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Luke Matthews

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We have all fallen off the wagon from our consistent diet or healthy eating lifestyle.  Whether it be from one bad cheat meal, cheat day, week vacation, or a whole month that spun out of control, it can happen to anyone.  Sometimes we can pinpoint how it happened, but other times we end up saying “how did I get here?”  Let’s dive into some strategies to help you get back on track.

It all starts with the mindset.  Your body follows the mind so get that headed in the right direction first.  You have to know what your goal is with your fitness and diet.  A clear vision gives you something to work for or even maintain.  A good example of this is the fitness competitor after a competition.  Once they are off stage and grab that celebratory meal (mine was always pizza) their goal has been expired.  Competitors put so much focus into that day and the days leading up that that afterwards it’s easy to not have a goal or level they want to reach after.  This can cause days if not weeks or longer of aimless workouts and dietary discipline.  Definitely reward yourself and enjoy special events like weddings and celebrations, but the key is to always be one step ahead mentally with how you’re going to attack your goals in the days ahead.  For me personally, I have a vision of how I want a healthy fit lifestyle day after day.  I take pride in the discipline and consistency it takes to maintain a great physique.  Remember, if It was easy anyone could do it.  You are not just anyone!

One smart healthy choice at a time, one day at a time with a clear vision or your goal and you are on your way.  There is no better time to get back on track than today. 

Make one choice at a time.  Sometimes it starts with ordering that salad and burger rather than the burger and fries.  It’s making that first choice in the morning with smart food choices.  Keep your protein and healthy fats higher in the morning so your blood sugar isn’t spiked and you crave more sugar and carbs throughout the day.  Keep up with your workouts, weights and cardio.  Small choices each day like getting in that extra cardio or HIIT session make all the difference to get back on track.

Photo By: Jake & Erica Smith

Abs are the representation of a well-built physique and symbol of discipline.  They are easy to wish for, but obtaining them can be difficult to earn.  If it was easy everyone would have them.  That’s also what makes abs so rewarding when you see them start to form.  I have 6 quick tips to consider when training for abs.

Squeeze them at the top
Don’t focus on counting your reps.  The most important thing is to squeeze those abs at the top as if you are ringing out a wet sponge.  Ten quality hard contracted reps are better than 30 sloppy ones any day.  This is where a mind-muscle connection is extremely important and effective.  The abs will respond greatly to this technique.

No more than 15 seconds in-between sets
Abs respond well to time under tension.  I have found that 15 seconds is the magic number before the added benefit of the previous set starts to diminish.  It’s hard to only “rest” 15 seconds, but remember it’s about quality reps and time under tension, not about the rep count.

Train abs 1st
A lot of us train abs at the end of our workout when we are about to run out of steam.  We quickly get in a few sets and call it good.  Then we wonder why our abs aren’t popping with shredded obliques.  Abs need to be trained hard with our undivided attention just like any other muscle group.  I suggest training them first, at the beginning of your workout for a chance to give them the attention they need.  It also serves as a great warm-up for the rest of your workout and has them activated for stabilization that benefits the rest of your lifts.

You have to borderline obsess about getting them to get going in the right direction.  It takes discipline, commitment, and drive with your diet and fitness.

Isolation
Full-body movements are great for ab development and strength.  However, abs need to be isolated just like a rear delt to get them to form like a sculpture.  I break up my ab training into upper, lower, and oblique training days.  I only train them when they are fully recovered, so if they are still sore I take the day off.

Small movements
The abs fully contract with small movements.  An ab crunch contracts the abs totally without help from the hip flexors as in a full sit up.  Sit-ups are all fine and well, but when trying to isolate the abs keep it short and sweet.

Abs are made in the kitchen
At the end of the day, abs are made in the kitchen.  I believe that it’s 100% diet and 100% fitness.  However, if I had to really break it down I would say it’s an 80% diet.  You just can’t out-train a bad diet.  Get your macros in order and stay consistent.

Abs are one of my favourite muscle groups to train.  Follow my 6 tips and you will be on your way to the chiselled core you desire.

Photo By:  Jay Kenneth

There has been one specific training method I have carried with me through various stages of my life.  It keeps me in great shape year-round and can be done almost anywhere.  I’ve been training since I was 14 years old.  That’s 23 years of training experience with this “secret weapon” as a cornerstone in my training.

My secret is Sprinting uphill! It should come as no surprise that this form of HIIT works extremely well.  The key is to have it a consistent part of your fitness routine.  I do believe it is good to mix up your routines, but I don’t take more than a month or so off from this form of training.  I’ll hit a month of steady-state cardio and then reintroduce sprinting hills to re-shock my body.  Some of the benefits of HIIT training consist of the following:

  • Increases metabolism.
  • Increases stamina.
  • It burns a ton of calories.
  • Time-efficient.
  • Improves oxygen consumption.
  • Reduces heart rate and blood pressure.

Mental toughness is sharpened to keep going through gruelling conditions.  Pushing yourself through the burn and lack of oxygen develops that deep drive to be your very best.  Through this mental discipline, you are training the mind to drive yourself through physical pain.  This can be beneficial in so many aspects of life, not just fitness.

Take a look at Olympic sprinters.  Their bodies reflect that Greek God symbol of lean muscle, strength, and endurance.  The great Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton credits a deal of his success to his hill sprinting routine as well.

I grew up as an athlete in Moscow, Idaho.  I was never fast until my junior year of high school when I started sprinting up a snowy hill.  I had a steep hill not too far from my house that I would run-up in the snow with my dad’s heavy Sorel boots on.  The elevation of the hill combined with the resistance of the snow trained and conditioned my fast-twitch muscle fibres while building speed and functional muscle at an early age.  That next spring I noticed a huge change in my athletic performance on the baseball diamond. I continued this kind of training in the Marine Corps.  I was stationed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.  There was a steep hill called “KT” in the middle of the base.  I would sprint up that hill like a heat-seeking missile in the sweltering humidity.  I continue to race up hills to this day no matter where I am.  Even when I’m travelling I’m always mindful of where a steep hit is to maintain and build on my fitness progress.  If you are ever in Laguna Beach, California I highly recommend the hills just off highway 1.

I hope my testimony gets you fired up to implement this into your own fitness routine.  This has been a great tool to use for maintaining my body composition. I have been able to sustain sub 10% body fat year-round.  Stay tuned for more of my articles in the future.  With my background in athletics, military, and bodybuilding, I love to incorporate training methods from all corners of my experience.  Now, find your nearest hill to blaze up!

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Photo By: Colton Keeton