<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://ct.pinterest.com/v3/?tid=f4de1632775725aa6fdc3fb6c132e778&amp;event=init&amp;noscript=1">
Fitness, Nutrition, Fat Loss

Should You Have a Specific Workout Routine While You Are Cutting?

By Shannon Cole on Dec 14, 2023 9:00:00 AM
6 Minutes Reading Time


If you are deciding that now is the time for a cut, you better be ready. When it comes to training between bulking and cycling, they are completely different strategies, but both can be equally challenging.

Cutting takes resilience, patience, and a lot of hard work–but it’s not impossible! That is, unless your workout programming is completely off.

Depending on how you are lifting–and eating–you may need to make some adjustments to how you work out if you want to cut weight. Not everyone’s workout will look exactly the same, but there are some guidelines you need to follow.

Continue to reading to know exactly what your routine should look like if you want a leaner physique, and less body fat.

There is More Cardio Involved

Unlike a bulk, or wanting to improve your strength gains, cutting does require a greater caloric deficit; the best way to do this is with cardio. If you aren’t doing any cardio, dedicate 2 workouts a week to some type of cardio. If cardio is already part of your routine, 3 days a week is optimal. Any more than that, you will likely start to see a decrease in muscle mass.  

This is where workouts can vary, but I recommend various cardio workouts to not only prevent boredom, but ensure your body is being challenged in different ways. Your cardio schedule can look something like this:

Monday: 30-minute jog/run

Wednesday: 20 to 30-minute HIIT routine

Friday: Spin class

If it’s difficult for you to cut down on lifting, and you want to add some lifting to your cardio days, these will be LOW intensity, meaning you are not lifting heavy. This is actually a great time to practice movements that need attending to that can help prevent injury. Maintenance work is important for everyone, and using some time during the week to do strengthening movements for joint, tendon, and muscle health, will also help you perform better with your lifts.

Don’t Quit Lifting

Just because there is a greater emphasis on cardio, it doesn’t mean that lifting weights needs to stop. You still want to lift 2 to 3 days a week to prevent muscle atrophy. Cardio is not conducive for muscle growth or maintenance, which is why resistance training shouldn’t be ignored.

Muscle is actually really important during a cut; it helps maintain a high metabolism, and muscle is what attributes to a more favorable physique. Those with a low amount of lean muscle mass tend to lack a defined structure, and even though adding muscle can contribute to higher body mass, people appear to look smaller because of the muscle they have.

Those of you who like going hard in the gym need to tone it down (but just a little) during a cut. One day a week can be spent on your heavier lifts, but the other one or two days should be spent in an 8 to 12 rep range, 3 to 4 sets per exercise. We’re not trying to build muscle, but more so maintain what you already have. Total body workouts seem to work best when trying to cut, so just be sure you are hitting each body part once or twice with each workout. 

But Wait, There’s More

Although there isn’t a specific routine you need to follow, the guidelines above are what will give you the most success if you want to cut. 

However, there are other additional actions you should take if you want the best results.

  • Get your steps in.

When it comes to a cut, the more movement, the better. What most people get wrong is that they think they need to wear themselves out with cardio, when just getting low-intensity movement every day is just as, if not more, successful. Strive to hit 10,000 steps a day (even on cardio days), and get creative with how you can incorporate more, nearly-effortless movements in your day. 

  • Get your diet right.

No matter how committed you are to your workouts, you won’t get the results you want if your diet is crappy. Opt for whole foods that have minimal ingredients, ensure that at least 20% of your diet is coming from protein, and drink a ton of water. Calories need to decrease slightly for a cut, but don’t get too crazy. If you are still working out, your calorie-cut doesn’t need to be drastic. Cutting your calories by 10 to 20% is an acceptable place to start–those who carry more body mass and eat more calories will be closer to that 20% goal than those who have less body mass and don’t eat as much.  

  • Get your recovery right.

Yes, recovery is still important–I don’t know a scenario when recovery is not vital for progress and overall health. If you haven’t been sleeping well, an intense HIIT workout may not be the best choice; a moderate-intensity cycling session may be better suited. And if you feel physically and mentally drained from a busy and taxing week, taking a recovery day to do some yoga or stretches will probably do your body more good than pushing yourself to the point where your health is compromised. Listen to your body, and know what your limits are.

How to Lose Fat in 3 Steps | Mind Pump

FREE Flat Tummy Guide


Free Resources

Everything You Need to Know to Reach Your Fitness Goals

Learn More

Shannon Cole

Shannon Cole is an ISSA certified personal trainer and lives in the Dallas area. She is a certified nutrition coach through NASM and NCI, and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Sports Science and Rehabilitation. After obtaining her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication she eventually gravitated to personal training, and hasn't turned back since. Her passion for athletics and fitness initially stemmed from her high school years playing golf, and her love for the sport still hasn't faded; her career goal is to obtain her Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certification and develop strength and conditioning programs for golfers. You can usually find her working out in her garage gym, or training for the next Spartan Race with her husband.

Read more from the Mind Pump Blog

Have a question for us?

Feel free to send us an inquiry and allow up to 24 hours for a response.

Contact Us