Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Belly fat is a stubborn, unsightly beast. It’s also dangerous. This year’s Men’s Health Week focused on the risks of carrying fat around your midsection because even if you’re slim elsewhere, a pot belly raises your chances of being hit by a heart attack, stroke or diabetes.

Grab a tape measure and wrap it around your body just below your bellybutton. If the number’s 94cm (37in) or more, it’s time to take action.

While you’ll find plenty of tips on the internet to help you lose belly fat, they’re just that – tips. To make a change, and fast, you need to eat healthily but also be in a caloric deficit, where you burn off more calories than you take in. And the easiest way to do that is to exercise.

Below we’ve got a four-week plan that’s perfect for any fitness level because each move is for time rather than reps, so you do as much as you can manage. And the good news is that there’s not a sit-up in sight – mainly because you can’t spot-reduce fat from a certain area. Instead, you’ll find a training plan that consists of high-intensity exercise involving all major muscle groups which will help shed the excess fat from all over your body. All you need are a pair of dumbbells, which are eminently affordable if you fancy following the workouts at home.

To help you improve your diet, we’ve got specific diet tips for shifting belly fat on the next page, but you should look to adopt a high-protein diet to support your weight-loss efforts (try this exercise-friendly meal plan).

But perhaps the simplest, most effective way to lose belly fat fast is to cut out the booze. When a writer tried it for four weeks he experienced what he called “ridiculously good results from a relatively minor lifestyle change”.

How the plan works

Here’s what you need to know before you start.

1. You’ll be doing circuit workouts

The plan involves doing four circuit workouts a week. Circuits are sessions where you do one set of an exercise before moving on to the next exercise without resting. You only rest at the end of each round. This is effective because the lack of rest forces both your muscles and your cardio system to work hard, meaning you burn off as many calories as possible. Each circuit finishes with a “supermove” which requires you to do as many reps as possible – maintaining good form – in 60 seconds. These supermoves ensure that you finish each round having given every last drop of energy.

2. You’re against the clock

The five-move circuits are arranged so that you perform the first four exercises for time, as opposed to a set number of reps. There are two main reasons for this. First, it means that you can record the number of reps that you perform and then try to beat your score the next time you do the workout. That should keep you focused when the going gets tough. And second, it means that this programme can be used by beginners and experts alike. If you’re a beginner, you may complete six press-ups in a set whereas an experienced exerciser may do 30. You also get to pick a supermove to suit your fitness levels.

3. Things progress every week

Each week involves doing the same four circuits but that doesn’t mean you get to coast through the plan. For a start, we’ve made weeks three and four more challenging because we’ve increased the duration of each set from 40 to 50 seconds. An extra ten seconds may not sound like a big increase but it’s a substantial step-up in workload and you’ll notice a difference. The fact that you record what you do is also aimed at providing added motivation to help you keep progressing throughout the plan. If you managed 12 reps of a certain exercise in the first week, your week two mission is clear: aim to beat that number.

  • Week 1: Do exercises 1-4 for 40sec, then do the supermove for 60sec. Record your reps to give yourself a target for next time.
  • Week 2: Do exercises 1-4 for 40sec, then do the supermove for 60sec. See if you beat your previous week’s score.
  • Week 3: Do exercises 1-4 for 50sec, then do the supermove for 60sec. The time increases to 50sec per exercise in this week.
  • Week 4: Do exercises 1-4 for 50sec, then do the supermove for 60sec. You should be posting your best scores yet.

Circuit 1

Do each move for 40sec then rest for 2min between rounds. Do 5 rounds.

1 Squat curl

How With feet shoulder-width apart, simultaneously bend at the hips and knees to lower towards the floor with your chest up and your weight on your heels. As you straighten up, curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders.

Why The squat part of the exercise works your entire lower body. Holding the dumbbells for the duration of the set works your grip strength, and the biceps curl adds an extra muscle and cardio challenge to raise your heart rate.

