This topic will seem ridiculous to some, but it’s very appealing to many. How can you lose muscle mass you don’t want?
That is, how can we reduce our muscle size, and specifically, in targetted areas to build our dream physique?
While many aim to gain, others seek ways to slim down their muscle bulk. In this episode, you’ll learn how to intentionally reduce muscle size.
Whether you’re aiming to decrease muscle mass for aesthetic reasons, sports requirements, or personal preference, this episode will guide you safely through the process.
0:00 – Please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts and make sure to subscribe!
0:53 – Drawbacks of losing muscle: Weighing the risks.
3:53 – Unpacking reasons for intentional muscle loss.
7:23 – Holistic strategies for muscle reduction.
9:25 – Targeted muscle loss: Can you pinpoint specific areas?
11:10 – Strategies for arm muscle reduction.
13:29 – Shedding muscle from the legs: How and why?
14:46 – Want 125 quick, easy, and delicious “fitness friendly” recipes? Get The Shredded Chef
17:56 – Tailoring the hamstring muscles: Methods and motivations.
19:32 – Slimming down calf muscles: Techniques to consider.
21:16 – Glutes: The approach for muscle downsizing.
22:06 – Back muscle reduction: Where to start?
23:16 – Addressing shoulder muscles: Best practices.
25:27 – Techniques for pec muscle reduction.
26:03 – Chest muscle strategies: What to consider?
26:45 – Dietary tweaks for muscle reduction: What to eat and avoid.
31:16 – Setting expectations: Timeframes and milestones in muscle reduction.
35:30 – Concluding thoughts: Finding balance in muscle management.
Mentioned on the Show:
Want 125 quick, easy, and delicious “fitness friendly” recipes? Get The Shredded Chef.
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello, Mike Matthews here, and this is Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today for a new episode on a topic that sounds ridiculous to some people, but very appealing to others, and that is how to lose muscle mass you don’t want, how to make certain Muscles in your body smaller most people listening probably want to learn how to build muscle not how to lose muscle However, there might be some of you out there who do want to shrink certain parts of your body And this episode is going to teach you how how to do it strategically how to not lose muscle everywhere in your body But just lose muscle In the targeted areas that you want to lose it in and how to make sure you don’t lose too much muscle, how to make sure things don’t spiral out of control, and how to stop the muscle loss once you are done shrinking.
Okay, so let’s start this discussion with a caveat, and that is that Generally speaking, you shouldn’t be trying to lose muscle. Generally, that is a bad idea, because muscle not only helps you move and helps your body function properly, it also helps you maintain good metabolic health, it improves quality of life.
It helps you avoid various types of disease and dysfunction. It is linked to better recovery from trauma and illness and just longer living in general. Generally speaking, the more muscle you have, the longer your life is going to be. Now, of course, there are exceptions to that rule. For example, if someone abuses anabolic steroids for a long time to gain a supraphysiological amounts of muscle, that is not necessarily associated with a longer lifespan and is generally associated with a shorter lifespan because of all the drug use.
But for us natural weightlifters who also aren’t training so intensely that we are. Running our body into the ground, you know, training six or seven days per week, doing a couple of hours of weightlifting every day and developing true overtraining syndrome that also is not associated with better longevity, but.
If you’re not doing that, if you are doing what you are probably doing, what most people listening to this podcast are doing and doing what I do, three to five hours of strength training per week, maybe even two to five hours of strength training per week, and ideally some cardiovascular training as well.
And you are gaining muscle and strength within that context. Again, two to five hours of strength training per week. Then the additional muscle that you gain is associated with all of the benefits that I just shared. And the more muscle that you gain, the more you get of at least some of those benefits.
It does scale linearly to some degree. There is a point of diminishing returns. But if you are new to weightlifting, you’re a guy and let’s say genetically you can gain 30 to 40 pounds of muscle. That’s your potential. That’s going to be your ceiling. If you gain 10 pounds of muscle, you are going to experience a one degree of the benefits that I shared.
