Instagram, Facebook, magazines, the internet, they’ve all massively contributed to society’s changed perspectives on what the norm is. Men and woman across the globe are being given the impression that huge biceps, shredded abs and large tree trunk legs are the only way to earn credibility. First of all, this is a completely fake narrative which only represents the minority, which have been made to look like the majority.
You go back 15-20 years and people’s expectations on what was considered a ‘dream body’ was drastically different to what people nowadays would also consider that same ‘dream body’. Back then a simple bit of chest muscle, slightly larger than average arms and a hint of ab definition was enough to get heads turned. In the modern era, it goes much deeper than that.
Everywhere you go you’re surrounded by images of people who look like they’ve just been carved out of stone to immaculate conditions by the Romans.
I’m not saying that the perception has been changed for better or worse… just that it definitely has changed. Arguably it’s become a lot harder to fit into that ‘norm’ which is portrayed in the public eye, but nonetheless this could be something that we just simply perceive in our heads. Who’s anyone to tell us what we should look like and how we should behave.
Ultimately, it comes down to what you desire. What you want. What makes you happy. If you’ve come here looking to learn how to achieve the ‘ultimate’ body, then sure, you will learn that. But before we go any further, I want to clarify that I hope you’ve come here to learn it simply because it’s what you want, not because of what someone else wants for you. Definitely don’t come here because you think you have to look a certain way to fit into some invisible standards set by unrealistic norms and fake standards.
The title; how to achieve the ultimate dream body is also completely subjective. There is no one-set standard or one size fits all. Nonetheless, what you’ll learn from reading this can be taken as far as you want to go. It can be repeated year after year.
Now that we cleared that up, let’s begin.
The Law Of Diminishing Returns
One of the things I love about writing blogs is how brutally honest I get to be. After all, you came here by your own accord so I don’t have any duty to people please. Just straight up facts and my own opinions.
That’s why I’m going to be honest from the start. It’s super difficult to achieve your perception of the ultimate dream body because there normally isn’t a finishing line. It’s like when you get a job or pursue a career. You’re not going to suddenly stop asking for raises or more money, you’ll keep going, keep climbing the ladder for more promotions, more money and perhaps a more lavish lifestyle. The same principle applies with your body. You want more. It’s a continuous improvement. You can’t help it, once you’re hooked, you’re hooked. It becomes like a drug, but a good one.
To make things even harder for you, there’s this inconvenient little thing called The Law of Diminishing Returns. It basically means the bigger, stronger, more athletic you get, the harder it is to make any progress. The time and energy you put in, doesn’t reflect the output in which you expect. It basically works in the complete opposite way to anything else in life.
Let’s take football (soccer) as an example. The more you play, the more skills you learn, the more you refine your motor skills and the better you become. If you played it for a whole year, 6 days a week, you would become pretty good at it by the end of the first year, certainly good enough to join your local team. The year after you would be even better and the year after that you may look at joining at club at a more serious level.
With working out, the more you play, the harder it is to become better. During the first year you will see some pretty impressive gains because your body is adapting to the new stress and environment it’s being introduced to. During the second year, progress will already begin to dramatically slow down because by now, your body will be used to these new conditions and it’s had no choice but to adapt. By the third year, you’ll be getting minimal return on your investment. Essentially, you have to put in more effort to get less on your return.
Don’t get me wrong, by the end of the third year, providing you were consistent for those three years and your diet was on point, you would be looking pretty good, but the rate at which you would be improving for the effort you have to put in wouldn’t show a positive correlation.
So, in a nutshell, the more you train your body, the harder it is to get results. This isn’t an attempt to put you off, it’s just the way it is. You have to know what you’re signing up for before you start.
Having the Correct Mindset
Okay. Mindset is everything. Besides from the physical aspect of actually doing it, you need to ensure you have the correct mindset.
I always say the best tool you will ever have at your disposal is your mindset.
You’ll need to have dedication, consistency and belief to achieve this. You’ll need a burning desire to ensure you never quit. You’ll need patience – it’s going to be a long journey. You’ll need a lot of things to make sure the outcome is a successful one and luckily, that’s something you control. That means it’s up to you whether you want to do it or not. It’s actually very attainable if you have the right mindset.
However, having the right mindset does not mean perfection. Actually, trying to attain perfection will honestly be more damaging to you than good. Why? Because you’re not a robot and it’s almost impossible to be perfect and completely unnecessary. Consistency yes. Perfection no.
