One question I hear all the time is: “How long will it take me to get ripped?”
I remember that I asked the very same question myself back when I first got started with my fitness journey. I think that all of us want to know at some point how long the journey will be.
So, how long does it take to get ripped? It takes as long as it’s required for you to reach 8-10 % body fat, while also putting on a decent amount of muscle mass. So, the time it takes really depends on your starting point and what level of muscular development you’re looking for.
Most people want fast results and I’m no exception myself as I’ve learned the hard way what the negatives of rushing your way to a ripped physique are. In this post I’ll give you a realistic timeline to get ripped depending on what level of muscular development you’d like to achieve.
The Timeline… How Long it Will Take You to Get Ripped
First of all, pointing down even close to how long it will take you to achieve a certain physique is more or less impossible. Things like genetics, work ethic, lifestyle factors and other things just skew with things too much.
With that said though, it’s possible to say on at least a grander scale how long it will take you to get ripped.
When it comes to getting a ripped physique there are two things that you must achieve which takes time, and these are
- getting down to a low body fat percentage (around 8-10 %); and
- building decent to high amount of muscle mass
The easiest thing to look at first, which is also the most important one if you want to get ripped is getting down to a low body fat percentage.
How Long Does it Take to Get Down to a Low Body Fat Percentage?
First of all, a ripped physique that’s also sustainable looks something like this:
Zac Effron and Stephen Amell both have around 8-10 % body fat in this picture, this is a sustainable body fat percentage which means if you lose body fat correctly you won’t feel fatigued, screw with your hormones and feel stressed etc. at this body fat percentage.
So, that should be your goal if you want to get ripped abs and defined muscles over your entire body but still feel good once you get there.
Okay cool, so how long will it take?
Well, this obviously depends on your starting point. If you’re at 15 % body fat and already fairly muscular it will take you shorter than if you’re at 25 % body fat and been sedentary for years.
But, no matter your starting point, it’s possible to get there without it having to take ages.
Okay, so to figure out how long it should take you to get down to 8-10 % body fat we must first look at the recommended rate of fat loss.
The Recommended Rate of Fat Loss
If you want to be able to build a bit of muscle while shedding down to 8-10 % body fat (which will significantly speed up your journey to a ripped physique), while feeling good in the process here’s the quickest rate of fat loss you should ever do, preferably you should lose at the slow end of these numbers:
|Body Fat %||Fat Loss/Week|
|~1.1 kg (2.4 lbs)
~0.9 kg (2 lbs)
0.45-0.7 kg (1-1.5 lbs)
0.45-0.6 kg (1-1.3 lbs)
0.35-0.45 kg (0.75-1 lbs)
0.2-0.35 kg (0.45-0.75 lbs)
~0.2 kg (0.45 lbs)
You can read more about setting up an optimal calorie deficit here.
How to find out your body fat percentage
Now, finding out your body fat percentage dead on will be very hard without dying and ending up at the morgue, and I’m sure you don’t want that, right?
Fortunately you only need to find out roughly what range of body fat % you’re in, which is a lot easier to do.
To find out which range of body fat % you’re in I recommend using two methods.
1) The US Navy Body Fat Percentage Formula
This formula is great as it only requires a few body measurements, while still being rather accurate with a standard error deviation of only 3%.
Here’s a link to a body fat percentage calculator that I created for you: Calculate your body fat percentage here
2) Comparison pictures
The second method to figure out your body fat percentage is to use comparison pictures. Using this method in combination with the US Navy formula is great to easier narrow down roughly what your body fat percentage is.
Here’s an image of how the different body fat percentages look:
Rate of fat loss example
Okay, so let’s say that you found that you’re currently at 18% body fat. This means that you should aim to not lose faster than between 1-1.5 lbs (0.45-0.7 kg) of fat per week, as going quicker than this will have you lose muscle and feel bad.
Since you’re at 18% body fat you could lose closer to 1.5 lbs per week, but I would still recommend 1 lb per week just to be safe, and to be able to build a bit of muscle as you’re leaning down. Bigger guys who weigh more can usually lose a bit faster though, so that’s something to keep in mind.
So, how long will it take you to go from 18 % body fat to 10 % then?
Well, this also depends a bit on your body weight, but if you’re losing a bit faster if you’re heavier and a bit slower if you’re lighter, then going from 18 % down to 10 % body fat should take you around 14-16 weeks by losing on average 1 lb per week (quicker in the beginning and slower by the end).
You can do your own math on this depending on your current body fat percentage. But, for a guy with around 18 % body fat it takes roughly 14-16 weeks to get to a ripped 8-10 % body fat.
Expected timeline to go from 18 to 8-10% body fat: 14-16 weeks
How Long Does it Take to Reach a Certain Level of Muscular Development?
There’s a second part to the equation as well, which is getting to a certain level of muscular development. If you just get lean at around 8-10 % body fat without building a decent amount of muscle mass then you’ll just end up looking skinny, or even skinny fat. And we don’t want that!
Now, if you want to get the most muscular you can be then it will take you multiple years. But fortunately, it’s in the beginner to intermediate stages that you’re able to build the most amount of muscle, which will lead to the biggest transformation of your physique and is a rather quick process.
In fact, here’s the maximum muscle growth potential per year of training experience according to Lyle McDonald:
|Years of Training||Maximum Muscle Growth Potential|
|20-25lbs (2lbs per month) / 9 – 11 kg (0.9kg per month)
10-12lbs (1lbs per month) / 4.5 – 5.5 kg (0.45kg per month)
5-6lbs (0.5lbs per month) / 2 – 2.7 kg (0.22kg per month)
2-3lbs / 0.9 – 1.3 kg
2-3 lbs / 0.9 – 1.3kg
As you can see, muscle growth happens very quickly in the beginning and slows down substantially as you get more advanced.
