What Is A Shred Workout? Here’s How To Lose Fat, Then Bulk Up


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Depending on your body composition goals, you might be trying to lose fat, build muscle, or do a combination of both so that you attain the physique you are after.

A shred workout plan can be helpful in cases where you want to lose fat before bulking up and building muscle.

But, what is a shred workout? How do you follow a shredding workout plan to lose fat? What are the best shredding exercises?

In this workout guide, we will discuss what a shred workout is, its benefits, how to do a shred workout to lose fat, and the best shredding exercises for your shred workout plan.

We will cover: 

  • What Is a Shred Workout Plan?
  • Should I Do a Shredding vs Bulking Workout Plan?
  • How Do You Get Shredded Fast?

Let’s dive in! 

A lean, muscular person.

What Is a Shred Workout Plan?

Although there are lots of different types of workouts and approaches to training, many people are unfamiliar with the term shredding workouts or shredding exercises, or a shred workout training plan.

So, what is a shred workout?

A shred workout is a workout designed to help you lose body fat and sometimes water weight so that you get a more “shredded“ appearance, which means that you are leaner rather than bulkier.

In this way, shredding workout plans can be likened to the cutting phase of bodybuilding and the opposite of bulking workout plans in which you are trying to build muscle mass and put on weight.

Someone with a “shredded physique“ is lean yet ripped, with very little body fat but not necessarily huge, bulging muscles.

A lean, muscular person flexing their bicep.

With bodybuilding, some people do bulking and then cutting or shredding, whereas others do a shredding training plan first to lose excess body fat and then do a bulking or muscle-building strength training plan to put on muscle once they have lost some weight and leaned out.

Shred workouts usually involve a combination of both strength training and cardio to burn calories.

The goal of a shred workout plan is to lose as much body fat as possible while maintaining muscle mass.

Therefore, both cardio and a calorie-controlled diet are used to help create a caloric deficit. The body burns fat while engaging in rigorous strength training and supports the maintenance of lean body mass or muscle tissue by eating enough protein.

Shredding exercises are often some of the same exercises you might do as bulking exercises, but the weights that you use and the number of reps and sets that you perform for shredding vs bulking workouts are different.

A lean, muscular person doing a sit up.

A shred workout usually uses lower weights and higher reps, whereas a bulking workout uses high weights and low reps.

The low-weight, high-reps scheme for shredding workouts helps burn calories and maintain muscle mass without necessarily bulking or building muscle.

Shredding plans also include more cardio than bulking plans.

The cardio component of a shred workout plan helps aid energy expenditure so that you are burning enough calories to lose weight.

Therefore, running, cycling or using an exercise bike, swimming, rowing, jumping rope, using a stair climber or elliptical machine, or other forms of cardio are all shredding exercises that are key components in shredding workout routines.

A person running.

Should I Do a Shredding vs Bulking Workout Plan?

So, who is a shred workout plan good for? How do you know if you should do a bulking vs shredding program?

In general, a shredding exercise program or shred workout plan is best for someone who wants to cut weight or reduce their body composition while maintaining muscle mass.

However, many people want to build muscle and get lean, whether you are bodybuilding and doing a traditional bulking and cutting regimen or you are just a recreational athlete looking to get fitter, healthier, and attain a more ripped physique.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about whether you should do a shred workout program or a muscle-building workout program first if your ultimate goal is to lose fat and gain muscle.

In general, if your starting body fat percentage is relatively high, it is recommended that you do a shredding workout plan before bulking (lose weight, then build muscle).

A lean, muscular person.

Therefore, the following guidelines can be used to help inform whether you should start with a shred workout program before you begin hypertrophy training:

  • Men who are above 15 percent body fat 
  • Women who are above 23 percent body fat 

Ideally, you would stick with the shred exercise and diet plan until you are under these body fat percentages and then switch to a bulking workout and diet plan.  

How Do You Get Shredded Fast?

A shredding workout training plan is designed to help you cut weight and lose body fat quickly and efficiently.

A comprehensive, balanced shredding workout has two components, cardio and strength training.

In addition to your shredding workouts, if you are truly invested in how to get shredded fast, whether you are bodybuilding or just want to improve your physique or reduce your risk of diseases, you cannot overlook the importance of your diet.

With that in mind, here are the primary components of how to do a shredding workout plan:

A person doing mountain climbers.

#1: Cardio

As mentioned, cardio exercise is a key ingredient to a shred workout plan because cardio will help you burn calories and create the caloric deficit necessary to lose body fat.

You can pick any form of cardio, but adding high-intensity interval training (HIIT) 2 to 3 times per week is ideal because this form of exercise has been shown to accelerate fat loss and boost metabolic rate more than moderate-intensity steady-state cardio.

Vary the types of cardio exercise that you choose to reduce the risk of overuse injuries and keep your metabolism and musculoskeletal system challenged to prevent fitness plateaus.

#2: Strength Training

Even though you are trying to get a shredded body and lose weight, it is still important to include strength training in your shred exercise plan.

Generally, circuit training is ideal for shredding workouts or try high-intensity resistance training (HIRT).

Both of these approaches to strength training include very little rest between exercises, which keeps your heart rate elevated throughout the workout.

This maximizes caloric expenditure even if you are not lifting heavy weights as you would with a bulking vs. shredding workout.

To that end, keep the reps high and use lighter weights but move quickly and purposely from exercise to exercise, focusing on compound movements and full-body exercises to maximize caloric expenditure.

A lean, muscular person.

#3: Shredding Diet

In order to get a shredded body and lose body fat, you have to be in a caloric deficit.

This means that you need to know how many calories you are burning in a day and then control your diet so that you are consistently eating fewer calories than you are burning.

Generally, aiming for a daily caloric deficit of 500 to 1000 calories per day is the maximum rate of fat loss that you should attempt when trying to get shredded, and this should equate to losing 1 to 2 pounds per week, respectively.

Remember, you can create this caloric deficit to lose weight through diet, physical activity, or a combination of both. 

If your goal is body recomposition, evidence suggests that the most effective diet to follow when trying to build muscle in a caloric deficit is to consume 2.3-3.1 g/kg of lean body mass per day of protein, 15-30% of your total calories from fat, and the remainder from carbohydrate. 

A person doing a wall sit.

You will need to be well-fueled for your shredding workouts, as cardio and circuit training are energy intensive, and shred workouts tend to be relatively lengthy.

For this reason, be strategic about the timing of your caloric intake, particularly in terms of the carbs that you eat, if you want to be on a low-carb diet. 

Cutting carbs will help you lose water weight, but you will still need some glycogen for longer cardio workouts and shred strength workouts. 

Therefore, have a high-carb pre-workout snack and some carbs immediately after your workout to aid recovery, and then follow a low-carb diet the rest of the day outside of your shred exercise window.

Other diet tips for how to get shredded include cutting out all sugar and alcohol and reducing sodium intake.

This will help you lose water weight in your cutting phase while also supporting overall health, as added sugars, excessive alcohol, and high sodium are all associated with adverse health effects, weight gain, metabolic disruption that can increase fat gain, and increased risk of chronic diseases.

For the best plan to lose weight and get toned, it is helpful to know your body composition. You can learn about how to access body composition here.

A man lifting their shirt showing a shredded physique.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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