2 Bent-over row

How Stand tall with your chest up and core braced, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend forwards – hingeing at the hips, not the waist – then row the weights up to your sides, leading with your elbows. Lower back to the start.

Why Using dumbbells for this back exercise will ensure that you get equal muscle development on both sides and gives you a big range of motion so you can concentrate on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the move.

3 Romanian deadlift

How Keeping your legs straight, lean forward – hingeing at the hips – and lower the weights down the fronts of your shins until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. Then return to the start.

Why This deadlift variation shifts the emphasis to your hamstrings. Doing it with dumbbells will ensure each arm gets to hold its share of the weight.

4 Overhead press

How Stand tall with your chest up and core braced, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height with palms facing forwards. Press the weights directly overhead until your arms are straight, then return slowly to the start.

Why Following a legs exercise with a shoulder move in a circuit allows you to keep your intensity, and therefore your heart rate, high because you’re working completely separate body parts. This will maximise the calorie burn.

Supermove

Select the move for your level and do as many reps as you can in 60sec.

Beginner: Press-up

Start in the press-up position with hands directly underneath your shoulders, your core and glutes braced, and feet together. Bend your elbows to lower your chest to the floor, then press back up powerfully to return to the start.

Intermediate: Wide press-up

Start in the normal press-up position but with your hands out wide. Bend your elbows and lower your chest down towards the floor. Once you are as low as you can comfortably go, press powerfully back up to the start.

Advanced: Diamond press-up

Start in a press-up position but with your thumbs and forefingers together to form a diamond shape. Lower your chest to the floor, keeping your elbows close to your sides, then press back up.

Circuit 2

Do each move for 40sec then rest for 2min between rounds. Do 5 rounds.

1 Lunge curl

How Holding dumbbells, take a big step forwards and lower until both knees are bent 90°, keeping your front knee over but not in front of your ankle. At the same time, curl the weights up to your shoulders. Alternate sides.

Why The lunge works every major muscle in your lower body while also providing a test of balance and co-ordination. The biceps curl element makes it an extra-challenging start to the circuit.

2 Renegade row

How Start in a press-up position, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your core braced, row one hand up, leading with your elbow, then lower it back to the floor. Alternate sides with each rep.

Why Think of this move as a brutal version of the plank – it works your back muscles while challenging your stabilisers to keep you level. Make sure you control the movement to get the maximum benefit.

3 Press-up

How Start in the press-up position with hands directly underneath your shoulders, your core and glutes braced, and feet together. Bend your elbows to lower your chest to the floor, then press back up powerfully to return to the start.

Why Press-ups offer a safe and effective way of working your chest muscles hard, but only if you do them correctly. Concentrate on the quality of the movement, rather than bashing out lots of “junk” reps.

4 Wide overhead press

How Stand tall with the dumbbells by your shoulders. Engage your core and your glutes to give yourself a stable base and simultaneously press both weights overhead and slightly out to the sides.

Why Changing the angle of the press provides a different challenge to your shoulder muscles from a conventional overhead press. Just make sure the weights go more up than out, to avoid over-stressing your shoulders.

Supermove

Select the move for your level and do as many reps as you can in 60sec.

Beginner: Split squat

Start in a split stance, with one foot in front of the other, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend both legs until your trailing knee touches the floor. Straighten both legs to return to the start, then go straight into the next rep.

Intermediate: Squat

Stand with your chest up and core braced, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your knees to squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor, then press down through your heels to return to the start.

Advanced: Jump squat

Squat down as described above, then explode upwards, aiming to get as much height as possible. Absorb the impact of the jump as you land, sinking into the next squat and repeating the exercise.

Circuit 3

Do each move for 40sec then rest for 2min between rounds. Do 5 rounds.

1 Squat press

How Start with the weights at shoulder height and your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then straighten up while pressing the weights directly overhead.

Why This exercise provides a real cardio challenge because it takes a lot of effort to go from a deep squat to standing up with the weights overhead. Pace yourself and make sure your form is good.