And then if you gain 20 pounds of muscle total, so you add 10 pounds to that, you’re going to experience even more of the benefits that I shared. It may not be exactly double, but more of the benefits that I shared with you. And then. You’re now at 20 pounds of muscle gain, and let’s say you push hard, and you push all the way to your genetic potential, and you’ve now gained 30 or 35, maybe you make it all the way to 40 pounds of muscle gain, you are now experiencing even more of the benefits that I shared compared to when you had, say, 20 pounds of muscle.
And of course, the same thing applies to women. The numbers are just smaller. The total amount of potential muscle gain is probably about half of what it is in men. And so then most people should be focused on gaining muscle and strength, not losing muscle and strength. However, sometimes people feel like certain parts of their body are too big.
And sometimes that is because they have very developed muscles in those parts of their body. They’ve gained a lot of muscle in certain major muscle groups. Sometimes they’ve gained a disproportionate amount of muscle in certain muscle groups, and they don’t like the look. Now, I will say most of the conversations around losing muscle that I’ve had over the years are with women.
And sometimes the problem is actually not the muscle, but it’s the amount of body fat. And the better solution is to lose the body fat. Not the muscle. Yes, they could lose muscle and shrink that part of their body, but it’s not going to be the look that they are going for if they just lose muscle and retain a lot of the body fat in the area because that’s how you end up looking kind of skinny fat.
And so sometimes the solution, whether it’s a man or a woman, is to first reduce body fat levels and then assess the offending area of the body, the body that appears to be overdeveloped. So, for example, in a woman, I would recommend that she gets her body fat level down to probably about 20%, something between 20 and 25%, which is going to be a very athletic look.
And that’s also a very healthy level of body fat. In women, anything between 20 and 30 percent is generally Healthy, however, 20 percent is generally going to be healthier than 30%. There are going to be certain metabolic and physiological advantages to 20 percent compared to 30%. Generally speaking, less body fat is better, similar to more muscle is better, less body fat is better.
better. Now, of course, you can take that to an extreme and get way too lean, and then you can harm your health. But that’s very hard to do. That doesn’t happen without deliberate and prolonged effort, meaning extended caloric restriction. A lot of exercise and then careful calorie maintenance to stay that lean.
It doesn’t just happen spontaneously, at least in most people. And so anyway, what I recommend for women is that they get down to about 20 to 25 percent body fat, assess their physique. In men, Get down to something between 10 and 15 percent body fat, assess their physique, and if they do that and still feel that a certain area of their body is just too big, or if they don’t need to do that to know, I can think of a couple of people in the gym that I go to one guy in particular who has done powerlifting for a long time.
I would guess that his Body fat level is 20 to 25 percent, maybe even as high as 30 percent. And his lower body, particularly his butt, is huge. He has gained a lot of muscle. He also has gotten very strong. He has squatted over 500 pounds. So, in his case, although I would recommend losing body fat for the purposes of…
Health, he could know that he has a very developed lower body and if he didn’t quite like that look anymore that he would need to lose some muscle in his lower body because even if he did get down to 10 to 15 percent body fat, he would have a very big lower body. And so anyway, just some context for the rest of the discussion, which is going to be about strategically losing muscle targeted.
So let’s get into that and let’s start with just losing muscle everywhere. If you have way too much muscle everywhere and you just want to be smaller, for example, maybe you need to lose some muscle for a sport that you want to play because you are simply too muscular for it. Maybe you are a jacked guy who wants to be a…
a horse jockey or something. I don’t know. But if you just want to lose muscle everywhere, the marching orders are pretty simple. You want to do basically no resistance training, definitely no weightlifting and really no resistance training at all because research shows that it does not take all that much of a training stimulus to maintain muscle and strength.
You can maintain all of the muscle that you have. For example, with probably no more than five hard sets per week, just five sets for each major muscle group. And of course, you could do compound exercises to deliver that volume to multiple muscle groups at the same time. So you could really be looking at maybe a 45 minute workout, full body workout.
Maybe you do two of them per week. And you could maintain more or less all of the muscle that you have. And if you were to make sure that at least a couple of those sets were very heavy, you probably could maintain most of your strength as well. So it’s important if you want to lose muscle, no weightlifting, and really no resistance training.
