When you’re walking along the beach, no-one really cares how much you can bench. And girls aren’t impressed when your giant bulk blocks the sun they were tanning in. What really makes a stir on the sand when you’re stripped down is a lean, hard look with muscles so well defined that they have their own dictionary entry. For guys, a few major hero muscles help, and typically they’re the flex, the pecs and the decks – the biceps, chest and abs.
In most cases, this means a compromise of training for a little more size and a lot more shape. For starters, we’ve all got a six-pack and defined muscles down there somewhere; they just don’t show up much when they’re clouded in fat, so it’s important to leave plenty of time for cardio. Three sessions of interval training of 30 minutes or more a week will see the fat melt away if you’re keeping the kilojoules in control and your water intake up.
In the gym, limit rest periods strictly to one minute to maintain a high intensity of training to help raise your metabolism and stimulate muscle growth. That might mean your strength drops off between sets and you have to lower the weights. Just do it – put the ego in your locker, keep your form strict and think about how great you’ll look on the beach. It’s all about the look, not the load.
Two sessions a week (third session optional), with at least 36 hours between sessions.Dip one-and-a-halfs: 3 x 6-10 reps
Cable bench press: 3 x 8-12 reps
Decline pullover: 3 x 10-12 reps
Biceps pulldown: 4 x 8-10 reps
Ball preacher: 3 x 10-12 reps
Century hammer curl: Drop set to 100Superset
Hanging leg raise: 3 x 10-15
Top crunch: 3 x 15-20
SidekicksHang on for big biceps. Research at the University of Birmingham in the UK found that isometric contraction at the point where a muscle can hold most force enhances growth. Try holding a bar palms up with a right angle at the elbows as long as you can – it works for gymnasts.
Ripped abs watching TV. Isometric training works particularly well for slow-twitch muscles such as abs. Try this – when you’re watching TV, lie back, bend your knees slightly and raise your feet and head just off the floor and hold.Weights first, aerobics after This is the way to cut up, according to University of Tokyo research presented to the American College of Sports Medicine in 2006. The study clearly showed that this leads to hormonal changes that favour increased fat oxidation.
More reps for hard-gainers. A study from Ege University in Turkey published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that people with the ACE-2 gene – typically skinny, hard-gainers – won’t grow on heavy, low-rep sets. They need extra sets, higher reps (12-15) and/or extended sets.
Show that chest. Too much pec work and a weak upper back can make for a sunken chest. Do a rowing exercise with weights or do cardio on a rowing machine so you pull your shoulders back and stretch your chest.Change up to cut up. Researchers in Sydney at the University of NSW and the Garvan Institute found that 20 minutes on an exercise bike cycling for eight seconds fast then 12 seconds light led to three times more weight loss than cycling for 40 minutes at a continuous pace. They reckon this would also work for swimming, walking, running and rowing.