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.
Lie on your back and bend your knees, placing a Swiss ball across your hips. With your hands on top of the ball and your body crunched forward as demonstrated, push your arms down as hard as possible for six seconds. The harder you push, the more the ball will resist you, giving your abs an intense stimulus. Exhale, relax for a few seconds, and then repeat.
I use the ab machines at the gym. I do a couple variations on crunches (sitting up and lying down both on machines with weights. I can crunch 55lbs on the one that’s sitting position, 40 on the other), hanging leg lifts (which kill my shoulders), the oblique twist machine, as well as full body workouts. I just started the gym about 2 months ago and have really upped the weight since then so my body is definitely progressing.
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6. Seek guidance from experts. As with many health issues, getting assistance from experts can be enormously helpful. If you want to lose weight, particularly fat, seeking guidance from a registered dietitian or a nutritionist can be very beneficial, Herrington says. Similarly, if you want to build on weight loss to achieve more defined abs, consulting with a certified sports trainer can aid you in developing a workout regimen that will help you achieve your goals, Singer says.
Maintaining a high protein intake —Maintaining a super high protein intake is imperative to ensure your body has enough to preserve existing muscle, ideally build more and also prevent muscle breakdown for energy while in a caloric deficit. I stuck to around 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to ensure I allowed my body to not only preserve but grow muscle as well. For me, this came around to 130–140gms of protein a day.
Everyone has six pack abs. They’re there, whether you believe it or not. The problem is that not everyone’s body composition is such that their abs are actually visible. These muscles don’t need to be created – they need to be revealed. Remember our “strongman” example – powerful upper body, mighty arms, and a layer of soft flab around their midsection? Believe me, Mr. Strongman is packing some serious stomach muscles, but like on a lot of us, they’re hidden under layers of adipose tissue. That’s why they’re not visible.
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!
2. Cut out or greatly curtail your consumption of refined sugar. Not all calories are equal when you're trying to lose weight and develop a six-pack, Herrington says. For example, 200 calories from a robust serving of beans or from a sugary cookie provide vastly different amounts of nutrition. A serving of beans would typically contain good amounts of protein, potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber, while a cookie packed with sugar is mostly empty calories, Herrington says. She advises staying away from foods like white bread, cakes and pies and white crackers that are laden with refined sugar. You should also eschew sugary sports drinks, fruit juices and sodas, in favor of plain water or milk. "The biggest thing I advise people to avoid is added sugars," Herrington says. "If you want to cut out body fat, cut that out. Refined sugar isn't doing you any good. You get a temporary boost of energy, then you crash and crave more. It's like burning money; it's a waste." Eating too much refined sugar is also linked to fatty liver disease, obesity and diabetes, she says.
Experienced bodybuilders are better off with bulking and cutting because muscle gains are slow to come by after the first year of strength training. Newbies make the mistake of copying the strategy of experienced bodybuilders by starting their strength training journey with a bulk, only to end up gaining more fat than muscle (if any). The problem is, the body fat percentage of the average man is already at around 18–24% which is considered to be fat by bodybuilding standards. If you start bulking at an already high body fat percentage of 18–24% then you are guaranteed to get fat no matter how much muscle you end up building. To add insult to the injury, the most efficient weightlifting exercises such as deadlifts and squats have a learning curve to master, which usually leaves the newbies with gaining too much fat and little to no muscle gains to speak of.
My Cardio and Callisthenics circuits really helped me increase my stamina and perform like an athlete. Some of my favourite ones are Burpees, Crab Walk, Jumping Jacks, Jumping Squats, Kettle bell runs and in general, circuits variations that really push me to the limit. I followed an HIIT program on the treadmill where I would run for 2 minutes and walk for 1 for a total of 12 minutes. I used the preprogrammed interval training option on the elliptical and stepper machine. I also went to the park sometimes for my workouts. You’ll be surprised at how different and relatively harder it is to train in the open.