You also are going to want to do a fair amount of cardio. I would say do at least a few hours, at least like three to five hours of lower or moderate intensity cardio every week, you’re going to want to restrict your calories because that is going to blunt muscle protein synthesis, which is the creation of new muscle proteins.
It also has to do with repairing muscle proteins, which has to do with maintaining muscle mass. So you’re going to want to be in a calorie deficit and You’re going to want to restrict your protein, you’re going to want to eat no more than probably about 0. 5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
So that’s what you do if you’re just trying to lose muscle everywhere. Now chances are you don’t want to lose muscle everywhere and that’s good because losing muscle everywhere generally is not conducive to good health for reasons that I shared earlier. Chances are you want to shrink certain body parts and when you want to do that, you have to use a different strategy.
So instead of no resistance training whatsoever, you need to stop training the muscle groups that you want to trim down because as I mentioned, it just does not require much to maintain the muscle that you have. That does require some thought though because you have to consider direct and indirect volume provided by the exercises that you are doing.
So let’s say that your quadriceps are just bigger than you want them to be. Obviously, you would want to stop squatting and lunging because those are direct volume for the quads, but they also do train the hamstrings and you’d want to stop deadlifting because while that trains the hamstrings more than the quads, it’s more direct volume for your hamstrings than your quads.
It does stimulate the quads. It is indirect volume to the quads. And in the case of higher rep deadlifting, like eight to ten reps per set, when you’re pushing close to failure, at least toward the end of those sets, it feels like direct volume in the quads to me. My quads are on fire. But generally speaking, the deadlift would be direct volume for the hamstrings, indirect volume for the quads, whereas the squat would be direct volume for the quads and indirect volume for the hamstrings.
And so then let’s talk about each major muscle group that you may want to lose muscle from and then how you should go about doing that while maintaining the rest of the muscle that you have. So let’s talk about shrinking your arms. So for the biceps, you’re going to want to avoid all. Pulling and curling exercises.
So the pulling exercises are the indirect volume, the curling, the direct volume. So that means no pull ups, no chin ups, no type of row at all, barbell, dumbbell, cable, whatever, and no biceps curling. If you want to shrink your triceps, which if you have bigger arms than you want and you have not Determined whether it’s the biceps or the triceps, I’m thinking of many women I’ve spoken to in particular over the years who have played one sport or another and now are not playing the sport and don’t particularly like how big their arms are and it is often the triceps because the triceps are the much bigger muscle.
So we’re talking about just sheer arm circumference. The triceps are about two thirds of the arm mass and often if Somebody wants to shrink their arms, they should look at their triceps first. Now, in some cases, it’s clearly the biceps, but many times it’s the triceps. And so in the case of the triceps, you’re going to want to avoid pushing exercises, which are indirect volume for the triceps.
So that means no barbell, no dumbbell, flat or inclined bench pressing, no close grip bench pressing, no overhead pressing, whether it’s standing or seated, no dumbbell. Shoulder pressing, no Arnold pressing, dips, push ups, and so forth. You want to skip all of that because all of those exercises are going to provide indirect volume, stimulate the triceps, and all but guarantee that you don’t lose any muscle there.
And of course, you’re going to want to bypass tricep exercises specifically, so extensions, press downs, overhead. Pushovers and so forth. And so what that means then is instead of all of those exercises, you are going to want to do isolation exercises for your pecs and your shoulders. You’re going to want to do ones that don’t strongly engage the biceps.
If you’re trying to shrink the biceps or the triceps like a cable fly or a front side and rear raise. And of course, if you’re trying to shrink your biceps, you can also do the pressing exercises. But if you’re trying to shrink your triceps, you’re gonna have to skip those, which means that you’re chest and your shoulder training is going to look a bit funky for at least a little while.
Okay, let’s talk about the legs. So the legs comprise four major muscle groups. You have the quads, you have the hamstrings, calves and glutes. So let’s talk about each starting with the quads. So if you want to lose quad muscle, you’re going to want to avoid squat exercises of all kinds. No back squat, no front squat, safety bar, sumo squat, et cetera, et cetera.
