Go From Average to Bikini Body — Starting Now

Most people tend to wait until spring to start thinking about the standard “Spring Break” thoughts — beaches and bikinis. The truth is, late winter is a great time to get a head start on the lean, fit body you want, because before you can really reveal a tight stomach or firm butt, you have to build the muscle necessary for those things first.

In fact, a lot of the work you’ll want to show off in the spring begins right now. This is the time you should be focused on serious muscle building, even if you’re a woman who just wants to look “toned” or slim in a bikini. We’ve got news: You can’t tone muscle that doesn’t exist!

1077931_10151849867044147_248417648_nThis week we’re taking a look at how to build a trim, tight look by adding muscle first and concentrating on “toning” later — as the saying goes, you won’t get anywhere putting the cart before the horse.

First things first, of course, start with your diet. The biggest key factor is eating often — every two to three hours. Feeding the body often feeds your metabolism, getting it sped up so it knows not to hold onto food because it knows you’re going to have more food coming in.

Protein matters. A lot. For most trying to build a lean, muscular body, about a gram of protein per body weight, split between five to six meals, is what you’re looking for, and you want it to come from lean meats (lean turkey, bison, chicken, tilapia) in most cases, though protein shakes certainly play a role.

On carbs (like yams, sweet potatoes, brown rice and quinoa), shoot for 1/4 cup-1/2 cups per serving, except the last meal before bed.

Green veggies are filler carbs. Snack on them throughout the day and they will give you much-needed fiber for digestion, but also for feeling fuller. It’s hard to go wrong with green vegetables. Some stand-bys include asparagus, green beans and broccoli. Leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach) are also great options.

Food can get boring. But you can always change the flavoring without adding bad calories. Sodium-free flavor varieties of Mrs. Dash, garlic and onions, jalapenos, mustard, other fat-free, low-calorie condiments, etc. Whatever your option, you want a diverse, well-rounded diet with plenty of vegetables (and the occasional fruit) for the most effective meal plan.

TRAINING

Have you ever heard someone say “I just want to ‘tone up?'” Sad news: “Toning” where there isn’t muscle gain is impossible — you CAN’T “tone” what isn’t there. So build the muscle first, and while you’re at it, you can start your fat burn to reveal it. Otherwise, you’re just going to be skin-and-bones thin — and that’s not the bikini look most are going for.

For bikini training, athletes are looking for a more “shredded” look than a bodybuilder might. This is probably too of the gym-going masses, too. Volume is important; one recommendation is to be training six times a week, using a metabolic approach. Metabolic workouts involve completing structural and compound exercises with little rest in between exercises in an effort to maximize calorie burn and increase metabolic rate during and after the workout. Many of the workouts featured on our website involve supersets, tri-sets or giant sets — those are considered metabolic training, since they keep rest periods short to non-existent and work multiple muscle groups.

There are usually two metabolic workouts per week, but if you have a lot to lose (whether it’s muscle or fat), every workout may benefit from a metabolic approach with supersets.

A further breakdown on Metabolic Workouts:

  • Use large muscle groups (back, legs, chest), mostly with compound lifts
  • Is high intensity (volume/reps usually high-range)
  • Makes you feel the burn
  • Improves cardio capacity
  • Improves hormonal profile/lipolysis
  • Serious calorie burn

Here’s an example of what a calorie-torching metabolic might look like:

Superset 1: Lat pulldowns, bent-over dumbbell rows 3×15

Superset 2: Chest press, pushups 3×15

Superset 3: Rear delt flys, shoulder press, 3×15

Superset 4: Front raises, lat raises 3×15

Cardio

For the heavily muscled: You’re trying to actually lose some of the big muscle you’ve built, so you’ll need to create a bit of catabolism. In the case of some well-muscled athletes who have trained for deadlift competitions and figure shows, that is their approach for bikini training. Said one: “I did 45 minutes of cardio a day to BURN muscle. No stairs, no inclines because I was burning off my legs.” Even non-competitive athletes who just want to look good can apply this, though.

For regular people: 30 minutes, every other day, should suffice. Hit some stairs, go with an incline on the treadmill, elliptical, etc. You likely won’t have to worry about leg bulk with this type of aerobic exercise.

SUPPLEMENTS

Whether or not you decide to enhance the work you’re doing in the kitchen and gym  with supplements is up to you, but know that if you’re doing a bikini competition, your would-be competitors are getting that very edge. You might as well, too. And if you’re not in it to compete, and just looking for a beach body, why not enhance your results?

