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January 12, 2021 10 min read
Let’s start with the obvious. There are no shortcuts to getting shredded. This isn’t just some breezy program that allows you to cut corners.
You’re not going to be substituting all of your protein with gummy bears, and lounging in the gym while everyone else is sweating their asses off. It’s not a magic muscle bullet that turns you into the Hulk by exposing you to muscle rays or anything like that.
The only shortcut in the Shortcut to Shred is the amount of time the program lasts. Over the course of six weeks, you’re going to be in the gym almost every day of the week, tracking, adjusting, and exceeding your goals. The time in between sets becomes cardio, and your “off days” are just days when you’re lifting slightly less weight.
If you’re looking to get shredded quickly and you’re willing to work hard for it keep reading. We’re going to dive deep into the mechanics of this program, and we’re going to see how other folks have fared while giving this a try.
The Shortcut to Shred program is an intermediate to advanced 6-week weight loss and track for building muscle designed by Jim Stoppani focused on burning body fat by keeping your heart rate up with “cardio accelerations” in between weightlifting sets. It’s a 6-day split training program that aims to harness the process of hypertrophy through undulating linear and reverse periodization in a series of microcycles.
Got all that?
That’s a lot of information to jam into your head all at once, and If that sounds clear as mud, don’t you fret, we’ll break it all down for you.
It’s a What Now?
This is a 6-week 6-day program. You’ll be in the gym targeting different muscle groups each day. This approach allows you to rest the muscle group you worked on last while you wear down the next one. 6 days a week is a lot of time to spend in the gym, and that’s part of why this program is recommended for intermediate to advanced gym-goers. You only get one true rest day, then it’s back to pounding the weights.
You need to be tracking the amount of weight you can handle, which day it is, and which week you’re on. There are several changes to every aspect of your workout throughout the week, and each week is essentially different from the next. It’s easy to slip up and work in too many or too few sets of too much or too little weight.
If you’re thinking this just sounds a little bit like CrossFit, stop right there. There are a couple of crucial distinctions. This program is based on loads of science. Jim Stoppani isn’t just throwing out an idea that sounds good on paper like “muscle confusion.”
This is more about giving each area the proper amount of attention to ensure you’re working your full body. You don’t want to dwell on a single muscle group for too long and run the risk of overworking it early on and plateauing immediately.
Undulating Periodization is one of those phrases that sound like complete nonsense without context. All it means, in this case, is constantly increasing, decreasing, and returning to previous rates of intensity throughout your 6 weeks.
This undulating periodization is why it’s so important to track everything. For example, one week of your weightlifting you’ll be aiming for rep ranges of 9-12 for 3 days and then jumping to reps of 12-15 for the last 3 days, then two weeks later you’ll be down to 2-5 rep sets. It’s confusing stuff, and you’ll need to remember how much weight you’re capable of lifting for how long and constantly adjusting what you’re doing in the gym.
This is all in the name of focusing on endurance and power in order to draw the most power possible out of your muscles. You can’t lift weights without the muscle mass and raw power it takes to get them off the ground, but if you can only lift those weights once, you’re not going to make a lot of progress in the long run.
Any holistic approach to fitness is going to include cardio exercises in some form or another. Your cardiovascular health is always going to affect your overall health. You need blood and oxygen to survive, and distributing that efficiently and effectively is always a net positive.
The “cardio accelerations” Jim Stoppani’s Shortcut to Shred are small ways to maximize your time in the gym. In between your weightlifting sets, folks tend to rest before starting that next one. This allows for a drop in heart rate, and this program looks at that time as wasted potential. Instead of sitting still between sets, you’re going to keep your activity up by doing 30 to 60 seconds of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) like hand-release push-ups or Russian twists.
The idea is to savor every minute you spend in the gym. This is where the fat loss happens. By keeping your body moving at all times, you’re constantly burning as much energy as possible.
Your fat cells are basically like an energy savings account you carry around with you at all times. When you eat, your body breaks all of your food down into energy (glycogen) and distributes it according to your needs, and any excess glycogen is converted into fatty acids and bound to triglycerides for later use. Your body is frugal, though, and will only break open the piggy bank if it really needs to. The constant movement creates a constant energy demand, and fat cells start readily spilling their precious contents to keep your body going throughout these intense sessions.
So you know how and why you’re burning through a decent amount of fat with this program, but where does the muscle growth come from? The answer, in a word, is hypertrophy.
Hypertrophy is the process your body induces to literally build more muscle. When you overload your body by lifting heavy weights, you’re literally pushing beyond your limits. Your muscle cells tear a tiny bit. These tiny tears are referred to as “microtrauma” and it’s something your body is compelled to repair. It doesn’t just settle for “good enough,” though. The repairs restore your muscles to a bigger and badder state. Their capacity for storing energy increases, in order to make access to glycogen easier for your muscles, and the individual fibers of your muscles gain mass in the form of repurposed protein.
The leading science says that hypertrophy is induced through a combination of increasing the loads you’re lifting, the number of reps that you’re doing, and engaging in anaerobic exercise. These are all checkboxes this workout routine ticks off.
This is why the undulating periodization is such a key factor in muscle growth. You’re alternating between overloading your muscles and focusing on building your endurance. Both of these processes demand growth from your muscles, and they’re taxing on your energy stores. Bigger muscles and less fat result in a cut look, and increased performance.
Your diet is just as important as the work you do inside the gym. If you’re loading up on excess carbs and fats that your body doesn’t end up using, then you’re fighting an uphill battle. You’ll never burn off any fat if your diet is all wrong. Fat burn is all dependant on you burning through the energy in your body that’s already available.
