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!
This 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.
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
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.
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:
- Nature’s EFA
- Nature’s Fuel
- Dioxitone T4
- Vitamin D 5,000 IU
- Vitamin C
- Zinc picolinate
Good additions to these for those who need to build muscle:
Good additions for people trying to lose mass:
- Dioxilean 5
- Ketolean 7/Lipocor
- Chromium Picolinate (sugar cravings)
- 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.