How Mini-Cuts Unlock Muscle-Building Potential (w/ Tom MacCormick)

Today I’m talking to trainer, writer, and podcast Tom MacCormick. A writer for sites like Breaking Muscle and BarBend — but hey, I’m biased — Tom is a veteran of the strength and conditioning industry. But one thing he’s best known for online is helping people harness the power of mini cuts — targeted, specific periods of concentrated fat loss — that Tom says can actually help long-term muscle-building and strength goals. Tom joins us to explain how mini-cuts can be adapted to almost any training environment, along with tips on how to balance nutritional parameters with in-gym progress.

First, a quick word from today’s sponsor. Organifi is a line of organic superfood blends that offers plant-based nutrition made with high-quality ingredients. Each Organifi blend is science-backed to craft the most effective doses with ingredients that are organic and free of fillers and contain less than 3g of sugar per serving. Take Organifi Red Juice as an example: It’s formulated to recharge your mind and body with a delicious superfood berry blend of premium, organic superfoods that contain potent adaptogens, antioxidants and a clinical dose of cordyceps. It’s designed to promote energy with zero caffeine and only 2 grams of sugar.

Go to and use code BarBend for 20% off your order. 

Tom MacCormick on the BarBend Podcast

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, David Thomas Tao and Tom MacCormick discuss: 

  • Tom’s fitness background and early aspirations to play professional Rugby (2:15)
  • The “addictive” nature of strength training (6:30)
  • What is a “mini cut”? It’s not a “get shredded” diet (9:15)
  • Macronutrient breakdowns on mini cut cycles (14:00)
  • How fast should you lose weight during a mini cut? (18:18)
  • Should you adjust training on a mini cut? What about volume or intensity? (21:00)
  • “Nothing will kill your gains more than a bunch of half-ass sessions” (26:35)
  • Other common mini cut questions (27:00)

Relevant links and further reading


There’s two key elements to a mini cut. It’s short in duration, so two to six weeks is the timeline I work with, and on average, three, maybe four weeks, but it’s a fast rate of fat loss, which you can achieve. It is very much a tool that can be used to facilitate more muscle longer-term.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend” podcast, where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao, and this podcast is presented by


Today I’m talking to trainer, writer, and podcaster, Tom McCormick, a writer for awesome sites like Breaking Muscle and BarBend, but hey, I’m biased.


Tom is a veteran of the strength and conditioning industry. One thing he’s best known for online is helping people harness the power of mini cuts, targeted, specific periods of concentrated fat loss that Tom says can actually help long-term muscle building and strength goals.


Tom joins us to explain how mini cuts can be adapted to almost any training environment, along with tips on how to balance nutritional parameters within gym progress. Before we get to that, a quick shout-out to today’s episode sponsor, Organifi.


Organifi is a line of organic superfood blends that offer plant-based nutrition made with high-quality ingredients. Each blend is science-backed to craft the most effective doses with ingredients that are organic, free of fillers, and contain less than three grams of sugar per serving.


Take Organifi Red Juice as an example. It’s formulated to recharge your mind and body with a delicious berry blend of premium superfoods that contains potent adaptogens, antioxidants, and a clinical dose of cordyceps. It’s designed to promote energy with zero caffeine and only two grams of sugar.


Go to Use the code BarBend for 20 percent off your order. Now, let’s get on with the show.


Tom, I’m so excited to join you on this podcast. I’m so excited you’re joining me on this podcast because I’ve listened to so many podcasts you’ve been on and so much knowledge you’ve shared has impacted me, my strength journey, and in what we do at BarBend and now, BarBend plus Breaking Muscle.


First off, thrilled to have you on today. How you doing?


I’m thrilled to be on, thank you. Thank you very much for having me. I’m doing really, really well. It’s nice and sunny here over in Surrey countryside outside London. What’s not to like?

David TaoDavid Tao

[laughs] My stereotype of the area right outside or right around London is often that it’s not Sunny. Is that an incorrect stereotype?

No, no. That’s exact. That’s why I’m basking in this sunshine because 364 days of the year we got gray drizzle then a bit of sun today. That’s a slight exaggeration but it’s not as much as an exaggeration as I wish it were.

David TaoDavid Tao

I guess all that reading and all those Charles Dickens adaptation movies were not totally far off from today.

