Fast & Furious: 21 Day Shredding Workout Cycle And Diet

Ian Coleman
Written By: Ian Coleman
May 27th, 2020
Updated: March 24th, 2021
Categories: Workouts Fat Loss
3.2M Reads
Fast & Furious: 21 Day Shredding Workout Cycle And Diet
This 3 week fat burning cycle focuses on low-carb food choices and hardcore workouts that restrict rest between sets, finishing with intense 15 minute cardio sessions.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

No, this article isn't a gimmick. It wasn't written to fool people into thinking they can get shredded in only 21 days. I call this program "fast and furious" because:

Fast - You are eating only 1/3rd of your daily calories before dinner. This will feel like fasting for most of you, and is only one step away from intermittent fasting.

Furious - Workouts are fast-paced, exhausting, exhilerating and calorie-burning.

This workout and eating plan is a fat loss cycle based around a 21 day schedule. It can be run once if you only need to knock off a quick 5-15 pounds, or multiple times if you have more weight to lose.

Recommended: Need help losing fat? Take our Free Fat Loss Course

21 Day Cycle Expectations

This cycle is designed to strip away fat while maintaining muscle tissue. It can help you achieve that ripped or toned look you are after.

During the first week of a reduced calorie and carbohydrate diet, you will flush a lot of excess water and lose weight rapidly. This is neither unhealthy, nor an indication of what your rate of weight loss will be like during weeks 2 and 3. With that said, men should expect to see an 8 to 12 pound loss during these 3 weeks, and women will likely lose 5 to 10 pounds. 

If you continue to run this program, your rate of overall weight loss will slow during the second and third cycles. You have already flushed out quite a bit of excess water weight, so from this point forward the majority of your weight loss will be fat loss. Men should lose about 5 to 10 pounds during the second cycle, and women 3 to 6 pounds.

These 21 day cycles are perfect for individuals who gained extra weight during the past 6 months, and need to drop just a little fat to get back to a more normal weight. I don't recommend running these cycles more than twice, maybe three times max.

So, if you're ready to look better at the beach, let's get moving.

shredded man doing chest press

Learning the Basics

Here are the basics of each 21 day cycle:

  • Limited Pre-Workout Meals - You will be eating lighter during the day, and consuming the bulk of your calories during a 4 hour window each night.
  • Resistance Training - There will be 4 gym workouts per week, focusing on limited rest between sets.
  • Cardio - Intense 15 minute cardio sessions will follow each resistance training workout. Additional cardio is optional, but examples are provided below.

This is not a beginner workout. If you do not have an understanding of the exercises used in this program, please take some time to learn them before attempting this plan. Also note that 2 eating plans are provided: a 2,100 calorie per day plan for men, and a 1,500 calorie per day plan for women.

Here is a sample workout schedule. You can play with the days anyway you want, as long as there are 2 days of rest in between upper body workouts, or 2 days of rest between lower body workouts.

  • Monday - Upper Body Workout A
  • Tuesday - Lower Body Workout A
  • Thursday - Upper Body Workout B
  • Friday - Lower Body Workout B

Rest between each set is exactly 30 seconds. Keep the same weight for each set of a given exercise. For example, when performing the dumbbell bench press, if you are using 50 pound dumbbells, use the same weight for each set.

Make sure to pick a starting weight that allows you to perform the stated sets and reps. If you are unable to perform all the reps for each listed set, lighten the weight load the next time you perform this exercise. On the other hand, if a weight doesn't feel challenging enough, add weight the next time you perform this exercise.

Optional Cardio

You can add in an optional cardio workouts:

  • First thing in the morning.
  • On off days.
  • At least 4 hours before a resistance training workout, or at least 3 hours after resistance training.

These optional workouts don't have to be boring. You can go for a walk, go hiking, swimming, running, do hill sprints, etc.

Fit female

21 Day Shredding Workout

Workout A - Upper Body

Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Bench Press 8 8
Seated Cable Row 8 8
Machine Overhead Press 8 8
Cable Curl 6 8
Skullcrushers 6 8

Workout B - Upper Body

Exercise Sets Reps
Machine Chest Press 8 8
Lat Pull Down 8 8
Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press 8 8
EZ Bar Curl 6 8
Cable Tricep Extensions 6 8

Workout A - Lower Body

Reps

Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Press 8 8
Leg Curl 8 8
Leg Extension 6 8
Seated Calf Raise 8 8
Planks 6 30 sec

Workout B - Lower Body

Exercise Sets Reps
Hack Squat 8 8
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift 8 8
Goblet Squat 6 8
Leg Press Calf Press 8 8
Hanging Knee Raise 6 15

Shredding Workout FAQ

Do I have to use the dumbbell bench press?

