It's the time of year when your pasty skin is
itching and your summer abs are twitching.
Let the Hard-Body Challenge be
your guide to success.
by Ellington Darden, Ph.D.
These water skiers from Florida are feeling fine in the sunshine,
as they have just lost 120 pounds of fat in six weeks.
That's me wearing the rabbit ears.
All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
I went for a walk
On a winter's day
I'd be safe and warm
If I was in F-L-A
Flo – ri – da dreamin'
On such a winter's day.
Okay, okay . . . with apologies to the Mamas and Papas!
Here I am, stuck in Tennessee.
It's March 23, 2006, and at 6:00 A.M. it's 32 degrees outside. I'm thinking about some of those terrific Florida mornings – which I experienced for many years. You know, where it's 70 degrees, there's a mist in the air, and a slight breeze is blowing. It's just right for a bicycle ride or a walk around the neighborhood . . . or even an early morning strength-training session.
To make matters worse, my wife, Jeanenne, and our two children, Tyler and Larah, are in Orlando visiting friends for a week. Plus, last night I talked with a buddy, Peter Fleck, who was involved in my Hard-Body Challenge, which took place at Sea World in Orlando . . . and I reported on in my book, The Bowflex Body Plan (2003).
Those Sea-World memories of taking a half dozen, overfat water skiers – and in six weeks, turning them into a lean team of champion performers, brought a smile to my face . . . and a few itches and twitches throughout my physique.
I know I have a few winter pounds that I'd like to shed, and perhaps you do too.
Now's the time to get started . . . so, I want to turn back the clock to 2001 and share what I did with the water skiers in the photo above. The plan worked well for them, and it should work for you.
I had a tough time believing what I was seeing. I was at Sea World's Bayside Stadium in Orlando, Florida, in May of 2001 watching their water-ski team perform. Peter Fleck, a champion skier and corporate show director of World Entertainment, Inc., had invited me to be his guest.
Granted the performances were outstanding and the skills – from barefooting to jumping to adagio – were awesome. What I had a difficult time accepting was how softsome of the guys looked.
Don't take me wrong. They were in above-average shape compared to the normal population. What they lacked, however, was that ripped, tight, muscular appearance that some highly conditioned athletes attain prior to their best competitions.
Why was having that ripped, muscular condition so important in my mind? Because leaner bodies perform more efficiently, are more resistant to injury, and, most certainly, look better.
That last reason seemed most salient since at the end of each Sea World show, the water skiers are asked to assemble at center stage on the lake front to sign autographs and be photographed with the spectators. There are few things more impressionable, for both youngsters and adults, than to be up close and photographed with well-built athletes in swimsuits.
"What kind of training program are these guys on?" I asked Peter as we were walking to the parking lot. "I didn't see a single set of well-defined abdominal muscles in the group. Don't these guys realize how much better they'd look and perform with less fat – and leaner, harder bodies?"
"They're still suffering from the winter bloat," Peter replied. "You know how difficult it is to stay in shape with all the socializing during the holidays?"
Yeah, I knew what Peter was talking about. Approximately 70 percent of the adult population in the United States gains from 3 to 5 pounds of body fat each year from Thanksgiving through the Super Bowl. I just wasn't aware that these statistics also applied to professional water skiers at Sea World. Plus, the holiday season had been over for four months.
Peter and I both agreed that something needed to be done to motivate the Sea World guys into action. Because of my continuing interest in research on fat loss, I told Peter that if he could arrange a meeting, I'd be happy to develop and implement a program specifically for their water skiers.
Later that afternoon, I received a phone call from Randy Potter of Bowflex. In 1995, I did a Bowflex study in Gainesville, Florida, with overfat individuals and the results are still being used in their marketing materials.
Anyway, Randy mentioned that he wanted me to update some of my research and do some field-testing on a new Bowflex machine called the Ultimate. In fact, he had two of them packaged and ready to ship to me tomorrow. "Did I," he wanted to know, "have any overfat people in the Orlando area who I could supervise through a six-week eating and exercising program?"
"Funny you should ask," I replied to Randy, as Peter Fleck and the Sea World ski team circled at the top of my mind. When Randy heard the idea, he was fully supportive. He could already see buff water skiers training on his equipment.
The next day, I called Peter and we strategized for a while and came up with a solid plan. I'd organize the eating and exercising routine and he'd get the approval from Sea World to house the Bowflex Ultimate machine in the Bayside Stadium. Then, he'd call a meeting for all interested water skiers where we'd introduce the program, explain what was involved, and issue what I called: The Hard-Body Challenge.