It’s much better to be consistent 80% all of the time than 100% perfect some of the time. So that’s the mindset you need to have to get the end result.
70% Diet, 30% Exercise
Maybe you’ve heard this one before. Nutrition is the key! Some people say 80% diet, 20% training, others say 75/25, let’s just play it safe and say it’s 70% diet and 30% training. Now, that doesn’t mean to say you should prioritise one over the other as such, both need to work in conjunction with each other to get the best results. If you want to look at a certain way, you have to behave in a certain way.
But nutrition is the key. Nutrition is the driving force behind how you look. What I mean by this is you can go to the gym and train, but if your diet is crap, you’ll still look like crap. Essentially you are what you eat. You can have a 50%-effort gym session, do some average exercises and if your nutrition is spot on, i.e. you’re hitting your macros then you’ll still get great results. Obviously, if we’re putting 100% effort into both our training and nutrition our results are going to be even better.
On the other hand, if you put 100% effort into your training and only 20% into your diet, you won’t get any results, or the results you do get definitely won’t reflect the hard work you put in the gym and will basically be a waste of time. I’ve learnt this the hard way so please take on board the importance of this. Don’t make the same mistakes I made, and don’t think you’re any different to me and will get a better outcome by still applying the same bad nutrition principles. That’s technically the definition of insane. Eat badly and you will get bad results.
It’s pretty simple, diet is the key. Not sure if I’ve made that clear or not yet. Focus on getting your diet right and the rest will follow. Too may people think it’s all about the weights you lift and what exercises you do. This is still important, but without the correct nutrition, it’s useless.
Phase 1 - Get Lean to Around 10% Body Fat
I know what you’re thinking. You want to look great, have nice defined muscles and shiny abs. The first thing on your mind might be to hit the weights, eat whey protein out the tub and eat 7 meals a day. That’s what all these jacked guys and fitness influencers are doing on Instagram so it must be the same for you. Well for one, these people might be in the seventh year of training or might have a little bit of help from drugs.
The first thing you need to do is to get your body fat % to around 10%. To do this you will need to complete a cutting phase which requires you to be in a calorie deficit for a sustained period of time. The more body fat you have to begin within the longer time you will need to remain in this phase. Sorry folks.
To be in a calorie deficit means to eat less calories than you burn per day. I would begin by working out what’s known as your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) which will tell you your maintenance calories – that would be the number of calories you could eat throughout the day and neither gain or lose any weight.
Once you’ve done that, aim to eat 500 calories less than this number. This will put you in a calorie deficit. As each week goes by and you start to lose weight, your TDEE will change and get lower along with this. That means as time goes by, you’ll need to reduce your total daily calorie intake to correlate with the change in your TDEE.
You can either go it alone or sign up to an expert weight loss coaching program like the one we have here at Believe in Lean, or someone else of your choice. Nothing wrong with going it alone, but you’ll definitely need to have a gorilla mindset and champion persona.
Not only do you want to get your body fat % down, it’s also paramount you maintain as much muscle as physically possible during this phase. The idea is to be as heavy as possible with as minimal fat as possible. Inevitably, when you’re in a calorie deficit for a long period of time it’s likely you’ll lose some muscle. Therefore, during the cutting phase it’s still essential you go the gym and concentrate of lifting heavy weights for optimal results. A good rep range is around 5-6 reps for each set. This will begin to lay a foundation for phase two.
To facilitate your training, you should consume 1g of protein per lbs of body mass. Not only will this maintain muscle mass, it will also accelerate your fat loss progress.
You can still lose weight without going to the gym but it won’t recomposition your body and your muscles won’t grow without proper stimulation and the foundational work being laid. If you’re looking for that beach body look, then it’s going to require you implementing a training program too.
The main two goals of the cutting phase are:
Get your body fat % down to 10%
Maintain as much muscle as possible during this phase
The ways to ensure you reach the desired outcomes during the cutting phase (at a high level is):
Be in a calorie deficit for a sustained period of time
Consume enough protein – 1g of protein per lbs of body weight
Be consistent, trust the process and be patient.
Depending on how much body fat you have to begin with will depend on how long you need to cut for. A good benchmark to aim for is no less than 12 weeks.
If you struggle to lose weight or want rapid fat loss results then I recommend the Keto diet. I’ve written many other articles on the Keto diet which you can check out in my blog area for more information. You don’t have to do the Keto diet but it’s an extremely useful and efficient way to lose fat.
