Passport – check. Sunglasses – check. Body you’ll want to put on Instagram – ah.
They say summer bodies are built in winter. But your week off seemed a long time away back when mince pies were on the table. Now you’re a month away from wheels up and those extra helpings of brandy butter are still hanging around your waist.
However, all’s not lost. Follow these rules and after four weeks of sweat, discipline and calloused hands, you’ll shift your spare tyre and prove you know precisely which way the beach is.
Don’t Starve Yourself
A crash diet won’t tighten your wobbling gut. “If you restrict calories too much, your body goes into shock mode,” says Leo Savage, a personal trainer who firms up fat at London’s Third Space gym. “That means anything you eat, it clings onto.”
Cut to 1,000 calories a day and your body thinks you’re starving, so stores food rather than burning it as fuel. Which means that gut’s going nowhere.
Instead, aim for around 2,000 calories a day, with every meal based around lean protein – think chicken breast or salmon fillets – and vegetables. If it goes in the microwave, it doesn’t go in you. “You should have 40 per cent of your energy from protein, 30 per cent from carbs and 30 per cent from fat,” says Savage. You’ll still be at a fat-burning calorie deficit, but there’ll be enough going in to keep your engines stoked.
Eat To The Clock
What your body does with what you put into it is dictated by hormones. Insulin, which spikes when you eat carbs, is particularly bad at turning food into fat – especially if you have a particularly sugary diet. Besides cutting out processed food and booze – it’s just four weeks, remember – you need to time when you eat what to optimise how your body processes what you put in.
Insulin levels are stunted in the morning, so Savage advises avoiding carbs until dinner – ideally after a workout – which sends the hormone soaring and directs nutrients into now hungry muscles, not your love handles.
“You need to earn your carbs,” he says. Which means that on gym days, pair your chicken with a side of sweet potato or brown rice. Not a bag of Haribo.
Mo’ Muscle, Less Problems
Because you can’t live in the gym, the best way to burn fat is to increase your basal metabolic rate – the amount of energy your body needs simply to function. Muscle is active, which means it burns calories even when you’re not moving. Ergo the more you have, the better your body is at burning fat. Even when you’re sat at your desk.
Instead of cardio, Savage recommends a total-body weights session twice a week, which builds beach-ready definition and strips away fat. But that doesn’t mean a quick bicep blast.
“The more joints you can move, the more muscle fibres your recruit and the more energy you burn,” he says. That means moves like deadlifts, rows and pull-ups, which exponentially increase your calorie count by hitting your body’s biggest muscle groups. And yes, pump your guns.
The Four-Week Beach Body Muscle Workout
Put simply, this is going to suck. But this month of hell buys that week in heaven.
The regime is split between heavy metal and high-intensity. Perform the weights workout twice a week, with at least two days between each session, and the same for the circuit workout.
For both, the harder you work, the better the results. Remember, you’re training against the clock.
Heavy Metal Workout
Perform all sets of each exercise, taking 60 secs between each, then move onto the next exercise.
4 x 5 Reps
Stand with a barbell on the floor, in front of your shins. Crouch down and grab the bar with both hands, keeping your weight on your heels. Drive up to standing, pause, then lower.
4 x 10 Reps
Lie down on the bench press and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip. Lower it, squeezing your shoulder blades together, until the bar brushes your nipples. Drive it up using your chest – make sure you don’t roll your shoulders forward. Pause, then repeat.
Bulgarian Split Squat
4 x 10 Reps Each Leg
Stand with a barbell on your shoulders, with your back to a bench. Step back with your right foot so your laces are resting on the bench. Squat down with your left leg until your back knee almost touches the floor, then drive back up through your heel.
After all the reps, swap legs. That’s one set.
4 x 10 Reps
Sit at a cable machine with the handles in front of you, arms straight. Pull the weight back, keeping your shoulders down and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pause and return.
Single-Arm Kettlebell Clean And Press
4 x 10 Reps Each Side
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a heavy kettlebell on the floor, between your legs. Squat down and grab the handle with your right hand. Drive your hips forward and pull the weight up and over your head. Pause, then slowly lower and repeat.
After all your reps, switch arms.
30 Minute Cardio At 145bpm
“Do your cardio after your weights workout,” says Savage. Shifting tin will have exhausted the carb stores in your muscles, so your body needs to burn fat for fuel. Whether you run, cycle or row, work at a pace that’s challenging but doesn’t leave you gasping for breath.
The Fat-Burning High-Intensity Circuit
The name of today’s game is intensity. Short bursts of each exercise mean you can work at maximum effort, then catch your breath before tackling the next move.
Spiking your heart rate means more calorie burn now, and also the 36 hours after you leave the gym. Consider that bonus time in your four-week window.
Perform 30 seconds of each exercise, take 15 seconds rest, then move onto the next exercise. After completing the Hollow Body, go back to the burpees. Complete five rounds total, then tackle the sprints.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down then kick your legs back into a press-up position. Jump your feet forward into a squat, jump as high as possible, then land and sink straight back into a squat. Repeat until you want to throw up.
Grab a pull-up bar with your palms facing forwards. From a dead hang, lift your body so your chin clears the bar. Pause, and slowly lower yourself.
Start in a press-up position. Bring your right foot forward as far as possible, then drive it back and switch legs. Perform as quickly as possible, keeping your hips locked and back flat.
Grab a kettlebell with both hands and hold it between your legs. Tip forward from your hips, then snap them forward to drive the weight up in front of your face, arms straight. Control the weight as it swings between your legs, then drive it up again.
Lie flat, with your lower back pushed into the ground. Reach out with your arms behind your head and point your toes as you reach hands, head and feet off the ground. Hold, then slowly lower.
Sprint at maximum effort for 30 seconds. Pause for 30 seconds, then repeat. Complete 10 rounds total. Try not to be sick.