They got the weather right.

David TaoDavid Tao

They nailed it. Let’s talk a little bit about your background in strength and conditioning and strength training because I think it’s really fascinating and the thing I really like — this might be a very American perspective.


The best to motivate an American is to tell them they can’t do something. I love how your journey started with someone saying, “Hey, you can’t do something because you’re too small and you’re too.”


I think there’s such an interesting starting point that so many people in this phase have actually experienced and a lot of us don’t talk about it because we don’t want to express that, “Hey, we got started from a point of vulnerability.”

Absolutely. It’s a good point and I’m sure there’s plenty of people different scenarios but have a similar kind of back story as it were. Give you the listeners, an insight that mention of me too skinny, too weak, that was related to my pursuit of a career as a professional rugby player.


From the age of eight, I knew I told everyone I want to be a rugby player when I grow up. When I was eight, it wasn’t even possible to be a professional rugby player. The sport was amateur, I don’t know if you know that, but it was not until the mid to late 90’s that it turned professional.


Anyway, I was passionate about it, I was good but I was also very small. Now, for any listeners not familiar with rugby, most of the guys that succeed, they’re pretty good athletes. Maybe not quite as fit as the average NFL player but not many miles away.


Being a scrawny sort of 18-year-old who’s just come out of school, who’s been a good player and could get by on skill and game knowledge. Something trying to make that step up to the professional level and all I was told was that, “You’re good but you’re way too small. Just get bigger, you’re too small, too small.”


I hated the gym early on. I would enjoy the conditioning side of the training. You get out and run that sort of thing, that was the thing I love. I would avoid the weight room at all costs because it’s not fun going in and your rep max not even a warm-up for these guys, it was embarrassing.


I did lots of, many would get into this, but I self-sabotage, died. I’d have mysterious injuries which meant I had to duck off and see the physio when we were going to be in the weight room, just burying my head in the sand trying to avoid it.


Anyway, long story short, one of the guys took me aside. One of the other players couple of years older than me, he was in great shape but he loved lifting. He knew this is what I needed.


He told me, “You got to go every day for two weeks. It’s not optimal, but you’ll become addicted to the results. It will become part of your life, part of your habit and you’re routine. You’ll start doing it and then in time, you’ll see progress.” He was 100 percent correct. Too late to save me and get me the career I wanted, but I did finally start to see results.


What I loved about the gym is you get back what you put in. I worked hard and I actually did start to see those results. I was bitten by the bug and now, almost 20 years later, I love coaching people and try to help them to pack on muscle, gain strength, and most importantly, get the benefits that will be surprising benefits.


We all know you can change your physique and increase strength levels, but you’re also more confident. You’re more of a growth mindset. You’re prepared to take on challenges. You don’t mind that attempting and failing because you realize it’s a learning experience.


All these sort of things, I was nowhere near that as that shy 18-year-old that started out, told I was too skinny.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s something that you mention and I always have difficulty explaining that training becomes addictive. It’s a good thing to be addicted to. Right now again, everything in moderation, obviously. Just to clarify, everything in moderation, should folks who’ve seen this podcast. I get blamed for a lot in the comments, so sorted.


I will say, something that becomes addictive to me, it is a mental aspect. It is the feeling that you have in your head as compared…That is what keeps me motivated and what gets me training, and what gets me back on the wagon if my routine becomes inconsistent because I crave that more than I crave a feeling of a pump in my biceps or my quads.

Yes, absolutely. I completely agree. I see that maybe I was being a bit sloppy with my language mentioning the word addictive. I’m not actually addicted, but I do enjoy it and it’s part of my identity now. It’s in your beliefs about yourself and then your habits follow from that.


The fact that I identify as someone who gets in the gym and lifts means it happens four, maybe five times a week, almost every week, and I get that enjoyment. As you say, it’s the mental shift as well as the physical shift is one of the key benefits.

David TaoDavid Tao


That’s for sure. This sounds like it’s a motivational entrepreneurial podcast.


I guess it can be. Let’s talk about our specific point of conversation today. We’re talking about mini cuts, which is actually not a barber shop for children.

That was a terrible joke.

Anyone looking at my haircut will know it. I’m not talking about hairdressing here.

