Summer is on the horizon, and the time is coming to kick back and relax under the sun. It will soon be time for beach days, barbecues and pool parties, and for any serious weightlifter these activities also mean one thing: it’s time for the shirts to come off and to showcase that rock-solid physique they have been working on all year. No one wants to be walking around with a soft, smooth and flabby body, and for the next month or two, all of those serious lifters will be shifting into “get ripped” mode.
How do they usually go about this?
They lighten up the weights and perform higher reps.
This has always been a widely accepted method of “cutting down” and if you ask most trainers in the gym they’ll tell you that “heavy weights bulk up the muscle and lighter weights define the muscle”.
Do you want to know the reality behind the “light weight and high reps” method of obtaining a ripped and defined physique?
It is completely, totally and utterly DEAD WRONG.
It couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, there is no logical basis for this way of training whatsoever, and whoever dreamt up this downright ridiculous way of thinking has caused the vast majority of lifters to waste their time and impede their progress in the gym.
Let me clear this up once and for all: you CANNOT spot reduce. In other words, it is physically impossible to target fat loss from a specific area on your body. Performing bench presses with light resistance and high repetitions will not magically burn fat off of your chest or cause it to appear harder and more defined. Endless situps will increase your abdominals but it will not reduce the body fat covering them.
Every single time you wrap your hands around a barbell, dumbbell or cable, your goal is to stimulate as much muscle growth as you possibly can. There are no special, secret weightlifting exercises that will “define” your muscles or cause them to become more “ripped”.
Training with weights builds muscle mass, end of story.
And honestly, as much as I love hitting the gym, working out with machines (a little bit) and free weights even more…even weight lifting targets specific muscles considerably more than bodyweight exercise routines. When you get on a preacher curl machine, for example, you are targeting your biceps. When you instead, do a pull up, which is a multi-joint upper body exercise, you’re working the rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius, both pectoralis major and minor, deltoids, biceps brachii, brachialis, and quite a few more muscles.
In other words, bodyweight exercises are far more efficient at developing the overall physique most people want. I can tell you that I personally got my body out of symmetry by working the anterior deltoids and neglecting the posterior. This threw my shoulders forward, caused some rotator cuff problems and was a real challenge to overcome.
I am NOT telling you to stop going to the gym, or to stop using weights. They certainly have their place, and I happen to love using them. However, I periodically change up my routine, if for no other reason than to keep things interesting. This time of year, I like to migrate over to a full bodyweight routine, simply to hit large muscle groups simultaneously and more efficiently for that extra boost.
So how exactly do you “define” a muscle?
The only way to “define” a muscle is by lowering your body fat level in order to make your muscles more visible. Body fat reduction can be achieved in two ways:
Ripped Summertime Muscles
1) Modify your diet.
You should lower your overall caloric intake to around 15x your bodyweight and focus on consuming smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. This will keep your energy levels naturally raised at all times and will keep your body in a constant fat burning state. Limit your intake of saturated fats and simple sugars, and focus instead on consuming lean sources of protein and low glycemic carbohydrates. It is also very important to keep your water intake high at a level of around 0.6 ounces per pound of bodyweight. If you want to maximize your results even further, and faster, consider going on a water fast for 3-4 days. (Consult your Doctor first, particularly if you have any blood sugar issues). Plant-based diets also make fat reduction far easier to achieve. Most people don’t know this, but meat will spike your insulin levels more than sugar. By reducing or eliminating meat from your diet, you can slim down significantly, and still get everything your body needs. (There are only 2-3 things to watch for nutritionally, B12, which can be supplemented very cheaply, D3, which can be obtained from mushrooms and/or sunlight exposure, and possibly iodine, which can be derived from table salt.)
Let go of the traditional method of moderate intensity cardio in 30-45 minute durations. If you want to maximize your body’s fat burning capacity and also minimize the muscle loss that inevitably accompanies a fat burning cycle, just be more active. I’m not a big advocate of cardio, I find it inefficient and hard on the joints, and simple walking and strength training works far better if you want to really focus on the “workouts”, however, even if you aren’t disciplined at working out regularly, simply be more active. Walk more, stand more, do more. Being sedentary, sitting for prolonged periods of time, is a very serious problem that makes the weight stick around. If you do exercise, with or without weights, you can get the “cardio” aspect by taking a more circuit training approach. Simply reduce the rest times between sets and exercises. Trust me, if you do 4 exercises, 4 sets of 10 reps each, in fast sequence (less than 40 seconds between sets or exercises), you’re highly likely to feel the “cardio” effects. If you don’t, you’re probably already prepared to go shirtless at the beach.
That’s all there is to it, folks. Take the notion of “light weight and higher reps” and throw it right out the window, down the street and around the corner.
End of story.
I’ll see you on the sand!