by Chris Shugart, Christian Thibaudeau
There's more than one level of leanness. And there's a big difference between being "not fat" and being shredded. Here are the levels below. We've tried to find a physique photo that somewhat represents each level:
Level 4 leanness involves not only a very low level of body fat, but also a certain extent of dryness. This is a term that comes from competitive bodybuilding. Bodybuilders manipulate their water and carb intake to get rid of water weight.
The goal of this peaking procedure is to minimize subcutaneous water (just beneath the skin) while keeping the muscle as full as possible. This combination will allow a bodybuilder to pump up before the show and look his best.
A full muscle will push against the skin, and if there's no water between the muscle and skin... voilà: separated and full muscle bellies.
It's very, very tricky, and the difference between first and fifth place often comes down to which guy gets his final week of "drying out" right and which one screws it up.
In the non-bodybuilding world, actors and models often use these fluid manipulation techniques before a shirtless scene or photo shoot in order to look their leanest.
A lot of times we accidentally manipulate our subcutaneous fluid levels. Ever wake up one day, catch a glimpse of yourself in the bathroom mirror and think, "Wow, I'm ripped!" Then, two days later, you look in the mirror again and look softer or kind of bloated?
Obviously you didn't gain that much adipose tissue in two days. The reverse wouldn't happen either: you can't go to bed chubby and wake up lean. Yet something is happening, and it's visible to the naked eye.
Most of the time this is due to "water weight" fluctuations. You just happened to eat and drink a certain way, or train a certain way, that caused you to drop or retain a couple of pounds of fluid.
Below we'll tell you step-by-step how to drop several pounds of water and get that ripped look on purpose. It isn't exactly easy, but the results can be dramatic.
By adopting a trick or two from competitive natural bodybuilders, you can learn to control this phenomenon and use it tactically when you want to look your leanest.
It could be used to "peak" before a day at the pool or before you take some shirtless selfies. The techniques contained here are designed to get you from Level 2 to Level 3, or from Level 3 to Level 4.
Most people will drop several pounds of water weight in just six days, along with some fat, causing them to look leaner and, if done correctly, more vascular and pumped.
Note: These techniques will not make you look shredded if you're fat. While most people can drop a pound or two of fat along with the water in these six days, this is not a diet.
It's designed to help already lean people get super lean. If you're just plain chubby, this isn't the program for you.
There are three main factors we're going to be manipulating here to cause your body to dump water fast:
This schedule assumes a Saturday physique competition or photo shoot.
Forty-five minutes before pumping up for your shoot, take two tablespoons of vegetable glycerine with one can of full-sugar soda.
The goal of the low-carb days with super-high water intake is to deplete glycogen to better supercompensate later on, but the real goal is to put the body into water flushing mode.
Doing both for five days turns you into a fountain: your body simply flushes everything you drink. When you suddenly cut your water on Friday, you're still in heavy flushing mode. As a result, you'll dry up significantly by flushing and not drinking.
A gram of carbohydrate pulls 2.7g of water into the muscle. So if you carb up when you're in flushing mode and not drinking, where do you think this 2.7g of water will come from? Beneath your skin, of course!
The vegetable glycerine recommended is a plasma expander, meaning that it pulls water into it. When you consume this thick, sickly sweet liquid, it basically goes to the muscles and pulls water into it.
Since you're not drinking any water at the time, the water that's attracted to the glycerol will come from beneath your skin. So, you'll look dryer and fuller at the same time.
Remember, our goal here is glycogen depletion, not muscle gain, although the "shock effect" of this style of training is certainly challenging to the body.
Note: It's best to do more sets of the same exercise than to use many exercises.
Today you're going to do the same type of workout you did on Monday, with these differences:
No weight training today, but you may perform some HIIT-style conditioning (intervals) to flush water and increase insulin sensitivity. This is the only day of the week you'll perform any type of cardio.
If there's a muscle you want to emphasize on Saturday, train it on Friday morning, but de-emphasize the eccentric or negative portion of the movement as much as possible.
Basically, perform sets of 12-15 reps in rhythmic, fairly fast fashion for 10-12 sets. This will lead to more glycogen surcompensation in that muscle group so the next day it will look more full.
It's time to pump up before your photo shoot or show. Guidelines:
Note: If you don't have it, you won't get it by pumping for 30 minutes! Pumping only highlights and polishes the physique.
Physique peaking and manipulating hydration is easy to screw up. In fact, even the top guys screw this up 25% of the time.
Playing with your water and glycogen levels can enhance the look of an already lean physique. It's the icing on the cake, providing you with fuller muscle bellies, more separation, and enhanced vascularity.
But if you're still too fat, peaking strategies aren't going to do much for you. If you aren't below 10% body fat, don't even bother.
Guidelines: At between 8 and 10%, you'll see some decent improvements, but not super drastic. If you're between 6 and 8%, these techniques will make a marked difference in your appearance. And finally, if you're below 6% they'll leave you floored by the dramatic visual difference!
Don't mess with your sodium intake. Many people sodium load for a few days, then sodium deplete and potassium load for the last few days of their peaking procedure. Do not do this.
It sounds simple enough: Sodium makes you hold subcutaneous water, and potassium favors retaining water in the muscles, right? Yes, technically, but it's much more complex than that. The body wants a proper mineral balance. If you drastically cut one mineral and bump up another one, you play with that balance and chances are you'll screw up.
Basically, you have a 50/50 chance of getting this right. You could very easily look much worse by toying with mineral balance. You can avoid salting your foods in those last few days, but that's it.
Note that we only begin to cut our water intake in the afternoon on Friday (taking in only about a half gallon on Friday AM.) Many people attempt to cut fluid intake a full two days before an event, but this leads to deflated-looking muscles.
Cutting water intake too soon can also make you hold water because your body will upregulate its aldosterone levels, which will prevent flushing sodium and water out of your system.
Many people will over-consume water (three gallons or more) for the first two or three days, then gradually decrease water over the next three or four days. This is another mistake. By gradually reducing water intake you lose the benefit of the flushing mode.
Why? Because over the two or three days of gradually reducing water intake, the body will adapt and bring its aldosterone levels back to normal. So you're flushing a lot of water at the beginning of the week, but very little at the end when you really need to.
The best approach is to suddenly cut your water so that your body stays in flushing mode even when no water is coming in.
It takes most people a couple of tries to perfect these techniques and customize them to how their body reacts.
For example, you may need two days to carb-up. So play around with it until you figure out what works best for you.