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March 27, 2020 10 min read

If you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, it’s easy to become impatient about seeing results. New gym fans often ask, “how long will it take until I’m completely shredded?”, but unfortunately there’s no simple answer to this question. Everyone’s body is different, as so the time it takes until we see results from working out varies massively.

There are numerous changeable factors that contribute to the speed at which you’ll see changes in your body. Sadly, workout fads claiming you’ll have “perfect abs in 30 days” or “get ripped in 6 weeks” rarely follow-through, as anyone knowledgeable will tell you it takes a lot of time, hard work, and dedication to achieve your dream body. 

The road to a shredded body is paved with challenges, ones which can’t be easily skipped over. There’s no fast track to the finish line, so every person needs to build muscle at their own pace. Some people might see results faster than others, but don’t be discouraged. The people you see in the gym with superhero bodies have been working on it for years, and all it takes is a commitment to your body, and that could be you too!

Throughout this article, we’ll explain the different elements you need to know about when working towards a totally ripped body, including fat loss and nutrition, muscle gains and fitness plans. Read on to discover how you can start working towards your ideal body today. 

Defining Your Goals and Setting Achievable Targets

The term “get ripped” is very non-specific, so the first thing you need to do is outline your goals. A ripped body may not look the same to two different people, so setting achievable targets and timelines will help everyone work towards a ripped body at their own pace. A number of factors will influence how long it takes to achieve your goals, including your starting body fat percentage, the size of calorie deficit you’ll have, and of course the matter of exactly how ripped you want to be. Your own personal metabolic rate also comes into play; some people can just build muscle faster than others. 

Firstly, your starting body fat percentage has a major impact on how long it takes to become lean, as the higher it is, the more fat you’ll need to shed before your muscles are clearly defined. It’s important to ensure you have an accurate measurement of your body fat before you start, which you can obtain using a skinfold caliper. The most accurate body fat percentage readings are obtained from the suprailiac, which is your lower abdomen just above the hip bone. 

  • Pinch an inch of fat using your finger and thumb from this area
  • Use the calipers to measure the thickness of this skin fold and the fat beneath
  • Be careful not to press too hard or this will alter the results
  • Once you have an accurate reading, use a body fat chart to evaluate your body fat percentage 

After figuring out your current body fat percentage, you’ll need to set a goal to work towards. Generally, athletic and in-shape individuals have a body fat percentage of around 10 for men, and 15 for women. We don’t recommend aiming for a body fat percentage much lower than these guidelines as it can inhibit healthy bodily function. If you’re starting out with a higher body fat percentage, then it will take longer to get ripped. Certain shortcuts and methods of shedding weight much faster are out there, but these techniques will likely prevent you from gaining muscle while losing weight, erasing your goal of a ripped muscular figure. 

A good goal regarding weight loss is one to two pounds per week, this is enough that you can work towards your goals without losing energy and extreme dieting. You can achieve this loss of fat with a carefully measured calorie deficit, to help shed fat while retaining newly built muscle. Crash dieting and huge calorie deficits will certainly help you to lose weight fast, but in doing so you can easily destroy your immune system as well as hurting your chances of increasing muscle mass. When asking how long it takes to get ripped, keep in mind that although we all want to see results as fast as possible, doing it in a healthy way is always the most important thing. 

Losing Body Fat

Having a ripped body is only partly about having muscles; the other part is being able to see them. In order to attain what most people see as a shredded physique, you need to have a low enough body fat percentage that your muscles are clearly visible. For most people, this means losing weight is a big part of getting ripped. As we’ve mentioned, doing this in an unhealthy way will certainly help you shed some pounds, but it will also prevent your body from being able to build any new muscle, and could even decrease what you already have. So how can you lose body fat in the best way? 

