When I first started my quest to achieve my dream body, I didn’t know it at the time, but I was completely clueless. I knew I needed to start exercising, but I wasn’t sure what were the best workouts to burn fat and build muscle as quickly as possible. I was watching TV one night in 2012 and an infomercial for Shaun T’s Insanity came on. I was already familiar with the program because my cousin had used it to get into shape to join the Air Force. I was also sold on the testimonials and results of the people they used in the advertisement. I figured that if I just follow the program and reduce my food intake as much as I can, I will achieve those same results myself. So, I took a chance and purchased the program. After finishing my first round of Insanity, I definitely saw a noticeable improvement, but not what I had in mind. I attributed it to the fact that this is a process and it would take so time, so I just kept moving forward.
Fast forward a few years, many different workout programs and supplements later, even though felt great and saw results, I still wasn’t anywhere near reaching my goals. Don’t take this the wrong way, I love and continue to do Insanity and programs like it as they’re very good for cardio, however, but I started saying to myself “I know this takes time, but it’s been four years, how much time does this take?”. It wasn’t until about a couple of months ago that I realized that I haven’t done any research on what it actually takes to burn fat and build muscle fast. So, I decided to forget everything I knew about fitness, and start from scratch. I was shocked at how totally misinformed I was, but even more so at the fact that it took this long to wise up. Well as the saying goes better late than never. What I’ve learned is that in order to create that awesome physique, you need to lift heavy weights. We’ve all been told that cardio is the best way to got, however, it turns out that the more muscle you build, the more fat you lose. While cardio can enhance fat loss, one study shows that lifting heavy weights is vital because you build muscle and maintain it while losing weight, and another shows that it increases your resting metabolic rate (RMR) which in turn allows you to burn more calories throughout the day. Today, I want to share with you the 4 workouts that burn fat and build muscle like that of professional athletes and bodybuilders that many of us dream about: The Barbell Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, and Military Press. I haven’t set foot in a gym at all until a few weeks ago. As I’m beginning to see now, these workouts are important because without them, getting that sexy body becomes almost impossible. After only a short time in the gym so far, I’m already seeing results. Without further ado, let’s get started…
The Barbell Squat
I’m pretty sure the majority of the world’s population are familiar with squats. We see memes and hash tags that talk about leg day (I should know…I’m one of them), but it seems that when you add weight to your squats, magic happens. The barbell squat is a full-body compound exercise that trains and strengthens all of the muscles in your legs which improves mobility, agility and flexibility. It’s also a great workout for strengthening your core muscles as well as your glutes. Squats are shown to increase your upper body strength as well. Ph.D. and RD Jeff Volek had stated “You get greater overall muscle and strength gains from the squat than from any other exercise… Squats create an overall anabolic environment in the body that maximizes gains from other exercises in your workout.” So not only will you have that awesome booty and shapely legs that will allow you to run faster and jump higher, but you will also be indirectly promoting strength and muscle growth across your upper body as well.
To do the squat, place the bar on the squat or power rack so it’s directly across your chest. Get under the bar, place your feet shoulder width apart and your toes slightly pointed out. Unrack the bar, bring the shoulder blades together, tighten your upper back, bring your chest out, straighten your lower your back and tighten your core. Begin the squat motion by shifting the hips back and sitting the butt straight down while keeping your chest out and your back straight. Then begin your ascension, keeping your form the same, by lifting the butt, shifting your hips forward and standing straight
The next exercise is the deadlift. You perform the deadlift by lifting the weighted barbell off the ground, then lowering it back down. The deadlift is considered to be the ultimate exercise because it utilizes pretty much all of the muscle groups in the body. It works out your back, your arms, your core, and just like the squats, they also strengthen your glutes, and your legs. So while squatting actively works out the lower body and passively the upper body, deadlifts actively works out both.
It has been argued that deadlifts put a lot of strain on the back, but according to a study done at the University of Valencia, they’re the perfect exercise to train and strengthen the para spinal muscles (the muscles next to the spine), with proper form of course. There are different variations to the deadlift, but today will focus on the main one. To perform it, place the barbell on the floor. Place the middle of your feet underneath the barbell with your toes slightly pointed outward. Lower your upper body towards the bar and grip it about shoulder width apart with your palms facing in. You can also use the mixed grip variation where one palm faces in and the other faces out. This grip method allows you to lift more weight, and you may find it to be more comfortable. Bend your legs until your shin touches the bar and your knees are slightly past it. Lift up and stick out your chest and make sure that your back is in neutral position throughout the entire movement. Tighten you core, then lift up the barbell, moving it up your shins, knees and thighs until you’re in a standing straight position. Then lower the bar back to the floor by pushing the hips out then sliding it down the thighs to the knees. Once you get to the knees, bend them and then lower the bar down your shins. After it’s all said and done, you should be back in the same position that you started in.
The Bench Press
Ever since I started working out and telling people, I’ve been asked the age old question time and time again: “How much can you bench?” Since I was only doing home workouts at the time and not going to the gym, I either lied and made up a number, or just stated that I work out at home…never again. The bench press is the most popular of the workouts among men because every guy (including myself) want to have a strong chest. It makes us look and feel more masculine, strong and attractive to the opposite sex, and who doesn’t want that. There two variations to the bench press, the flat bench and the incline bench. You can also a barbell or dumbbells. For the flat bench variation, lie down on the bench, create an arch in your back, raise your chest and grip the barbell (or dumbbells) with the palm of your hands. The width of your arms should be a little more than shoulder width apart. After you get into position, lower the barbell (or dumbbells) to the bottom of your chest then drive it upwards in a straight line until your elbows are locked. Your chest and back should be in the same position throughout the motion. For the incline bench press, everything remains the same except that you angle the bench to around 30 to 45 degrees, and then you lower the bar past your chin and touch the collarbone.
Incline Bench Press
Last but not least, we have the Military (Overhead) Press. It’s a great all around shoulder workout, and it’s by far the easiest to do. You can go through either the standing or seated variation. I prefer standing, as it gives the core a workout too. However, as you increase the amount of weight you can lift, it’s recommend that you use the seated variation. Like the bench press, you can also do this workout with a barbell or dumbbells. To do the seated variation, place your feet shoulder width apart with your toes and knees slightly pointed out. Press your heels to the floor, keeping your upper back arched and pressed against the back of the bench. Grip the bar over your wrists and a little wider than shoulder width apart. Tighten your core and begin the movement by bringing the bar straight down to your collarbone. Make sure you tilt your head back so the bar can pass your nose and chin. Once you reached the collarbone, raise the bar straight up until the elbows are locked. For the standing variation, just raise the height of the bar and make extra sure that you’re core tight.
And there you have it. I started going to the gym a couple of weeks prior to the end of 2016 and incorporated these workouts into my routine. I’ve just finished my fifth week, and I’m already seeing a huge difference. If you have the time and the dedication, check out your local gyms and see which membership is right for me. However, if you have the space and the finances, look into creating your own gym space. You’ll save time on travel and won’t have to wait for others to finish. If you already have one and live in NY, hit me up…I’d really appreciate that. In the meantime, I will just settle for going to the gym before work instead of after. If you have been doing these workouts already, drop a comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.