No. You can use any dumbbell or barbell bench press variation.

Do I have to use machine exercises?

No. You can use any suitable dumbbell or barbell exercise replacement.

Can I use pull ups instead of lat pull downs?

Yes.

Can I use barbell rows instead of seated cable rows?

Yes.

Can I use squats instead of leg press?

You could, but the muscle soreness will be unbearable. This is a rest-pause workout. Squats might leave you in pain for a week to come.

Isn't this a lot of sets?

Yes, but it's a rest-pause workout. Because you are restricting rest in between sets, the amount of weight you will be using for each exercise will drop slightly. So while the volume is increasing, the intensity is decreasing.

Mountain climbers outside

21 Day Cycle Cardio Workout

Perform the following cardio workout after each resistance training session. If you are pressed for time (or the gym is packed), you can also perform this session later in the day or first thing in the morning on your training days.

For this cardio workout you will need:

This cardio session should take you around 15 minutes, or maybe longer. Perform the following sequence 5 to 6 times through using no rest between exercises and treadmill work. 

Cardio Workout 

Exercise Reps
Push Ups 10
Jumping Jacks 20
Burpees 10
Treadmill walking - slow & steady pace 30 seconds
Lying Floor Knee Raise 20
Jump Squats 10
Mountain Climbers 20 each leg
Treadmill walking - slow & steady pace 30 seconds

Diet Plan For Men

This eating plan restricts food consumption prior to 5 pm. You will focus on low carb, high fat, high protein eating. Dinner (your main meal) should be eaten around 5-6 pm, and your pre-bed snack around 8-9 pm.

Here is the meal plan schedule for men:

  • 8 am - 3 scrambled eggs (large) cooked in 2 pats of butter, with any veggies you prefer such as peppers, diced onion, mushrooms, spinach, etc. This meal contains about 330 calories and 20-22 grams of protein.
  • 11 am - Whey protein shake, 3 fish oil softgels and 3 ounces of strawberries or blueberries. This meal contains about 157 calories and 22-25 grams of protein.
  • 2 pm - 2 pieces of regular fat string cheese and one ounce of almonds. This meal contains about 324 calories and 22 grams of protein.
  • Dinner (post-workout) - Pick from one of the 3 dinner choices below.
  • Pre-bed Snack - Casein protein shake, 3 fish oil softgels and a medium apple. This meal contains about 213 calories and 25 grams of protein.

Dinner - Meal 1

  • 10 ounces of baked, boneless and skinless chicken breast. (312 calories and 65 grams of protein)
  • Sour cream and salsa topping for chicken breast. Combine 2 ounces of full-fat, natural sour cream with 2 ounces of salsa. (141 calories and 2 grams of protein)
  • Spinach salad. 2 cups of spinach, 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (dressing), salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 diced onion, 10 halved cherry tomatoes, 3 ounces of diced mozzarella (full-fat) cheese, one ounce of diced black olives. (631 calories and 23.2 grams of protein)

Dinner - Meal 2

  • 8 ounces of 70% lean ground beef mixed with 1/2 packet of taco seasoning mix, and topped with 2 ounces of guacamole. (743 calories and 60 grams of protein)
  • Place the beef over a bed of: 2 cups of shredded lettuce, 1/2 cup fresh salsa, 1/2 cup shredded (full-fat) cheddar cheese, and one ounce of sour cream. (343 calories and 15.6 grams of protein)

Dinner - Meal 3

  • 8 ounces of salmon. (466 calories, 50 grams of protein)
  • Lemon butter sauce for salmon: 3 melted pats of butter combined with the juice of one lemon and 1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic. (112 calories)
  • Spinach salad. 2 cups of spinach tossed with a dressing of 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 ounce of walnuts, and 1 ounce of dried cranberries. (518 calories and 3.6 grams of protein)

Lat pull downs

Diet Plan For Women

Here is the meal plan schedule for women:

