People hear the phrase body-building and their minds immediately flash up images of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan The Barbarian. You can build and tone muscles without the bulk. To me, it’s about having a leaner, stronger and well-defined – but not bulky – physique.Body-building does not have to make you look like Conan The Barbarian Click To Tweet
Body-Building Without Pumping Up
I have always stayed in shape through cardio, running and light weight training because I didn’t want a hulking physique. Some people want the beefy look and if that’s your thing, then pump yourself up. But about 15 years back – at 5′-8″ and 48 years of age – I realized I was a little too short for my weight. I thought I was eating right, and I was exercising a lot so why had I picked up those pounds?
After some research, I discovered Secret #1. I was eating wrong for my metabolism. Mine called for high protein and low carbs. Your metabolism may be different. You need to find out whether you are protein, carb or mixed nutritional type. Here’s a good article on how to determine your so-called nutritional type.
Based on my findings, I stopped drinking beer, started the Atkins program and embarked upon a running and weight-training regimen. Man, I missed the beer. However, I discovered that red wine was a lot lower in carbs and that become my adult beverage of choice. But we’ll save that for a future post. In three months, I went from 193 pounds to 163 pounds by running three time per week and lifting weights three times per week. But between running and the gym, I was spending a lot of time on my program. It was interfering with my life and work. So, I started looking into less time-intensive ways to stay fit.
I discovered a weight training program that required only two days per week and shorter sessions. This lower weight, higher rep workout is great when you get older, too. The basic idea is to raise the weight on a slow four-count, then lower it on a slow four-count. Repeat until you can’t lift the weight anymore. This article by Dr. Joseph Mercola explains in more detail how it works, if you are interested. So, Secret #2 is that building muscles does not have to take that much time. After reading Tim Ferriss’ The Four-Hour Body, I incorporated his even less time-intensive system into mine. I highly recommend that you read Tim’s book.
Secret #3 also was in Tim’s book: learn the right way to use a kettlebell and do three kettlebell exercises twice a week. This takes only about 10 minutes per workout. This has really helped me get into shape. Here’s how Tim explains the workout in Four Hour Body:
- Touch-and-Go Deadlifts from Point A (three sets of five reps). Stand with the kettlebell directly in the middle of your feet. Bend down and do deadlifts (head up, eyes straight ahead), first slowly, then in a “touch and go” fashion, picking up the kettlebell explosively as soon as it touches the ground. It is critical that you touch the same spot no the ground every time. This spot between your insteps is point A.
- Touch-and-Go Deadlifts from Point B (three sets of five reps). Repeat the above touch-and-go deadlift, but use point B: place the kettlebell on the floor between your feet but this time further back, with the front of the kettlebell aligned just behind your heels. You must return the kettlebell to exactly the same spot every time.
- Swings from point C (start with sets of 10). Now place the kettlebell back at point A. Pick the kettlebell up off the floor, starting a small swing by first sitting back with the hips and then popping forward, and make the movement larger while maintaining your balance. The entire time focus on getting the kettlebell back to point C, which is in the air behind the hamstrings (back of legs) and tucked right up under the buttocks.
Watch Tim demonstrate the kettlebell swing.
Secret #4: incorporate yoga into your routine. I have a 15-minute yoga routine from Brett Larkin that I do three mornings a week as soon as I get out of bed. Weight training can tighten up muscles, so adding yoga helps keep me flexible and reduces soreness induced by weight training.
Finally, is Secret #5: add deadlifts and squats to your routine. For core strength, there is nothing better than these two exercises. Start with light weights and get your form right with both of these exercises before you crank up the weight. Here’s an explanation of proper form for the deadlift, and proper form for the squat.
Full disclosure: since I honed my program, my waist has gone from 39 to 34.5, hips from 41 to 39, biceps from 11.5 to 13 and thighs from 20.5 to 23. I’m still a work in progress.
Please share this article with your friends. Oh, and try our workout music playlist.