We also offer a completely free eBook which reveals one of the most effective ways to turn yourself into a fat burning machine. You can download it for free here.
By getting your body fat % down to 10% will give you a longer period of time in which you can bulk so you can pack on muscle ready for the next cutting phase. It also gives you a little bit more room to manoeuvre in case you make any mistakes, which you probably will along the way.
A good mindset to have here is you either succeed or you learn, but you never fail.
Phase 2 – Lean Bulk
So, you’ve just completed your cutting phase and managed to get to somewhere around 10% body fat. It wasn’t easy but look at you now, you’re starting to see some good definition around the abs and the arms. Hopefully by now you’re starting to feel great about yourself and ready to up the calories! This is what I call the fun bit.
Does that mean you eat everything in sight, eat seven meals per day, sleep with a tub of protein by your pillow and train 6x per week for 2 hours at a time… yeah woo bro science (aggressive roar). No definitely not, unless you want to regain all that fat you just spent months losing in a very short period of time. You’ll only end up back where started, albeit with a bit more muscle mass. That also means you’ll spend a much longer period of time trying remove that fat again. This is also known as a ‘dirty bulk’.
There’re two types of bulk. The lean bulk and the dirty bulk. A bulk in general is where you eat in a calorie surplus whilst lifting weights and applying progressive overload for a sustained period of time. Progressive overload is basically where you try to make it harder for yourself each time by adding more weight, decreasing rest time, increasing intensity, more reps, sets etc. Don’t do all those things at once, just choose one. You must also make sure you’re eating a sufficient amount of protein, roughly 1g of protein per lbs of body weight, just like you did in the cutting phase. For example, if are a 185lbs male you’ll need to eat roughly 185g of protein per day.
A lean bulk is where you eat slightly above your maintenance calories, roughly 200-300 calories more. You’ll still be in a surplus, but only just. By eating only slightly above your maintenance calories you limit the ratio of fat to muscle you add on. This means you can stay looking fairly lean all year round whilst packing on lean muscle. This approach gets a green tick.
It takes a slightly more calculated approach and it might mean you need to bulk for a slightly longer time, but this also means it gives you a longer time-frame to add muscle. If done correctly, you could bulk for 9-12 months with minimal fat gains. With bulking, because you are in a calorie surplus for a sustained period of time, inevitably you will add some fat, but this is okay and to be expected.
A lean bulk is far superior to a dirty bulk which I’ll explain from my own personal experience. When I was about 22-24 years-old this was my approach. My game plan was just calories calories calories. As long as I’m working out, I can eat anything in sight and it’ll just go towards making my muscles look swole, or at least that’s what I thought. All I cared about was seeing the number on the scale go up. More weight means more muscle, right? Nope. It doesn’t. More weight means more weight, including fat. If you’re in too much of a calorie surplus, those other excess calories are just going to be stored as fat because there is no use for them.
Your body can only do so much with the calories you provide it unless you’re on steroids… which obviously we’re not going to do. For example, if you give a builder the task to build a house, there’s only so much work he or she can do in a day. There’s a limited number of hours in the day they can work and only so much they can accomplish in that time period. So, if we gave them more tools and materials to complete the job would this mean they could do any more in the same time period? No, it wouldn’t. There would still be a limit to how much he or she can physically achieve in the same time period. Giving them more tools and materials isn’t going to change anything. The same works with your body. If you give it way more calories than it needs to do its job, it’s not going to have any use for those extra calories. That’s when it will store it as fat which is no benefit for us.
There I am as a 22 year-old, eating everything in sight and getting more fat than I am muscular. Working hard in the gym but just looking bulky, soft and round. Do you know how frustrating that is? Sure, I’m also building muscle at the same time, but it’s not visible because it’s being masked by too much fat. When that happens, it feels like you’re not making any progress and it’s really demotivating. It also means you can’t bulk for a long period because you end up getting too fat, too fast, which at the same time limits the amount of muscle you can add. After I educated myself and failed over and over again, I adopted the lean bulk approach and my life changed. I was looking in good shape all year round, much more motivated and adding on lean muscle with minimal fat.
Something to note here is that over time, as you become heavier and more muscular, you maintenance calories will also become higher. It’s the opposite effect of what happens during the cutting phase – instead of your TDEE lowering, it’s getting higher because it needs more calroeis to sustain its current weight. Therefore, you’ll have to up your calories in correspondence to this change. I would suggest re-calculating your TDEE each month to see how your maintenance calories have adjusted. People who eat 5000 calories per day and still look lean have been incrementally increasing their calories in correspondence to their TDEE for a number of years. If you start eating 5000 calories per day you will get very fat, very quicky.
