Why do you need a CUTTING and BUILDING phase in your training?

Many new guys starting out on the journey of muscle-building struggle to grasp the reasons and concept behind a building and cutting phase in training.

Let’s first get the naming conventions sorted out. Doing bodybuilding natural (without anabolic steroids) means you will be doing a building and cutting phase.

For the anabolic crowd it is a more of a “bulking and cutting” phase than a “building and cutting” phase.

The difference in the naming is due to the anabolic crowd having greater control over manipulating body fat percentages than the natural crowd. Being natural means that you will not fluctuate as heavily with body fat between building and cutting phases.

Anabolic crowd can fluctuate up to 12% body fat between phases but natural guys usually limit fluctuation to a max of 4 or 5%.


So why a cutting and building phase?

I can speak from personal experience. Since I introduced a cutting and building phase into my training my shape and power has gone from strength to strength.

The alternating of these phase allow your muscles and especially tendons to recover and growth stronger for the next attack. After every cutting phase you will see you can lift more intense and heavier weights than during the earlier building phase.

Let’s get to phase specific reasons.

Benefits of a building phase (max 8 reps per sets and total of 14 sets per routine):

  1. Body fat at higher percentage allowing for better lean mass growth.
  2. Training intense with low reps and very heavy weights building muscle.
  3. Eat excess calories to feed the body for growth during this process.
  4. The heavy and intense training stimulates extra release of testosterone and Growth Hormone further helping with adding on muscles.

But alas this cannot continue indefinitely. You usually run a building phase for 3 – 4 months.

The tendons and joints will be stiff and sore at the end of this phase (if u trained intense enough like u should). Continuing for a too long time in this phase WILL result in severe injury which will keep you out of gym for a long period.

Young guys can still extend the Building Phase period for a few months extra but the older guys must stick to the 3 to 4 month max period.

It is good practice to rest for 7 to 14 days between phases – NO TRAINING! To allow the body to rest and further recover. It will also be a boost to your immune system.

Always after the building phase you will do a cutting phase and then alternate again.


Benefits of the cutting phase (max 8 reps per set and total of 14 sets per routine):

  1. Tendons recover and strengthen for an even more intense cycle in the building phase.
  2. “Train” body to lose body fat easily.
  3. Eat into “grey fat” areas and slowly eradicated them (love handles, etc…)
  4. Result in aesthetic pleasing body with 6-pack.


A crucial rule for the cutting phase is to train at not more than 80% your max.

Also cut out any cardio or severely limit it.

Cardio on top of the weights will overtax your energy resources with the cutting diet and this will result in smaller muscles (NOT FATLOSS!).

It is critical that you find the “sweet spot” during your cutting diet where you will lose fat and not muscle. Visit my cutting diet video for detailed explanation about this process.


Scenario 1 : “I am 20% body fat what phase do I do?”

In this scenario I will suggest that you kick off with the cutting phase and cutting diet. I suggest you drop at least 10% body fat before embarking on a building phase again. Then make sure that you do NOT pick up more body fat than a maximum of 5% during the building phase. With your following cutting phase you must then bring the body fat down from 15% to at least 7% before embarking on the building phase again. From there onwards you can stick to a 3-4 month alternating routine between building and cutting phases.

Scenario 2: “I am 10% body fat what phase do I do?”

In this scenario you are close to slot in with a normal building/cutting approach. Do a cutting phase and bring down the body fat to 5% before embarking on a building phase. From there onwards stick to the standard 3-4 months building/cutting phases.

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A cutting phase can theoretically be stretched over a slightly longer period than a building phase because of the lesser strain it places on tendons and joints. But even so I would still not suggest longer than 6 months before switching over to a building phase and then alternate.


I am now 60 days in my building program and already added nearly 8kg bodyweight. Weighing 89 now. Targeting 92 to 95kg by time I finish the building phase.

Here is a recent pic with the added weight:


Wish you all happy training!


