Build Muscle Then Cut


First, I want to clarify my background information. My height & weight are correct (6'1" AND 186 pounds, but my body fat (15%) has not been measured in quite some time. I am currently 20 years old. As I recall, I was 16 years old the last time my body fat was measured (5' 10'' & 170lbs) at 16% body fat.

My body fat was measured using the skin pinching method. I estimate 15% body fat now, because I am significantly taller & my muscles show more definition through my skin, even though I have also gained weight. Either way, I have never been a "skinny," "cut" or "ripped" person.

But I have always been athletic and healthy; I've been to districts/states on my high school swim team since 10th grade & I continued on to college swimming. I have since quit sports because of time constraints (engineering major).

I have spent the last 5 years training on and off. Throughout that time, most of my training was cardio training, with deviations into core training and weight training. Throughout high school & college I spent a significant amount of time in the gym, both on my own and with personal trainers. I also spent about 2 years doing various ply metrics and core exercises. Nowadays, I limit myself to 3 days of training per week at about 35-45 minutes of heavy interval weight training per session. I switched my training style, because I felt little impact/gains after 45 minutes of hard training.

I am not a body builder. I currently try to focus more on total body exercises like front squats or weighted pull ups rather than isolation exercises like bicep curls. I have never been a "hard gainer."

Usually my body responds fairly quickly to strength training. However, problems can arise if I do not allow my tendons or grip to catch up to my strength gains. My other main problem is my body fat.

While it is not really a problem (and is considered healthy by many), I have been at about the same percentage my entire life. It rarely changes almost regardless of what I eat, how hard I train, or how in shape I am at the moment.

Currently, I have been weight lifting for about 2 months. I re-started weight lifting, after taking the summer off. I started at about 178lbs.

Regarding supplements, the only supplements I have ever tried are creatine and muscle milk (chocolate version without creatine). Muscle milk (mixed with 1% milk  16oz liquid) was mostly taken after practice when my mom was running late on dinner.

I did not see a lot of noticeable gains, but I did feel better after drinking it. I do believe my body responded very well to the creatine supplement, because I noticed I would stop breathing during the first 15 seconds of vigorous work. However, I was only on creatine (cycled) for 4 months. In general, I do not really believe in supplements. I like to make gains naturally. Yet, I am still open to supplements right now, because of my horrible college dining plan & the expensive cost of high quality food (especially large quantities of protein).

My current goal is to gain mass and strength. I am not 100% sure how big I want to get at the moment. I was originally shooting for 200-210lbs. However, now I am thinking more like 195-200lbs.

I'm not sure if I want to look like a complete animal yet. Most of my friends who have gone on huge gaining plans, end up looking pretty bad a couple of years later when they cannot find time to hit the gym. My goal is to gain lean mass and strength for about four to six months. After this gaining period I am going to switch goals.

My next goal will be to cut fat until I am well into the 10-12% body fat range, possibly single digits if I can manage. I believe 12% body fat is definitely manageable. But I would also like to push myself to the <10% range for a month or week to just see what it is like. I will most likely lose a little mass and strength during my pursuit of low body fat.

This leaves me with my main question. How do I go about accomplishing these goals? Also are there any supplements you would recommend to help me reach these goals?

As I already stated, I am not a huge supplement fan, but being on a college dinning plan limits the amount of "good" food I can get. I am open to suggestions. I'm pretty confident I can reach my mass goals if I stick to lots of vegetables, 2% milk, and chicken/fish.

But I really have no idea how I am going to reach my fat percentage goals. My mom, who is a dietitian, tells me I'm going to have to each just vegetable & chicken/fish without any carbohydrates whatsoever. Thank you for your advice. I look forward to your reply.

Answered By:
Jason Spencer, CSCS

Jason Spencer Online Personal Training


Your goals are definitely achievable but looking at 15 lbs of muscle gain and a 5-7% BF decrease goal, we're talking about some extensive progress.

These goals will have to be approached with with great structure and organization with your strength and cardio routines along with appropriate intensities of each to bring about changes of those magnitudes.

Again, this is not to say that your goals are unrealistic because they are surely doable. It's just that the further away you are from your objectives, the more things there are that need to be manipulated in structuring your attempts to get there...

Now as far as what you should do, that depends on your current exercise habits with both strength and cardio...

I'm not sure what you mean by interval weight training, and I have no information on what exactly you're doing cardio wise. In general, to achieve muscle gains you need more intense lifting in terms of weights used and volumes of performed exercises.

To drop body fat you need fairly long durations of continuous aerobic activity at a high enough intensity to stimulate faster metabolism...

But these are extremely generalized ideas. It would help me out a lot more to be able to know what exactly you're doing as far as weights, sets, and reps go... Also how long you are doing your cardio, speeds, machines, etc...


You can get to know me as a professional and read all about anything I may be able to offer you for further assistance. You have challenging goals and I would love the opportunity to offer you specific programming to meet those goals based on what I can learn about your routine...

Feel free to check out my programs as well! My lean muscle and fat burning program is perfect for your needs! If you sign up for it I will be notified immediately and will then be able to write up a complete program ( strength, cardio, nutrition guidance ) based off of the information the site will have you fill out for me...

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