The mad fitness rush in the weeks leading up to summer is often focussed on women
eager to achieve a “bikini bod”, but women are not alone in their quest to
look beach-ready. Many men too have a desire to look their best come the summer months.
With that in mind, we’ve come up with some tips for getting fit in time for this
summer. It’s set to be a hot one!
- Keep muscles limber
The older you get, the less pliable
your muscles become, so ensure you are holding your stretches long enough before and
after higher intensity exercise. If you’re under 40, hold your stretches for at
least 30 seconds. If you’re over 40, hold them for 45 seconds. Better
flexibility can improve your performance in the gym, decrease your risk of injuries,
and will enable your muscles to work most effectively. You should also stretch
muscles between exercises (as well as before and after your workout).
- Less is more
When weight training, keep your
workouts under one hour. After 60 minutes, your body starts producing more of the
stress-hormone cortisol, which can have a testosterone-blocking, muscle-wasting
effect. To build muscle and get stronger, you want to hit the gym hard and fast to
stimulate muscle growth and strength gain, then get out.
- Focus on your core
To effectively strengthen your core,
do exercises that cause your body to become unstable. Once your core stability is
improved, the benefits translate into every aspect of your workouts. A strong core
improves sports performance, posture, prevents lower back pain, promotes better
breathing, and is the key to a slimmer waistline. Remember to treat your abs as you
would any other muscle, and ensure you give them adequate rest time.
- Exercise in order
Use bodyweight exercises, dumbbells,
barbells and machines - in that order. The smaller, stabiliser muscles in your body
fatigue before your larger muscle groups, so make sure you work your way up to the
bigger machines instead of using them early on. Exercise order is a key part of your
workout routine, as is the number of muscles worked.
- Exercise no matter how much time you have
using the excuse, “I don’t have time today”, schedule your workout
time and stick to it. Even if you’ve only got 10 minutes to exercise, something
is better than nothing. And often you will work yourself the hardest when
you’re pushed for time.
- Train to failure
If you’re a beginner in the gym
and want to build muscle, speak with a trainer at your gym about ‘training to
failure’. This means training until the point at which you cannot possibly do
another repetition – and then follow this with a protein shake. The objective
is to induce the maximum muscle growth by pumping large volumes of blood to the area.
Train this way for 8 weeks (it will be tough) and you’ll see unbeatable
results. Keeping it going too long could possibly exhaust your nervous system and
interrupt recovery, so after the eight week period, choose just two exercises per day
to repeat until failure. The others should be focused on the right technique and
control. Always seek the advice of a professional before embarking on this type of
Increase gain and cut the pain by counting down
Instead of counting reps upwards, swap to start counting down. This way you will focus on how many you have left to do, rather than how many you’ve already done. Each time, try to start at a number higher than the last time.
- Repair muscle faster
Recover faster from a hard workout
by lightly exercising the same muscles the following day. Use a light weight (about
20% of the weight you lifted the day before) and do two sets of 25 repetitions. This
will deliver more blood and nutrients into your muscles to help them repair
- Eat plenty of meat and fish
Meat is packed with
protein, but a cut of lean beef or a can of tuna offers more than just
macronutrients. Think of them as muscle-building multivitamins! Research
has shown that protein is an essential nutrient for everyone and not just
athletes, but without protein athletes will suffer more from fatigue and lack of
muscle repair so it’s important that as an athlete you keep your protein levels
- Work opposing muscle groups
‘Super-setting’ opposing muscle groups is a great training
boost. A ‘superset’ is the alternating back and forth between two or more
exercises until the prescribed number of sets is complete, usually with no rest
between exercises. Opposing muscles include: biceps and triceps, quadriceps and
hamstrings, and abdominals and back. While one muscle is contracting, the opposing
muscle is lengthening.
- Eat well
Ask any personal trainer and, regardless of
your training goals, they will tell you that healthy eating is the backbone to
achieving them. Food is what fuels your body, and without proper nutrition
you’re likely to stall in your results. A healthy diet should consist of a
balance of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, complete proteins, and fats
such as fish oils and flaxseeds. Aim to eat five times a day, every three hours, and
pay attention to portion size.
- Watch your cardio
If your goal is to lose weight, keeping up
with regular cardio is important. If, however, your goal is to build muscle mass,
then too much cardio will have you burning too many calories, contradicting your
weight training. During times of mass building, keep cardio to a light jog a few days
- Maintain form
If you’re new to an exercise, don’t
just presume you are doing it right because you saw another guy doing it in the gym
beside you. Without videotaping yourself, knowing you have the correct form is hard.
Performing something wrong over and over becomes a learnt practice that’s hard
to undo, so ensure your form is right the first time. Lifting is technical, and not
only can the wrong form produce insufficient results, it can run the risk of
- Get inspired
If you have a solid reason to work out, you will
probably push yourself all the harder at the gym - so give yourself a reason! If
it’s to acquire your summer body fast, hang a picture up of your ideal summer
body, set a reminder on your phone or start reading other’s success
- Concentrate on one goal at a time
If you’re trying to gain
muscle as well as lose fat, you won’t do either effectively if you’re
trying to do both in the same workout. If you’ve been sedentary for some time,
your best bet is to try to lose the fat first, then add muscle. Don’t
worry if your body weight increases during this stage – muscle is heavier than
fat, so this may happen.
Why not take part in the Summer Body Project, which will guide you through eight weeks of workout planning, diet
and exercise. The project is unique in that it was a raw program designed by real
people who have all experienced being “too skinny”, “too fat”,
unmotivated, too busy and unsure where to start. It’s simple, straight-forward,
easy to follow, and will help any man trying to get fit in time for summer - no matter
what your goal is.
All information in this article is intended for general
information purposes only. Information should not be considered medical advice and is
in no way intended to replace a consultation with a qualified medical practitioner.
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