The objective of the Hard-Body Challenge was to get the guys dissatisfied with their soft bodies and motivated to take positive action. My job in turn was to establish a fat-loss goal for each participant and, most importantly, to facilitate them reaching their goals in six weeks or less.
Six members of men's water-ski team at Sea World accepted the challenge. I met with them two days later, where I took each participant's body weight, skinfold/body-fat percentage, circumference measurements, and full-body photographs in a bathing suit. I also went over what was expected of each participant.
Success of the program was based on three practices: (1) reduced-calorie eating, (2) strength training, and (3) superhydration.
The course started on July 15, 2001, and finished on August 26, 2001. Each man, I'm pleased to report, reached his goal. Tom Wykle did the best by dropping 35 pounds of fat and 5 3/8 inches off his waist. The least amount lost was 15 1/2 pounds by Darin Truttmann, who was also the most muscular of the men at the start. Darin accomplished his goal in only three weeks. You can examine the complete results in the boxes and compare some of the before-and-after photographs. One participant did not complete the after measurements so he wasn't a part of the averages.
An understanding of each of the three components will allow you to adapt these guidelines and apply them to your own quest for a leaner, stronger body.
Let's face it, many athletes and fitness-minded men may have gained some excess fat over the last several months. We all tend to relax at certain times of the year and get a little soft around the middle.
Now is the time to learn more about the components involved and, then – make a commitment.
Age: 28 Height: 6'1"
Before weight: 223 3/4 pounds.
Before waist size: 37 1/4 inches.
Lost 35 1/2 pounds of fat in six weeks.
Built 3 3/4 pounds of muscle.
Trimmed 5 1/2 inches off waist.
Age: 29 Height: 5'7"
Before weight: 164 pounds.
Before waist size: 32 7/8 inches.
Lost 15 1/2 pounds of fat in three weeks.
Built 2 1/2 pounds of muscle.
Trimmed 2 5/8 inches off waist.
The cornerstone of any successful, fat-loss program must involve eating fewer dietary calories. It's a scientific fact that in losing fat, dietary calories do count.
Surveys reveal young men in the United States average from 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day. During the holiday season, many of these men regularly exceed the upper number. The Sea World skiers were all regularly consuming too many calories on most days.
An eating plan consisting of slightly below 2,000 calories a day for active young men seemed to be a level that was neither too high, nor too low, but just right for efficient fat loss. Thus, each water skier's calories were reduced from 3,000 or more per day to 1,900.
The recommended diet contains approximately 59-percent carbohydrates, 16-percent fats, and 25-percent proteins. Carbohydrate-rich diets have worked well for my subjects over the last 30 years, and there was no reason to modify the percentages.
Related to eating fewer calories is the concept of smaller meals. My research has shown that keeping a meal at 400 calories or less facilitates fat loss and keeps the hormone responsible for fat storage in check. The idea is to plan for six eating episodes a day, and never go longer than 3 hours between a meal or a snack. Such a schedule helps you feel more satiated and less hungry throughout your waking hours.
Over the last two decades my studies have shown that most people can adhere to the same basic foods each day for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. They do, however, like a little variety at the evening meal.
Please examine the menus below. Calories for each food are listed in parentheses. The midmorning, midafternoon, and evening snacks are comprised of BioTest supplements: Classic Grow, a shake mix, and Metabolic Drive, an energy bar (see T-Nation.com). (Note: You may substitute shake mixes and energy bars with similar calorie counts.) The other meals are made from foods that are purchased in local supermarkets.
Reduced-calorie eating alone does produce weight loss. But in almost all cases, some of that weight loss comes from the muscles. Losing weight from the muscles is a critical concern: it makes you weaker and, as a result, your physical activities and performances suffer. This bodily state must not occur for long-term success, and it's certainly not appropriate for athletes who practice and perform multiple times each week.
The ideal condition is to lose weight only from your fat stores.
For this to occur, you have to strengthen your muscles at the same time that you are reducing your dietary calories. Strength training prevents the loss of fluids from your muscles. In fact, strength training can actually build from 1/2 to 1 pound of muscle per week. For this to happen, however, the exercise must be done properly.
What is proper strength training? It's certainly more than the haphazard lifting of a barbell or the reckless use of an exercise machine. My duties as Director of Research for Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries for 20 years, and my practical experience in working with hundreds of professional athletes, allow me to boil it down to four requirements. Strength training is most productive when it is slow, intense, progressive, and brief. Let's take a closer look at each requirement.