No split squats. You’re going to want to avoid lunging. So no dumbbell lunging, no barbell lunging, dumbbell step ups. You don’t want to do. Those you don’t want to do various machine exercises that are very quad dominant. So no leg press, no hack squat, no leg extension, of course. And you also are going to want to skip deadlift exercises.
So that’s conventional deadlifting trap bar sumo. Even the Romanian deadlift probably provides enough indirect volume to your quads to help maintain that muscle. So your big hip hinges are out as well as your big. Squats. Now what you can do to preserve the muscle you want in your lower body is isolation exercises.
So you have hamstring isolation exercises like the lying seated and nordic hamstring curl. Those are great and they do not stimulate the quads. You can do isolation exercises for your glutes that don’t stimulate the quads like a hip thrust or a glute bridge or a cable pull through. If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and want 125 of my favorite quick, easy, and delicious, fitness friendly recipes, you want to get a copy of my flexible dieting cookbook, The Shredded Chef.
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I can’t remember anyone actually reaching out asking how to shrink their hamstrings because they’re smaller muscles to begin with. It has always been the quads and again, it’s usually been women, but there have been some men who have developed. It’s like I can think of a couple of cyclists I’ve heard from who were doing a lot of cycling for a long time, very big quads, smaller upper body, and they just didn’t like the look and they weren’t doing all the cycling and wanted to shrink their quads.
I can think of some women I’ve heard from over the years who played various sports, uh, and developed. a lot of quad strength and quad size, but never anybody who wanted to shrink their hamstrings. However, just to be thorough, I’m going to include it here. And this is going to require no squatting, no lunging, and no deadlifting because the squat and the lunge provides indirect volume to the hamstrings.
The deadlift provides direct volume, which means then that you are going to have to stimulate your quads with isolation work without stimulating your hamstrings. And the same thing goes for your glutes. And that means the leg extension is going to become your friend. You’re gonna have to do a lot of leg extensions.
There aren’t going to be many other options that I would recommend that are going to ensure that your hamstrings are not getting stimulated enough to either retain the muscle that you have or dramatically slow down the process of Shrinking the hamstrings. And so again, a lot of leg extensions and the glute exercises that I mentioned are also fine to do.
All right, the calves, which nobody has ever wanted to shrink. But again, just to be thorough, I’m going to talk about it. How do you lose calf muscle while retaining your glutes? This is trickier because Our calves keep us upright when we’re standing, when you’re walking, and so they actually get a fair amount of stimulus to maintain their size even if you are not lifting weights.
That said, if you are doing any direct volume for your calves, any sort of calf raises, of course you are going to want to cut that out. And if you currently are doing direct calf training and you cut it out, you probably will see at least a little bit of shrinkage in your calves. It might be actual muscle loss.
It might just be the loss of the residual pump that you retain after you train a muscle group, usually for a couple of days. So that should help. But if that’s not enough, then you also are going to have to stop doing compound lower body exercises that put a lot of stress on the calves. You’re going to have to cut out the squats and the lunges and the deadlifts as well as any isolation exercises that train the hamstrings or the glutes because they also train the calves as well.
So you have to really want to shrink your calves to bother with it because it means that your lower body training is pretty limited. You can do leg extensions, you can do reverse nordic curls. Those don’t activate the calves in the same way as a seated or a lying leg curl does. You can do sissy squats, but there aren’t many other options.
So you have to be very committed to shrinking those calves because your lower body training is not going to be very fun while you wait for your calves to shrink. Okay, let’s talk about the glutes now. How do you shrink your glutes? Well, for this, you’re going to want to avoid All squatting, all lunging, all hip hinging.
So those are exercises that involve bending and straightening the hips. So think of any type of deadlift, that’s out. Any type of hip thrust, that’s out. Any type of pull through type of exercise, that’s out. And that means that you can do certain isolation exercises for your quads and your hamstrings that don’t strongly engage the glutes.