David TaoDavid Tao

[laughs] That was a terrible joke. I’m sorry. To all the dads out there, you’re welcome. You’re welcome for the terrible dad joke.

Yes, I’m banking that one.

David TaoDavid Tao

Mini cuts. I’m going to give my opinion on it. I’m a little biased because I’ve read some of the content you’ve produced around this topic on Breaking Muscle. Folks can check that out, will link to that in the show notes.


When I hear mini cuts and when we first started talking about this topic, I thought, “Well, this seems like something that may be a bodybuilder would do to get ready for a show that isn’t so important.” Might not be their big show for the season that they just want to lean out briefly.


Or maybe it’s something you do when you have that beach holiday coming up and you want to feel a little bit more confident and show off your musculature a little bit more. It’s more nuanced than that.


The reason you brought it up as a topic was how can mini cuts improve strength and hypertrophy gains, which is so interesting to me. How can losing weight improve your gains? When we first go into the gym, we hear that the two are so antithetical. That was a long-winded introduction to today’s topic. Mini cuts. How would you define them in a broad sense?

I would say a mini cut is a rapid fat loss phase designed to get you lean enough to start building muscle again. As you identify, it’s not a get shredded diet.


There’s two key elements to a mini cut. It’s short in duration. Two to six weeks is the timeline I work with. On average three, maybe four weeks. This is a fast rate of fat loss which you can achieve in that short period of time without any risk of muscle loss or hormonal disruption or anything.


It is very much a tool that can be used to facilitate more muscle longer-term. Quickly on that point. Yeah, some people will use a mini cut because they want to tighten up a little bit just before a holiday or a pool party or something. That’s totally valid, and it can be used in that way.


The way I think about it in the long-term training plan is it’s a strategic diet to allow you to build more muscle long-term.

David TaoDavid Tao

How does that work?


How does the strategic…? [laughs] I opened up the Pandora’s box. Let’s eat the elephant one bite at a time here. How would that relatively short window of focused fat loss improve outcomes for muscle building later on?

There’s a couple of ways we can attack this, but the first one I’ll go with is, I think it allows you more muscle-building weeks per year on average than if you do longer slower diet because it’s short and it’s rapid and fat loss is much quicker than the muscle gain.


Whatever diet you’re on, you can lose fat quick and you can build muscle, but the mini cut, you can lose fat at an accelerated rate, very quick rate without any risk of muscle loss in that time period.


Now, if you’re losing fat quicker, it means you can get down to a lower body fat quicker, and that means you’ve got a longer runway for your next building phase and you’ve got more weeks of the year.


If you think of the traditional, maybe people are like, “Oh, I’m going to bulk for six months and I’m going to diet for three months, but I’m going to diet relatively slowly because I don’t want to be too aggressive because that’s not sustainable.” No one can diet for like 12, 16 weeks really aggressively, you’ll fall off the bandwagon. You’ll blow your diet and it’s pointless.


Most people can buckle up and do three, four weeks pretty aggressive, pretty strict. Get their head in the zone of tunnel vision. I’m losing fat, that’s why I’m doing that. I’m transitioning out of it.


Purely on the basis, that means you get more weeks to be in a surplus, which is what you need to be gaining muscle a significant level. Purely from that aspect, achieve that. Does that make sense?

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah, so far, I am on board.

Then there are other factors or maybe more nuanced ones. For example, the more you get with it, the faster you get kind of thing. You’re familiar with a P ratio or partitioning ratio. This has been looked at in the scientific literature a little bit if I’m honest.


There isn’t enough breadth of information to give us conclusive facts to work with here, but it gives us some guidelines plus a ton of anecdotal evidence in my experience with clients but also loads of other coaches out there.


As you gain muscle, the more muscle you gain, you need to be in a surplus, and with the surplus comes a little bit of fat gain. Then it tends to come a point as people get fat, that ratio shifts from being quite nice and favorable of a high proportion of muscle and a small amount of fat to shift the other way.


Then for every pound, you gain is disproportionately high in fat and low in muscle. If you’re going to extend your bulk or your building phase — whatever you call it out — fighting tooth and nail for a pound on the scales, but for every pound you gain, it’s mostly fat, it’s not worth it, and it’s meaning you’ve got a longer period to diet afterwards.


