Ray’s Cutting Diary – Week 1

Dumbbell rack

After completing an intense and educational bulking programme, it’s time for a change of pace. I’ve spent the last month or so ticking over with a series of PPL sessions – often enjoying the camaraderie and competition of my mate Dom. But now it’s time to get serious again. For the next eight weeks I’ll be working my way through a cutting programme designed for me by Sean Lerwill. As before I’ll be reporting on my activities and progress, with Sean offering words of advice and wisdom along the way. Hopefully his input will be as helpful to you as it will no doubt be for me. Let’s get to it!

Day 1 – Chest/Front Delts/Triceps


Dumbbell bench press (6-10 reps) into press-ups (to failure)
Incline dumbbell press (6-10) into Isometric wipers (to failure)

Both of these supersets took pretty much the same path. Tough bench presses that saw me hit the lower end of the rep range before jumping into reasonable press-ups/wipers. My rep returns diminished, but both supersets felt good. I expected I’d do a little better with the main lifts, but perhaps the lack of breakfast means I’m packing less punch and power?

Most nutritionists would argue that the muscles will have enough glycogen in them despite the lack of a solid breakfast to complete the training. I would suggest a little mental doubt with a feeling of being ill prepared. I would also suggest that this type of supersetting is new to the muscles at the moment, but as always, the body soon adapts and you’ll start finding them easier again. At the moment you may take some time and feel less responsive/fatigue earlier; this is more result of a new regime, overall fewer Calories, than simply less to eat prior to training in the morning.

Standing Military Press (6-10) into Front plate raises (to failure)

Again, low-end of the rep range for the presses, and then into slightly disappointing plate raises. My shoulders were already feeling it after the first two supersets so it makes sense that this wouldn’t be the best.

Incline press to wipers will hit the shoulders and I’d imagine as the chest and tris fatigued from the bench to press-ups that the shoulders also did some work. Therefore not surprising that this was tough. Tough = intense, intense = fat burning.

Dips (to failure) into Car drivers (to failure)

Not that many reps for this either, but with the slow tempo of the dips I think it was a reasonable effort. Never done car drivers before, but they were simple enough. I’d like to do better next time. As always!

Good effort on the dips, especially with the tempo and the preceding supersets. I usually air on the side of caution weight wise with car driver. It gets tough quick, so you can always add each week.

Triceps pushdown (12-15) into Close arm diamond press-ups (to failure)

This was a tough one. In the final two sets I had to rest pause my way through the pushdowns, and I didn’t manage to get too many press-ups out before my arms went. This is my first time doing the diamond variation, and I like it. It’s tough, as it should be.

Maybe too heavy on the pushdowns considering everything else? Having said that, I like that you aren’t taking it easy on yourself. That’s a good sign. The diamond press-ups are killer on the tris, especially after the preceding tri exercises, so good effort for the first time through.

Overall a steady start to the new programme.

Day 2 – Rest


I’m trying to get to grips with my new macros. Much more restrictive than I’m used to, so I’ve taken to planning out my food in a spreadsheet. That might seem like overkill to some, but I want to make this cutting programme as effective as possible, so I’m happy to do it. The goal is to afford myself flexibility for the evening meal whilst remaining as consistent as possible elsewhere. The complexion of the day is different depending on whether or not I’ve trained. If I go to the gym then I’m loading in a high proportion of carbs in the post-workout shake. If I don’t go to the gym then I’m sharing the carbs out much more equally.

As you’ve said Ray, for some this is overkill, for others it’s necessary. It’s worth saying here, that I don’t offer every person coming to me for advice the same advice. I know you, and know you don’t do anything half heartedly. You also like to be educated rather than told, to understand what’s happening. You’ve also been through a different three month programme with me, so have some experience. If you were a complete beginner doing a cutting programme, I wouldn’t do it this way. I would possibly make it more the way Damian (Muscle Maven) did it with me. No specific Calories, no macros, just simple, straightforward food ideas and do’s and don’t. For many, this is complex enough; others prefer something more hardcore like you. Both get results. This is arguably more scientific!

