How To Create a Cutting Workout Routine

How To Create a Cutting Workout Routine

9 min read


06 Jun 2024

Hack Beast Mode

  1. Workout splits
  2. Reps and sets
  3. Volume
  4. Rest period
  5. Exercises
  6. Bonus tips for cutting and keeping your muscle mass
  7. Supplementation
  8. Find your match

We made a guide on how to create your muscle-building routine. But if your goal is to cut like a pro and you don’t know where to start—you’re in the right place.

Whether you've been bulking or just want to lose extra fat, cutting can be an effective method for you to smash your goals.

Workouts can help with cutting by preserving your muscle strength, improving body composition, and boosting your metabolism to burn body fat.

Here we’ll cover workout splits, reps, sets, volume, exercises, rest, recovery—and everything else you need to create your own very cutting workout routine.

Ready? Let’s get into it.

Workout splits

Workout splits

If you’re aiming for a lean physique with top tone and definition, a workout routine that helps you lose fat while retaining or building muscle is what you need to succeed.

You should think about your preferences, goals, and schedule to create a cutting routine you can keep up.

Once that’s out of the way, you can focus on creating a workout split—which is a way of dividing your training sessions to target different body regions.

This will allow your muscles to recover properly before the same muscle is targeted again, and you’ll also be able to lift a higher volume, as your muscles won’t get tired.

How you choose to split your workouts is totally down to you and will likely depend on various factors, like how often you can train, how intense your sessions will be, what equipment you have access to—and your goals.

The more you can give time to training, the quicker you will see results. But it’s good to be realistic with how much you can train per week as this will have a huge influence on you reaching your goals. Most cutting workout routines are based around four or five-day splits.

Some of the highly recommended splits are…

  • Four-day total body split: This total body split trains all muscle groups in the same session, typically one exercise per muscle group, for three to five total sets. It allows you to train muscles every session without your muscles hurting too much.
  • Four-day push-pull split: This is a push-pull split, which can be a great method to train all muscle groups. This can be challenging for stronger lifters as you will do squats on the push day and deadlifts on a pull day, which can be hard on the body. If this is the case, try a four-day upper-lower split.
  • Four-to-five-day upper lower split: This upper lower split works for lifters who train four or even five days a week, as you can alternate between upper and lower body sessions. 

Supercharge your workouts with these epic pre-workout tips.

Reps and sets

Man doing squat reps for cutting

When planning your cutting routine, you want to make sure that you are doing enough total volume (sets). Doing so will ensure you’re delivering enough to let your body know that you need to maintain muscle. 

First, we need to define what reps and sets are, and it’s this simple… 

Reps = repetitions (e.g., one completed squat is one rep)

Sets = a series of reps performed in one block or chunk (e.g. a set of 10 leg curls)

Now we can focus on ensuring you preserve strength while retaining muscle. Training the muscles with both heavier and lighter loads will help you minimize strength loss as well as keeping muscle. 

You can do this by breaking down reps by…

  • Performing roughly 50% of your reps in the eight-to-fifteen rep range to build size. 
  • 25% of your reps three-to-eight-rep range to build strength
  • 25% can be spent in the 15-20 rep range to build muscle endurance

Aiming to do three to five sets per exercise could make it easier to increase your training volume.

Most cutting workouts include six to eight total exercises, which means your total sets per workout will be between 18 to 40 total sets. 

Of these sets, you want it to deliver six to ten total sets per major muscle group that you are training that day.

Note: For each exercise, choose a weight that allows you to perform the recommended number of reps with good form while still feeling challenged. 


Man picking up dumbbell

When training during a cutting phase, you still need to lift enough volume for results. You need a high-intensity workout with moderate to high volume, which challenges the muscles and promotes fat loss.

One suggested method for finding your volume sweet spot during a cutting phase is to calculate your one-repetition maximum (1RM), which is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one repetition with proper form. Then, aim to work at 60 to 80% of your 1RM and perform eight to twelve reps per set.

For example, if your goal is to do eight to twelve reps on a particular exercise, then choose a weight that allows you to do so. 

If you can do more than twelve reps, then choose a heavier weight. If you can’t do eight reps, then choose a lighter weight.

Higher volume and shorter rest periods can also increase the overall calorie burn and promote fat loss. 

But, keep in mind that volume alone is not the only factor in achieving body composition goals. Proper nutrition, rest, and recovery are equally important to your body-boosting success.

Read: 8 Great Habits To Improve Your Relationship With Working Out

Rest periods

Man resting after workout set

In a cutting workout routine, the rest periods can play a crucial role in shredding fat and maintaining your muscle mass. 

