Bigger biceps aren't so much about weight or reps as tempo. Photo: Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe
I chuckled this morning when I saw one of the major networks advertise an electronic abdominal belt. You guessed it - you too can work less, yet still get a six-pack! Sure. And I have a bridge off Milsons Point to throw in for sale, too …
‘Spot Reduction’ is one of those gym myths that exist and persist because it sells more gym equipment. We point to our flabby triceps, our wobbly legs, and our love handles. “If I could just slim down this one area,” is the fantasy of many.
Unfortunately, spot reduction doesn’t work, because your abs don’t own the fat that surrounds it - your entire body and your lifestyle do. To lose fat anywhere in the body, a program with cardio and weight training is required. So, what are some exercises to tone up those naughty spots? Here they are:
Ahhh, the much-hated flabby arms, also known as Bingo Wings and Tuckshop Arms. Push-ups are primarily a chest exercise, but they also work the triceps. Men and women alike should be doing push-ups to keep the chest and triceps firm. If you’d like to increase the challenge, bring your hands closer together (or even touching) to perform triceps push-ups (diamond push-ups). Also, perform tricep push- (and pull-) downs to work the various muscles in your arm.
The same medicine for your triceps is recommended for your chest – push-ups. There are many ways to perform push-ups, but to lean up a sagging chest (women included) perform:
a) Standard push-ups;
b) Incline push-ups (work lower part of your chest); and
c) Decline push-ups (work upper part of the chest into the shoulders).
Equally important to working the chest is working the back. Kyphosis posture (rounded back) is too common amongst office workers who slouch in chairs all day. Back exercises like the seated row will help, but also be conscious of your posture all day while walking and sitting – bring your shoulders back, squeeze your shoulder blades closer together…and watch that saggy chest rise.
Getting into slimmer jeans or a smaller bikini is all about toning your glutes. Squats, lunges, and deadlifts do the trick. Not keen on heavy weights in the gym? Run the hills, and run the stairs. Even when you walk, you can tighten the glute of your non-leading leg with every step, working out your bum all day.
Sure, some outer and inner core exercises will tone your tummy, but there’s less need for one-hour ab classes and more need for full body movements that work numerous muscle groups and burn more calories … all while watching your diet. Exercise will grow ab muscles; what you put into your mouth will provide the window to see those muscles.
Building your ‘guns’ isn’t so much about pushing more weight, but controlling the tempo. I rarely see the type of guys in the gym who are looking to get bigger performing the correct tempo required for hypertrophy training. It’s too common to see a bicep curl where the eccentric phase (the negative) is only one second - the same as the concentric phase. To build bigger arms, you must not only increase the load over time, but you must decrease the tempo. During a curl, concentrate on a 4-second eccentric phase (lowering the weight) and a 2-3 second concentric phase (pushing the weight back up to the chest). More time under tension (TUT) is how you tone and grow arms.
Droopy, tired face
Yep, you can even change your face. Ever look in the mirror on a hungover Sunday and hardly recognise the person staring back at you? That’s because you’re tired, possibly stressed, and not eating the right foods. It will show on your face with dry, weathered skin paired with glazed, saggy eyes.
These ‘face exercises’ are life changing from the inside to out. Spend a week concentrating on more sleep. Drink more water and cut out processed juices and fizzy drinks. Quit smoking. Hike, read, or find some type of stress-releasing activity. Drink green juices, and eat less processed food. Small, easy changes make a big difference. When one week turns into two? You’ll get that fresh, energetic, youthful glow back. A clean, healthy look is damn sexy.
Personally, I find workouts that incorporate weight-bearing exercises and 3-4 sets of 10 with rest in between quite boring. I prefer dynamic, functional, and high intensity movements - CrossFit and circuit training are just the trick to lean up.
Here’s a simple-yet-difficult two-exercise circuit that incorporates all the movements from above: 200 skipping ropes into 10 burpee jump pull-ups, and finish each burpee with a bodyweight squat.
Be safe, and try three rounds - that is sure to test your entire body. With every other pull-up, use an underhand grip (chin-up), which challenges your biceps.
Get your motor running
Your body is just like a car - you can’t put new, $10,000 rims on a crappy 1976 Holden and think you’ve got a top car. You’ve gotta work on the whole car and also ensure it’s being fed the right (and right amount of) fuel.
Slim down, and tone up. But also: relax. There’s no need to go all Hollywood-perfection-obsessed. Perfection is boring when you must eat Paleo, or you must turn down a beach beer with mates and replace it with lemon water. Change is good, but balanced change is better.
Just remember: if you want to transform, it’s a dual-process job. You flab-down in the kitchen, and you tone-up in the gym.
How do you keep problem areas in check?