In a nutshell, to be successful with your bulk you should accomplish the following:
Eat in a slight calorie surplus – roughly 200-300 above calorie maintenance each day, for a sustained period of time.
Consume 1g of protein per lbs of body mass.
Remain in a bulking phase for a minimum of 6 months
Lift weights and apply progressive overload – make it harder for yourself each time you step in the gym.
Repeat The Cycle
Okay, so when should we finish the bulking stage? A good place to stop is when you reach around 15% body fat. Now this is up to you of course, just remember the higher your body fat % is, the longer time you will have to spend getting it back down. Having said that, I would not recommend going any higher than 18% body fat as the max. If you reach 18% body fat after your initial cut you’ve either spent too much time bulking or been eating in too much of a calorie surplus.
When you finally hit 15% body fat, you’ll need to repeat the cutting phase where you decrease your calories back down to the previously mentioned 500 calorie deficit below maintenance. Essentially you just repeat this cycle; bulk, cut, bulk, cut, until you’re happy with your new body composition.
It’s quite simple but it takes a lot of time, dedication, consistency and belief. Within 3 years of repeating this and following what I told you, you’ll have a pretty awesome body, probably the one of your dreams. Over time your body will change to look something like this.
There is some science to claim that you can hit your maximum genetic muscular potential, which means there will be a limit to how much muscle you can have for a minimal amount of fat. Everyone is different and of course, there will be people with better genes than others. There are some different calculations which provide different results and it takes a lot of effort to hit that max, so don’t be thinking this will happen anytime soon if you’re just starting out.
I’m a 6ft 1inch (186cm) male who currently weighs 86kg at the time of writing this with sitting at around 12% body fat. My maximum genetic muscular potential is 86kg at 5% body fat. That means I’ve currently got 7.2kg of fat and could lose 4.3kg and replace it with lean muscle.
These are just estimates which are impossible to be completely accurate. I’m just telling you this so you’re aware and don’t set yourself unrealistic expectations from the get-go, or strive to look like the people you see on Instagram who are on steroids and think to yourself; ‘why can’t I get that big?’.
I’m not going to go into too much more detail on this topic, but if you want to know more about your genetic max check out this article -> https://rippedbody.com/maximum-muscular-potential/
We’ve covered a few key areas along the way to achieving your ultimate dream body. First of all, everyone will have a different perception of what is the ‘dream body’. No one should feel pressured to look a certain way and the first thing you should do is to learn to love your body the way it is now. Don’t change for anyone other than yourself and because you want to.
Secondly, manage your expectations and understand that it’s going to require a lot of hard graft. With the right mindset this is easily achieved but it’ll take a lot of willpower to get to this stage. Essentially the more effort you put in, the less you get out of it. Think back to The Law of Diminishing Returns.
Remember that diet is the key. You are what you eat and all your results will be centred around how good your diet is. Train hard, eat well and you’ll get amazing results. Train average, eat well, you’ll still get some good results. Train hard, eat badly and results will be hard to come by. Train badly, eat badly… well, need I say it?
Thirdly, before you jump into the dumbbell room like a madman, start throwing weights all over the place and sleeping with a tub of whey protein beside your bed, you need to get your body fat % down first. Lay the foundations, the brickwork for the project. You don’t start putting the walls up, plumbing in the pipes and running the cables through for the electricity without the foundational work set first. Start your cutting phase, stay in a calorie deficit, lift heavy weights, consume enough protein and see it through to the end. 10% body fat is where you want to be by the end of it.
Now it’s time to pack on muscle. How are we going to do it? Calculated. Take the lean bulk approach. It’s a much more sustainable approach which will keep you looking fly all year round. Consume enough protein, apply progressive overload and only eat in a slight calorie surplus. Stop when you get somewhere around 15% body fat.
Continue this cycle over and over again. Over time your body will change and adapt, continuing to get bigger and stronger the longer you do it. The key is to maintain as much muscle as possible during the cutting phase, so that when it’s time to bulk you can pick up from where you left and add as much lean muscle as possible before hitting 15% body fat again. Repeat this until you hit your genetic maximum muscular potential, or until you feel you have reached your desired body of your dreams.
This ladies and gentlemen is how you achieve ‘the ultimate dream body.’