Summer is almost upon us and maybe a few of us are quietly sulking in the shadows of their cubicle, nibbling on a donut and slurping on a diet Coke, wondering how swimsuit season snuck up on us so fast.
If you’re dreaming of beach bathing in Ibiza or Cancun but didn’t expect to be showing up looking like the younger paunchier version of Santa Claus, you should probably look at your workout regiment to whip yourself into shape.
Granted abs are built in the kitchen, so if your nutrition is suspect, you’ll need to tame the cookie monster that lurks inside you before you can really expect to see results. However, if what you ultimately need is a workout makeover, here are 3 essential gym moves to greatness.
The Push Up
This is by far the best movement there is for building a better body. You can do it anywhere: the gym, the bedroom, the middle of the road between oncoming lanes of traffic… and the variations that exist for taking it from simple to rock star are endless.
How it’s done: 1) Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart and body in an elevated prone position. 2) Place your feet at roughly 3 to 6 inches apart. 3) Lower your body slowly to the floor with your pectorals remaining parallel to your fingers. 4) Engage your arms in the lowering of your body while keeping your back straight and core tight. 5) Engage the arms again to push back up to your starting position.
What muscles are worked: The push up works the pectorals, the deltoids, the triceps, the biceps and the core when properly executed. Do 4 to 6 sets of 12 to 15 reps, then a final set to failure. You will definitely feel the pump.
The Pull Up & Chin Up
Just like the push up, it doesn’t get any better than this when performing body blasting exercises. The pull up, performed with an overhand grip, and the chin up performed with an underhand grip totally blast the heads of the biceps, the lats, and the core. If you want a wide V taper back to impress all the onlookers on the beach, this is how you get it.
How it’s done: Depending on which you prefer [underhand or overhand grip], you’ll notice more of a burn in your lats or your biceps. 1) On a chin up bar take a wide grip [this will give you “wings”], Palms should be facing towards you if you are doing a chin up and away from you if you are doing a pull up. 2) Arms fully extended, engage your core and tighten. 3) Raise your body by pulling through the arms until your chin passes the bar. Your body should remain straight. No kicking or swinging for dear life. You should feel the muscles in your back engage as well as the biceps going into work mode here. 4) Lower yourself down and repeat.
What muscles are worked: The traps, lats, deltoids, triceps, biceps, pectorals and abdominals. Do 4 to 6 sets of 12 to 15 reps, then a final set to failure.
No man should venture out into public with nice pecs and a wide back… and unsightly chicken legs. Shame on you if you thought you’d hit the gym, blast out a couple of bench presses and not touch your legs. The squat is the meat and potatoes for building the biggest muscles you have – your legs.
How it’s done: 1) If it’s your first time at the rodeo go with no weight. If you’re a champ, add on as much weight as you can do with good form for 12 to 15 reps. If using a squat machine or a barbell, focus your eyeline directly in front of you where you’d be standing straight. Keep this head position throughout the range of movement. 2) Place your feet shoulder width apart. 3) Bar should be placed just behind the base of the neck on the top of the shoulder blades with your hands gripping the bar in an overhand position slightly wider than shoulder width. 4) Engage your core and tighten and slowly lower until your quadriceps reach a 90 degree angle, butt parallel to the floor [or as close as you can comfortably get.] 5) Engage the quadriceps to push through your feet, which should be resting flat, and straighten to standing position. 6) Do not lock out your knees on the range of motion. Repeat the process.
What muscles are worked: the quadriceps, the glutes, the core, the back. Do 4 to 6 sets of 12 to 15 reps, then a final set to failure.
Some variations to take you from basic to boss: For legs add ‘High Intensity Interval Training’ doing incline sprints on a treadmill or uphill sprints. When coupled with leg day, you’ll notice your quads will grow exponentially. Try tag teaming your chin up/pull up series with muscle ups. You begin with the standard pull up but essentially pull yourself past the bar and then push into an upright position. And for your pushups try adding a series of burpees, decline push ups, superman push ups, or jumping push ups. Remember form is everything to reaching your potential greatness.