Help me look good under my ski suit!
August 26, 2009 7:17 PM   Subscribe

I need help figuring out how to achieve the following goals without the use of a gym: 1) Getting a six pack. 2) Getting bigger shoulders (they don't need to be that much bigger, just enough so they show when my arms are at my sides. I'm pretty close already.)

So, I used to be outright fat but I've been losing weight pretty steadily thanks to my don't-eat-so-goddamn-much diet. I still eat cookies, pie and even ice-cream it's just that when I eat them they become the meal rather than having them with a meal. There's a tiny tire left but it's slowly going away.

My only steady exercise is biking to work (and sometimes back. There's a big hill I don't like riding in jeans and I usually get rides back with friends.) and 4 sets of 25 pushups once or twice a day. I can't routinely go to a gym or running trails because I live in a place where I pretty much have to drive or bike to get anywhere and I can't drive for another 5 months (epilepsy). This makes getting home after cardio an "uphill battle" if you mind the pun. The hill makes a morning run on the street just as impractical.

So, without the use of a gym or external facilities, how do I get a six-pack or bigger shoulders?
posted by Pseudology to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Six pack abs are the result of diet, not exercise. Get below 8% fat by body weight and they'll appear. You may also appear, otherwise, pretty drawn and haggard, as this is a rather extreme level of leanness. Can't hurt to also do some sit-ups, but that's about polishing the visual effect rather than making them more visible.

Shoulders: hoist dumbells over head, observing good form. Three sets of 8-12 reps every other day.....working each set to the point of failure (i.e. really max out the effort...that's crucial). And get plenty of good lean protein (including a blast right after your weight training).
posted by jimmyjimjim at 7:21 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

The only way to get a six pack is to eliminate abdominal fat to the point that the abdominal muscles show. This requires cardio. Running, riding a bike, swimming, etc.

This does NOT require thousands of situps.

As for shoulders: bench press, pullups, chin ups, pushups, etc.
posted by dfriedman at 7:23 PM on August 26, 2009

Shovelglove. 2nding the diet => abs link.. it's the genetics lottery, really, in a lot of cases. Once you can, I'd just hit the gym and do powerlifts: bench, dead lift, squat.
posted by kcm at 7:24 PM on August 26, 2009

Planks are awesome. Also, do situps, pushups and buy some free weights for your house.
posted by IanMorr at 7:33 PM on August 26, 2009

Good news: your overhead lifting for your shoulders (dumbell press, etc) is going to work your abs (and back) a lot more than you think, to keep that weight balanced once it gets heavy. Especially try overhead squats with a bar.

Like everyone else is saying: that makes your abs stronger, but to make them show more, that's a body fat thing, all dietary.

I like knees-to-elbows as well. Anything but situps. Yuck.
posted by ctmf at 7:45 PM on August 26, 2009

For the shoulders, I've been having some amount of luck with kettlebells. I use the shoulder shrug, the snatch and the row.

I've got some more weight to come off, still, before I'll see a lot of the results of what I'm doing... but I can feel the difference, just the same.
posted by deCadmus at 7:47 PM on August 26, 2009

Handstand pushups and dips are two easy exercises to do at home that will pack mass onto the shoulders, pullups as well.
posted by zentrification at 8:13 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

So the abs seem to be favoring fat-loss. I'm pretty sure I've got the diet down: (Eat when you're hungry but a palm's volume of protien and one fist's worth of carbohydrates. Two fists to maintain weight.) As for cardio, any tips?

As for genetics, I'm fully malleable. Effort is rewarded. Chips have consequences.
posted by Pseudology at 8:15 PM on August 26, 2009

Good news: your overhead lifting for your shoulders (dumbell press, etc) is going to work your abs (and back) a lot more than you think

This is true, with the caveat that this only applies to the standing version of the lift.

For your shoulders you should be doing the press and the bench press. Starting Strength will give you a good description of how to perform them. You should be doing sets of 5 and increasing the weight every workout. You're also going to have to eat more than you do now if you want to get bigger, which means this goal is contrary to your six-pack abs goal. So you're going to have to choose one -- visible abs, or larger shoulders. Personally I'd recommend the latter.

You're also going to have a harder time getting bigger shoulders without working the rest of your body as well. You should be squatting, deadlifting and cleaning in addition to pressing. Good luck.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:15 PM on August 26, 2009

If you're like most men (presuming you are one) the gut's usually the last to go. But it's entirely doable if you really really want them!

First, high intensity interval cardio (aka HIIT) rocks for fat burning. I've kinda hovered around 200 lb for about a couple months now but noticed my definition change drastically - instead of flabby appendages it's all smooth muscle now, and now it's to the point where my body started to deflate my own spare tire. By all estimates I probably lost around 5-8% bodyfat.

Sprints are ideal, but you can do intervals with just about any form of cardio - biking, rowing, elliptical trainer, etc. Basically you just go all out for a quick bit and then slow down to a trot for a while, and repeat ad nauseum.

