24 Rules for Building the Perfect Beach Body
Bathing suit season is almost here. So we’ve put together a 24-point plan for how you can look your best, from what to eat and drink (vinegar!) to how—and how not to—work out (watch those crunches). And for the inspiration you need to follow these steps, look no further than our cover story: Joe Manganiello might just be America’s most beach-ready male.
Rule No. 1
Turbocharge your metabolism and burn through body fat by eating five or six meals, every couple of hours, that are small enough to fit in your palm. This keeps your blood sugar stable and prevents you from getting so famished that you chase fried chicken with powdered doughnut holes. “You never want to be hungry, and you never want to be full,” says Ron Mathews, a trainer in Los Angeles who works with Joe Manganiello and gave us the blueprint for what it took to get the Magic Mike XXLstar’s body beach-ready.
Rule No. 2
Prioritize Your Pecs
The centerpiece of the torso is no longer the six-pack. Thanks to A-listers such as Joe Manganiello and the guys below, pecs are once again a point of pride. Just resist the urge to channel Rambo. To keep your chest proportional, do a mix of exercises that use body weight, such as clapping push-ups and regular push-ups, and ones that require barbells, like bench presses. Choose a barbell that is 60 percent as heavy as what you usually lift, Mathews says. In addition, celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, who’s worked with Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Pattinson, recommends training the upper-back muscles with rows (using both dumbbells and TRX suspension bands) so you draw back the shoulder blades, which help tilt the chest up and out.
Rule No. 3
Attack the Tufts
Clip your chest hair or don’t—that’s your call. But the one area where there’s no negotiation? Under the arms. “You want to look like you care,” says Anthony Sosnick, founder of the Anthony Brandsgrooming line. The simple test to determine if you need to trim: Put your arms at your sides. If any tufts stick out, snip them off.
Rule No. 4
Go Low . . .
Your lower abs—the bottom two of the six-pack—are the weakest muscles in your midsection. So work them first, before they become fatigued, says Mathews. Try this: Lie flat on your back, hands by your sides, legs raised straight toward the ceiling. While keeping your lower back pressed against the floor, slowly lower your feet to the ground.
Rule No. 5
. . . but Know When to Ab-stain
Keep the crunches to a minimum. “Doing too many will create a strength imbalance and cause your body to bend forward and shorten your midsection,” Pasternak says. “It creates some postural issues and the illusion of having a belly.” He suggests toning the area with planks instead.
Rule No. 6
Work It Like Burt
To target the oblique muscles that will give you the curving, carved hip hollows that flank the lower abdomen (a.k.a. the Adonis belt, devil’s horns, or the Abercrombie V), do what Mathews calls the Burt Reynolds. Mimic the actor’s pose in his 1972 Cosmopolitan centerfold—he’s sprawled on his side, legs slightly bent at the knees—and crunch up from that position, hinging at your hips. (Bearskin rug not required.)
Rule No. 7
Sink the Bloat
Prevent a puffy stomach with these pointers, per nutritionists Stephanie Clarke, R.D., and Willow Jarosh, R.D., founders of CJ Nutrition in New York City.
Potassium-rich foods (some beans, dark leafy greens, squash, avocados, mushrooms, bananas) balance out the sodium in your body, and laying off processed junk (and otherwise healthy fare like cottage cheese, nut butter, wheat bread, and tomato sauce) keeps you from adding any more.
Too little can cause digestive problems that lead to bloating; up your intake by eating raspberries, pears, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
Water helps move that fiber through the digestive system efficiently
Rule No. 8
Be an Active Beachgoer
Don’t just sit there. You could be getting a workout—and having fun, too. Here’s roughly how many calories a 180-pound man will burn during 30 minutes of . . .
Beach volleyball 355
Stand-up paddleboarding 123
Rule No. 9
Try These 3 New-School Boot Camps
Procrastinators can cram months’ worth of gym sessions into less than a week at one of these intensive sweatfests.
1. Men’s Fitness Boot Camp Vacation
Expect five hours of strength-training and core-conditioning workouts, fueled by gourmet low-glycemic meals.
Four-night minimum, from $2,195; mensfitnessbootcampvacation.com
2. Bikini BootCamp
Don’t let the name fool you: The results from the circuit-training, kickboxing, and other shape-up-fast sessions (all done along the Mayan Riviera) are so good, you won’t care what it’s called.
Six-night session from $2,250, or $1,875 for Bikini Bootcamp Budget; bikinibootcamp.com
3. Big Mike’s Ultimate Beach Workout
Santa Monica, California
These one-hour workouts include intense plyometric exercises like burpees, as well as sandbag drills and kickass yoga.
Classes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from $30; ultimatebeachworkout.com
Rule No. 10
Rub It Off
So maybe you had one fried-fish sandwich too many and you need to cheat. A grooming cream or gel can’t give you rock-hard abs, but it can make the skin on your stomach appear tauter. Try Lab Series Skincare for Men Ab Rescue Body Sculpting Gel ($32; labseries.com), which uses caffeine and creatine to firm and smooth the skin.
Rule No. 11
Let the screen icons guide your beach style.
Look at your screen idols and how they train and fuel themselves. They are only human after all.
Rule No. 12
Snack Like You Give a Damn
Beachside indulgences, from the totally okay to the if-you-absolutely-have-to, ranked by nutritionists Clarke and Jarosh.
1. Frozen fruit
Icy mango slices, pineapple chunks, or cherries are like healthy Popsicles. Freeze any fruit—the less watery, the better it will hold up in a cooler.
