A Shamelessly Superficial Workout for Men
Our unapologetic plan for looking good shirtless.
Biceps, triceps, glutes, abs: They're sex and status incarnate. That's largely because these muscles are mostly superficial—as in, situated close to your skin—as well as big, says Stephen Cheuk, founder of S10 training studio in New York City. Any growth translates to easily visible results. Which, let's be honest, is what you want.
If you're going to be shameless about your workout, you might as well be efficient, says Cheuk, explaining that for max increases in muscle size and definition, not just any rep-and-set scheme will do. When vying for results that you can see, he recommends prioritizing "time under tension," exercise-science speak for doing a lot of slow reps with as much weight as possible.
Here, Cheuk shares the simple workout that will help you make every one of your glamour muscles pop—and in the least time possible. To complete the workout, do each exercise below for 60 seconds, rest for 90 seconds, and then repeat for a total of three sets before moving on to the next exercise. For each exercise, use a weight that allows you to just barely eek out your last rep of each set with proper form. You shouldn't end the workout with anything left "in the tank," so to speak. Do the workout three times per week on nonconsecutive days.
Pump Your Biceps
The Move: Standing Alternating Curl
Why It Works: Any curl will work your biceps. By working each one individually, this one also allows you to move more weight. (You can actually lift more total weight if you work each arm separately rather than at the same time.) When you stay on your feet, you force yourself to brace and strengthen your entire core.
How to Do It: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, and hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing forward away from your body. Your elbows should be straight, but not locked out. From here, and keeping your shoulders stationary and elbows fixed in place at your sides, slowly lift one weight to the front of your shoulder. Squeeze your bicep at the top, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start. Repeat on the opposite side. Make sure that your torso stays completely stationary with each rep. If you need to lean back or move your shoulder to lift the weight, go lighter.
Build a Stronger Back
The Move: Assisted Pull-up
Why It Works: This bodyweight staple hits your entire backside, from your rear deltoids and lats all the way to your glutes. Better yet, it can be tailored for newbies and veterans alike.
How to Do It: Loop a resistance band around a pull-up bar, place one knee on top of the band, and grab the bar with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart, palms facing away from your body. You should hang with your arms fully extended but not locked out. From here, take a deep inhale and then, forcefully exhaling, pull your elbows down your sides and squeeze your shoulder blades together to lift your body up toward the bar. When the bar reaches your collar bones, pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start. Make sure to keep your core braced, like you are about to be punched in the gut, throughout the entire exercise. You can also do this exercise using an assisted pull-up machine or, to increase difficulty, using a pull-up bar without the assistance of a resistance band.
The Move: Dumbbell Bench Press
Why It Works: Not only does the move pump up your chest, but pulls triple-duty by also sculpting your shoulders and triceps. Opt for dumbbells over a barbell to work your muscles through a greater range of motion and reap better results.
How to Do It: Lie back on a flat bench with your head, upper back, and butt planted firmly on the bench and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and directly above your shoulders, arms fully extended but not locked out. Your palms should face forward away from your face. From here, breathe in and slowly lower the weights until they almost touch your chest and are line with your nipples. Pause, then forcefully exhale and press the weights back up and together until the ends of the two dumbbells touch. Be careful not to arch your back or lift your feet off othe floor as you press the weights back up.
Define Your Triceps
The Move: Dumbbell Skull Crusher
Why It Works: Bicep curls aren't enough. For truly big guns, you'll need to work your triceps on occasion, too—they're the largest muscle group in your arms. Hit them with as much weight as possible with this on-your-back variation. By taking your core largely out of the equation and loading each arm individually, you'll move more weight for eye-popping results.
How to Do It: Lie on your back on a flat bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended so the weights are directly above your shoulders. Your palms should face in toward each other, and your elbows should point forward toward your knees. Your arms should be straight, but not locked out. From here, slowly bend both elbows to lower the dumbbells. When they reach the sides of your face, pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start. Make sure to keep your upper arms completely vertical and don't allow your elbows to bow out throughout the exercise.
Schwarzeneggar Off Your Shoulders
The Move: Arnold Press
Why It Works: This variation of the regular shoulder press hits all three segments of your deltoids: front, side, and back. If you're still not convinced, know this: It's called that because Schwarzenegger was one of its early pioneers.
How to Do It: Sit down with your back firmly against a 90-degree bench and hold two dumbbells in front of your chest, your palms facing into your body. From here, press them up, rotating your forearms as you go so that, when the weights reach the overhead position, your palms face away from your body and the two ends of the barbells just barely touch. Pause, then slowly and under control, reverse the movement back to start.
Widen Your Torso
The Move: Lateral Raises
Why It Works: Showing your medial deltoids, situated on the outside of your shoulders, some extra love makes your shoulders wider on top, which has the added benefit of creating the illusion of a smaller stomach.
How to Do It: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, holding two dumbbells down to your sides, palms facing in. From here, and while keeping a slight bend in your elbows, lift the dumbbells straight up until your arms are parallel to the floor. Pause, then lower the dumbbells back down to start. If you experience any pain, try lifting the weights 45 degrees in front of your body, rather than straight out to the sides in a V-shape. Doing the exercise with a thumbs-up grip can also help alleviate any shoulder discomfort.
Make Your Abs Pop
The Move: Vertical Knee Raise
Why It Works: The midsection you're trying to show off is actually called the rectus abdominis, and it's one paired muscle separated by connective tissue into half-a-dozen sexy segments. By curling your knees into your chest, you make them swell while emphasizing the often underdeveloped lower sections.
How to Do It: Stand on a captain's chair, rest your arms on the pads, and grip the handlebars with both hands. Firmly press your back against the pad and brace your core to remove your feet from the footrests. Hang with your legs straight and body contracted. From here, exhale and squeeze your abs to slowly reverse crunch your knees into your chest, making sure not to arch your back or swing your legs up. Inhale as you reverse the movement to lower your legs back to hanging. Do not let your legs drop or crash down.
Hit Every Angle
The Move: Ab Rollout
Why It Works: By combining a reverse crunch's flexion and extension with a plank's stability, this move trains both the six-pack muscles as well as the transverse abdominis, which acts like your torso's internal corset, pulling everything in tight and promoting better posture.
How to Do It: Hold an ab roller (most gyms have one—and if not, they're cheap) with both hands and kneel down, placing the roller on the floor in front of you so that you're on your hands and knees. From here, brace your core and slowly roll the ab roller forward in front of you as far possible without collapsing onto or touching your torso to the floor. Pause, then, using your abs, pull yourself back to the start position.