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
2.6M Reads
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!

646 Comments
Tiririca
Posted on: Tue, 06/08/2021 - 04:55

so there is no carbohydrate intake whatsoever in this diet? Lunch is important to me so can I replace with some sort of chicken breast with salad?

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Tue, 06/08/2021 - 09:39

Hey Tiririca - yes, there is carbohydrate intake in this diet. You can add in a salad with the chicken breast for lunch.

Haley
Posted on: Tue, 06/01/2021 - 11:35

If I work out in the morning, from 6:30 to 7:30, 8:00; would my meal plans to stay the same?

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Fri, 06/04/2021 - 10:25

Hey Haley - meals will most likely stay the same. The biggest thing is getting in your calories and protein for the day.

Mi
Posted on: Mon, 05/24/2021 - 10:17

I’m so excited to start this. Curious what the purpose of the fish oil soft gels are? I saw some benefits about it being anti inflammatory and possibly help with weight loss?

Alex
Posted on: Mon, 05/17/2021 - 03:50

Is there anyway to swap this up if I need to workout in the morning as far as meals? I noticed dinner was post workout, can that be flipped to breakfast?

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Mon, 05/17/2021 - 11:04

Hey Alex - yes, you can switch up the meals as needed to fit your schedule

Bilbo Baggins
Posted on: Mon, 05/03/2021 - 17:17

I did this for 2 months for a tulum trip. Dieted correctly. Supplemented correctly. And am still a fat POS....unbelievable.

Darek s
Posted on: Mon, 04/26/2021 - 20:55

Starting tomorrow—and excited!
On the workout do you go from exercise to exercise or 8 sets of dumbbell chest before going to next exercise?
Cycle them or one muscle at a time?

Thanks in advance

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Tue, 04/27/2021 - 09:45

Hey Darek - you'll do all sets of one exercise before moving on to the next.

Mariam Ellam
Posted on: Sat, 04/03/2021 - 06:16

I do go a gym any more since covid. I have turned my veranda into a mini gym with a small wall mounted cable machine, I have loads of free weights for dumbbells and bar also have a chin up bar. I don't have a treadmill. So I swapped the treadmill to a farmers walk is that ok. I don't have a leg press so changed that to glute pushdown using my cable machine again is this ok. I really want to do this program, so your advice would be really appreciated.

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Tue, 04/06/2021 - 09:48

Hey Mariam - yes those are great swaps. Awesome job modifying this workout to fit what you have!

Mariam Ellam
Posted on: Sun, 04/18/2021 - 10:51

Thanks that's really helpful can I swap the cardio session for a 5-10k run as looking to start my 10k race training again

Scott
Posted on: Fri, 04/02/2021 - 02:16

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.

This is confusing because at the top it says you keep the same weight for the duration of the sets.

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.

Mi
Posted on: Mon, 05/24/2021 - 10:15

I was confused by this too. I’m going to assume it means keep the same weight for the duration of the sets.

Cynthia
Posted on: Sun, 03/28/2021 - 20:25

Aside from the fat loss/weight loss during these 21 days, how do I "dry out" like competitors do right before a show? I have a photo shoot scheduled and would like to be as lean/toned as possible.

Daveria
Posted on: Wed, 03/17/2021 - 23:03

What’s the purpose of the fish oil soft gels?

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Thu, 03/18/2021 - 09:21

Hey Daveria - they provide Omega-3 supplementation.

JIm
Posted on: Mon, 03/15/2021 - 17:22

Thanks for the program. Is there a specific target macro for carbs? Or fats? Protein seems to be in the 140-160 gram range rather than calculated by body weight? Thank you.

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Tue, 03/16/2021 - 11:38

Hey JIm - check out this article on determining your macronutrients: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/determine-daily-calorie-macro...

Atanas Belchev
Posted on: Fri, 03/12/2021 - 09:31

Thank you for this program, I'm very satisfied with the results. I have cut good amount of belly fat. At the moment I feel like gaining lean muscle before the summer and then again cut some fat.
Could you recommend me another one which will help me gain lean muscle in the next two months?
Again with a meal plan like this one, with recommendation what supplements to take, how often to do cardio and what type and any other details.
I am 86 kg, 175 cm , 42 years.
Thank you so much, you're great !!!

Atanas Belchev
Posted on: Sun, 03/21/2021 - 09:27

I would appreciate if you give me some guidelines about the above. Thanks

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Mon, 03/22/2021 - 09:51
Atanas Belchev
Posted on: Mon, 03/22/2021 - 13:58

Thank, I think I will give it a try starting next week.
Any suggestions for a meal plan? I go to the gym in the morning.
How long should be the rest between set ? Is it different on lower and on hypertrophy days?
Thanks

Brady
Posted on: Thu, 03/11/2021 - 14:37

In terms of macros, how many grams of carbs and fats should I be eating? I did some math and based on the 2100kcal, is the net about 175g of carb/protein, and 75-78g of fats. If so, is the ratio 33:33:33? And does your current body weight affect this meal plan?

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Tue, 03/16/2021 - 11:37

Hey Brady - for more accurate calories, you can use our BMR calculator (https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator) to determine your personal calorie needs. From there, you can check out this article about figuring out your macros: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/determine-daily-calorie-macro...

