When someone asks how to get shredded, it usually means they want to drop some fat, so that you can see the shape and outline of their muscles.
Truth is, there’s more than one level of leanness.
Most people can get cut without too much of problem. But not everyone can get shredded. Even just trying to stay ripped all the time is not a realistic goal for most people, most of the time.
Shredded vs Ripped vs Lean
What does getting shredded mean? And how does it differ from being cut, ripped or defined?
SEE ALSO: The Muscle Building Cheat Sheet. If you're fed up spending hours in the gym with nothing to show for it, The Muscle Building Cheat Sheet will show you exactly how to go about building muscle. To get a FREE copy of the cheat sheet emailed to you, please click or tap here.
To a lot of people, the terms are interchangeable. Shredded, ripped, or cut are all different ways to describe someone with a decent level of muscle mass and a low level of body fat.
But there’s actually a big difference between being “cut” and being “shredded.”
Back in the 1990’s, I read a book called Sliced. Written by Canadian female bodybuilding champion Negrita Jayde and former editor-in-chief of FLEX magazine Bill Reynolds, Sliced was aimed at bodybuilders who want to step on stage with as little body fat as humanly possible.
In one of the chapters, Jayde and Reynolds lay out what they call the “seven degrees of muscularity,” where they rank the different levels of leanness, and explain how being shredded differs from being cut, defined, ripped or sliced.
Here are the Seven Degrees of Muscularity described in Sliced:
- Full House
To give those terms some context, Ripped is the minimum requirement for stepping on stage in a bodybuilding contest, while Cut or Defined describes the typical Men’s Health or Men’s Fitness model.
What Getting Shredded Really Means
What defines shredded? According to Reynolds and Jayde, shredded is the “highest condition of muscularity you can attain. Less than one percent of all bodybuilders ever achieve the Shredded state, and it’s a state that can only be held for a few hours.”
“When you’re Shredded, it will look as if there is no skin covering the muscles. This state is the zenith of cosmetic levels and is truly freaky to behold. Each muscle group appears as though it is sitting right off the bone for you to grab.”
“Being Shredded creates strong reactions from the bodybuilding population. As for the general public, they may lose their breakfasts. It is simply beyond their wildest imagination.”
How Long Does It Take to Get Shredded?
How long does it take to get shredded? And what’s the best way to go about doing so?
First, you will need to spend the best part of a decade gaining as much muscle mass as your body will allow. To do so will require a Herculean work ethic, self discipline, persistence, and determination.
Most of your days will revolve around eating, training and sleeping. You will need to sacrifice everything else in your life and be totally devoted to the cause.
Incredible genetics and the willingness to take a large quantity of drugs will also come in very handy.
Without a sufficient level of muscle, you can’t really describe yourself as shredded. Trying to get shredded if you’re short on size is pointless. You’ll just end up looking skinny.
Once a very large amount of muscle has been built, it’s time to focus on getting rid of the fat. Again, this will require a superhuman level of dedication, consistency and willpower that few possess.
If you’re natural, getting ripped is an achievable goal. But reaching true shredded condition will require freaky genetics and the use of drugs.
What to Expect on the Road to Ripped
Even just getting ripped, a minimum requirement for anyone wanting to step on stage in a bodybuilding contest, is bloody hard work.
Here are just a few of the things you can expect to happen on the road to ripped, especially if you’re trying to do so without the benefit of pharmaceutical assistance.
For one, you’re going to get very hungry. Some will spend most of their waking hours thinking about food. Eating the same old thing every day will soon become monotonous, and your life will be miserable.
You will have the energy levels of a snail on valium. Your knees, elbows and shoulders will feel dry and painful. You’ll have trouble sleeping, and be in a foul mood much of the time.
Your face can take on a drawn and gaunt appearance, and in your clothes you may end up looking scrawny and weak. Family members and friends will say that you “don’t look well.”
Low levels of body fat combined with a large volume of exercise and extremely restrictive diet will mean that your testosterone levels will plummet. You may well have problems getting your soldier to salute, if you get my drift.
You also run the risk of losing muscle as well as fat if you’re not careful
In one case study, researchers followed a 21-year old male bodybuilder as he prepared for a contest. Over a period of 14 weeks, he cut his body fat in half, dropping from 14% to 7.2% body fat.
That’s the good news. The bad news?
Almost half of the weight he lost – a whopping 11 pounds (5 kilograms) – came from lean tissue. Not all of that was muscle. Cut your intake of carbs, for example, and you’ll end up losing glycogen and water, which will show up as a reduction in fat-free mass.
However, a sizeable chunk of that lost tissue would have been the muscle he was working so hard to hang on to.
That’s despite the fact he was doing a lot of the things that are supposed to help you retain muscle – eating plenty of protein (this guy averaged 212 grams of protein each day, which is over one gram per pound of bodyweight), taking various supplements, lifting weights four times a week and doing interval training.
Why You Don’t Want to Stay Ripped All the Time
You also need to think about what you’re going to do when you finally achieve “ripped” status. What happens next?
Staying ripped on a year-round basis is very hard to do. Yes, there will be exceptions. Genetic outliers who seem to stay lean no matter what. Over the years, I’ve known a handful of people who can maintain a low body fat without even trying.
But very few are in that position. In most cases, maintaining a ripped look 365 days year will be a constant battle, bordering on obsession, especially if you’re not on gear. Because you’ve worked so hard to get there, you won’t want to let it go. Attempting to do so will usually come at a cost.
You’ll turn into a social outcast because you don’t want to go to barbecues and meals out because it may mean losing your six pack. Forget about FOMO – trying to stay ripped will give you FOBI (Fear Of Being Invited).
Anytime you go out, there will be a risk that you’ll deviate from your strict dietary regime. And if you do end up eating or drinking something you weren’t supposed to, you’ll spend the next day feeling guilty, starving yourself and spending longer in the gym to atone for your sins. It can mess with your head.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t bother trying to get ripped because it’s too hard. But you do want there to be some kind of point to it all. Get some professional photographs done, enter a physique contest, or do something else that will add purpose to the mission. You don’t want to stay ripped all the time.
There’s more than one level of leanness. While most people can get cut or defined, not everyone will be able get shredded. And if you do manage to get ripped, trying to stay that way won’t be a particularly pleasant experience.
What’s more, climbing the ladder of leanness becomes progressively more difficult as you move from one degree of muscularity to the next
To go from Hard to Cut will require willpower and hard work. However, moving from Cut to Defined isn’t going to require a little more of a push, but a lot more.
An even higher level of discipline and focus will be needed to go from Defined to Ripped, which is why so few people ever get there.
In short, unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder, you don’t need to know how to get shredded.
Cut? Yes. Defined? Yes.
Ripped? Maybe. But not shredded.
See Also: The Muscle Building Cheat Sheet
If you're fed up spending hours in the gym with nothing to show for it, then check out The Muscle Building Cheat Sheet.
It's a "cut the waffle and just tell me what to do” PDF that tells you exactly how to go about building muscle. To get a copy of the cheat sheet sent to you, please enter your email address in the box below, and hit the “send it now” button.
About the Author
Christian Finn is an exercise scientist and former “trainer to the trainers” based in the UK. He holds a masters degree in exercise science, and has been featured in or contributed to major media on two continents, including the BBC and Sunday Times in the U.K. and Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness in the U.S.