2. Watermelon juice
The downside to drinking juice instead of eating whole fruit is that you can easily ingest 10 slices of liquid watermelon, where you might chew only three. (Still, it’s less sugar than a snow cone.)
The fresh-fish, lime-juice, and olive-oil combo is like the unicorn of snacks: a rare protein-heavy, low-carb find.
Aim for an 80-20 wine-seltzer mix: You’ll keep yourself hydrated and lower the number of calories you’d consume in a full pour.
5. Lobster roll
Mayo plus bun equals a fat-and-carb calorie bomb.
6. Ice-cream cone
Sugar trumps waffle because it has fewer calories and holds less ice cream.
Rule No. 13
Tan What You Can’t Tone
Bronzing lotion, applied strategically, can help you fake definition. First, exfoliate to make sure the color goes on evenly, says Sosnick (Anthony Logistics for Men makes a Blue Sea Kelp Body Scrub; $28, anthony.com). Apply the bronzer along the center of your muscles, fading it outward. A lighter formula, like a mousse, is easiest to blend. Try St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse ($42; sttropeztan.com) and stop beating yourself up over those workouts you skipped.
Rule No. 14
Bring Up the Rear
Even if you prefer knee-skimming board shorts, swimsuit styles are skewing tighter. Strengthen those glutes with walking lunges, reverse lunges, or speed-skater lunges, Pasternak says. And when you tire of all of the lunging, add in stiff-legged dead lifts.
Rule No. 15
Move Those Legs
If you’re skipping cardio but still want a big-calorie burn from your workout, punish your leg muscles, the largest in the body. Try weighted squats (barbell on shoulders), dead lifts, box jumps, and burpees. Keep your heart rate up—and torch calories—by nixing rests between sets.
Rule No. 16
Biceps may get all the love, but the triceps make up about 70 percent of your arm. So giving them extra attention can get you sleeve-busting arm muscles, too. Mathews suggests moves like extensions while standing (French presses) or while lying on a bench (skull crushers).
Rule No. 17
Buy a Six-Pack
If you exercise and eat right but still can’t finish off the fat covering your abs, a trip to the doctor could help. UltraShape, a noninvasive treatment, ruptures fat cells using ultrasound frequencies, and “your body absorbs the destroyed fat,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “It passes through the system the same way the body eats red blood cells from a bruise.” During the procedure, a technician gels you up and moves the device over your abdomen for 30 to 45 minutes. The most you’ll feel is a slight tingle. Multiple sessions are required (at between $800 and $1,000 each), but patients have reported losing up to three inches off their waists.
Rule No. 18
The Real Joe Six-Pack
Read this—immediately look like chiseled star Joe Manganiello. (Okay, not really, but it’s good motivation.)
Rule No. 19
Be a Loser
To destroy body fat, subtract 500 calories from your normal daily intake and work out to burn an additional 500, says Mathews. This leaves no room for dairy, sauces, desserts, or any added sugar. “You can’t take one bite that is garbage,” he says. Here’s your new diet plan.
Protein: Thirty percent of your calories should come from lean meat, fish, poultry, beans, legumes, egg whites, and protein shakes.
Fat: Thirty percent of your calories should come from avocados, olive oil, walnuts, and egg yolks (for every four egg whites you eat, have one yolk).
Complex carbs: Forty percent of your calories should come from sweet potatoes, brown rice, yams, oatmeal, quinoa, and veggies.
Rule No. 20
Master the Beach Selfie
Ready for your close-up? Here are three tips on how to look Instagram-worthy from Matthew Marden, Details‘ fashion director.
- “Take the shot right after you get out of the water. It will look sportier and more natural, like you’re not trying too hard.”
- “Everyone looks better in sunglasses. Plus, you won’t be squinting.”
- “This is Instagram, not your dating profile—keep it above the shoulders. I don’t want to see any of my friends in bathing suits unless I’m with them.”
Rule No. 21
Sweat Before You Shed Your Shirt
Add 11th-hour definition with these three exercises, which are as essential to your beach prep as slathering on SPF.
Fast Fix: Triceps dips on a chair
The Target: Chest
Fast Fix: Push-ups
The Target: Abs
Fast Fix: Hanging knee raises
Rule No. 22
Take a Long Walk on the Beach
Hitting the sand will burn about 30 percent more calories than walking or running on pavement.
Rule No. 23
Strike a Pose
Don’t undo all that time you spent in the gym with the three P’s—poor posture in public. Use these shamelessly superficial—but entirely effective—methods for strutting your best stuff.
Standing at the beach bar
Show off your abs by turning your hips 30 degrees but keeping your chest facing forward (i.e., the hips and chest aren’t in line with each other). The twist adds instant definition.
Lying on a towel
Keep the focus on your newly defined pecs by resting on your stomach while leaning on your forearms—a position that also makes your biceps pop.
Reading on a lounger
Avoid stomach rolls and a double chin by reclining on your back and holding your book or iPad up above your face. (Bonus: You can use it to block the sun.)
Rule No. 24
Do Cardio Before Breakfast
Moderate-intensity cardio on an empty stomach is the most efficient way to torch fat, Mathews says. That’s because the body doesn’t have any ready glycogen to burn, so it uses stored fat to get through the workout. However, if you push yourself too hard, you’ll start cannibalizing muscle. Keep the cardio easy enough (heart rate under 140) by alternating walking and running or by walking at a steep incline (you can do either on the treadmill). “You don’t want to be huffing and puffing,” Mathews says.