  • 8 am - 2 scrambled eggs (large) cooked in 2 pats of butter, with any veggies you prefer such as peppers, diced onion, mushrooms, spinach, etc. This meal contains about 260 calories and 14-16 grams of protein.
  • 11 am - Whey protein shake, 3 fish oil softgels and 3 ounces of strawberries or blueberries. This meal contains about 157 calories and 22-25 grams of protein.
  • 2 pm - 1 piece of regular fat string cheese and one ounce of almonds. This meal contains about 244 calories and 16 grams of protein.
  • Dinner (post-workout) - Pick from one of the 3 dinner choices below.
  • Pre-bed Snack - Casein protein shake and 3 fish oil softgels. This meal contains about 143 calories and 25 grams of protein.

Dinner - Meal 1

  • 6 ounces of baked, boneless and skinless chicken breast. (187 calories and 39 grams of protein)
  • Sour cream and salsa topping for chicken breast. Combine 1 ounce of full-fat, natural sour cream with 1 ounce of salsa. (71 calories and 1 gram of protein)
  • Spinach salad. 2 cups of spinach, 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (dressing), salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 diced onion, 5 halved cherry tomatoes, 1.5 ounces of diced mozzarella (full-fat) cheese. (432 calories and 16 grams of protein)

Dinner - Meal 2

  • 6 ounces of 70% lean ground beef mixed with 1/2 packet of taco seasoning mix, and topped with 1 ounce of guacamole. (545 calories and 44 grams of protein)
  • Place the beef over a bed of: 1 cup of shredded lettuce, 1/2 cup fresh salsa, and 1/4 cup shredded (full-fat) cheddar cheese. (161 calories and 7.6 grams of protein)

Dinner - Meal 3

  • 6 ounces of salmon. (350 calories, 37.6 grams of protein)
  • Lemon butter sauce for salmon: 2 melted pats of butter combined with the juice of one lemon and 1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic. (76 calories)
  • Spinach salad. 2 cups of spinach tossed with a dressing of 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 ounce of walnuts and 1/2 ounce of dried cranberries. (254 calories and 2.7 grams of protein)

Diet Plan FAQ

What if I don't like the meal choices?

These meal choices are merely examples. You can swap in any protein source, fats and veggies. Just make sure you are not eating rice, potatoes, oatmeal or any other non-fruit or veggie carbs.

For men, dinner calories should equal around 1,076. For women, calories should come to around 690.

Do I need to use casein and whey protein?

No. You can swap in any protein foods as long as the calories come to about 120.

Post your post-workout swolfies in M&S gear on IG and tag @muscleandstrength, #muscleandstrength, or DM them to us to get a shoutout on Muscle & Strength stories!

982 Comments
Kwasi
Posted on: Mon, 07/08/2024 - 12:36

Are any warm up sets required?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 07/11/2024 - 05:56

Warming up is always recommended, but you don't have to do warmup sets before each exercise. Cardio and light stretching before the session may suffice.

Devon
Posted on: Tue, 07/02/2024 - 16:37

This sounds like a great program to help me lose some much needed weight! Question for you - it is mentioned to run the program at most 3 times, is there a program you recommend after this one? I guess specifically I'm wondering how to keep the weight off once I get to where I want it to be. Thank you!

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 07/05/2024 - 12:59

Hi Devon, I would suggest focusing on executing this one first before making future plans. Your next program can be most beneficial if you determine what it is based on your progress at that point. If you pick something now, and it turns out to be too easy, then you would have to go look again for another one.

That said, if you really want to plan it out, this guide can help.

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-choose-your-next-train...

Joe
Posted on: Sun, 06/30/2024 - 13:28

Can this program be used as a supplement workout for to get ready for a golden gloves competition?
In other words, do it as outlined but include sparring as the extra cardio for the allotted 15 minutes(3-5 minute rounds)?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 06/30/2024 - 19:56

It can. Joe. Best of luck at your competition!

Jerry
Posted on: Sun, 06/30/2024 - 12:10

This looks like the workout for me.
Can the "additional" cardio be boxing or kickboxing oriented for the prescribed time?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 06/30/2024 - 19:55

Hi Jerry, it sure can. Hope this program serves you well!

Burak
Posted on: Wed, 06/26/2024 - 20:43

Hello Roger,
Thank you for sharing this, I just started doing this challenge 2 days - I am 96kgs, trying to lose some weight and I am following the diet fully. I have one problem about the cardio part, after doing workouts I am generally very tired and sometimes I cant even complete 1 full session of post-workout cardio exercises.
What would you recommend? Should I still try to do at least couple sessions of it or should I just do it on my off days?
thank you very much!

