Let’s be real for a second. A big part of working out is about the aesthetics; it’s about wanting to look good. Can we agree on that? OK, good. Now that we’ve established a little honesty, let me be a little more real with you; there’s a big difference between looking “good” in your everyday work outfit…and looking good in a fancy little Euro cut bikini. Am I right?

When you imagine your ideal bikini body, what comes to mind? A tight flat tummy, a healthy looking butt, and lean muscle tone across your arms and legs? For the bikini-wearers and bikini-admirers alike, I think the answer is a resounding YES. Great, now we know what we’re shooting for…but how do we get there? Three things: time, motivation, and a well-designed workout program. I’ve been doing this fitness thing for a long time, and I’ve yet to encounter a person with those three things who wasn’t successful. Period.

The most important thing however, is avoiding the pitfalls of misinformation that have been perpetuated by certain main stream fitness magazines and fitness celebrities. Specifically…the idea that you can spot tone the above-mentioned areas to develop your dream bikini body. The myth that doing tons of crunches will improve your belly fat, doing a bunch of curls will give you fitness model arms, and squats for days will instantly transform that cellulite into buns of steel is….well, it’s just plain wrong.

In place of spot toning, I’m going to introduce you a new exercise format that is efficient, effective, and the quickest method to transform your body, reduce your body fat, and become that lean, mean, bikini-wearing machine.

Meet Metabolic Conditioning

Metabolic conditioning, or “MetCon” for short, is a concept that gets thrown around a lot in the fitness world. While MetCon may mean different things to different people, I can tell you from experience, the most effective format of MetCon maintains the following components:

  • Compound strength exercises (think barbell cleans)
  • Short-bursts of anaerobic work (think burpees)
  • Two to three of the above exercise types combined in one circuit with pre-determined rest breaks

The ultimate benefit of MetCon training is three-fold. First, this format of training involves short bursts of high-intensity training. Studies have shown this type of training is “more effective at reducing subcutaneous and abdominal body fat than other types of exercise”.

Secondly, the compound strength-training element of MetCon workouts is going to help you add lean, muscle mass to your body. As we know, increasing lean muscle mass is a sure-fire way to increase your metabolism…which in turn will help you burn more calories throughout the day.

Lastly, the intense nature of MetCon training is going to boost a little something referred to as EPOC (post-exercise oxygen consumption). Without getting too technical, EPOC refers to the work required by your body to return things to your pre-exercise state. Simply put, if you kill it in the gym, your body is going to burn a ton of calories getting back to its pre-workout state. If you want a more detailed description of this body-fat fighting phenomenon, Wikipedia does a particularly awesome job of explaining things.

MetCon Workouts

To tie things together, I want to give you an example of a MetCon circuit. It goes something like this…

No rest between exercises, 30 second rest after each circuit. Repeat circuit 4–5 times total.

Or here’s another option…

  • 10 reps Bent Over Barbell Rows
  • 10 reps Bench Dips
  • 30 seconds Single Leg-Burpees

Again, no rest between exercises, 30 second rest after each circuit. Repeat circuit 4–5 times total.

If you’d like to try a full week’s workout regimen using these types of exercise circuits, I posted a one-week MetCon challenge for my blog’s readers in 2012; you can check it out here!

The thing that makes MetCon training so awesome is the fact you can mix-and-match so many different circuits to create a full 35–40 minute workout. The ability to place an emphasis on core, plyometrics, upper body, etc. allows you to utilize this format of training multiple times a week, without things getting dull or running the risk of over training. In short, MetCon is going to be your new best friend if developing that ultimate bikini body is the end goal.

Progress, Not Perfection

One last thing I’d like to leave you with is something I find to be extremely important, especially in today’s day and age. Far too often I’ve seen people get discouraged when comparing ourselves to the progress of others. At best, this will cause you to lose motivation, slack on your training, and end up making little to no progress. At worst, this can create unrealistic body image expectations and mental health issues.

One of the leading culprits causing so many people to feel uncomfortable about themselves and their progress is the widespread use of those lovely before-and-after pictures. You’ve no doubt seen them before; some miraculous before/after image accompanying another nutritional supplement or workout program. You sit there wondering why they’ve made such a transformation while you’ve killed yourself for such meager results. Two things; your results aren’t meager, and that before/after photo you’re looking at is in all likelihood photo-shopped or at best, not what it seems.

To illustrate this point and further convince you to block this type of marketing from your minds, I did a little experiment with myself.

The above pictures were taken roughly two hours apart. For the picture on the left, I woke up, ate a huge bowl of oatmeal, chugged a bunch of water, used bad lighting, and looked sad for the camera. For my “after” photo, I emptied my bladder, hit the gym for a totally #epicpumpsesh, used better lighting, flexed, and smiled. That’s it. But you know what…if this was accompanying an amazingly awesome new fitness program you’d swear I lost 20 pounds, added a bunch of muscle, and completely changed my life. Then you’d be sad because you didn’t achieve the same.

Forget that noise. Fitness is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be something you do to not only look good, but feel good…both inside and out. Whatever your motivations are, stay true to yourself and learn that it’s about the journey as much as it is about the destination. Progress is progress, and as long as you know you’re giving it your all, there’s nothing more you can ask for.

Forget the comparisons to the virtually unattainable and/or fake body images that are floating around, focus on you, implement some of the training techniques we discussed today, and great things (including an amazing bikini body you can be proud of) are sure to follow.

“Matt has been involved in the fitness industry for over 10 years and has worked with, and helped countless individuals improve their lives. After college, Matt started his fitness career working in the trenches as a personal trainer for a big corporate gym. It was here he saw how impersonal Big Fitness really was. Clients weren’t people, they were just sales waiting to be made. After branching out and starting his own personal training business in San Diego, Matt soon developed the idea of Share It Fitness and started our (now highly successful) blog. A fitness junkie himself, Matt knows the importance of incorporating exercise into your life. When he isn’t working at Share It Fitness, you can find Matt running, biking, taking yoga, or pumping iron around San Diego.”

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