Observe the typical lifting that goes on in most gyms and fitness centers and you'll see repetitions that are performed in a fast, jerky, cheating style. Such a style is inefficient and dangerous. Slow lifting and lowering eliminates most of the momentum from the movement and transfers the resistance on the targeted muscles.
The speed of movement that I recommend is approximately 3 seconds to lift the resistance and 3 seconds to lower it. Each repetition should take 6 seconds to perform. A controlled, deliberate repetition produces more thorough muscular involvement – and it's much safer.
For efficient muscle building, the exercise must be intense. The repetitions must be continued until no additional upward movement can be accomplished in good form. The resulting condition is called momentary muscular failure. Such failure stimulates a compensatory buildup in the form of added muscle tissue, which aids the body in coping more successfully with a similar stress in the future.
When an exercise is done to momentary muscular failure, only one set is required for optimum growth stimulation. The mainstream philosophy of performing multiple sets of the same exercise is antiquated. With the right intensity, one set to failure is all you need.
The most efficient muscle stimulation usually occurs when the resistance on the barbell or machine allows you to do from 8 to 12 repetitions. It's important to understand, however, that you should not stop an exercise simply because you've completed 12 repetitions. Always perform as many repetitions as possible – and then attempt 1 more. You'll be surprised how often you can do 1 more repetition than you anticipated. Do not hold back. Make sure each set of repetitions is your best effort – in slow form, of course.
When you can perform 12 or more repetitions of an exercise, make a written note on your routine card. Then, on the following workout, increase the resistance by 10 pounds. On a Bowflex machine, that means adding a 5-pound Power Rod to each side. Such an increase will usually reduce your repetitions to 8 or 9. It's now your goal to add a repetition each workout until 12 or more or accomplished, and the progression is continued again and again.
Systematic progress! That's why more than 50 years ago, strength training was called progressive resistance exercise. During each new workout, a trainee attempted to increase the number of repetitions or the amount of weight – or both. This proven system from the past still applies today.
A strength-training routine involving slow, intense, progressive exercise must be short in duration and repeated no more than three times per week. Much of this reasoning has to do with recovery ability and the fact that it does not increase in proportion to strength. None of the water skiers at Sea World performed more than 10 exercises per workout, and no session lasted longer than 30 minutes. In fact, 20 minutes per workout was the norm after the guys became more skilled at performing the exercises.
Training on three, nonconsecutive-days per week provides your body with needed consistency and ample recovery. Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedules are usually preferred, as was the case with the Sea World athletes.
Below is a listing of the routines that were following during the six-week study.
Research indicates that as people age, they become drier. This drying occurs throughout the body: skin, hair, internal organs, bones, muscles, and even fatty tissues. Such dehydration can go unnoticed for years. Even mild dehydration accentuates the gradual loss of muscle and the gradual gain of fat.
The cure for dehydration involves more than gulping down a little extra water. It entails the systematic and progressive sipping of from 1 to 1-1/2 gallons of ice-cold water a day. Superhydration is the name I've given this process, and it's discussed fully in Chapter 16 of The Bowflex Body Plan. When superhydration is correctly combined with reduced-calorie eating and strength training, you get a compounding, synergistic effect: you lose fat pounds and inches faster than ever!
On the other hand, if you don't get enough water, your body's reaction is to retain the water it does have. This, in turn hampers kidney function and waste products accumulate. Your liver is then called on to flush out impurities. As a result, one of your liver's main functions – metabolizing stored fat into usable energy – is minimized.
Here are the guidelines on how to take advantage of superhydration.
- Purchase an insulated, 32-ounce, plastic container with a straw. Continuous sipping is more effective than gulping a glass now and then.
- Maximize calorie burn by keeping the water ice cold. A gallon of ice-cold (40-degrees Fahrenheit) water requires 123 calories of heat energy to warm it to core body temperature (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The insulated bottle will help keep the water chilled.
- Begin by consuming four 32-ounce containers a day for the first two weeks. That's 1 gallon, or 128 ounces. Increase the amount to five containers for weeks 3 and 4, and six containers, or 1-1/2 gallons for weeks 5 and 6.
- Try to drink 75 to 80 percent of the water before 5:00 P.M. That way you won't have to get up in the middle of the night to urinate. You will have to run back and forth to the bathroom very frequently during the day for the first two weeks. During the third week, your bladder will become less sensitive and you'll urinate less frequently but in larger amounts.
- Give your muscles a boost by drinking water while you exercise. From 70 to 75 percent of your muscle mass is composed of water.
- Don't let your consumption of other liquids crowd out water. Regular coffee, tea, and soft drinks contain caffeine and other chemicals that may negative the benefits of water. If you have trouble just drinking plain water, try adding a sprig of mint or a slice of lemon or lime.
