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.


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