Day 3 – Back/Rear Delts/Biceps


Lat pulldown (shoulder width grip) (6-10) into Wide-grip lat pulldown (to failure)

Not a bad start, this. I shuffled the weight around between the first few sets just to hit the mark better, but this was good. I didn’t manage many wide-grip pulldowns each time, though. Only a small handful.

As expected! Wide grip when already pre-fatigued finishes a lot of people!

Seated cable row (6-10) into Standing bent over reverse flyes (to failure)

The cable row at my new gym has yet to become my friend. Still, I managed the low-end of the rep range before some reverse flyes. I couldn’t find this specific reverse flyes exercise in my BodySpace app, so I had to improvise and used a close alternative. It wasn’t the best, in truth.

For the bent over reverse flyes, pull the shoulder blades down and back and think about the muscles at the back of your shoulder (rear delts). Keep the little finger higher than the rest of the hand as the arms come up to parallel with the floor and squeeze the rear delt at the top. You may need a light weight to do it properly.

Bent over row (6-10) into Face pull (to failure)

No Olympic bars available, so I grabbed an EZ bar for 40kg total weight, and hit the top end of the range. I fell just short of the final 10th rep each time, with the slow tempo taking its toll. The face pulls were good in between; I had to position myself at a certain angle to stop the weight pulling me over, and once I had that down I got some reasonable squeezes in, if not that many reps.

Good effort on both. Glad the facepull was heavy. A lot of people get this exercise wrong by going far too light. Sounds like you got both bang on.

Chin-ups (to failure) into barbell curl (to failure)

Over the past few weeks I’ve made this combo a staple of my on-the-fly PPL workouts. Today I didn’t manage quite as many as I have done before, but I put that down to the tempo. Certainly for the chin-ups. I’d say today I was only taking an extra second or so to lower myself on the chin-ups, but it accumulates and makes all the difference. I was disappointed with the lack of reps in between with my 20kg barbell. Overall I wasn’t totally happy with my output, so I tagged on an extra set of both for good measure.

Good effort on tagging extra to make it work. Your work ethic and will to win is brilliant now. If you feel the slow tempo chins makes the barbell curls too hard, grab a 15kg as well as 20kg bar and drop set it: complete the chins, use the 20kg bar to failure then the 15kg for the last few reps.

Renegade row (8-12) into Cable curls (to failure)

Ah, the old renegades. I hit the low-end of the range with some 8kg dumbbells, which on paper reads quite modest. The cable curls in between were pretty disappointing; my arms just seemed to have gone. I thought back to the GVT portion of my bulking programme where I was tackling incline dumbbell curls and really surprising myself. Now I’m paranoid – maybe back then I was doing it all wrong!? Today my biceps felt weak, so surely any past glories should be stricken from the record!? Nahhhhh. Probably not. Unlikely… but…. no, no. No.

You have to think of the fatigue from preceding exercises! Chin-ups and barbell curls will have fried the biceps at the tempo you are doing. Renegades do hit the biceps (though 8kg does seem pretty low in terms of weight, I’m surprised you can balance!), all meaning the biceps will be in bits. I’m not surprised the cables were tough. Again, don’t be afraid to drop set it: use the weight selected to failure then drop by 20% and go again.

Not the best session in the world, but I thought I did okay. Next week I’ll aim to do better though, of course.

It’s actually doing what I wanted: getting you to fail! Intensity up. Body fat being cut.

Day 4 – Rest


I bought some more dextrose, as you do. It’s a staple supplement to help pack in some fast acting carbs post-workout.

I use it. Blend it with a banana, whey, spinach and creatine for post-workout shake in a nutriblend.

Day 5 – Legs / Abs


Had a stiff neck the past day or so, so this session was in doubt. But I took some ibuprofen the night before and woke up ready to go.

Don’t overdo ibuprofen; it has been shown to have negative effects on muscle synthesis. Also, if injured/niggling, it’s not worth it. You can make it a full-blown injury and just mask it with painkillers/anti-inflams. Good effort on cracking on, though. Bit of Commando spirit there, eh?!

Squats (6-10) into Barbell jump squats (to failure)

Straight onto the squat rack and going slightly conservative with the weight for the main squats. I hit the top end of the range each time, although it was tough. The jump squats in between were reasonable, but not the best as I was finding my feet with the exercise. It’s a good combo, though, and really fired up my quads.