Age: 29 Height: 6'1"
Before weight: 189 1/4 pounds.
Before waist size: 33 3/4 inches.
Lost 20 1/2 pounds of fat in six weeks.
Built 2 1/4 pounds of muscle.
Trimmed 3 1/8 inches off waist.
How do you know if you've lost all of your excess fat? One general way is to recall when you were in the best shape of your life – perhaps it was, for example, when you were a junior in high school. Remember what you weighed then, as well as your waist size. Attaining those numbers may be an indication that your excess fat has been removed.
A more precise method is to perform skinfold and body-fat calculations. For more than 20 years, I've used the Pollock-Jackson body composition tables to determine percent body fat on my weight-loss subjects. These tables (see Pollock, M. L. et al.: "Measurements of cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition in the clinical setting," Comprehensive Therapy, Vol. 6, No. 9, pp. 12-27, 1980) are based on sex, age, and the sum of three skinfold measurements.
Since I was working with athletes in this particular study, the goal for each water skier was to lower his body fat from an average of 17 percent to 6 percent. From my experience, 6 percent is a healthy level to attain. Unless you are planning to compete in a bodybuilding contest, there is no advantage to go below this level. Four of the five water skiers successfully reached 6 percent or lower, and the other finished in the 8-percent range.
Once you are satisfied with your level of body fat, the objective changes from weight loss to weight maintenance. Successful maintenance requires a continuation of the practices that were initiated over the previous six weeks. There are, however, some minor adjustments that you must make.
Carbohydrate-rich meals are still what you should be consuming, but your total calories per day can be increased. Generally, an active man of average height and weight should be able to maintain his weight on from 2,600 to 3,000 calories a day. An average woman would require less, say 1,800 to 2,300 calories a day.
You can determine your maintenance level by gradually adding calories back to the eating plan. A man should progress to 2,600 calories a day. Stay at this level for a week. If you are still losing weight, then raise the level by an additional 100 to 200 calories a day for the next week. In another week or two, your body weight will stabilize. You'll then know you've reached your upper maintenance calorie limit.
You've been limiting your six meals per day to 400 calories or less per meal. Set the limit now at 500 calories per meal. Sometimes a few extra calories above 500 per meal are acceptable, but be alert. It's those large eating episodes of 600 to 1,000 calories, or even more, that force your body into a fat-storage mode.
You must continue to strength train your newly built muscles or they will atrophy or shrink. Don't allow this wasting away to happen to your stronger, leaner body. Stronger muscles, by elevating your resting metabolism, are one of your best insurance policies against regaining fat.
The primary difference between muscle maintenance and muscle building is that you don't need to train as often. Your frequency of training may be reduced from three to two times per week. Most people on my maintenance program work out on Mondays and Thursdays.
You can decrease your daily water drinking slightly – from 1-1/2 gallons to 1 gallon. Never forget, however, that water supports your every function. Make superhydration a permanent part of your new lifestyle.
It doesn't matter if you need to lose a little – 5 pounds, or a lot – 30 pounds or more. Isn't it time that you got rid of your soft body, and permanently removed those excess pounds and inches that have accumulated around your waist?
Dan Justman, who lost 28 pounds of fat and 4 inches off his waist, said it best: "Before the program, I was sort of walking around in an eating and exercising limbo. The Hard-Body Challenge opened my eyes – and made me finally get serious."
You, too, need to open your eyes – and finally get serious. Accept the Hard-Body Challenge now.
With disciplined application of the Hard-Body guidelines, you'll be leaner, stronger, and more muscular – in six weeks or less!
There will be plenty of time left this summer to display your abs and do a little Florida Dreamin' of your own.
|Men (N = 5) ||Before ||After ||Difference |
|Body weight (lbs.) ||188.0 ||167.0 ||21.0 |
|Percent body fat ||17.1 ||5.3 ||11.8 |
|Pounds of fat ||32.2 ||8.8 ||23.4 |
Note: The men had an average age of 27.8 years and an average height of 71.2 inches.
|Circumference Site ||Men (N = 5) |
|2 inches above navel ||3.6 |
|Navel ||4.0 |
|2 inches below navel ||3.2 |
|Hips ||3.1 |
|Right thigh ||2.0 |
|Left thigh ||2.0 |
|Total inches lost ||17.9 |
|Each guy in this picture has a 32-inch waist or smaller. From left to right are Ryan Jones, Gary Smith, Tom Wykle, Sharky Anderson, Dan Justman, and Darin Truttmann. |