It's that time of the year again. It's time to put away the heater, your woollen socks and those extra layers that have unwelcomely surrounded your mid section. If your efforts to achieve that toned beach body seem to frustratingly be an annual failure, before you start cursing with passion, read on.
In a bikini, everything is obviously exposed, so we basically need a whole body exercise program which will achieve the greatest amount of fat loss. To trim down you need to bump up your muscle mass, but this does not necessarily mean women will get bulky. Muscle is the body's most metabolically active tissue and having more muscle means you are going to burn more calories, even at rest.
Before we talk exercise, let's talk diet and sleep.
Eat real food
Never diet. If you are dieting to lose weight, you are actually slowing down your metabolism. Eat whole, fresh food and without going too far into the nutrition side of things, basically eat like a caveman/woman for a few weeks and just see how your body feels and changes.
This means no processed foods, no sugar, no refined flour/gluten, no alcohol, no stimulants, cook minimally and eat as close to organic as possible, especially your proteins (meat, poultry, dairy and choose fresh over farmed fish).
To make sure you don't feel like you are missing out on life's pleasures, allow one day per week where you eat whatever you feel like, but just make sure you get back on the cavewoman diet the next day. According to personal trainer Diego Core this will regulate your leptin levels. This hunger-regulating hormone becomes more sensitive and less resistant.
It appears that lack of sleep makes you rounder, especially around the middle. With less time travelling in another realm, not only do you end up eating more food, your body also ends up producing greater amounts of insulin and cortisol a very evil mix resulting in blubber accumulation.
Insulin suppresses fat burning since its task is to store fuel, and cortisol activates enzymes that store body fat as your body goes into survival mode. Your best bet is to aim to log off by about 10pm and get into the habit of winding down an hour before. Things that help are killing the TV, laptop and mobile phone, ensuring your room is dark, relaxing herbal teas, stretching before bed and magnesium supplementation.
The exercises to rip up
Erase from your mind that long hours of cardio will be the best method to lose fat. Slogging it out big time on cardio machines end up slowing your metabolic rate and elevating cortisol levels. Try 10-20min of sprinting (including rest periods); two times per week instead of a 60-minute jog. Not only does interval training take far less time to complete, it has repeatedly shown preferable effects on body composition, insulin sensitivity and appetite suppression.
Choose between sprint cycling, running, swimming or stair climbing. Never do longer than 15 minutes of interval training after a weights session, so not to release more cortisol, otherwise your ability to tone up and trim down will be compromised.
Lactate training with weights
For the purpose of cutting down whilst toning, try a weight training program that involves short rest periods and multi-joint movements. By making your rest between sets and exercises short (30 to 60 seconds), you end up training at your lactate threshold which reduces blood pH. There is a direct inverse relationship between lactate and growth hormone (GH), so with the drop in pH is an elevation in GH, resulting in greater amounts of fat loss.
For the example exercise program provided below, we are going to use a rep range of 8 to 15, a slow eccentric/lowering phase (four seconds) and a quick concentric/lifting phase (one second) and 30 to 60 second rest periods between sets and exercises.
When choosing the correct weight, make sure you can bust out somewhere around 8 to 15 reps and do not train to failure with each set, since the short rest periods provide the intensity. Your workout will not be longer than 45 minutes.
Sample exercise program
- 8 to 15 repetitions
- Four sets
- 30 to 60 second rest periods
- Tempo four second eccentric, one second concentric
- Perform exercises in a circuit, unless stated otherwise.
Day one: Chest and back
- Deadlift conventional with barbell
- Decline dumbbell press (neutral grip)
- Chin-ups/assisted chin-ups using a band or machine
- One-arm dumbbell row
Day two: Legs and abs
- Front squat with barbell (barbell resting on the soft part of your anterior deltoid)
- One-leg Bulgarian deadlift (keep a slight bend in your knee and bring your buttocks back, holding your back in neutral spine throughout)
- Swiss ball hip extension with knee flexion (laying on the ground with one or both feet on the ball, squeeze your buttocks and lift your hips up, slowly lower)
- Ten minute bike sprints at the end of the three-exercise circuit above. Try eight second sprint (12 second rest x 30 sets, or 10 second sprint 20 second rest x 20 sets).
Day three: Day off
Day four: Arms and shoulders
- One-arm overhead dumbbell press
- Standing dumbbell curls (care not to rock the body, engage your core)
- Standing dumbbell lateral raises (bringing your arms out in line with the scapula plane on the lift)
- Standing dumbbell lateral raises (using 50-60 percent of your previous weight).
Day five: Sprints of 10 minute maximum
On the grass or soft sand, mark out something around 50 metres which will be your sprint distance (warm up first). If your sprint takes somewhere between 12 and 20 seconds, you will rest for the remainder of that minute before sprinting again. If your sprint takes longer, multiply your sprint time by three and rest for that amount of time. You may be able to do 10 sprints in total if you feel trained up enough for it, otherwise start with five or six and work up to 10 as your fitness and speed improves.
Day six: Rest
Day seven: Start day one again
Note: It is a good idea to grab hold of an exercise professional before you attempt a new program alone. Depending on the professional, not only will you learn correct technique to avoid injury, you will also be advised on exercises that suit your individual body structure, biomechanics, level of training and lifestyle. You may also need extra assistance with exercises following any listed above.
Get ready for that new bikini.