The leg extension is going to work well. A lying or a seated hamstring curl. Those are going to work well, but a lot of the exercises, especially the compound exercises that you normally do for your lower body are not going to work. They provide either direct or indirect volume to the glutes and it’s going to make it impossible to shrink your glutes.
Okay, let’s talk about the back. How do we lose back muscle? So to do this, we are going to avoid all pulling and all deadlifting. So no pull up, no chin up, no barbell, dumbbell, cable row, so no row of any kind. And when I say no deadlifting, of course I mean no conventional, but that also means no deadlift variations, including a straight leg deadlift or a Romanian deadlift.
And it’s worth mentioning that in some people, Heavy back squatting and heavy front squatting can provide enough stimulus to maintain a significant amount of back muscle because those muscles are needed to keep your spine in the position that it needs to stay in when you’re squatting. And if you find that’s the case for you, then you are going to have to cut out those exercises as well.
So you’re going to want to stick to lunges. Lunges are great because you can get a good lower body stimulus without putting as much stress on your back muscles. And various machines that don’t heavily involve your back muscles, like the leg press, the hack squat, those will work. Various isolation exercises, the leg extension will work.
Any type of hamstring curl will work. Seated hamstring curl, lying hamstring curl, nordic curl. Curl. Okay. What about shoulders? How do you shrink your shoulders for this? You’re going to want to avoid all pressing exercises. So that’s horizontal pressing as well as vertical. So that means no chest pressing exercises whatsoever and no overhead pressing.
And then you are going to want to skip all shoulder isolation exercises. No front raises, no side raises, no rear raises, because while each of those exercises do emphasize one of the three deltoids over the others, the others, are stimulated to some degree. Now, of course, the exception to that would be the rear delts in the case of the front rays, very little stimulus, and the front delts in the case of the rear rays, very little stimulus, but if you are trying to shrink your shoulders, chances are you want to shrink your side delts in particular.
It’s not going to be your rear delts. Those are relatively small muscles even when they’re very developed, they are small muscles and they appear on the Backside of your of your shoulders and front delts don’t contribute to the look of big shoulders in the same way as the side delts. It’s usually very developed side delts that provide the illusion of having big shoulders, whereas the front and the rear delts just add a bit more roundness.
I guess you could say they make the shoulders look a little bit fuller. And so, in my experience, working with people over the years who have wanted to shrink the size of their shoulders. It has usually been women who have wanted to shrink their shoulder to waist ratio. So they have usually a wider back.
So often it has also required shrinking the lats as well as the side delts. When you combine well developed lats with well developed side delts, that’s how you get that broad shouldered look. And if you are relatively lean. Then you have a smaller waist, and that’s what many men are going for. And many women find that attractive in men.
However, I’ve heard from a number of women over the years who have had that look, developed it usually through a certain sport or some sort of athletic activity that just required a lot of back strength and required a lot of shoulder strength, like swimming, for example. And that’s not the look that they wanted.
And so they had to go about shrinking their shoulders as well as their lats, usually. And so that’s the prescription for reducing shoulder stimulation. What about your pecs though? You’re going to want to keep training your pecs. You’re going to want to keep training your triceps, of course. And for those things, you can do isolation exercises, particularly for the pecs that don’t strongly engage the shoulders, various types of flies, whether it’s a machine fly, like a cable peck deck type situation or it could be a cable fly or it could be even a dumbbell fly dumbbell pullover could also work or a cable version of that or a machine version of that and for your triceps you can do your normal triceps exercises are going to be fine those are not going to stimulate the shoulders okay let’s talk about losing chest muscle now for that you are going to want to avoid all pressing horizontal pressing, like chest pressing, of course, as well as vertical pressing, though, as well as overhead pressing, shoulder pressing, because that shoulder pressing does provide indirect volume for the pecs, particularly for the upper part of your pecs.
And so no pressing and no fly exercises. So what that means then is you’re going to use isolation exercises to maintain your shoulders and your triceps that don’t strongly engage your pecs. You have front side rear raises. That takes care of your shoulders. You could do a skull crusher. You could do an overhead triceps extension.