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 06/27/2024 - 15:35

Hi Burak, thank you for reading M&S!

Do the best you can, when you can, but do not skip out on them. It is challenging and meant to be. While you should not completely exhaust yourself, you should give the best effort you can. If you absolutely cannot do it, then do it on an off day to make up for it.

The question I traditionally ask myself is, if I was getting paid to do this, would I do it? If I can answer yes, then I make myself try. Hope this helps!

Endu
Posted on: Mon, 06/17/2024 - 05:32

Hi dear,

I just tore my ACL and won't really be able to do proper Cardio. My body fat is around 13-15% I am 183cm and 75Kg. I want to do maximum to my body within one month as summer is knocking on the door. What do you recommend in my position right now?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 06/18/2024 - 08:37

Hi Endu, if you have access to a hand bike, you could do that as well as heavy bag work or battle ropes while seated. Other than that, I would suggest talking to your doctor about what options you can work with. What I do also suggest is making sure your nutrition is absolutely on point. Eat the best food possible and cut calories where you can without starving yourself.

Paul Aliotti
Posted on: Wed, 05/15/2024 - 00:12

How many fish oil pills should I take if the dosage is 1000mg (once - twice daily)?

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 05/22/2024 - 08:54

I would go with once to start with, Paul. If you feel that two can help you more down the road, then up it to two.

Zoey
Posted on: Thu, 05/09/2024 - 08:54

What is an alternative to leg curl and extension? I don’t have that machine at home. I have dumbbells, kettlebells, and a functional trainer. Thanks!

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 05/22/2024 - 08:53

Hi Zoey, go with goblet squats and walking lunges. You could also do single leg stiff-legged deadlifts if you prefer. Thanks for reading M&S!

Cirony
Posted on: Wed, 05/01/2024 - 08:33

I just would like to clarify my eating time frame. I workout at 3:30am I’m home by 5am. I work from 8 to 5, home by 5:30 and I try to go to bed between 7 and 8pm. What would be the hours for my eating times?

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 05/15/2024 - 06:15

Hi Cirony, try this.

Meal 1 - 3:00 AM
Meal 2 - 7 AM
Meal 3 - 11 AM
Meal 4 - 2 PM
Meal 5 - 6 PM

Hope this helps!

CIRONY
Posted on: Wed, 05/22/2024 - 14:05

Hi Roger, Yes it helps.... Thank You

Andy
Posted on: Fri, 04/26/2024 - 01:20

I like the Programm. How does it look like if I want to take that programme as a regular one

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 04/28/2024 - 19:06

Hi Andy, taking this one as a regular program is not recommended. At the best, it would be wise to use it at the end of a 12-week program to slice up after a mass building phase. In other words, 9 weeks of building size, 21 days of shred, a week off, and repeat.

Joel Jimenez
Posted on: Thu, 04/25/2024 - 14:06

What is the recommended rest time between sets?

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 04/27/2024 - 20:56

Per the article. "Rest between each set is exactly 30 seconds."

Andy
Posted on: Wed, 04/24/2024 - 13:08

What do you suggest to extend the workout if I adapt fast to the program

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Roger
Posted on: Sat, 04/27/2024 - 20:55

Are you asking about going beyond 21 days or doing longer workouts each day?

Chad
Posted on: Tue, 04/16/2024 - 01:05

It says for cardio complete sequence 5 to 6 times. Can you explain this a little bit more for me please?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 04/16/2024 - 08:28

Hi, Chad. You are to perform all of those exercises in a row, rest briefly, then go again. Continue until you've done this at least five times.

Chad
Posted on: Mon, 04/15/2024 - 09:59

How much water is required (factor in 6 cups of coffee)?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 04/15/2024 - 10:22

Minimum 1 gallon.

Theo
Posted on: Sun, 03/31/2024 - 23:50

Hello, my workouts vary throughout the week meaning sometimes I work out in the mornings and other days I workout in the late afternoon. Do I move my “big meal” after the workouts or do I keep my meals the same everyday to maintain consistency. Thanks.

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 04/03/2024 - 06:43

Good question, Theo. Move the big meal around based on when the workout is. Hope this helps!