Once you’ve set your goals on an appropriate body fat percentage, you’ll need to calculate the ideal calorie deficit. Aiming for one to two pounds of weight loss per week is ideal for most people, which equates to around 500 calories per day. To explain further, your total calorie intake is all the food and drink you consume in a day, while your calorie deficit is the number of calories you burn in excess of that. You could work on a calorie deficit of more than 500 calories, but this would likely prevent you from getting all the nutrients you need to survive and thrive. 

Protein is a very important nutritional element when it comes to muscle growth, so ensuring you have enough calories from protein in your diet is paramount. However, it’s easy to focus all of your attention on protein and forget about other macronutrients that are essential to your general health. Sure, proteins are what allows us to build huge muscles, but without carbohydrates and dietary fat, the rest of your body won’t function as it should. To build muscles and work towards your dream ripped body as fast as possible, a nutritious and balanced diet is essential. The Department of Health and Human Services lays out general guidelines for nutrition as follows:

  • 10 to 35 percent of daily calories from protein
  • 45 to 65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates
  • 20 to 35 percent of daily calories from fat

As you’re working to build muscle as a fitness goal, you may want to lean towards the higher end of the scale for protein, but try not to stray too far from these recommendations. It’s not only the type of calories which is important, but also where they come from. Aim to consume plenty of lean healthy proteins (plant-based proteins are a great option), complex and minimally processed carbohydrates, and healthy sources of fat. Working within these achievable calorie deficit and nutrition goals won’t necessarily mean you see results straight away, but it does mean that fat loss and muscle gains are more sustainable and have a better chance of being permanent.

A man working out with a kettlebell in the yard.

Gaining Muscle

There are two primary elements that equate to a ripped physique; losing body fat, which we’ve already explained, and gaining defined muscle, which is a much more fun part. Building muscle mass is all about balance, as working out in the wrong way can leave you without muscle or fat, which is the opposite of what you should be working towards. Getting the insane muscular body you’ve always dreamt of takes years, as it’s literally impossible to go over a certain amount of muscle gains without the assistance of steroids. 

Every individual has a maximum muscle growth potential, which is highest in your first year of intense training. At the beginning of your fitness journey, it’s possible to gain up to 2 pounds of muscle a month, but in the second year that’s reduced to one pound, and even further beyond that point. Once you’re already in excellent shape, gaining even more muscle becomes much more difficult, which is why so few elite athletes achieve truly godlike bodies. 

Repetition is the best way to measure exactly how muscular you are. A single deadlift of huge mass is an impressive feat without a doubt, but the true test of your muscles is how many repetitions you can get through. When training to build muscle in an optimal way, the most efficient method is repeating perfect form until failure. For any given exercise, such as a dumbbell clean and press, firstly you need to prioritize absolutely perfect form. It doesn’t matter if you complete half-assed repetitions, doing them the right way is key. Once you have the technique down, repeat the exercise until you’re physically unable to continue; this is the most effective way to maximize your muscle gains. 

Once again, your body fat percentage impacts the quality of muscle gains you can achieve. If you’re at a percentage in single digits, you won’t be able to maintain muscle fullness. You’ll lose a lot of bulk in this situation, and end up with lean muscle instead of a shredded body. Staying at around ten percent body fat will allow for visible abs and defined muscles while retaining size in the areas you want to be larger. After several years of training, you may be able to dip below twenty percent body fat and retain the image you want. However, if this is your end goal, then the time it takes to get ripped increases. 

Deciding on a Fitness Plan

If you attain a ripped body as soon as possible, then sticking to a well thought out fitness plan is key. There’s plenty of information, and science to back it up, outlining the best workouts for speedy muscle gains. Utilize all of this knowledge by creating a solid workout and nutrition routine, one which you can realistically stick to. Your focuses should be strength training to build muscle, cardio to burn fat, and proper nutrition to fuel your body while you do it. We’ve already covered the basics of how much fat you’ll burn, as well as some information about following a healthy diet. Now let’s dive deeper to find out the ways you can improve your workouts, build muscle, and burn fat. 