Some NUTRISHOP-recommended supplements, in order of importance:

  • Protein
  • Glutamine
  • BCAA
  • Nature’s EFA
  • Nature’s Fuel
  • Dioxitone T4
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin D 5,000 IU
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc picolinate
  • HGH-191

Good additions to these for those who need to build muscle:

  • N’Fuze
  • Arabol

Good additions for people trying to lose mass:

  • Dioxilean 5
  • Ketolean 7/Lipocor
  • Biotin
  • Chromium Picolinate (sugar cravings)

OTHER TIPS

  • If you’re a bikini competitor, practice posing as much as you can! Practice makes perfect and it’s not just what your body looks like on stage but how you present it.
  • Drink water — a gallon or more a day. It keeps you hydrated and your metabolism going.
  • Take weekly progress pictures. You see yourself every day, so you can’t see the changes as much as other people can. They are great for times you get discouraged and don’t think you see any changes. You’ll wish you took pictures if you don’t.
  • Don’t be a scale freak! Weigh yourself once a week in the morning after you empty your bladder, just to have that number — not because it means anything. You may be gaining muscle and it may say you’re heavier, but your clothes won’t lie to you when they say you’re two pants sizes down.
  • Be consistent! It’s hard, but the more consistent you are, the better your results. It gets easier after the first two weeks.
  • Be prepared! Preparation is key. Set aside 1-2 days a week where you can prep your meals for 1-2 hours for the whole week. For example, Sundays and Wednesdays. Then you wont be grabbing bad food for yourself or eating things you shouldn’t be eating.
  • Lastly: Be human. It’s okay to slip up sometimes. Everyone does it at some point! Just be moderate about it! If you’re going to have a cookie, eat ONE cookie, not the whole box of them. You will crave food — you’re not the only one. Where you can set yourself apart is by limiting how you act on those cravings.

The NUTRISHOP 60-Day Fat Loss/Muscle Gain Challenge

Starting March 1, get ready to challenge yourself, and get the chance for amazing NUTRISHOP prizes!

Join our FREE 60-day contest to encourage you to reach your fat loss and muscle gain goals! Three age categories for both men and women. Weigh-ins are from March 1-7, and the final weigh-ins are May 1-7. Winners of each category will receive $75 in store credit, and the Grand Prize Winner will receive FREE PROTEIN FOR A YEAR!

This contest overlaps with Peak Gym’s Biggest Loser contest, so you can do both and win big. We provide the nutrition plan and supplements, but we have some great fitness partners that we can recommend for personal training and classes, including Peak Gym.

***BONUS: All contestants will receive 15 percent off all non-sale items, and 10 percent off protein for the entire contest.

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NUTRISHOP’s Deadlift Week

At its core, weight training is about function. Sure, we like the way our bodies look when muscles get stronger, bigger and better defined. We like to burn the calories that lead to fat loss. The bottom line in judging how essential any particular lift is is easy, however: How many muscles does it work? To that end, it is extremely difficult to top the deadlift.

There are several variations on this tried-and-true lift, each of which is uniquely advantageous and also properly taxing to the body, specifically the muscles in the posterior chain — back, glutes, hamstrings, calves. Our aim this week is to give you three of the best and show you how to implement them into your exercise routine. Deadlifts are a MUST for several reasons: They build leg, core and back strength and they add much-needed balance to the overall physique.

Let’s start at the beginning today with the most common form of the lift, the standard deadlift. This is the one on Mt. Liftmore, if you will.

STANDARD DEADLIFT

deadlift-socks“Are you strong enough to pick that up?” If you can deadlift, you’ll probably be able to answer that question with a “Yes” in the future (and you can follow up with, “but I still won’t help you move.”). Some call the squat the No. 1 lift one should have in his or her arsenal; we like to think of them as 1 and 1A. A step-by-step approach to the deadlift:

  • Start, and end, with the bar on the ground. Seems like a no-brainer, but we see more people than we’d like starting with the bar dangling in the air. Yank that thing off the floor for the biggest gains.
  • Stand with the bar in front of you, over your feet and touching your shins, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a stance very similar to a squat — head neutral, chest up, thighs parallel to the ground, weight on your heels — and prepare to grab the bar.
  • You’ll lift the weight with a mixed grip; that is, one overhand and one underhand (be sure to switch the hands’ grips from set to set), with your hands just outside your thighs. Grab the bar hard — in addition to building full-body strength, deadlifts are a great way to enhance your grip strength. Forget gloves or straps, at least when you’re starting out. They won’t benefit you in the early stages. Chalk, however, is just fine.
  • The movement upward starts with a hard squeeze of the glutes, pushing forward with the hips and driving with your legs from the heels. DO NOT let your back or shoulders round, and DO NOT let your butt come up before your upper body does. Keep your spine straight and head neutral. Once you have stood up with the weight, stand tall and hold it for a second.
  • Note: The deadlift is an explosive movement — take a breath, hold it, and release it as you come out of your stance HARD, keeping your core tight.
  • You can either drop it if you’re going heavy (since 100 percent of your effort should be going toward the lift), or lower the weight back to the floor in a controlled manner. Don’t let the weights bounce off the ground while you’re holding it; many a deadlifter has jammed or broken a wrist this way.