Gert Louw


16 thoughts on “Why do you need a CUTTING and BUILDING phase in your training?

  1. Hi Gert, I have been watching your videos and training regimen and you are an inspiration. I’m 46,0 yrs and just started training for months ago. I wanted to ask you I’m doing the building phase, but don’t notice muscle pump and I take my sets to failure. should the building phase be more for gaining strength? And not muscle pump? Would really appreciate the advice. I am starting late in life, but better late than never. I am forward to hearing from you and one day looking as good as you.

    Big thanks,

    1. Thanx Ray!
      A “muscle pump” is simply a description for the fact that blood is flowing quicker through your system due to the training and filling the muscles which a doing the main work. This is neccessary for many process happening in the body including oxygen required by the muscles/cells. The building phase is mainly about gaining strength but it is rare that one does not see a pump when training so intense. Make sure your diet and water intake are sufficient and also make sure you do not take in excess salt/soduim. Also verify that your blood pressure is within normal levels. If this is all OK I can suggest that you up your game slightly and introduce a superset system where you do 2 sets of exercises for 2 different muscle groups without any rest back-to-back. This usually results in a great pump and is also a great way to stimulate growth and up your game. Wish you success buddy. G.

  2. im 49 and pretty lean 6’7 @ 208lb I have a hard time gaining weight ( high metabolism I’m guessing)I’ve just started in the gym literally a few days ago but am a runner/ I run around 70-120 miles per month-i would like to bulk up but past experience says good luck!-I’m not against steroid use but if I can go a different route with supplements I would -I see online stuff like blackline ( if my memory serves me) do u offer or suggest any – p6 extreme from gnc-is another-any help is appreciated – thank you

    1. Hey Mike.
      First running (any serious cardio for that matter) is a muscle size killer. The more cardio you do the smaller your muscles will be and the harder you will find it to grow. Anabolics can help to breach this problem but ti will just be temporary because the moment you stop with it the running will again shrink the muscles. There is no supplement that will help you effectively in this matter. It is the normal response of the body to shrink the muscles when it is challenged with moderate to intense cardio. So yes, with steroids you can add size while running without them, well, you will have to decide to tone down running or just accept a smaller size. Sorry but that is the hard unfortunate facts. Wish u success my friend! G. (PS: There is no supps, not blackline or any other that will effectively breach this problem)

  3. Hi there Gert I myself have started late at 49 and have been busy for 4 months now. I must mention you have been a inspiration and I have been following your advice quite closely. What i like is you tell it as it is and don’t beat about the bush. Keep up the good work

    I feel I am at a stage where I can start cutting , can you recommend any anabolic steriods and how to take them . I’ve looked at some of the products on the market on the internet and would prefer your advice on this as there are many fly by nights in this industry. Also there are many different options