It’s inefficient muscle gain and lengthening a diet which if you want to get jacked isn’t a great combo. Whereas, if you stop that a little bit earlier before you get to that point, you can very quickly drop a bit of body fat, get yourself into a more favorable position, and then you can get back the gaining.


The leaner you are, the longer the runway. As I mentioned, the bigger the window of opportunity for stacking weeks and weeks, and months and months of being in a surplus and packing on size. That’s another way of looking at it.

David TaoDavid Tao

Is there any particular diet protocol or diet protocols or techniques that when you are working with a client on a mini cut, you might steer them toward? Again this is not a medical podcast.


We’re not necessarily giving nutritional advice, talk to your medical provider before undergoing any significant change in lifestyle, although we hope that resistance training is part of a healthy lifestyle for you.


A client comes to you, they’re a great candidate for a mini cut, where might you steer them on nutritional advice and protocol for this, for this three to six-week duration?

Sure. I’ll have a view of I know the kind of macronutrient that I would like them to be consuming. How I communicate that to the client is different based on their individual needs and their approach and what they had success with.


If they’ve been on a really low-carb diet and they’ve been successful before, you need to factor that in. That’s a bit of the art of coaching I suppose, but from the hard and fast numbers, I’ll look for them to have the oldest time one gram of protein per pound of body weight as a pretty good rule of thumb for a protein content.


When you’re cutting, having a reasonably higher amount of protein helps with retaining muscle mass, we want to keep that in there. I find that that amount is enough. There is some science out there that you might want to go higher, but that’s my starting point, one gram per pound of body weight.


As far as fat goes, what I’m looking at with fat is, I want enough to make sure the hormonal function is optimal. You can achieve that on actually quite low-fat diet, especially when it’s a short period of time.


This is another thing how you set up a diet for a longer say competition prep 16-week diet that’s the minimum but .3 grams per pound of body weight is going to be enough for people to maintain optimal hormonal function. Also fat is the most calorie-dense of the macronutrients. There’s nine calories per gram of fat, whereas four for protein and carbs.


If we can bring fat relatively low, it means the calories can be low, but we can get more food volume in through that protein which is very satiating. If you make smart choices with the carbohydrates, you can still be quite full on a mini cup, but if you’re going that route the food may be a little blander than the dream of bulk diet you’ve been on beforehand.


After I set the protein and fat, the rest of the calories come from carbohydrate. Anyone listening now is, what do you mean the rest of the carbohydrate? Is probably a bit vague. All of established, what’s their maintenance calorie intake? What rate of loss are we looking at, and maybe we can discuss that in a moment.


Then based on the rate of loss they’re looking for, what’s their theoretical? It’s not only theoretical, but theoretical calorie deficit they need to be in to achieve that. Based on that, their height, and their weight, this is the number they’re going to be shooting for as a ballpark.


We know that there’s four calories per gram of protein. Since we’re having a gram per pound, we can calculate that out. We are having .3 grams of fat per pound. We can calculate that because you times that by nine to get the calorie value. Whatever is left over, that’s carbohydrate.


On this medium when we are chatting, throwing numbers and equations out there, was becoming a bit confusing for people but hopefully, that makes sense. Then in the article on the website, that’s all mapped out with some example, equations, if anyone wants to check that out.


Then I suppose the one thing I’ll say with diet is, for this period of time, I encourage people to be in a calorie deficit but not a nutrient deficit. We don’t want to be missing out on all those micro nutrition from fruits and vegetables for example.


I tell people based on rules of thumb is like, trying to eat the rainbow, so as many different fruits and veggies as possible. It’s a nice easy thing they can be thinking about, how many different colored veggies that I have today for example? Most fruits vegetables, very fibrous, quite low in calories, quite filling.


The other thing on that point is, to some extent, only some extent does the body works on a feedback loops of nutrients. If you’ve got a rich broad spectrum of micro nutrition coming in, even if your calories are low, it’s not going to panic it for one of a scientific term makes it, that is no way scientific.


The calorie deficit and the hormonal shutdown and the slowing of metabolic rate that can occur if your nutrient profile’s really good, you just going to offset that just a little. It buys you slightly better results in this kind of really short-term aggressive diet.

David TaoDavid Tao

Well I do want to get to rate of fat loss here in a second, but I also want to…But your choice. Do you want to talk about that first, or do you want to talk about adjusting any training protocols on first?

