How to get ripped?
December 16, 2008 8:20 AM   Subscribe

What are some basic exercises to get ripped in the style of Fight Club Brad Pitt or Tupac, not the steroid style Arnold/body builder type?

Assume I am an idiot regarding lats, delts, and physiological terminology, because basically I am :) I do curls and flat-on-the-bench butterflys with 30lb dumbbells, and I run every other day. Should I do the rowing machine? The pull down bar lat machine? Stick to all free weights?

I guess if someone could point me to a basic regimen that I could understand, I will be able to stick with it. Thanks!
posted by four panels to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
My husband is this way. Pull ups, push ups, squats, curls with 20 lbs in each hand, and jumping rope. I'm not sure why, exactly, this has resulted in brad pitt and not arnold, except that he's lanky generally and not taking steroids.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:27 AM on December 16, 2008

Drop the curls, don't bother with the lat pulldown. Read Starting Strength. More info at the Starting Strength wiki. A similar program and lots of supplementary info is at Stronglifts. I don't think you could find something much more basic or effective.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:28 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Crossfit with a proper diet will whip your a** into shape.
posted by dubitable at 8:29 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

That kind of ripped is probably 80% genetics. The other 20% are people who work out fanatically and eat a very specific diet. You can get close by working out with lighter weights and more reps and watching what you eat.
posted by sanka at 8:30 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ripped is two things. Low body fat, and largish muscles. And it's a step by step process, for best results you want to a) build muscles, then b) lose fat. Losing fat is a function of diet. Building muscle is going to require excess calories and putting on some fat with it for the most part. But it's fat you can easily shed later, leaving behind muscles of the ripped variety.

Starting Strength is a fine place to slap on a couple dozen pounds of muscle. And it's tuned for beginners, which is good. It's a very detailed program of very simple (but important) movements with the singular goal of making you stronger. With strength, comes muscles. It does however depend on you having access to a gym with a real barbell. Not everyone has this.

If you can do pull ups and push ups looking into some basic ring work can also build some strength, but not I think the way that hoisting iron would.
posted by Shutter at 8:40 AM on December 16, 2008

Sorry, I guess "Crossfit" is not really a direct answer. However, I'll connect my first answer with your question by stating that Crossfit uses a lot of basic exercises to do this, and structures them in such a way that you burn fat intensely (interval training, more or less)--and as it doesn't focus on muscle-mass but fitness, it's probably a good path to what you are looking for.

The exercises include some of the ones dpx.mfx mentioned:

-muscle-ups (I still can't do one!)

...and many more.

If I was going to generalize, I would say that Crossfit uses more general-body exercises rather than the sorts of specific muscle-training exercises (hence no curls, lat pulldowns, etc.), changes them up every day so your body is constantly challenged, and structures them so you are really working your heart. These are often no longer than 20-minute workouts...but man, are they intense. Oh, and then once in a while they'll toss in pure weight-training (Crossfit "total") or cardio ("run 10k") workouts, just for fun (well, no, there's a methodology in mind, but I'm being cute...).

More muscle-specific exercises are what body-builders (Arnold) use to really develop definition and mass in specific muscle groups, whereas Crossfit is more focused on overall conditioning. Any "toning" you get from Crossfit is a byproduct of low bodyfat ratios and solid core strength (so diet is key here too--as it is for bodybuilders). You may build mass using these exercises--depends to a certain extent on body type--but the point is not muscle mass Ahnold-style, but fitness.

And finally, I will add that you're going to want to spend some time thinking about diet too...
posted by dubitable at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

I am going to agree with everyone else here that its going to be a combination of Starting Strength and CrossFit to achieve this goal. I will assume you have a great diet [read: the Zone diet]

If you cant easily do 20 pullups and squat your own body weight you want to be doing starting strength. If you can already surpass these goals you need to move onto CrossFit.

Basically you will find CrossFit incredibly hard if you are not already strong, the workouts are made to scale but you wont enjoy it as much when you can never RX the exercises.

I followed CrossFit for 4 months and got a low BF% the only problem with this was I didn't have enough muscle mass to get the look you mentioned, So I have begun Starting Strength to gain that extra muscle mass then plan on getting "ripped" by using CrossFit.
posted by moochoo at 9:00 AM on December 16, 2008

I am a huge fan of Crossfit, etc., and I do think most people could benefit from the advice others have given, etc. I just wanted to say: a lot of people spend a lot of time and effort (and possibly illegal 'enhancers') to look like Arnold/bodybuilders. This is not something that will accidentally happen if you lift too many weights. Honest.
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:11 AM on December 16, 2008

To be "ripped" you need to be on a serious diet. Your body fat percentage will likely have to be in the 4-7% range. Exercise alone is USELESS as you will simply not get the definition as long as you are carrying too much fat.

The book (or e-book) to read if you need dietary advice is "Burn the fat, feed the muscle" by Tom Venuto.
posted by fire&wings at 9:16 AM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can get close by working out with lighter weights and more reps...

