Fats —Fats get a bad rep. Fats are actually required for the normal and healthy functioning of your body. They key is to consume healthy fats from sources such as almonds and walnuts without going overboard. If your fat levels are low, it’s going to affect the testosterone levels in your body, affecting your gains. Also, if you completely eliminate fats from your food, your body starts converting all your carbs into fat and we all know where that ends up!
Lie down on a mat and place your hands behind your head, gently supporting your head with your fingers without pulling. Bring your knee up to your chest, while rotating your upper body to meet your knee with the elbow of your opposite arm (see photo). The opposite leg will go straight out. Switch to the opposite side, “cycling” the legs. Do one to three sets of 12 to 16 repetitions each.
Carb cycling — I followed a form of carb cycling where I would have low carbs, moderate fat and high protein on Cardio Days (Tue and Thu) and moderate carbs, low fat, high protein on Weight Training Days (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat). I’ll explain why. On cardio days, you want your body to utilise as much energy as it can in the form of fat to burn without providing it extra energy from carbs. On weight training days, you need to have enough energy to push hard at the gym, replenish your muscles and providing them the food they need to grow.
"My goals six years ago was to 'get abs' and I used to think cardio and crunches would get me there. But it wasn’t until I started lifting weights and varying my abdominal exercises that I started to see a major change. You don’t realize how much you use your core muscles in order to perform powerful rapid movements like deadlifts!" — Shante Franca, @shantefranca
To do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders down, and your abs drawn in. Hinge forward at your waist and inch forward, walking with your hands into a top-of-the-pushup (or plank) position. Hold plank for three seconds, being sure to keep your chest lifted and your belly button drawn into your spine. Your body should form a straight line from your ears to your ankles. Then, perform one pushup by bending your elbows to the sides and lowering your body towards (but not touching) the floor, maintaining a straight spine.
Bicycle: This exercise works your obliques as well as your rectus abdominis. Lie on your back, hips and knees bent at 90-degrees, chest curled over ribs, hands behind your head. Extend the left leg out while bringing the right knee in towards the chest and rotating the left shoulder toward the right knee. Keep the arm from crossing the face. Rotate from the trunk through the center to the other side without dropping your chest. Move in slow, controlled movements without shifting your hips.
Contrary to what popular culture portrays, one does not need to lift really heavy if muscle hypertrophy, aka “bigger muscles” or aesthetic gains are the primary goal (see bodybuilding vs powerlifting). One needs to ensure that a particular muscle is subjected to enough time under tension and training volume to ensure that muscle fibres are broken down and rebuilt stronger over time. This can be done by following a high-volume, moderately high rep range, moderate weight and low rest period lifting routine. I start off with 5 sets of a heavier compound lift eventually moving to isolation exercises. I started off with the popular ‘3 sets of 10’ for isolation exercises, then to 12 and now hit 4 sets with the rep ranges 15,12,10 and 8. Higher reps would mean a lighter weight and vice versa. My last set is almost invariably a dropset. I hit around 15 -18 working sets per muscle group per week.
Intermittent Fasting(IF) — Basically, skip breakfast and have only water/black coffee till lunch. In IF, you don’t eat for a period of 16 hours, typically skipping one major meal. You avoid spiking your insulin levels, your HGH is elevated and allow your body to tap into fat for energy. It also allows you to have a larger lunch and dinner, keeping you full longer for the rest of the day. IF is also shown to have various health benefits and is completely safe. Fun fact, even Terry Crews from the TV show ‘Brooklyn nine nine’ follows IF to stay ripped at 49. I followed IF for the first 3 months when I worked out in the evening. I also skip breakfast on treat days so I can eat a whole lot of food that evening!
"This exercise is so effective because it teaches you not to rely on your bigger muscle groups (like your thighs) and focuses on using your abdominals correctly in a controlled manner without using momentum. The use of the ball gives you natural feedback of your weaker side so that you can adjust and work on symmetry of your musculature, preventing future injuries."
A regular pushup works your core. A reverse pushup will work it so hard your abs will want to form a labor union. “When your legs fire your body forward, your core has to work extremely hard to decelerate your body,” says B.J. Gaddour, C.S.C.S., director of Men's Health StreamFIT. So this ab exercise not only works your shoulders and arms, but gives you a killer core workout at the same time.
On hardwood or tiled floor, place feet on two sliders and assume a high plank position (hands under shoulders, soft bend in elbows, butt and core engaged). Pull feet in toward chest, bending knees until you’re in a bear plank, knees below hips, but still lifted off floor. Slowly push feet back to high plank. Continue to repeat. To make it easier, move one leg at a time.
Instead of copying the experienced bodybuilders, newbies would be better off if they took advantage of a phenomenon called newbie gains (a.k.a. beginner gains). There’s a brief phase in strength training where building muscle and burning fat at the same time is a better strategy than bulking and cutting. It’s the beginner phase. Thanks to newbie gains, beginners will build muscle fast even in a state of caloric deficit, provided that they train and eat right.
“For me, getting a six-pack was about paying attention to what I was eating and lifting heavy weights at CrossFit. I do have a semi-strict diet, and I loosely count macros (focusing on daily carbs, protein, and fat intake rather than blindly counting calories) to stay balanced and on track. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Eventually, it just became a part of my lifestyle, and it’s something I enjoy doing. I even started a custom meal-plan business based on macros because I had such great results!” —Tina Haupert, @carrotsncake