ROMANIAN (STIFF-LEGGED) DEADLIFT

Probably the second-most common deadlift is this version, which puts more emphasis on the hamstrings and spinal erectors than does the standard deadlift, but also removing some of the larger muscle groups from the equation. Because of that, it’s not the deadlift you want to use most frequently, but it does have a place in your workout routine. The weight is typically much lighter, with a longer range of motion.

  • The bar starts in the same place — right over your feet, touching your shins and on the ground — but you’re set up a bit differently. The main difference is in your feet: They should be fairly close together, pointing straight forward.
  • Take the mixed grip at shoulder-width on the bar, keeping your back flat and not letting your shoulders round. You’ll bend at the waist to grab the bar, bending the knees only slightly instead of squatting down as you would with a standard deadlift.
  • As you lift the weight. start the movement by moving your hips well back. This will drive your glutes back as well and help prevent your lower back from strain, placing more emphasis on the hamstrings. As you lift the weight, your hips should come forward, as in the standard deadlift.
  • Reverse the motion, starting by pulling your hips and butt back, and keep your shoulder blades pulled tight together as well as you lower the bar. Keep your head and spine neutral, and set the bar down right over your feet.

SUMO DEADLIFT

Another big-time compound lift, the sumo dead shortens the range of motion but allows to again target the glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors and core, as well as really working the back as it stabilizes the motion.

  • Once more, bar on the ground, right over your feet. This time, however, take a wide stance — well beyond shoulder width, in fact, with your toes pointed out and your weight on your heels.
  • Squat down over the bar, again taking a mixed grip, but with your hands just about shoulder-width apart or slightly closer.
  • Start with a hard squeeze of the glutes and hamstrings, extending the hips and knees fully while keeping the back straight and shoulders upright — do not let them round. You can use your back muscles to maintain your upper-body angle, not allowing your butt to come up before your chest does.
  • Drop the weight. Because of the focus on explosive action in this variation, the concentric (lifting) phase of the lift is the most important — the eccentric (lowering) phase will be almost all lower-back because of the stance’s width.

Workout Wednesday: HIIT It

People tend to associate aerobic exercise (or the misnomer “cardio”) with “boring.” Well, when you plod away on the treadmill at an unchallenging rate for 30 minutes, yes, it certainly can be.

Mix it up instead, and get the after-burn effect that keeps fat burning for up to eight hours after your workout. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) gets you a better workout in a fraction of the time. By busting your butt in short intervals and using “active rest,” ie., jogging, you save your time and get a more effective workout without sacrificing muscle tissue, an inevitable casualty of prolonged aerobic exercise.

Go with this plan for today:

90 second jog (warmup)

60 second run at 60 percent effort

60 second sprint at 90 percent effort (this is the High-Intensity part)

30 second brisk walk

30 second run at 60 percent effort

30 second sprint at 90 percent effort

Repeat that 5-minute interval set at least twice, but aim for three total interval sets for a total of 15 minutes.

The Squat Debate: How Low Can You Go?

squats1If exercises had a Mt. Rushmore, there’s no question the squat would be on it. Loads of research show that it’s not only good for building muscle in the legs and glutes, but it also strengthens the core and, through increased muscle mass in large groups, helps fire up your metabolism and burn fat.

But there’s still a debate when it comes to squats: How low should you go? Powerlifter, bodybuilder and regular gym rats go back and forth on this on a regular basis in internet forums and at the rack. Some say a box squat is enough; others argue in favor of the “ATG” — (*** to grass) — squat, where the upper thigh breaks the 90-degree angle at the knee.

Our take: It can depend on an individual’s physiology, but in most cases, 90 degrees is going to be the happy zone for depth of a squat. This provides the best range of motion through the hips without overexerting the knees, and without leaving the lower back prone to rounding.

Does that mean you shouldn’t go ATG? Or that you should always come down to 90 degrees? When we question a lift’s form, we take into account range of motion, efficacy and, perhaps most of all, safety. But none of those factors stand alone or exist in a vacuum; it’s all in relation to the other. That’s to say — what is the best range of motion I can get, while safely performing this lift, to get the most benefit from it?

Consider weight: Yep, training with a heavier weight will make you stronger. But there is a point of declining utility — when the weight gets so heavy that you can’t properly execute a lift, it no longer is beneficial. That’s the same concept with going past 90 degrees at the knees on squats — you may be increasing range of motion, but at what cost? The tension is off the thighs and hamstrings once you break that floor-parallel plane anyway, and once you do, the pelvis tilts and forces the lower back to round, which you NEVER want to happen in a squat.

So, our stance on squats is to take the safest, most effective path, and go as deep as 90 degrees, tops of the thighs parallel to the floor.