For multi-joint compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups, rest periods of one-to-two minutes between sets are recommended. This allows for partial recovery without significantly lowering the heart rate or metabolic demand.

For single-joint isolation exercises such as bicep curls, tricep extensions, and calf raises, shorter rest periods of 30 seconds to one minute between sets can be utilized to keep the intensity high and maintain an elevated heart rate.

Adding in circuit training or supersets can be effective for keeping the heart rate elevated and increasing calorie burn in a cutting workout routine. For these types of workouts, aim for minimal rest (15 to 30 seconds) between exercises and a slightly longer rest (one to two minutes) between circuits.

If cardio intervals or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are incorporated, the rest periods can vary depending on the structure of the workout. Typically, shorter rest periods (30 seconds to one minute) between high-intensity intervals are employed to maintain the cardiovascular and metabolic demand.

While shorter rest periods can help increase energy expenditure and promote fat loss, proper form and muscle recovery must be prioritized. Balancing intensity with good rest is also key to avoiding overtraining and injury during a cutting phase.

You have the option to have a full-on rest day or an active rest day where you do light exercise, such as a walk, yoga, breathing exercises, etc. Do what you feel is best for…you.


Man doing cutting exercises

Specific body parts and different muscle groups have a wide variety of exercises, lifts and movements you can do. Picking exercises that are safe, effective and enjoyable are important to your success.

We’ve covered some of the compound exercises for various muscles above. But you can find more examples of exercises on our official blog and social media channels.

Bonus tips for cutting and keeping your muscle mass

Creating an effective cutting workout routine involves lots of considerations to ensure you lose fat while preserving muscle mass. 

Here are some things to consider so you can become unstoppable in reaching your goals. 

Caloric deficit

For a cutting diet, make sure you’re in a caloric deficit (consuming fewer calories than you burn). 

Yes, a well-structured diet plan is crucial for cutting. So, focussing on a balanced intake of protein, carbohydrates, and fats will keep you charged up for your workouts. Higher protein intake is recommended for you to be able to preserve muscle mass.

Rest and recovery

Ensuring you get great rest is essential to your recovery. Aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep per night will provide optimal recovery. 

Also, be sure to have rest days and include active recovery days in your routine to prevent yourself from overtraining.

Progressive overload

Continuously challenge your muscles by gradually increasing the weight or resistance, volume, or intensity of your workouts. We don’t want you to plateau.

Hydration and nutrition

Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and support metabolic processes. Timing your meals and workouts is key to optimizing performance and recovery.

Tracking your progress

Track your body measurements, weight, and body fat percentage can help you track your progress. You can then make adjustments to your routine based on your progress and how your body responds.


Cutting supplements

You’re almost there! All that’s left to do is figure out what supplements you can use to mega boost your results.

While supplements aren’t strictly necessary, adding the right ones to your daily and weekly routines can certainly enhance your results. We find these types of supplements the best for cutting like a beast.

Protein powder

Whey protein is a popular form of protein which is fast-digesting and ideal post-workout to help with muscle recovery and maintenance. 

Casein protein, on the other hand, is slow-digesting. But often deemed as perfect for a bedtime snack to support muscle repair overnight. 

For those who prefer or require a non-dairy option, pea, rice, or hemp protein are good alternatives, so you can still increase your protein intake.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)

These types of supplements can help prevent muscle breakdown during workouts, especially when in a caloric deficit. They’re usually recommended to consume before or during workouts.

Creatine monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate supports muscle strength and endurance and helps maintain muscle mass while cutting. These supplements are usually recommended to take three to five grams daily, ideally post-workout or at any convenient time.


Caffeine can enhance energy, focus, and metabolism. A little dose of caffeine can also improve your workout performance and aid fat oxidation. 

You can source caffeine through coffee, green tea, or caffeine supplements.

Green tea extract

Green tea extract contains antioxidants and compounds like EGCG that support fat-burning and metabolism. 

Fish oil (Omega-3 fatty acids)

Fish oil supplements support heart health, reduce inflammation, and can aid in fat loss. The usage is usually one to three grams of combined EPA and DHA daily.


Electrolytes are important for maintaining hydration, especially if you sweat a lot during workouts or are on a low-carb diet. Electrolyte powders or tablets are available on the market.

Find your match

Now that you know how to create a cutting workout routine that gets results, it’s time to strap those gym shoes on and make it happen.

If you’re looking for trusted bodybuilding supplements to supercharge your cutting success, check out our epic product matchmaker. It’s time to hack Beast Mode.

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