You could do a triceps pushdown. Those could easily take care of your triceps. And so we have now gone through the major muscle groups. We’ve gone through the training strategies. Let’s talk diet now. What should you be doing with your diet when you are trying to lose muscle? So it goes back to what I shared earlier in the podcast.
You are going to want to maintain a calorie deficit unless you’re already very lean. In which case, I would recommend maintenance calories. And by very lean, I mean sub 10 percent if you’re a man, sub probably 17 18 percent if you’re a woman. And getting leaner is just not going to be good for your health.
Now, that’s usually not the case, at least in the many discussions I’ve had over the years about losing muscle. Often people who want to lose muscle do have room to lose fat. And in fact, often would even benefit from some fat loss as well. So… To lose fat, of course, you have to maintain a calorie deficit, but you want to also eat a low protein diet, and that is going to accelerate the process of losing muscle because it’s going to impair muscle repair and growth, and that may mean that you’re going to lose some muscle elsewhere in your body.
I’m going to record an episode in the next week or two on just how little protein you can eat before you stop losing muscle. But it’s somewhere around 0. 5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. That’s what you want to target when you are intentionally trying to lose muscle. And if you do lose a little bit of muscle in the muscle groups that you are still training, that you don’t want to lose muscle in, it’s okay.
because that muscle is going to come back very quickly when you get back to normal dieting, you increase your protein intake and you get back to normal training. So don’t worry too much about that. Set up your diet to assist in the muscle loss, the targeted muscle loss that you are trying to produce by modifying your training.
If you skip the diet part, it’s just going to make the process take longer, and you may not even get there, depending on your genetics, depending on how muscular you naturally are, depending on how your body responds to training, you might need this diet component to even reach your goal. But if that’s not the case, if you could get there simply by modifying your training, you’re going to get there faster and probably quite a bit faster by also following the diet advice.
And again, if you lose a bit of muscle elsewhere, you lose a bit of strength elsewhere, it’s going to come back very quickly because of muscle memory, which is very real. If you want to learn about that, head over to legionathletics. com, search for muscle memory. You can check out an article I wrote on it, the science of it, as well as the Podcast is linked there as well.
And so then what you want to do, maintain this calorie deficit, something around 20 to 25 percent fewer calories than you burn every day. And that’s going to help you lose muscle again by impairing muscle protein synthesis. So when calories are restricted, the body is not able to repair and build new muscle proteins nearly as effectively as when calories are not restricted.
So we’re going to use this to our advantage. Of course, you’re going to lose fat too, so you may consider that a consolation prize to offset any distress caused by unwanted muscle loss. And by the way, if you are not sure how to set up your calories, how do you create a meal plan, for example? that provides 75 80 percent of the calories that you burn every day.
Head over to legionathletics. com go to the learn section of the menu go to tools and check out the calorie calculator tool and put in your information and it will lay everything out for you. There are also some frequently asked questions beneath the calculator that helps explain how it works and answers some questions you might have about It’s how it relates to weight loss and how do you count and track these calories?
Do you need to count and track these calories and so forth? Okay, so that’s one part of the diet equation here. The other part is protein intake, which I’ve mentioned this number a couple of times, but I’m going to say it again. Eat no more than 0. 5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. You can set that as your target.
I would not recommend going much lower than that because that could lead to unwanted whole body muscle loss. But research shows that that’s enough to maintain your health, but not enough to maintain muscle that you are not regularly training. And so that’s it for the diet, the important parts. The rest are the obvious parts.
Eat plenty of nutritious food and avoid highly processed foods. Don’t eat too many junk calories and so forth. So now let’s talk about expectations. How long will you have to do this for? That’s gonna depend on activity level, mainly. If you were bedridden, for example, you’re gonna lose muscle. Quickly, you can lose a significant amount of muscle in as little as a week if you were just completely sedentary.
But, I don’t recommend seven days in bed, so it’s going to take a little bit longer. For example, studies show that people who stop training but continue doing just regular daily activities, so walking and… Putting on clothes and washing things, doing household chores and so forth. Don’t start to lose muscle until about three weeks.