This is something that Jim Stoppani works into your plan. The same way that your routine varies from week to week, your diet on the 6-week Shortcut to Shred also shifts constantly. The diet is simple, you don’t have to completely uproot your life to eat new foods you’ve never heard of, and you’re not going to be digging through every single calorie with a fine-tooth comb.
The nutrition plan is simple. Basically, you just need to calculate a ratio of macros per pound of body weight you should be ingesting, and then you can slide that number around as you lose weight and progress through the workout plan.
Jim Stoppani is one of the most well educated and accomplished bodybuilders of our time.
He’s earned a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and minored in biochemistry at the Univerity of Connecticut. Do hasn’t only done the book work that it takes to become a professional in the world of nutrition, he’s done the leg work.
He’s been a physiologist, a personal trainer, and a bodybuilder himself. He’s been a fitness consultant for people you’ve never heard of, and celebrities that are famous for their physiques, like The Rock.
He’s lifted the same weights you have, and recorded the same data week in and week out, except he went a step further. He took that a step further and spent his same outside of school doing postdoctoral research at the Yale University School of Medicine. That research opened up all sorts of avenues of knowledge when it comes to the effects of exercise and diet on the human body at a cellular level in your muscles and the genes found within them.
That experience and knowledge were written into several books, like the Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength, and pioneering his famous and effective workout plans, The Shortcut to Shred and The Shortcut to Size.
Needless to say, he knows what he’s talking about.
Recovery periods are where a lot of the magic happens. You’ll notice that this program involves working out 6-days a week. The ability to work in recovery still exists, however. Remember that you’re not working out the same muscle groups every day.
This leaves you plenty of room to stretch and rest the muscle group you hit on the previous day, as well as allow your body some time to rebuild the damaged tissue from your workout. You’re also not overloading your muscles every week, so even though you’re working out every day, you’re juggling your routine in a fashion that will allow yourself time to recover before attempting your heavy, difficult lifts again.
This is all well and good, but remember to take your seventh day seriously. Treat yourself, when it’s time for some downtime. Rest periods prepare you for the intense week ahead, so take care of everything you can on that seventh day.
Try to pick a day that you’re not working, as well, and make it a time that you’re setting yourself up for the meal plan so you can have an easier time sticking to the diet the Shred Program lays out for you. Take a warm bath to get the blood flowing in your tired muscles, and set aside some time to foam roll your battered legs.
Any time you can pour into recovery is time you’ll be better equipped to make it through this high-intensity program.
The thing about any fitness program is that everybody’s body will respond differently. There are all sorts of variables you may not have been as prepared as you thought you were for the intensity or any of a million other things. So, keeping that in mind, let’s look at other folks and their experience with this.
This Reddit thread is a great example of why it’s so important to fully consider every aspect of a workout plan. The name of this program is flashy, right? But that makes it easy to underestimate the amount of work that has to go into it for this work out well for you. The Diet is tricky, you’re going to have to follow it closely week after week, you can’t just skate by all six weeks with the framework of the first seven days.
2. They Did it at Do What You Can’t
Ben Crane at Do What you Can’t gave this plan a shot. He tapped out before the end of the six weeks, but he saw what he felt like were incredible results. He went into this workout plan as a pretty well-seasoned lifter in pretty decent shape, he didn’t have a lot of body fat going into the Shortcut to Shred and managed to drop a lot of fat.
He admits that an area he struggled a touch was the diet. There are pre-workout and post-workout intakes that he added to rest days, which technically threw the cumulative amount of food and supplement he out of wack. He also notes that the workout becomes quite a bit more difficult to polish off towards the end of the program when you’re cutting down on carbohydrates quite a bit. The energy demands of your body are so great by then.
This can be a positive and negative aspect of this routine if you’re looking to lose weight. On one hand, if you’re trying to get some pesky fats out of your system, then running at this sort of deficit is the best way to do it, but if you cut down too much, it becomes unpleasant, and the changes too marginal to justify the effort.
Yassel at Yass4 fitness seems neutral to negative on the Shortcut to Shred. He ended up losing muscle by the end of his six weeks. He kept close to the diet and finished out all six weeks.
He doesn’t go too far into detail here, but it’s reasonable to assume from his progress pictures that he was already a pretty big lifter when he started this program. This program doesn’t provide the kind of linear progression you’d need to keep up and build upon a bodybuilding routine that focuses more on size than definition.
This review on Vekhayn gets elbow deep in every single aspect of the plana, but the diet especially. They break down all of the supplements you’re going to need to dip into as your diet becomes more strict and your body’s demands for nutrients become more niche.
Generally, all of the supplements Jim calls for are a godsend once you’re in the thick of things. Creatine and whey protein (chock full of BCAAs) have been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to help build muscle, which is one of the primary goals here, obviously. The need for green tea extract is a welcome opportunity to relax with a hot cup of the stuff on a rest day. Fish oil, CLA, and L-carnitine are all great for burning fat or general wellness.
Overall, they come away pretty positive on this plan on both the physical and nutritional sides.
The Shortcut to Shred demands a lot from you. This plan is asking you to get up and out to the gym nearly every single day of the week. It’s hard, and you need to be able to lift a ton of weight and keep yourself moving basically every single moment you’re in there for 30 minutes to an hour. You’ve got to carefully plan your meals, and cherish your rest day, but it’s hard to say it’s not worth all of that effort.
If you think this is a manageable workload and you’re ready to dedicate the time, then get in there, light a fire to that fat, and let’s see how shredded you can get.