It is a bit of a weird one – the jump squats are strange at first, but the pump and lactic build up should be productive once you get going.

Deadlifts (6-10)

Four good sets of these. Not the most weight, but then it’s been a long time since I’ve done deadlifts as the second exercise, let alone after squats. My form was actually a little sloppy across the final reps of the last two sets, but the intensity remained high. I felt slightly light-headed at the end, but that feeling subsided pretty quickly. No whiteouts today, thank you very much.

Great effort. Not an exercise to superset for many unless very conditioned and very good at the exercise, hence the way it’s designed in this programme. Seemed to work though. If you do get light-headed, especially training AM without a full breakfast, have a banana or something in your bag for “just in case”.

Glute bridges (6-10) into TRX hamstring curls (to failure)

A slightly awkward superset for two reasons: 1) the relevant kit is on opposite ends of the gym (but the benches are movable, of course), and 2) my Bodyspace app doesn’t have hamstring curls, so they’ve not been recorded properly. And that’s really annoying. But the exercises themselves went okay. The glute bridges weren’t spectacular, but the hamstring curls in between were pretty good. I probably need to slow the movement down next time, but I enjoyed it.

We can tweak the programme if needs be? Is the TRX any close to the benches for glute bridge?

Bulgarian split squats (12-15) into Bulgarian split squats with no weights (to failure)

This didn’t go too well, in truth. I only managed about half the intended rep range with the weights; perhaps I should have decreased the weight, but it wasn’t exactly heavy anyway. My legs just seemed to feel the burn really quickly. The weightless split squats in between were okay, although in retrospect I think I should have pushed harder. By no means a wasted superset; I was sweating and feeling it, but I didn’t quite hit the intended mark.

Splits are hard. They just are. Weighted into non weighted is a tough set. Especially after everything else and while getting used to a Calorie deficit. I think you’ll ease into them next time. Well done for going heavy and sticking with!

Decline reverse crunch (8-12) into Weighted plank (30secs)
Cable crunches (8-12) into Floor crunches (8-12)

These ab supersets went okay. The reverse crunches were good and made the weighted plank really difficult. And then the cable crunches were decent (save for the first set, where I didn’t go heavy enough), into some good regular crunches on the floor – although I didn’t quite manage to hit the rep range. I fell just short. I tried to throw in a final rest pause of floor crunches at the end, but only managed a few. Spent!

Hahaha! Good effort, failure reached, which is great. Supersetting abs really works with the right exercises, so I’m glad to hear this was the case.

Day 6 – CV


LISS – 15 minute jog

Sean specified a 15-20 minute jog at a reasonable pace. I opted for the lower end with a five minute warm-up walk. My goal was to see if I could go for the full fifteen minutes without succumbing to the temptation to take a rest. And also to see if I could avoid getting a stitch, which I have a tendency to do.

Missions accomplished! I was flagging a little through the final two minutes, but I completed it.

Well done. If you get stitches, let me know. This is a lot to do with breathing out on the right (or left!) foot when running; the diaphragm affecting the liver/stomach. I can explain more and we can fix it if it’s a problem.

HIIT – Tabata sprints

I wasn’t quite sure what speed to go at, so I set the treadmill to 15kph and tried my luck. I wasn’t sure how I’d cope, actually. The jog had left me sweating buckets, and this was my first go at Tabata sprints. Thankfully I did okay. For the final two portions of the Tabata set I increased the speed gradually. Next time I’d be confident enough to go at a faster pace throughout.

So there you have it. A quick, sweaty CV session to finish the first week!

Well done Ray! The first time doing Tabata on a treadmill is a bit nerve racking. 15 was a good start, so try to keep increasing as you did. I’d sat 17/18 would be a good challenge for you. Try to get up to 20 by the end of the programme.

(Note: If you’re looking for a Tabata app then I recommend this one. Simple and effective; all you need.)

Day 7 – Rest!


Time to rest up. My neck feels better, but still slightly stiff.

Ray Wilson - Author

Ray has worked with Sean on a number of projects across film, web, and health and fitness. In 2015 he completed a bulk/cut cycle, blogging about his experiences with weekly input and advice from Sean.