Let’s see about that. Let’s go with rate of loss.

David TaoDavid Tao

Love it.

Because that kind of ties into the nutrition. Then we’ll get to them all swing around the training. Yes, your rate of loss is based on you, the individual involved and largely based on your body fat percentage.


If you’re, as a rule of thumb, I definitely get people if they’re north of 15 percent body fat. They can lose a higher rate than someone who’s like 12 percent body fat for example. If you’re 15 percent body fat or higher, I would suggest you lose between one and a half and two percent of your body weight per week on a mini cut.


Making this really simple, if someone weighs 200 pounds and they’re losing one and a half percent of their body weight, they’re losing three or four pounds a week in that range.


Then if you’re in the 12 to 15 percent, so you’re pretty lean but you just want to tighten things up to have a really long muscle-building phase, I drop that down to one to one and a half percent of your body weight per week. Again, that 200-pound guy is losing two pounds a week. It’s still quite an aggressive rate of loss.


If you’re 10 to 12 percent now, the leaner you are the risk of muscle loss goes up a little bit. Now, it’s really, really small as we’re going to talk about. If we’re doing the right things training-wise, it’s a short-duration diet and you’re keeping protein high.


The chance of muscle loss is almost nonexistent. Just to be cautious, I drop the rate of gain down a little bit to about a half to one percent for those guys.


Now, if you’re any leaner than 10 percent, you don’t need to be mini-cutting. You’re lean enough, so we just take it off the table. That’s the whole point is its strategy to allow you to get lean enough to bulk again. If you’re less than 10 percent, you’re definitely lean enough to be in a position to be bulking.

David TaoDavid Tao

We’ll get back to that in just a second. First, a quick shoutout to today’s episode sponsor, Organifi.


Organifi makes a line of organic superfood blends that offer plant-based nutrition with high-quality ingredients.


Take the red juice as an example, formulated to recharge mind and body with a delicious superfood berry blend of premium organic superfoods, potent adaptogens, antioxidants, and a clinical dose of cordyceps. Go to and use code BarBend for 20 percent off your next order.


Now let’s get back to the show.


Well, let’s talk then about training protocols and how are those adjusted or not adjusted during a mini cut to minimize because obviously on a mini cut, look, if you want to gain muscle, then mini cut is not going to be the best mechanism for that. It can set you up for muscle gain but it in itself is not the window in which you’re going to be optimizing for muscle gain.

No, absolutely, you’re 100 percent correct. I’ve got two answers, here we’ve got the general one, and then maybe we’ll go into a more granular detail of how I’m working with that? How should you train in a mini cut?


What builds muscle best is what retains muscle best and in this diet base, I encourage people to train to gain. The mindset is I’m going to try to build some muscle here but, as you’ve identified, they’re in a calorie deficit, quite an aggressive one, tons of them really packing on size and showing any noticeable muscle gain, almost on a distance. That’s there and absolutely genetic-free.


Then they won’t be worrying and tuning into this so they’ll just be going to the gym doing whatever the hell they want and looking amazing. Yes, your training won’t be dramatically different. There will be some differences though.


Your ability to tolerate volume is probably going to be reduced because you have less energy coming in so your recovery capacity is slightly reduced. The listeners may well be familiar with terms like MRV Max Recoverable Volume, Minimum Effective Volume or MEV, Minimum Effective Dose, these sort of things. Then in the middle, there is MAV Maximum Adaptive Volume.


I would tend to suggest if you know those kind of landmarks for you, that’s amazing information. You want to be between MED or MAV, so the Minimum Effective Dose and your Maximum Adaptive Volume, somewhere in that ballpark.


Now, to give broader brush strokes, in my experience somewhere in the region of 10, maybe 15, sets per body part per week is entirely doable for a mini cut. Now you will feel like you’re training really hard and your recovery may suffer slightly but it’s just two, max six weeks. It’s a short period of time, so you dig deep, you’re a bit tired but you can get through that.


Those are sets a week, how often should you hit a muscle group or the frequency, you think. I tend to like people to hit most major muscle groups two times a week on a mini cut and placing our efforts towards compound lifts but not relying solely on those because they’re very taxing.


As I said, fatigue may become an issue because you’re on a lower calories. If you insist on only squatting and deadlifting, chinning, benching, and overhead pressing your way through this, you’ll probably feel great for a couple of days.