    Alex Ibanez

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Alex,
      thanx for the feedback my friend – really appreciate!
      If you want to play it safe, this is what I suggest
      Wish u success.
      If u want to venture the anabolic route no matter what, NEVER do it without a doctor monitoring the following:
      fasting cholesterol,
      liver (ALT & AST),
      kidney and
      blood pressure values.
      The blood work must be done BEFORE you start, after 6 weeks and at end of cycle.
      Blood pressure and resting heart should be monitored every evening.
      Sports Doctors are much more open to the idea of anabolics due to the type of clients they treat. Make contact with one of them and ONLY do your cycle under their supervision. And LISTEN to what they say. They have a great deal of experience in this field.
      The following cycle of anabolics is considered one of the safest and can be done for a cutting or building phase.
      For 12 weeks:
      Every day:
      40mg Proviron in morning and 40mg Proviron in evening (tablets). This results in more free testosterone available in your system and also provide a more lean and hard look to the muscles. (do not exceed 160mg per day)
      Every 2nd day (all injectables – make sure u follow injection protocols to the letter!):
      30g Testosterone Propionate in cutting phase (40 to 60mg – building phase). NEVER exceed 400mg per week. Do NOT use the enanthate variant. It stays too long active in the body (14 days) in case of complications.
      120mg Masteron Propionate or enanthate (NEVER exceed 600mg per week) – can be exchanged with Primobolan Depot or Equipose at same quantities.
      Testosterone Propionate is used because it is only bio-available for 4 days in body, so If there are any complications (water rentention, excessive fast heart rate, blood pressure) then it can be brought quickly under control by lowering dosage or stop taking it altogether.
      Masteron/Primobolan/Equipose is considered very safe anabolics at low dosages and can help protect muscle in a low calorie environment. It has anti-estrogen properties which helps counteract the estrogen side effect of Testosterone propionate.
      None of these anabolics are known for liver toxicity or place too much pressure on kidneys. They are not know for high blood pressure problems either (except potentially Testosterone Propionate in higher dosages). But be aware – ALL anabolics will raise your bad cholesterol, some more than other. Although these are considered mild it will still have an effect. Therefor NEVER do a cycle unless you had your cholesterol checked and it is within normal parameters.
      Be very carefull with Testosterone (prop or any other variant). Increasing the dosage can result in severe increases in blood pressure, heart rate and water rentention. Therefore always start with the minimum suggested dosage and monitor your bodies reaction carefully. Although testosterone is safe for the body, too much of it can have severe side effects, like with anything in life!
      Post Cycle Treatment (PCT)
      ALL anabolics will to various degrees shut down your own testosterone production. Especially Testosterone Propionate. Generally it is not a problem if you follow 3 simple rules:
      Stick to recommended dosages.
      Do not do your cycle for longer than 12 weeks.
      Do a PCT program at the end of your cycle.

      There are varying degrees of PCT protocols treatments that will depend on the quantities anabolics used in your cycle.
      PCT for high quantities anabolics used:
      Day 1-10: HCG at 500iu per day and Proviron at 100mg per day
      Day 11-15: Nolvadex at 60mg per day
      Day 16-20: Nolvadex at 40mg per day
      Day 21-30: Nolvadex at 20mg per day
      Clomid at 150mg per day.
      PCT for low to med quantities anabolics used:
      Day 11-15: Nolvadex at 60mg per day
      Day 16-20: Nolvadex at 40mg per day
      Day 21-30: Nolvadex at 20mg per day

      It is again emphasized that the above undertaking MUST be done only under a doctor’s supervision accompanied by all the necessary blood work. Get yourself a home blood pressure monitor machine and measure your blood pressure and resting heart rate every evening. And if u still want kids or u are under 35…steroids is a no-no!

  4. Gert,

    Thanks for the great video and instructioins.

    One question,

    How do you alternate the cutting and building according to seasons? I know in SA its mostly warm but in places where there is a full winter and normal summer, when should the cutting start for a nice beach body? Anad when should it alternate to building?

    Thanks for the great inspiration


    1. Hi Oguz,
      Thanx for feedback buddy – appreciated!
      Eish difficult one. I am lucky now and busy with my building phase in Christmas summer holiday season but I had it many times unlucky that I had to cut in the middle of festive and holiday seasons.
      You can try and target a certain period with a preferred phase by stretching or shortening to a few phases timeframes a bit. For example from 3 months to a two month phase. But generally not a good idea. Three months is pretty spot on for best results vs manageable tendon/joint pain.
      So if u want December to have a nice body you should start your cutting phase round Aug/Sept.
      Your body still look very ripped for the first 4 weeks in the building phase.
      Wish u success bud. G.

  5. Hello Gert,

    I saw your YouTube video regarding the above phases and I am really happy that you posted it as I am on cutting my goal being shed body from 16% to 10%, will be going to a second assessment on Saturday, but I have jus realized from your videos that actually losing Muscel as well because I feel like I’m loosing weight weight at fast rate than normal. But thank you for all the videos you post and if you any advise please feel free to advise me

    Sent from my iPhone 4s


    1. Crosby. It can very well be true. Most guys loose more muscle than bodyfat in a cutting phase because they target the calorie amounts per day too low and that put the body in starvation mode which has the effect of using muscle for energy rather than fat storage. Each of our “cut-off” points for this starvation mode is different and that is why it is so critical to put the monitoring and adjusting process in place describe in my cutting video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOKz6t3SYN4 Once you’ve established this “sweet-spot” you will divert energy requirements away from muscles and to the fat storage and that is when you really start loosing fat and keep muscles. Wish u success! G.