You need to strength train every major muscle group twice a week, ensuring you leave at least two days in between. Muscle building actually happens in between your workouts, so leave enough time between your weight training sessions for muscles to recover and become stronger. For the best results, complete a full-body workout to activate every major muscle group. Exercises like the kettlebell leg workout activate much of your lower body and allow muscles to work together. You need to train your back, pecs, and chest, arms, legs; each major group twice a week is ideal. Resistance training and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) are also very beneficial when working towards a ripped body; including variety in your workouts also has the added benefit of preventing them from becoming boring. 

You may be tempted to hit the gym more often when building your physique, even go every day. However, this won’t be beneficial- what you can do is increase the number of reps you do at your bi-weekly sessions. By repeating perfect form until you can’t lift the weight, and then resting the muscles for a minimum of two days, you optimize your hard-earned muscle gains. 

How Long Until I Notice a Difference? 

It’s understandable that many people looking to improve their physique get impatient about seeing results. The best thing you can do if you’re not happy with what you’re seeing is to keep persevering; stick to your workout plan and keep thinking about your goals. That being said, most people who start with a serious fat burning and muscle building program can see results within eight weeks, and by four months you’ll likely notice some pretty serious changes in your body.

Of course, this depends heavily on your starting position, but if you’re already in reasonably good cardio shape then the next steps from there can show encouraging results. A ripped body, with defined abs and a muscular physique, is likely attainable after a year of hard work. It may seem like a long time, but remember that many bodybuilders spend their entire lives earning the utterly shredded status that they enjoy. 

A girl working out with a rope in the gym.

Optimizing Your Workout 

There are certain strength training exercises that are especially effective at building muscle mass, so we’ll go over a few recommendations you should add to your workouts. In combination with steady cardio training and a balanced and nutritious diet, these exercises are what you need to start working on a completely ripped body. While these exercises hit the biggest muscle groups for growth, don’t forget to balance out the muscles like rhomboids too; we don’t see visual results as much, but it’s still important to strengthen small muscles as well as large ones. 

  • Bench Press: This popular exercise hits your pectorals, anterior deltoids, and triceps; all huge muscles in the upper body. For maximum results, lie with a slight arch in your lower back and shoulders shrugged back and downwards, this will better engage your chest muscles. 
  • Barbell Pullover: Another major chest workout, this one targets the upper pecs, lats, teres major and triceps. 
  • Deadlift: For an immersive full-body workout, deadlifts are the way to go. Not only do they look impressive, but they activate several different groups of muscles in your legs, hips, back, and arms. To optimize your deadlifts for gaining muscle mass, lift from knee height and aim for more reps. 
  • Pull up: Some might argue there’s no better simple exercise than a pull-up. Using only your body weight, this workout defines your lats, rhomboids, and traps. 
  • Squat: Another weight room staple, the squat has huge building power for your quads, glutes, hips, and even targets your lower back. Always prioritize perfect form; never sacrifice your movement for extra weight, as this can derail your progress. 
  • Dumbbell shoulder press: Work on completing as many reps as possible to build up fantastic shoulders, triceps, and upper pecs. 

As we’ve said, variety is key when working towards a fitness goal long term, so ensure you mix these excellent muscle-building exercises into a balanced workout routine. Don’t be afraid to mix it up to keep your time in the gym interesting, as this is the best way to ensure you reach your goals. 

So How Long Does It Take To Get Ripped?

The time it takes to achieve your personal fitness goals is different for everyone, so if you aren’t seeing results as fast as you like, keep your head down and they could be just around the corner. In general terms, a person at a reasonable level of fitness will start to see changes after two months of serious strength training, and results should be clearly visible after four.

For a truly ripped physique, most people need a minimum of one year’s hard work. Don’t be discouraged at the length of time, as after you incorporate regular workouts into your life’s routine, the time will fly by. Everyone can attain the body of their dreams with hard work and dedication, so make the most of this knowledge and start your incredible fitness journey today!