You’ll burn a ton of calories, so you might even see some nice initial results. But your recovery may suffer and you may drive yourself into the ground a bit early. I would fire those exercises, put them at the highest scale. Multi-muscle group, multi-joint exercises early in the session, but then strategically use some accessory work.


There’s not so much spinal loading by supplementing some squats with some split squats. It may even be using machine-cut stuff like leg press or even a leg extension to get some stimulus for those muscles for a lower fatigue or stimulus-fatigue ratio.


The only other thing, or two other points quickly on the cross-reference.

David TaoDavid Tao

Please. Yeah.

Like I said, train to gain. Progress, look for progressive overload. If you can increase the lift, do it. Don’t get caught up in the, “Oh, I’m dieting so my legs are all going to tank, and I’m going to get weaker.”


There’s no reason in this period of time why if you don’t train hard, you shouldn’t actually see some lifts improve, especially relative to body weight. Your chin-up should improve because you’re going to be noticeably lighter. You should see you reps go up the most.


In my experience, pressing exercises suffer first, but most other lifts to do pretty well, and there’s no noticeable drop-off, and some of them climb. You’re benching or your overhead press may suffer, from my experience, before other things.


The final point is set yourself up for success. If what I’ve described to you, just their training style, sounds awful to you, don’t do it because you’re already going to be making your life difficult by a deliberately starving yourself.


Let’s not beat around the bush here. We are choosing to consume fewer calories than we need, so you need to have a program that you’re excited to attack and the challenge that inspires you to work hard.


To some extent, whilst the theoretical frequency, volume, intensity stuff matter, what really matters is that you’re like, “Right. I’m looking forward to hitting the gyms and I’m going to crush it.”

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s huge. It goes back to the mental component we were talking about. If you’re not enjoying the journey, and if a dramatic change or even a small change in training completely derails your ability to go in there and work on something that is good for you, that is working toward your goals, then it’s not worth it. It’s absolutely not worth it.


We get caught up in certain protocols around training like, “Oh, I’m a Texas Method guy,” or, “I’m a five, three, one person,” etc. Things can get stale. If something’s not working for you in the moment, it is OK to change. We want to be here for a good time, and a long time. We want to make this a lifelong habit, right?

Yes, 100 percent. I couldn’t agree more. That’s the key point. The other thing is there’s such a thing as adaptive resist. Your body has an incredible adaptive mechanism. It adapts to whatever you do. It doesn’t adapt from one session to the next but, eventually, it’ll become a little bit resistant to the stimulus you’re providing.


That’s why programs tend to get a little bit stale. It’s not that the program’s a bad program, just your body has seen that as being you’ve hit it with that stimulus enough times that it’s become a little bit resistant to it. Strategic variation, not just randomization, but strategically varying your workouts over time makes sense, and one of the most crucial things.


You’re right, people almost become slaves to the system, their passion goes. There’s nothing that’ll kill your gains quicker than doing a bunch of half-half sessions. If you are excited and you go and put in 100 percent effort into your workout, that will beat the most scientific workout in the world. If you don’t like that program, don’t put your effort in.

David TaoDavid Tao

Awesome. Tom, I appreciate it. Are there any other common questions or topics related to mini cuts that maybe you get? This is the frequently asked questions section, or maybe the myth-busting section that you might want to specify or any points you want to reaffirm.

Absolutely. Let me throw a question to you. How long have we got here?

David TaoDavid Tao

[laughs] We got about five more minutes.


Let me quickly run you through a couple of things I think are important. I feel like I’ve got a bit brand new on the training. I’ll quickly outline something I found really effective with my client lately. One of the questions I get a lot is about cardios. Maybe we’ll throw in a bit some guidelines for cardio.


As we said, this is designed to help you build more muscle longer-term. The way I tend to step programs up, different phases, it is periodized. It’s structured in a way to maximize muscle growth long-term.


In my experience, one of the major reasons people fail to hit their results is that they either get injured, or they hit really long plateau. They don’t know how to fix it. They get frustrated and they stop.


Then the reason they stopped making progress because literally, they stopped raining. No wonder you don’t make progress if you’re not training. I like to use what I call a primer phase and it’s literally primed to help you grow.