  6. Gert,
    I have reduced my body fat from 28% to 20%. If I start a building phase at 20% instead of waiting to reach 10% what can I expect to happen?


    1. Hi Stephen,
      First – CONGRATS on the 8% bodyfat drop!
      When I answer I will assume that you follow a building phase and diet similar to what I suggest.
      One can easily drop bodyfat in a building phase by cutting calories but then you are putting the reverse on the mechanisms that helps muscle growth.
      That is why a building phase must be accompanied but the appropriete building diet as well.
      You have to sit down and think what your goal is. If you want a ripped muscled physique at the end of a cutting phase then I suggest you follow the following approach:
      Wrap up your building phase to end a bit prematurely at end Dec.
      Then do a cutting phase till you reached at least 12%-13% bodyfat before you start a building phase again.
      I would then do another cutting after that targetting 7% to 8% bodyfat…and from there onwards you can go the normal route. cutting/building and alternate…normally.
      Wish u success.

      1. Gert,
        My apologies… I’m a little confused by what you meant. I’m still in a learning phase, LOL!

        When you stated “DO NOT PICK UP MORE THAN 4% to 5% …” are you suggesting that I not add more than 4 to 5 percent body fat back to the 8% I just lost, assuming I start my building phase at my current 20% BF? or did you mean I shouldn’t add anymore that 4 to 5 percent lean mass before going back to a cutting phase?

        I’ve gotten very disciplined with tracking my food macros using myfitnesspal.com and a food scale. I’ve been on 300-500 daily caloric deficit the last 3 months in addition to 45-mins of steady state cardio (no less than) 5 days per week. I’m feel ready for some resistance training so I don’t look so skinny. Most of the BF I still need to lose remains around my belly. I need to figure out “the caloric sweet spot” you mentioned in your video to determine my ideal caloric amounts for each build and cut phase. I really appreciate you helping me with my fitness journey!


      2. Sorry Stephan I should have expressed myself better!
        The normal reaction of the body when you turn you diet from a calorie deficit (cutting) to a normalized diet (building) which provides your exact daily calorie requirements, is to add a few kg’s. This will be to replenish glycogen storage levels in the body and with that comes extra water which will be shown with fat callipers as increased bodyfat. It is not in actual fact increased bodyfat but mere extra water and glycogen. Muscles only really grow effectively when the body is not in a calorie deficit environment. So if you are entering the building phase you will have to change the diet and that will then look like you adding a few % points bodyfat. It will be quickly lost again when you re-enter the cutting phase. So in building phase your bodyfat will always rise. Most of the times just slightly.
        And to answer your question directly, I meant you should not add more than 4 to 5% bodyfat in the building phase.
        It is really critical that you apply the method I discussed to determine your sweet-spot otherwise you might be loosing more muscle than fat. Wish u success bud and keep education yourself. In fitness, knowledge = growth!

  7. Thanks for this Gertlouw. I am not sure I understood well. I guess you mean:
    Building phase: 3-4 months, then:
    Stop: up to 14 days with NO TRAINING, then:
    Cutting phase (at 80% of your potential): how many weeks?

    Thanks and congrats for your wonderful body!

    1. Andrew – u understood correct!
      The cutting phase can be longer than 3-4 months depending on your target bodyfat percentage.
      Since it is not overtaxing the tendons and joints time is not so crucial.
      But once you’ve reach your target bodyfat in a cutting phase you should from then onwards stick to the 3-4 month rule for both the cutting and building phases.
      Wish u success.

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