How to Get the Body You Want for Summer

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Summer is closing in fast, which means lot of time sweating on the beach and bike — shirt optional. Whether you're trying to look good in just board shorts of or getting to fighting shape to make the most of a surf vacation, trainer Ron Mathews has your number. Here, he shares tips to effectively get in shape quick. If you start now, you don't have to follow Matthews' grueling three-week workout plan, although with dedication and the right mindset, you’ll make it just in time for when both the shirts and fireworks go off in the hot season.

How early should you really start on your summer body?
That would depend on your weight and how much you want to lose. The standard is that you lose about two pounds a week, so if you have to lose 100 pounds, you’re not going to do it in one month. And if you’re going to lose five, then doing it in a month is doable. It all depends on when you’re standing.

Is it possible (and healthy) to look better in three weeks?
You can safely and healthily lose five to ten pounds in three weeks — and in a way that you can easily maintain by keeping active and watch what you eat. Five to ten pounds may not seem like a lot, but you have to remember a pound of fat is the size of a softball, so five to ten is the size of a basketball, and that can really alter the shape of your body. It can make a big visual impact in a short amount of time.

What’s the key principle behind getting fit fast?
You want to burn as many calories in the time you spend working out as possible. So multi-joint exercises are always going to be better. If you can, do combination exercises like a squat transitioning to a press or a lunge to a lateral wave — where you’re using as much of the body as once. That’s much better than sitting on a chest press and waiting for one minute, then pressing, then waiting for a minute, and pressing. You want to do some kind of interval training and circuit training that has you going from thing to thing with very little rest.

What key areas should you focus on to look good with your shirt off?
The three things you want to target are abs, shoulders, and chest. Chest and shoulders are going to make your waist seem narrow — you want to visually think of your body as a sculpture. Make your shoulders wider than your waist, since opening your shoulders does the same thing as narrowing the waist. It’s going to make that taper happen visually, that’s always going to be wonderful. And the second part is abs: There’s no exercise that gives you abs. You make them in the kitchen. They’re already there; you just can’t see them because you’re eating too many hamburgers. So be more diligent on the diet.

So how should you eat?
You want to eat fewer calories than your body burns in a day. The average person burns somewhere round 2,000 calories a day so in that scenario, you want to eat around 1,500 calories a day. Obviously, that’s going to switch from person to person, so any extra calories you consume, your body has to create that calorie deficit by burning something. Ideally though, this is a lifestyle you adapt. If you truly want to look good all the time, you can’t be on and off the diet. You have to make consistent choices all the time. That doesn’t mean you can’t have cheat meals, but for the most part you have to eat 80 percent healthy 100 percent of the time. You can’t go from eating 100 percent to eating like crap for three weeks. You’re just going to yo-yo back and forth.

Are there any shortcuts that actually work?
You’re not going to accidentally get in shape. If you see someone who looks great, it’s because they’re making good choices to look great — like eating well with their diet and taking time to work out. If you want to look good, you’re going to have to make it a priority. That said, you want to maximize your time at the gym by doing a lot of combination exercises. If you’re finding yourself walking around scoping the scene, getting a drink of water, and looking around at yourself in the mirror, you’re probably not making the best use in the gym. You can get a killer workout in twenty minutes if you get in and really focus, or you can get a mediocre workout and be in there an hour. So it’s not really about the time. It is to some extent, but its more the quality use of the time.

What should you not do when trying to lose weight fast?
The main problem I see is people doing these ridiculous things, like a cleanse. I’m saying this specifically for weight loss, because there are benefits to cleanses. But if you’re cleansing to lose pounds, even though you’re going to drop scale weight, that’s because you’re shedding off your metabolism instead of fat. And when you start eating again, your body is going to rebound by gaining even more fat back. So your scale will go down, but by the end of the three weeks not only will the scale be back up, but you’ll look worse and have a higher proportionate of fat.

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Also, don’t do something that’s crazy, ridiculously extreme. Like, "I’m going to only eat lettuce and work out for four hours a day for three weeks." The memory becomes "I never want to do that again", and you’re reinforcing negative emotion patterns while you’re working out. It’s really not healthy to yo-yo with your weight. So implement healthy choices throughout the year. You’ll look great all the time. And then when the summer comes it’ll be a slight ramp up instead of a complete overhaul.

What is the one thing everyone should know about weight loss?
The one thing that is not talked about enough — especially when you want to maximize your calorie burn — is that you have to work out the largest muscles in your body. A lot of guys will think, "I want to work out so I’m going to do shoulders, arms, abs, and the exercises I like and want to see". Those are all the smallest muscles of the body, and they burn the least amount of calories when working out. It’s like running a lot of lawn mowers, and not a ton of gas. You want to burn a ton of gas. You get that by working out your back, and legs. Your legs are all of the biggest muscles in the body. Just doing air squats will burn more body weight more than curls. So if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, don’t forget to do your legs.