Now, in the past, I used to do a primer phase, then I’d have people go through a building phase which would maybe be 12 to 16 weeks depending on where they’re at. Then we’d go for the skinny guys, we’d use a maintenance phase to consolidate gain, and then into a mini cut for the slightly more gifted for muscle growth.


We’d skip the maintenance phase, we go into mini cut. What I’ve actually found is, when I’m putting people in that mini cut. I’m setting them up for muscle gain by the nutritional aspect of being in a deficit. I found if I use some of the key principles of that primer phase alongside the mini cut nutrition, we get two plus two equals five.


A slightly synergistic effect because they get lean, which facilitates a longer runway of muscle growth, but we’ve put in that foundation phase, which is basically foundation for the next three to six months’ worth of muscle-building training.


There’s four factors we work on. We work on the four ss because it’s easy to remember, but stability, skill output. Stability is your ability to resist force as opposed to express force. A lot of people, they’re not stable, their joints are not stable so they can’t then fully exert force. They lose pounds of their squat because their hips are not stable, etc.


That’s addressed. Skill output, that’s your key indicator lift. If you’re going to build your workouts around some key compound lifts, we bias effort on those and spend some more time on those. We do more set further from failure with those to build that capacity.


Structural balance is just making sure you’re equally strong left to right, front to back, top to bottom. Maybe some things like single-arm rows or Bulgarian split squats. Quite a lot of unilateral work to fill in those gaps. In the strength output is your ability to make the target muscle the limiting factor and take it to an extreme level of effort and intensity.


That’s relative of efforts. Basically taking a muscle to failure. We’ll actually use some machine-based stuff to do that. Some people struggle to build their legs, it’s maybe because they can’t take their quads to that point of failure. We’ll learn to do that. Leg extension gets a bad wrap but it’s a great tool for teaching someone to take that because the extreme fatigue point.


Anyway, those components go into the training program. The other volume intensity stuff is still there, the diet comes in play and then that’s a great launch pad for them then go into the next building phase.


David TaoDavid Tao

Excellent. I appreciate that. Anything else? You want to talk about cardio, right?

Cardio. Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

Got it.

Who doesn’t want to talk about cardio? There’s two things I tend to tell people about cardio when it comes to mini cutting is, make sure you still spend more time lifting you do doing cardio. This is bodybuilding.


Even if you’re not a bodybuilder, the whole point is we’re trying to build your body, not body wasting. We don’t want to be spending hours and hours doing cardio because that’s one way to get lean, but it dramatically increases the chance of you losing muscle mass.


The body will make adaptations turn you into an endurance athlete, rather than a strength and power athlete. Make sure you are focusing on lifting and the cardio is there as an additional tool to lose fat if needed. Then the other thing is to be extreme about it.


What I mean by that is either do really, really low-intensity lift, low-intensity steady state. I mean, getting out for a walk, moving, burning some calories, but at such a low level, it doesn’t interfere with your recovery. Or I need to be cautious with this because it’s very draining on your recovery but it can work, is high intensity.


Going hard but for a short period of time. Most people that think they’re doing high-intensity training, are not, they’re doing moderate intensity. This is pushing hard for like 15, 20 seconds, quite long recovery period. It can be quite effective but it is also very draining so you need to be careful how you program that.


The one thing I would say is avoid that middle ground, what I call MISS. Moderate-intensity steady state. This is not the time to start working on your 5 or 10 kpb, because that duration at that intensity is more than likely going to be catabolic.


As far as we’re concerned with our current goals of packing on-site, negative adaptation. Avoid that middle ground, either take it super easy. My preference is if you have time and it’s schedule-dependent because the one downside of this, is that it takes a long time to walk a few miles, but it doesn’t impact recovery.


In fact, it probably improves your recovery if you can do it. If your schedule allows it, go for that low steady pace exercise. That’s a phenomenal tool to add into a makeup.

David TaoDavid Tao

Amazing. Tom, I super appreciate you joining us today and sharing this insight. Where is the best place for people to follow along with the work you’re doing today?

Best place for me it’s Instagram @tommaccormick, hop on there. If you got any questions, feel free to DM me and I’ll be happy to help out.

David TaoDavid Tao

Amazing, Tom, thanks so much for joining us.

My pleasure. Thank you for having me.