Summer is coming – are you ready? Chances are you haven’t even thought about stripping down for the beach but don’t worry, this article is going to help you get your summer body on!
The lead up to summer is always a busy time for personal trainers as many exercisers want to look their best for the events the good weather brings. Trips to the beach, days in the park, weddings and outdoor sports are great examples of when you really want to look and feel your best.
Of course, a great many people only turn their attention to their summer shape up when summer is only just around the corner. This is a BIG mistake! If you want to look your best in the summer, you need to start shaping up in the spring. You can’t create a masterpiece overnight after all…
So how do you go about making sure you look your best when the sun is shining? Good question. Like a successful military operation, it’s all about planning and execution. In this article I want to help you kick start your assault on summer fitness by helping you develop your very own plan of attack.
Abs, they say, are made in the kitchen. While this is only half true (exercise plays a big role after all) it does go to show that nutrition is an important part of getting in great shape. Another old exercise adage is that you can’t outrun a bad diet and this is 100% true. No matter how hard you exercise, if you are living on junk food you will NEVER see the results you truly want.
So, it’s time to start cleaning up your diet. In the winter, you probably crave big, satisfying meals consisting of comfort foods like potatoes, pasta and bread. Of course, being all wrapped up in sweaters and coats will have hidden the damage caused by eating like this. If you intend to strip off on the beach this summer, you also have to strip off some fat if you want to look your best.
Start cutting down on processed foods, sugar and starchy carbs like rice and bread. These foods are generally high in calories but low in nutrients so it really pays to eat less of them if you want to get lean. Instead, fill up on vegetables – especially low calorie salads, and eat plenty of lean protein and healthy fats like avocados, nuts and olive oil. Eating like this throws your metabolic switch from fat storage to fat burning and also ensures you have all the nutrients you need for building muscle. Speaking of which…
Cardio is important for health and fat burning but the most vital part of your summer shape up strategy is strength training. Your diet should result in fat loss and once that fat comes off, you want to reveal some decent muscle mass otherwise you are going to look just plain skinny. Unless you like the whole “sand kicked in the face” look – you need to start hitting the weights!
Strength training is more than doing some bench presses and bicep curls to pump up your upper body. If you want to look your best, you need to work your entire body on at least a weekly basis. If you are unsure how to put a balanced and effective strength training program together why not consider working out with a personal trainer? That way you’ll ensure that your workouts will deliver the results you want.
Either way, to get a beach body, you need to make sure you work on building all of your major muscles. This is best done using compound exercises. Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at the same time and because this creates a very anabolic (muscle building) environment in your body means you’ll get better results in less time. So, say hello to squats, dead lifts, pull ups and shoulder presses and goodbye to leg extensions and tricep kickbacks. Stick with sets of around six to ten repetitions for best results and make sure that, for every pushing exercise, you perform a pulling exercise in the same plane. That way you’ll develop the muscles on the front and the rear of your body equally; you don’t want to look great from the front but terrible from the behind do you?!
EPOC – two workouts for the price of one
Assuming you perform predominately compound strength training exercises, your core should be getting a pretty good workout, albeit indirectly. However, a few choice core specific exercises will help chisel out your six-pack. Planks, side planks, Turkish get ups, Russian twists and single-armed farmer’s walks will all get the job done in no time. Perform a few sets of one or two of each exercise at the end of your strength or cardio workouts and you’ll be all set. No need to go overboard on the core work though – no matter how many sets and reps you do, you can’t “spot reduce” fat from your midsection.
For cardio, as you want to be big and buff like an athlete and not skinny like a prepubescent schoolboy, forget long slow cardio workouts and get your sprint on. Sprinting, as well as being a key factor of almost every type of sport, is also an amazing fat burner. It really cranks up your metabolism, not just while your are doing it but for hours afterwards. When it comes to blitzing fat, sprints work like a charm. You can do sprints outdoors or indoors as preferred but remember a sprint is an all out effort. Sprint for 20-30 seconds and then rest for 90 seconds. Repeat 10 times and you are done.
Core and Cardio
’ve been a certified personal trainer for 15 years now and in that time I have lost count of the number of female exercisers who have said to me, “Mark, I don’t want to do too much weight training as I don’t want to bulk up”. This is one of those gym myths that just won’t die!
First, I’m not talking about turning you into some kind of masculine-looking she-hulk! I’m talking about adding a couple of pounds of muscle at most to help you lose fat more effectively. Secondly, women just aren’t genetically programmed to gain lots of muscle. They lack sufficient amounts of the hormone testosterone. Even guys who have lots of testosterone usually find it hard to pack on muscle so what chance do women have? Finally, I won’t train a female client like I would a male client. I choose exercised that will tone and tighten rather than build large bulky muscles. Bottom line, you really don’t have to worry about bulking up.
Follow these tips and you’ll be looking good this summer – just don’t wait until the last minute because it will be here before you know it!
By Mark Darco
Mark Darco is a professional personal trainer who has completed multiple certifications. He works in the Brooklyn, NYC area.