Now, the different stages of muscular development that you may want, can be split into the following three categories, which was developed by Greg over at Kinobody:
Stage 1 – The Warrior Physique
To reach this physique you should get down to 8-10% body fat to get ripped, while focusing on building up to these strength standards in the gym:
Repetition strength is hands down the best way to estimate how muscular a guy will be, this is because a certain amount of muscle mass will be necessary to lift a weight for multiple reps.
This means that if you reach the strength standards above you’ll have a similar look to the guys in the picture.
So, how long will this take you?
Well, again it depends on your starting point. Do you have a decent amount of muscle already? Do you start out skinny, skinny fat or fat? Do you have good genetics to build muscle? Depending on all of these factors it will take you a different amount of time.
With that said though, most guys seem to get to this physique within their first 6-12 months of lifting using a well set up training program and diet. Again exactly how long it’ll take depends mostly on current body fat percentage and muscle mass.
Expected timeline to reach The Warrior Physique: 6 to 12 months
Stage 2 – The Greek God Physique
Just as with The Warrior Physique, in order to reach Greek God status you should get down to 8-10% body fat to get ripped, while focusing on building up to these strength standards in the gym:
If you reach these strength standards you’ll have a similar look to the guys in the picture.
So, how long will this take you?
Well, again it depends on your starting point. Perhaps you’ve been training a lot of strength sports earlier in life and by doing so built up a decent level of muscularity already, and just need to get lean? Or perhaps you’re a complete beginner to training and have been sedentary most of your life.
For the average guy however, it usually takes around 2-3 years to reach this stage of development unless you’ve been strength training a lot earlier in life.
Expected timeline to reach The Greek God Physique: 2-3 years for most guys with a non-athletic background
Stage 3 – The Superhero Physique
Finally we have the Superhero Physique, which looks like this:
This is the third and last stage where you’re going to look very big yet ripped. This is the top level physique which few people actually reach.
So, how long will this take you?
Again, some people might do it quicker than others depending on starting point. But, for most people to reach this physique it require at least 4-5 years of consistent strength training with a well set up diet.
Gains in muscle mass slows down a lot after your first 2-3 years in the gym and that’s why it can take a long time to reach close to your natural muscular potential.
Expected timeline to reach The Superhero Physique: At least 4-5 years for most guys
*If you don’t have access to the gym, don’t worry! Bodyweight training is very effective way to building muscle as well. Just make sure you’re using the correct exercises and do your best to progress your strength. You can read more about bodyweight training here.
Why You Shouldn’t Rush Your Way to Get Ripped
This is a very important point, don’t rush your way to get ripped!
If you do so you’ll likely try to cut down your body fat too fast and stress yourself up about it taking too long. Fast fat loss + stress will literally melt your muscle of your body, so please avoid that!
Furthermore, if you’re stressed trying to build muscle quicker than you’re able to, you’ll likely put on more fat than you should, which then requires more cutting phases. This might lead to you spinning your wheels in the gym making the whole process take a lot longer than it needs to.
This is also the reason why I recommend that you follow a guide! Doing so will drastically reduce the time it takes you to get ripped, both because you know exactly what to do throughout your journey and because you’ll have access to follow-up and accountability along the way.
I recommend the ShredSmart Program written by Radu Antoniu since he got the most easy to follow and enjoyable process out there for getting ripped. I’ve used the program myself and you can read more about why I recommend it here.
Why You Should Use Bulking And Cutting Cycles
For most people the quickest way to get ripped is by using bulking and cutting cycles, as opposed to a recomp strategy where you’re gaining at maintenance. The reason for this is that to maximize muscle growth (the thing that takes time) you must be in a calorie surplus that’s bigger than what’s needed to just build lean muscle.
In other words, to maximize muscle growth you must accept some fat gain as well, which eventually requires a cutting phase to bring you back down. The fact is that trying to recomp your way to a lot of muscle mass is only effective in during these four circumstances:
- People returning from layoff
- Steroid users
Unless you fall under any of these circumstances, recomping takes a long freaking time.
In fact, here’s a rough difference of the time it would take you to get ripped with either strategy:
As you can see, the bulking and cutting strategy gets there quicker, even with a slight loss in muscle mass during the cutting phase.
Now, this isn’t true for all individuals though. Guys who’re naturally skinny for instance, usually never need to go on a cut since they’re gaining predominantly muscle mass when overeating.
If you want to know exactly what you should do, depending on your starting point, then I recommend checking out the complete guide: How to build an aesthetic physique where you’ll learn the steps you should take to get an aesthetic looking and strong physique.
How long does it take to get ripped abs? Getting ripped abs is all about fat loss. Once you’re around 12% body fat you’ll start to reveal your abs. To get them seriously ripped you probably need to get down to 8% body fat.
This is true for most people at least. Some people however store more fat on their legs and arms with less over their abs and will probably get ripped abs earlier.
Can anyone get a six pack? Everyone is born with the rectus abdominis muscles, which are the muscle group that makes up your six pack. So, in a general sense anyone can get a six pack to show with decent muscle development and a low body fat percentage.
With that said though, if you refer to a six pack as having six distinct “squares” on your abs, then not everyone will be able to get that. The shape of your abs are determined by genetics, where some people, even though they are very lean and well trained might “only” get a four pack while others might get an eight pack, heck I’ve even seen a guy with a ten pack.
No matter how many “packs” or “squares” someone has, I believe that just having ripped abs is impressive no matter how they look!