Damon Taylor
Posted on: Sun, 03/31/2024 - 16:40

Aloha, I work a night shift three days a week. On those days,how should I time my meals?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 03/31/2024 - 20:12

Hi Damon, what hours are your shift? I want to give the best answer possible for this one.

Damon Taylor
Posted on: Mon, 04/01/2024 - 21:45

6p to 6a

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 04/03/2024 - 06:50

This would be a little different than what is in the article, but I would try to train before work and do it like this.

Meal 1 - 3-3:30 PM, depending when you get up.
Post-Workout Meal - After training/before work,
Next Meal - 9 PM
Next Meal - 1 AM, depending on when you could get it in.
Final Meal - Before bed.

If you insisted on training after work, then I would go 5 PM, 9 PM, 1 AM, 5 AM, Post-workout meal after training, then go to bed.

Nakuro Bradata
Posted on: Thu, 02/29/2024 - 09:32

Worked great for me. Lost almost 3 kg. Lost some fat in terms of %. There is still more to be desired in my ABS area and beer belly, but it was definitely an improvement and it has shrunk. I did not strictly follow the diet at 100%, but set up some red lines I didn't cross during that period: 2100 calories tops no more than 120 g of carbs per day and at lest 180 g of protein.

Matt
Posted on: Sat, 02/17/2024 - 08:25

Can we run 5g Creatine with this plan to maintain stregth? Ive been doing it for week one and haven't noticed a big drop in strength compared to last years run. I'm pushing one gallon of water a day as well. Not noticing as much weight coming off probably because of the creatine

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 02/22/2024 - 10:14

That creatine is helping you hold onto water, but it will protect your strength. I think you can do it for a while but will need to cut it out near the end. Try keeping it in for 14 days, then cutting it out for 7.

Malin
Posted on: Wed, 01/31/2024 - 12:59

I am not really a beginner, but also not quite into intermediate. I am not sure that I can totally do the 8x8, is there a modification to this to work up to the 8x8, say like some of a 4x8, and after the 21 days go back and redo the 8x8 for another 21 days?

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 02/05/2024 - 17:15

Hi Malin, you can start with 4 x 8 and make it a goal to work up to 8 x 8 gradually if you like. Keep a log to monitor your progress along the way.

Nikos
Posted on: Mon, 01/29/2024 - 06:54

How about if I’m working out mornings! Do I have to eat the post work meal as lunch instead of dinner )

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 01/31/2024 - 11:41

That would be best, Nikos, but it isn't absolutely necessary. Whatever will help you stay consistent is most important.

Veronica
Posted on: Mon, 01/29/2024 - 06:08

Hi I usually do my training in the morning at 9 am then after that I get my first meal it is the only time i can manage before work and with kids is this diet plan work with me and is it ok to have my first meal late after my workout or can I have the first two meals together for example to continue on the plan

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Roger
Posted on: Wed, 01/31/2024 - 11:36

Hi Veronica, for your case, I think either way would work. As much as I like eating before I train, sometimes you have to do what will help you stay consistent. If you find you're more likely to stick to this plan and your workout doesn't feel compromised, proceed. Keep us posted on how you do.

Steve
Posted on: Sun, 01/28/2024 - 14:29

This is basically the Vince Gironda 8x8 routine no? With just a few changes. Why only 6 sets for other exercises?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 01/30/2024 - 09:08

Hi Steve, I have wondered that myself, and I don't have a solid answer. My guess is to either keep within a time range or saving the 8 sets for the bigger movements.

This is very similar to the Gironda routine. If you try it, let us know how it goes for you. Thanks for reading M&S!

BC
Posted on: Fri, 01/26/2024 - 15:18

Can you do 4 sets of 16reps instead of 8 sets of 8 reps?

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Roger
Posted on: Tue, 01/30/2024 - 09:05

The weight that you would use for 16 would likely be lighter than those you do with the eight, which is why 8 x 8 is reocmmended. You can make that switch if you like, but your results may not be the same.

Kristie
Posted on: Thu, 01/04/2024 - 07:12

I workout at 5am. How can I adjust the nutrition plan to coincide?

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Roger
Posted on: Sun, 01/07/2024 - 20:06

Hi, Kristie. You can either have Meal 1 before you train, or have something small like a shake and fruit before training, and adjust the calories out of a meal later in the day.