Now, is there a bit of flat street or path near where you live? Even if there isn't, you could just do a 30 second sprint uphill, meander back downhill for 60-90 seconds, and sprint back uphill again. Do that about 10 times, or as many times as you can, and work on getting more intervals in as your endurance builds. Alternatively, on your way to work, incorporate sprints into your ride if it's possible.

Don't overdo your intervals, though - nothing sucks more than overtraining to the point where you stop altogether and can't find the urge to resume. Limit yourself to 10 to 20 rounds per workout, and only perform this once or twice a week to start.

Next, build some lean muscle (via aforementioned lifts/calisthenics). Lean muscle tissue burns more calories at rest as opposed to adipose fat tissue - something like 6 calories/day per pound muscle vs. 2 calories/day per pound fat. When using weights for any exercise, find a weight that you can take to failure by 8-12 reps. Anything less and you risk straining yourself (too much weight) - anything more starts to reduce efficiency (but builds endurance to a point)

Also, consider adding some whey protein to your diet. After a workout your body will more readily absorb a shake rather than a steak - so do think about incorporating some. To make it more palatable, mix it in some milk or stir into plain yogurt instead of using just water.

Ultimately, calorie intake vs. calorie expenditure is the ultimate deciding factor in weight gain or loss. If you calculate your basal metabolic rate you can figure out how much you need to eat per day to maintain your weight - or to gain or lose weight.

exrx is an epic resource, IMO. I've based the bulk of my current diet/routine around the information offered and the numerous articles cited therein.

Lastly, discipline is key.
posted by cannotremember at 8:34 PM on August 26, 2009 [6 favorites]

you may want to consider the prison workout
posted by eebs at 9:29 PM on August 26, 2009

you may want to consider the prison workout

The exercise is called a burpee. It's good as part of an interval training/conditioning program.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:40 PM on August 26, 2009

Check out P90X. See the reviews. I haven't been using it perfectly for the past 3 months due to not following the nutrition plan, but for the first time in my life I have visible shoulder and back muscles.
The Ab Ripper X workout should get you a six pack *assuming* you follow the no nonsense nutrition plan.
posted by KimikoPi at 1:46 AM on August 27, 2009

There's a lot more where the prison workout kind of stuff comes from:

Ross Enamait...I found him on askmefi. He looks like a little gym rat but the guy is sort of thoughtful and I ended up buying his book Never Gymless, which might be right up your alley. Basically it's all kinds of exercise you can do in your own home or neighborhood.

Lately I've been reading Mark's Daily Apple. I can take or leave some of the theory behind it, but a lot of it makes sense, dietary wise. He's got some exercise ideas that are pretty cool. Here's a collection of posts. Check out the slosh tube and the Tabata Sprints. Actually I find most everything he does, exercise wise, makes sense.

Huge difference in me? I'm not sure. I feel like I'm losing fat, but haven't lost much weight. My arms I feel like are starting to develop. Honestly, it seems to make a lot of sense to me, so I keep doing it. It's sort of fun stuff, and I can't stand going to the gym. I haven't been at it that long.
posted by sully75 at 5:14 AM on August 27, 2009

Meadow Park is a great resource, and the drop-in price is super reasonable, so no barrier to entry. Ride out there on the Valley Trail, which is great for intervals. Power up the short hills and take it easy on the flats.

Also, completely eliminate sweetened drinks, even fruit juice. Try to limit your sugar intake as much as possible. Eat lots of lean protein and fiber, it will keep you full longer.

When the winter comes around, hike somewhere every day, even if it's just Flute or the Chimney (Spanky's doesn't count).

This is what I did, and it's how I got my abs to appear.

As for bigger shoulders, my advice is not to wreck your rotator cuff colliding with a 200lb Aussie ski instructor while you're both going mach looney down Fisheye at 8:30 in the morning.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:51 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, let's be clear here. Yes, abs are made in the kitchen, because if your body fat isn't low enough you won't see them. But it is in my experience a bit of a gym rat overgeneralization to say that all you should do is eat less and cardio and you'll get totally awesome shredded abs, dude. There is a huge difference between skinny guy abs (think Christian Bale in The Machinist), or the abs you're probably looking for (Christian Bale any other time). If you don't have some muscle behind those abs they are going to be pretty uninspiring, and you can build noticeable muscle even there if you work at it. So you need to do something to challenge your muscles.
This would be much, much easier with a gym or a good set of weights at home. Since you don't seem to have either of those, at least get a pull-up bar (those iron gym bars they are selling everywhere nowadays are actually pretty fucking awesome). If you have a high enough door you can do pull-ups, knees-to-elbows, l-hangs on it. If you buy some elite rings and hang those from the bar and you can add ring dips, l-sits, maybe muscle ups. You won't get hyooje doing this but it should give you some shoulders and ab definition.
Women tend to show their abs more when they eat low-carb or at least no refined carbs (bread/wheat/pasta, sugar, etc). I don't know if that has the same effect on men, but it certainly can't hurt.

BTW, if you ever do get to the gym, ignore everyone telling you you might strain yourself (heavens!) if you do fewer than 8-12 reps per set. That is fear and ignorance talking.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:50 PM on August 27, 2009

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