Karthi
Posted on: Tue, 03/09/2021 - 08:13

Hi, I see that we work out on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.
1. What about the other 3 days ?
2. Do we perform cardio on those 4 days after workouts?
3. Which day is a rest day?
Please reply, it will help a lot. Thanks

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Wed, 03/10/2021 - 09:52

Hey Karthi - Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday serve as your rest days. You'll perform the written cardio session after each of your workouts.

Karthi
Posted on: Sun, 03/21/2021 - 10:16

Hey Abigalil_M&S - are we taking 3 days off to compensate for the intense workout that we did earlier? I'm afraid no workout on those 3 days would just make me to put weight again since we just eat and don't do any workout. Or should we do something on 1 or 2 days during wed, sat and Sun ? Can you help

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Mon, 03/22/2021 - 09:52

Hey Karthi - you shouldn't be gaining weight during those three days as you'll be eating in a caloric deficit

Zaid
Posted on: Wed, 03/03/2021 - 09:38

Hey just a quick question. I have adjustable dumbbells and a barbell at home. Is it ok if I change the weights for each of the exercises to make the weight more suitable for me or will that be counted as too much of ‘rest’ between workouts?

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Wed, 03/03/2021 - 09:58

Hey Zaid - you should 100% change the weights for each exercise.

Larry connors
Posted on: Wed, 02/10/2021 - 17:03

I have been doing well with this program so far, the only issue I have is the cardio cycle after the workouts. There's like 8 exercises, there's no way I can do those without resting. It's not possible. And there's no way I can do 5 sets of that, let alone after a workout. And 15 minutes? That has to be a typo. Can you please shed some light on this? I want to do this right but it really doesn't add up.

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Fri, 02/12/2021 - 10:01

Hey Larry - The goal is to do the exercises back to back without rest, but you can rest as needed. I would treat the cardio portion as a 15 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible), that way you're getting in 15 minutes of cardio but aren't killing yourself in the process.

Josué
Posted on: Mon, 02/08/2021 - 18:10

I workout at my house and I don’t have a leg press machine. What exercise can I do instead of leg press. I have a bar and a bench press with with leg extension and lying g leg curls machine. Thank you.

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Tue, 02/09/2021 - 11:25

Hey Josué - check out this article for alternative movements: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/lower-body-alternatives-your-...

Stacy
Posted on: Wed, 02/03/2021 - 16:49

For the dinner portion of meat, for example, women eat 6 oz of chicken is that cooked or raw weight?

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Thu, 02/04/2021 - 10:17

Hey Stacy - raw weight.

NICK
Posted on: Wed, 02/03/2021 - 15:07

GOOD MORNING
For 8x8 what % of the RM do you counsel ? 80% ,?
Normaly for a shredding programm it s not better to go upper 15 /20 rep with super set and a few rest ?
Thanks for your answer
nick from france

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Thu, 02/04/2021 - 10:08

Hey NICK - 80% is most likely going to be too heavy to do an 8x8 with. You should choose a weight that you can move safely and with proper form for the given number of reps and sets.

NICK
Posted on: Thu, 02/04/2021 - 10:11

ok thanks for your answer but if 75% is normaly for 10 reps to build mass so 8 reps are more than 75% no?

Aaron Love
Posted on: Mon, 02/01/2021 - 16:02

I workout in first thing in the morning - fasted (6am), how do I alter the meal plan / timing accordingly as it seems that it's assumed I workout in the evening... At least the way I'm reading it.

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Tue, 02/02/2021 - 09:27

Hey Aaron - you can follow the meal plan as written starting with breakfast after your morning workout.

Matt
Posted on: Mon, 02/01/2021 - 07:36

I am really excited about starting this workout and diet routine. I work a second shift job and was curious about the scheduling of the workouts. Is it ok to alter the time of the workout to in between the first two meals?

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Mon, 02/01/2021 - 10:50

Hey Matt - yes it is.

Harry Graham
Posted on: Tue, 01/26/2021 - 23:22

Hey,

I am currently following Thai program and have lost 3kgs quickly, however found myself wondering why the fat consumption is so high and such a big deal in the program. I’ve seen it work, but just wanted to some clarification and this seems counterintuitive that to burn fat you need to eat more fat. Thanks

Abigail_M&S
Posted on: Wed, 01/27/2021 - 09:04

Hey Harry - consuming fat is not inherently bad. The only way you can lose weight is by eating in a caloric deficit. Consuming a higher fat diet will keep you satiated and fuller for longer. This will, in theory, keep you from snacking and consuming excess calories; therefore, keeping you in a caloric deficit and allowing you to lose weight.

Kari
Posted on: Thu, 01/07/2021 - 11:50

My husband cannot have cheese. Can you suggest a substitution for the string cheese? He's been eating more almonds to compensate but any suggestions are welcome!

Laura
Posted on: Tue, 01/05/2021 - 13:02

Can someone please clarify the total mg/day of fish oil that is safe. Six 1200 mg capsules is way over the recommendation, and that is a common dosage for OTC fish oil.

Christine Blake
Posted on: Mon, 12/14/2020 - 10:20

What is the recommended rest between sets in this program?

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