Men’s Biggest Body Issues—Solved
Lose your man boobs, banish your beer belly, and bulk up your calves with these expert tipsBy: Mary Squillace
The problem: Despite what its nickname may lead you to believe, it takes more than throwing back a few brews to grow a gut. Typically, your waist widens as a result of unhealthy eating habits—and if vanity doesn’t motivate you to trim your midsection, your health should. Most parts of the body are surrounded by a layer of padding called subcutaneous fat. The belly, however, also harbors visceral fat, which lies deep inside the abdomen and surrounds the organs. Excess visceral fat sets off a chain reaction in the body that increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
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Your fix: A balanced diet—not endless sets of sit-ups—is your best line of defense against a jiggly abdomen. “You can do a million crunches and see no difference in your midsection,” says Jim White, ACE-certified personal trainer and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition. Stick to meals around 400 calories and fill your plate primarily with fruits and veggies, as well as whole grains and lean proteins. Try to reduce your saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of your total fat consumption, while still eating foods high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAS). Research indicates that MUFA-rich foods, like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, target belly fat, prevent heart disease and ward off diabetes. Additionally, be sure you’re doing cardiovascular exercises to burn off belly fat. “Crunches have their part, but diet and weight training alone are what give body builders their abs,” says White.
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Chicken LegsThe problem: Chances are, there’s at least one guy at your gym who has big biceps, washboard abs, and hulking shoulders atop a set of twiggy legs. “Training legs is very difficult because it’s taxing on the body,” White says. “It’s easier to add bulk to your upper body because those muscles are smaller.”
Your fix: To balance out your shape, dedicate a larger percentage of your workouts to your lower half. “Squats are your foundation,” says White. “You’re working your glutes, quads and hamstrings rather than single muscles in isolation.” Leg presses and lunges will also help train the top half of your legs. Use heavier weights and stick to six to 10 reps for each exercise. As for your calves, you’ll need to train them about three times a week with a high number of reps and heavy weights. “Skinny calves are common because they’re composed of slow-twitch muscle fibers that don’t easily get bigger,” White says. He suggests seated calf raises and standing Smith machine calf raises.
And don’t forget your cardio. White suggests doing sprints and higher intensity intervals rather than long, slow endurance exercises. In other words, you’ll want your workouts to be more like Usain Bolt’s than Ryan Hall’s. Do this routine three times a week and you should see growth in about three months.
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Man BoobsThe problem: A pudgy set of pecs can be an embarrassing problem, and even spurred nearly 20,000 men to seek cosmetic surgery in 2011—a number that’s on the rise, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. For some men, a medical condition called gynecomastia that stems from a high estrogen-to-testosterone ratio, may be to blame. Men with this hormone imbalance experience abnormally large mammary glands, which looks a lot like breasts. For others, excess fat may be the root cause. While many men carry extra blubber in their guts, others might initially gain it in their upper bodies (similar to how women pack on weight).
Your fix: There are three elements of your chest: your upper chest, middle chest, and lower chest (or pecs). Work all of those areas with incline, flat, and decline bench presses. At the same time, clean up your eating habits and do some cardio to get rid of excess body fat.
Noodle ArmsThe problem: Biceps and triceps are smaller in diameter than most muscles on the body, which means they can take longer to develop, according to White. You may notice that they get big right after a weight-lifting session—the result of blood being pumped into them—but deflate a few hours later.
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Your fix: “Focus on consistency, don’t skip workouts, and be patient,” says White, “because these muscles can take longer to grow than some of your naturally larger ones.” The best way to punch your ticket to the gun show is through a mix of compound and isolated biceps and triceps exercises, he says.
Compound exercises work several parts of your muscles at once. Use heavier weights and complete six to 10 repetitions. For your biceps, try barbell curls, standing alternating dumbbell curls, or cable curls. Beef up your triceps with skull crushers, a close-grip bench press, and weighted dips.
Isolated movements target specific parts of your muscle; perform 10 to 15 reps with a lighter weight than you’d use for compound exercises. Concentration and preacher curls target parts of your bicep, while pushdowns and dumbbell kickbacks help sculpt your triceps.
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