With spring here and summer rapidly approaching many of us have come to the terms with the fact that we may have put on a little too much weight over the holiday season – let’s call it an extra winter layer, a layer we all want to get rid of before bikini season is officially upon us. Those extra inches weren’t much of a big deal when you can wear winter coats, sweaters, sweatshirts and sweatpants but when you need to break out those t-shirts, bikinis, and bathing suits and show some skin, it becomes a little trickier to hide those inches.
As much as I hate to admit it, I am in the same boat as many of you. The difference between me and many other gym goers trying to rid themselves of that extra layer is how I will go about doing it. Believe it or not, there is a right and a wrong way to go about getting back into shape. Unfortunately, most misinformed gym goers think that long hours on the treadmill and/or elliptical will cure their wintertime blues and slim them down in no time.
The fact of the matter is that the long hours doing slow cardio is a great way to drop some weight – just the weight that you don’t want to drop. Chances are a lot of the weight your dropping isn’t actually fat, its muscle, the weight you want to hang on to at all costs. In this scenario we end up dropping weight, be it scale weight, but never achieve a lean and muscular look that we are looking for.
Because I am a nice guy, I’m going to throw you a bone here and help you out. Here are a few tips on getting lean this summer while hanging on to all that muscle you have worked hard to build. While all the other gym goers are on the treadmill wasting away their muscle as well as their time, you can get in and out of the gym in a reasonable time while working towards a lean and muscular look that we all want to achieve.
Get Your Diet in Check
Here’s a pretty simple tip, yet a tip that it seems like no one actually focuses on for more than a couple days or weeks. It doesn’t matter how much and how hard you work out, if you continually find yourself at the drive-thru, you’ll never see the results that you want to see. As Mike Boyle simple put it, “You can’t out-train a poor diet.”
I recommend keeping things simple when it comes to your diet. Eat a nutrient dense diet with high quality foods. Eat 4-5 times a day. Make it a priority to have some type of quality protein source in each meal. Along with that, stay away from the empty calories and focus more on fruits and vegetables as well as carb sources like oatmeal or sweet potatoes at most meals. Finally, try to consume some healthy fats with each meal or as a snack between meals. A small handful of almonds and some greek yogurt is a perfect example of a great midday snack.
For more in-depth yet simple nutrition recommendations, MBSC strength coach Brendan Rearick wrote a great post on this a couple weeks ago HERE.
Continue to Lift Weights
Lifting weights has several great benefits, none greater than its ability to raise your metabolism for up to 24 hours after the workout. The catch is I am not talking about lifting light weights and doing 15+ reps on each set and falling into the false notion of “toning”. I am talking about lifting heavy and really pushing yourself, staying in that lower rep range (3-6 reps, maybe 8 tops). Lifting these heavy weights will not only raise your metabolism post workout, but will help you maintain and hold on to all that muscle.
Furthermore, stay away from single joint movements and focus on multi-joint movements. Exercises like the bench press, deadlift and all its variations, squats and other multi-joint movements will do more for you then all those curls and triceps kickbacks. You’ll burn more calories and work more muscles with the multi-joint movements then you will with the smaller single-joint movements. You’ll also gain more lean mass which will increase your metabolism and have you looking great.
To make things even easier, each training session pick one pushing exercise (vertical or horizontal), one pulling exercise (vertical or horizontal), a quad dominant exercise, a hip dominant exercise, as well as some type of carry. Keep it simple; perform 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps.
- Vertical Push (overhead pressing variations)
- Horizontal Push (bench press and all its variations)
- Vertical Pull (chin ups, pulls ups, lat pulldowns)
- Horizontal Pull (rowing and all its variations)
- Quad Dominant (squat and all its variations, including single leg movements)
- Hip Dominant (deadlift and all its variations, including single leg movements)
- Carry (Farmer’s, Suitcase, Goblet, Overhead, Heartbeat walks)
For myself personally, I actually won’t change much, if anything, when it comes to my strength training when trying to drop a few inches. I still lift heavy, loading the weight on the bar and really having to work hard. In reality, your strength training program, assuming it is a solid strength training program, shouldn’t really change all (slightly less volume may work for some) whether you are training to add some size or training to drop a couple inches.
Perform High Intensity Intervals for Conditioning
I have written about this before so I don’t want to go into too much detail about it again. Whether you’re preferred method is to push a prowler, some sprints on a bike, some sprints on a track/football field, suicides, shuttle runs, running stadiums or some other high intensity technique, I could care less. I am much more concerned with the fact that you are actually doing something that is high intensity and not the slow elliptical cardio most everyone else is doing at the end of your workout.
I seem to find myself gravitating to bike sprints. I have never been a big fan of running so I stay away from sprinting on the track or football field. Ill simply jump on the bike and get after it. Sometimes I do 15 seconds on, 45 seconds off, sometimes its 20/40 and sometimes it is 30/30. Point is, I don’t overthink it, I just get on the bike and sprint away. After 10-12 minutes I am completely gassed and done more to burn fat than anyone doing 45-60 minutes of slow cardio.
More and more I am starting to really love complexes for fat loss. The idea of a complex is pretty simple; pick a handful of exercises and perform them all back to back. You can pick to do the exercises for a certain length of time or a certain amount of reps or even a combination of the two.
I am currently strength training four days a week. Instead of taking three days completely off, I perform some type of complex two of those other days and take the third day as a complete off day. It will usually take me all of 20-30 minutes and in the process I have jacked up my heart rate and metabolism. I picked four exercises (sled push, med ball slams, bike sprints, battle ropes) and rotated from one exercise to the next for 30 seconds on followed by 30 seconds off for a total of three rounds. It took me 12 minutes to finish the complex and I was absolutely gassed by the time I was done.
We all had fun, maybe a little too much fun, with all the holiday parties and foods. Now that summer is approaching its time to get a little more serious with our training and nutrition if we want to achieve that lean physique. Being the first week in April, we all have plenty of time to reach our goals before the real heat is upon us. Be sure to make your diet a priority, focus on picking the appropriate exercises and push yourself, and drop the long, slow cardio sessions for some more intense cardio sessions to scorch that fat. If you follow those few pieces of advice I guarantee you’ll drop a few inches and look better than ever once summer officially rolls around.