That is an exercise myth. When you lift weights, lift heavy for low reps. No matter your goal, that's what you should do. Different rep ranges will help with different goals but you should never do more than 10-12 reps per set. Really low reps, like 1-5 per set, build strength. Medium reps, like 8-12 per set, increase muscle size. More than 12 is not weightlifting any more; it's just cardio.

Your diet is what determines if you will look like a bodybuilder or Brad Pitt. If you eat at a caloric surplus then you will build muscle and some fat. If you eat at a caloric deficit then you will burn fat and some muscle. Weightlifting maximizes your muscle gain in the former case and minimizes/prevents your muscle loss in the latter.

Bodybuilders get big by eating big, so if you don't eat like a bodybuilder you will not look like one. But your exercise routine does not control how you look. Unless you want to look flabby you need to lift weights. And when you lift, lift heavy for low reps.
posted by Khalad at 9:48 AM on December 16, 2008 [8 favorites]

Just another word of support for fire&wings mention of "Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle..." if you go to his site(s), it seems like a total scam, really bad advertising etc. However, Mr. Venuto has done some solid research and gives good advice on nutritional strategies for losing fat. Note I said losing FAT not losing WEIGHT. Check it out if you are serious about getting "ripped."

But note, also, it's just one way to go about it--while I think it is really solid, and it has worked for me, there are other diets out there that people swear by. YMMV. But DO pay attention to diet, you can't get away with just exercise and expect to have the body type you are after.
posted by dubitable at 10:00 AM on December 16, 2008

It's low bodyfat that gives that lean, defined image. You're looking at a sustained high protein/vegetable calorie controlled diet. Think all chicken breasts , tuna fish and vegetables, all the time.
posted by spatula at 10:18 AM on December 16, 2008

Well, if you believe the infomercials, P90x is a pretty effective workout regimen. YMMV, of course.
posted by karizma at 10:29 AM on December 16, 2008

To be "ripped" you need to be on a serious diet. Your body fat percentage will likely have to be in the 4-7% range.

I think that's a little extreme. Most men will have plenty of muscle definition at 7-10% bodyfat. Check out this page for pictures of different bodyfat percentages.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:41 AM on December 16, 2008

I would search online for a lot of the articles that came out when the movie 300 was released. (I think that's generally what you're looking for, anyways.)
posted by inigo2 at 10:45 AM on December 16, 2008

My buddy is the fittest guy around, and I have been working out with him quite a bit. He has gotten me into phenomenal shape by mixing it up between P90x, CrossFit, and general weightlifting. Even though its on an infomercial, P90x is a SERIOUS workout. It kicks my ass everytime. If you are skinny like me, protein shakes will help you get ripped a lot quicker. And don't stick with the same thing. You will minimize your 'gains'. You have to attack your muscles with different weights, movements, angles, etc. And jumping rope will get rid of any fat real fast.
posted by jasondigitized at 11:20 AM on December 16, 2008

I think that's a little extreme.

Yup, under 10% should do it, unless you're really trying to push it.
posted by ob at 11:31 AM on December 16, 2008

If you believe this article, during Fight Club, Brad Pitt weighted about 155 pounds and had 5-6% body fat. Just for reference.
posted by peep at 11:37 AM on December 16, 2008

PS, I really like that look on guys, and I think of it as more "cut" than ripped.
posted by peep at 11:38 AM on December 16, 2008

I used to train a couple of olympians. Really great genetics; also some body builders.

We're talking 2-3 hours of cardio (usually daily), hard weight training and brutal diets (especially among the weight lifters.) Add diuretics to go from 'ripped' to shredded. And great genetics.

It's brutal, requires loads of free time, and most of us can't get a six pack (just too much body fat.)
posted by filmgeek at 12:27 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Crossfit, or anything that targets the core muscles. I consider myself fairly in-shape and active but until I had a personal trainer setting up a circuit-training workout for me, I didn't even know that exercise could make your underarms ache.

Check out this page for pictures of different bodyfat percentages. 10% is about where "sexy" transitions to "scary," I see.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:39 PM on December 16, 2008

I would search online for a lot of the articles that came out when the movie 300 was released. (I think that's generally what you're looking for, anyways.)
posted by inigo2

Just wanted to say: you can achieve half the results of this film by using a stencil & spray paint on your belly. The men had so much goddamned makeup defining their muscles that it really shouldn't be mentioned here. Yeah, they were all fit, but their muscle lines were heavily airbrushed.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:40 PM on December 16, 2008

You should seriously consider a personal trainer. They cost a lot per hour, but you only need one hour a week of training plus a couple hours on your own. I think it will increase your probability of success. I've had really great results in only 10 weeks.
posted by liron00 at 9:31 PM on December 16, 2008

Shovelglove may be good for you.
posted by Not Supplied at 6:15 AM on December 17, 2008

if you believe that body fat percentages link getting down to 10% will turn you latino
posted by chelegonian at 1:57 PM on December 17, 2008

Kung Fu training and you have to eat right.

A good kung fu class will kick your butt. Even for those who work out on a regular basis. You end up using your whole body. WHOLE body.

The diet is key if you want those fancy muscles you're building to show through. That's the toughest part.
posted by getmetoSF at 2:21 PM on December 17, 2008

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