It takes about three weeks for muscle loss, actual muscle loss. Not necessarily muscle shrinkage. That can occur in the first week or two. You lose the residual pump. Maybe you lose some of the intramuscular fluid. But that’s not lean contractile tissue. That is size that comes back very quickly once you start stimulating the muscle again, which is what we don’t want.
We want to actually lose lean contractile tissue. So once we start training these muscle groups again, they don’t just blow back up to their previous size. So that takes a little bit longer that occurs in most people who stop training at about the three to four week mark is when that starts to occur.
And then from there, muscle loss can really ramp up, which is what we want, obviously. And so then in your case, if you are wanting to lose some muscle, we know that it’s going to take at least three to four weeks to start that process. And it could take up to eight, 10, even 12 weeks to Finish the process depending on how much muscle you want to lose.
And I’m going to say it again just because I’ve seen people make this mistake. Don’t be fooled by the changes that you see in the first week or two where the muscle group or the muscle groups that you want to shrink are shrinking. And maybe after not training them at all for two or three weeks. They look the way that you want them to look and you think you’re done and you start training them again and then they quickly grow back to their previous size.
I just explained why that happens, but I just want to say again, if you’re gonna, if you’re gonna start this process, don’t fall for that. I’ve heard from people over the years who have been pretty confused. They’ve experienced that and they go back to training and then they repeat another three or four weeks or so of no training.
for those muscle groups, and then the muscle groups look more or less the way that they want, and then they start training them again, and they’re just confused. It’s because they didn’t lose enough actual muscle, if any, at all. So we want to make sure that we’re losing lean muscle mass, and that takes more time than two or three weeks, even four weeks.
And I should mention that in outlier cases, more the exception than the rule, but in some cases, it can take many months of very little stimulation for a muscle group, especially a bigger, stronger muscle group, big back muscles, big lower body muscles. I mean, six, seven months. Of the training strategies that I shared in this podcast, not the diet strategies.
You’re not gonna be able to diet like that for six or seven months. You’re going to have to stop at some point because you’re going to get very lean and then getting even leaner is unhealthy, but it can take many, many months to shrink a bigger, stronger muscle group in particular to the desired size.
And so. In your case, if you suspect that it’s going to take more than four, five, six, seven, eight weeks, it may, and that’s fine. You just need to be patient. And so diet for as long as you can, but if it’s going to take six or seven months, don’t try to maintain a calorie deficit for six or seven months. If you’re a guy starting at, let’s say, 15 percent body fat, and that now is almost like a diet for stepping on stage or if you were to.
Really stick that out. You would end very, very lean. You would end at four or five percent body fat or something, and that is not healthy to get that lean. It is completely unsustainable, and so if you’re a guy, stop your dieting at eight, nine, ten percent, and then just switch to maintenance calories, keep your protein low, and just know that the rate of muscle loss is probably going to slow down because of that, but that’s fine.
Patience for women, stop your dieting, probably 15, 16, 17%, something like that. Maintenance calories and just stay patient. Now, a couple of other asterisks that I want to address before signing off. One is someone who wants to lose lower body muscle, whether it’s glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves. And they play a sport that involves a lot of jumping and sprinting that is going to slow the process of muscle loss down.
And in some people it can slow it down significantly. It can even halt it at some point, depending on how much muscle the person wants to lose, simply doing a lot of sprinting, a lot of jumping. This is going to be several hours per week that can be enough to maintain a fair amount of lower body. Muscle and strength.
And so if you are looking to shrink your lower body and you are doing a lot of sprinting and jumping, I wouldn’t say stop initially, but just know that you may have to do less or stop for a period to get to where you want to be. And also one other outlier case I want to address is the person who simply is not able to lose the muscle they want to lose because the minimal amounts of crossover training that will occur even if you adopt the strategies that I am.
Have given you in this podcast, the minimal amount of indirect volume, light indirect volume is just enough for them to retain more muscle in the wrong places than they’d like. And I’ve seen this, by the way, in people who have responded really well to training. These are often people who were always big and strong, and then they got into training and then they got really big and really strong.
