this helps preserve your muscle mass.

6) Address Lifestyle Factors

If you want the optimum muscle growth and recovery that’s needed to get ripped, you need to sleep 7-9 hours a night consistently.

Take a close look at your stress levels too, because chronic stress can increase your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is catabolic, and breaking down muscle isn’t what you want if you’re trying to get ripped.

The Hard Truth

Getting ripped naturally isn’t an easy task and it requires consistent effort and plenty of sacrifices. It CAN be done, but prepare yourself for a challenging journey with a few frustrations along the way. If you’re committed and you follow the guidelines above then you’ll soon be on your way to a ripped physique that you love showing off.

Ivana Chapman