2 Reverse-grip bent-over row

How Stand tall with chest up and core braced, holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forwards. Bend forwards from your hips, then row the weights up to your sides, leading with your elbows. Lower back to the start.

Why Switching to a reverse grip provides a challenge to your biceps as you draw the weights in to your sides. This is useful because that muscle group isn’t targeted elsewhere in the workout.

3 One-leg Romanian deadlift

How Stand on one leg, holding dumbbells. Bend forward at the hips until you feel a strong stretch in the hamstrings in your standing leg, then straighten back up to complete the rep. Do half the given time on one leg, then switch.

Why This move challenges your balance and proprioception – your body’s sense of where its different parts are positioned – while firing up your hamstrings. To get an extra benefit, squeeze your glutes at the top of the move.

4 Lateral raise

How Stand tall with your chest up and core braced, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Raise the weights out to the sides, leading with your elbows, until they reach shoulder height. Lower them slowly to return to the start.

Why If done correctly, this is a highly effective way of adding size and width to your shoulders, putting you on the fast track to a great-looking upper body. Make sure you follow the form guide closely to maximise the benefit.

Supermove

Select the move for your level and do as many reps as you can in 60sec.

Beginner: Side to side press-up

Get in a press-up position with your hands slightly wider than normal. Lower to the bottom of the move, then shift your body to just above one hand, then over to the other. On the next rep, go to the other side first.

Intermediate: Spider-Man press-up

Get into a press-up position. As you lower to the bottom of the move, lift one foot off the floor and raise the knee to your elbow. Press back up, placing your foot back on the floor. Repeat on the other side.

Advanced: Divebomber press-up

Start in a press-up position, then raise your hips and bend your elbows. Lower your head and chest down and forwards, moving your torso in a smooth arc so you end up with you head and chest raised. Reverse the movement to return to the start position.

Circuit 4

Do each move for 40sec then rest for 2min between rounds. Do 5 rounds.

1 Lunge press

How Holding dumbbells at shoulder height, lunge forwards so that your front knee is over your front ankle. As you lunge, press the weights directly overhead, making sure they go up and not forwards. Alternate sides.

Why This move is a great co-ordination challenge and also a test of your shoulder mobility. If yours is poor, you’ll find you hunch as you press and push the weights forwards.

2 Renegade row

How Start in a press-up position, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your core braced, row your right hand up, leading with your elbow, then lower it back to the floor. Alternate sides with each rep.

Why As before, it works your back muscles while challenging your stabilisers. For an extra challenge, it’s even tougher on rounded dumbbells.

3 Press-up

How Start in the press-up position with hands directly underneath your shoulders, your core and glutes braced, and feet together. Bend your elbows to lower your chest to the floor, then press back up powerfully to return to the start.

Why Press-ups offer a safe and effective way of working your chest muscles hard, but only if you do them correctly. Concentrate on the quality of the movement, rather than bashing out lots of “junk” reps.

4 Reverse flye

How Leaning forwards at the hips with a weight in each hand, keep your back flat and bring the weights upwards as if you were spreading your wings, aiming to bring your shoulder blades together at the top of the move.

Why This move targets your rear delts, while building stability through your shoulder region and rotator cuffs. It’s more important to focus on the quality of muscle contraction than to churn out more reps by swinging the weights around.

Supermove

Select the move for your level and do as many reps as you can in 60sec.

Beginner: Lunge

Stand with your chest up and core braced, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Take a step forward and lower until both knees are bent 90°. Push back off your front foot to return to the start. Repeat, leading with your other leg. Alternate sides.

Intermediate: Reverse lunge

Stand with your chest up and core braced, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Take a step backwards and lower until both knees are bent 90°. Push back off your back foot to return to the start. Repeat, leading with your other leg. Alternate sides.

Advanced: Lunge jump

Starting from a lunge position, drive up into a jump, switching legs in the air and landing in a lunge on the other side. Try to absorb the impact of the jump as you land and go seamlessly from one rep to another.

NEXT: Diet Tips