So I have seen this and in this case, you are just going to have to go with the whole body method of muscle loss until. You have the look, at least in the muscle groups that you’re looking to shrink. Once those have shrunk enough, then you can get back to building the muscle that you lost. And that may mean avoiding training the muscles that you just shrunk, which is the final bit of advice that I want to share.
So, you’ve lost muscle. that you want to lose. Maybe you’ve lost muscle that you didn’t want to lose, but you’re done losing muscle at least. What do you do now? Well, um, you of course are going to want to regain any muscle that you lost that you didn’t want to lose. And you’re going to accomplish that by getting out of a calorie deficit, eating more protein and training those muscle groups, probably a bit more intensely.
Now you’re probably going to be able to progress again, which you are not going to be able to do when you are dieting. But what do you do about the muscle groups that you just shrunk? Because if you go back to training them the way that you were training them previously, and you go back to progressively overloading them, they are just going to grow back to their previous size.
Muscle memory. is a real thing, I mentioned it earlier, and it’s great for when you want to regain muscle that you want, but it’s not so great for regaining muscle that you don’t want. So what you’re going to have to do going forward is you don’t have to not train the muscle groups that you shrunk necessarily.
However, some people have. taken that approach. They’ve found that if they train their lats, for example, at all, if they give them any direct volume, or let’s say any significant amount of direct volume, maybe they can do a few sets of pull ups per week, three to six or something. But if they were to go back to doing 10, 12, 15 hard sets, let’s say direct and indirect volume for their lats per week, their lats would quickly grow back to.
Where they were at previously, and then they would have to shrink them again. And so you have to see how your body responds. But what many people find works is they can get back to doing the exercises that provide indirect volume for those major muscle groups that they just shrunk. So let’s say it’s triceps.
They’ve shrunk their triceps. Maybe it’s shoulders. They’ve shrunk their shoulders. They can get back now to their dumbbell pressing and their overhead pressing, and that’s fine. However, they may not do any direct volume for their triceps or their shoulders anymore, whereas previously they did. So that’s it.
They’re done doing direct volume for the muscle groups that they shrunk. Many people do that. Many people also will do a little bit of direct volume, maybe not as much as they did previously, but they will not progressively overload. The muscle groups that they don’t want to regrow, meaning primarily they are not going to increase loads on those exercises over time because that is the most effective form of progressive overload.
You can increase reps, you can increase sets, you can do other things, but those are usually stepping stones to increasing load. That is the ultimate goal. You usually are. Using other types of progressive overload to build up enough strength to kind of be able to cash in and finally increase load. So they stop doing that.
They stop progressing on those exercises for those muscle groups. And I don’t have too much personal experience with this, but I did do some form of this. Some time ago for my biceps, there was a time when I felt that my biceps were actually just getting a bit too big. It looked a bit weird to me, especially when I would train biceps and I would have a pump.
I look back now and I disagree with previous me. I think that my biceps were fine, but that’s the way I felt about it at the time. And so what I did was I cut out all direct biceps training and only, only gave my biceps indirect volume from my back. exercises and that did gradually shrink the size of my biceps over the course of, it took a long time.
I did that for probably a year to a year and a half and I didn’t measure my arms, but I did lose a little bit of size. And part of that is going to be just the loss of the residual pump that comes with training. I Doubt I actually lost any muscle if I look in my training logs, I’m just thinking now in my mind that my weights today are more or less comparable because I’m back to training.
I’m doing direct volume for my biceps again, and I’m more or less just as strong today, actually, as I was back then, which tells me that I almost certainly did not lose any muscle, but I did lose some size. And that would have just been the loss of the residual pump, a reduction in intramuscular fluid. So my biceps looked a little bit smaller.
And so I suppose that’s also an option to consider. But that was a minor change. It’s something that really probably I only noticed. Other people didn’t even notice. Maybe it reduced my biceps by like half of an inch or something. But if I really wanted to make my biceps smaller, that wouldn’t have been enough.
Well, I hope you liked this episode, I hope you found it helpful, and if you did, subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes, and it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you, and if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have questions, Uh, ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share, shoot me an email, Mike at muscle for life.
com muscle F O R life. com. And let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from you soon.