While this may not end up being the most exotic summer of our lives, we're still planning to make the most of the next few months in our own zip codes. Whether we're kicking back with some cold BCAAs and a good book or tricking out our home gyms, here's how we're kicking off a fit and healthy summer.
"A Glimpse in the Rear View" by Dave Draper
Recommended by Jeff O'Connell, editor-in-chief
I've read many fitness books over the years, and I've written a few myself. My all-time favorite is Dave Draper's "Brother Iron, Sister Steel" (On Target Publications, 2001). So, when a copy of Draper's newest work, "A Glimpse in the Rear View" (On Target Publications, 2020), appeared in my mailbox one morning, I was anxious to crack open the spine and dig in.
I'm happy to report I wasn't disappointed. Over the course of 51 essays, the Blond Bomber, as Draper was and is known, takes readers on a winding tour of a life devoted to bodybuilding. Draper is as dedicated to his chosen path as a Trappist monk is to his, and that commitment leaps from every page. Most athletes use collaborative writers, but Draper is as authentic on the page as he was on stage and screen during his heyday. His lyrical prose and memorable turns of phrase mark him as a literary force, and the cast of characters he's crossed paths with over the years makes for a who's who of classic bodybuilding. Especially if you're stuck at home with time to read something longer than a fitness influencer's latest Instagram post, give this book a shot.
Jacked at Home: Bodyweight Muscle-Building Workouts
Recommended by Frieda Johnson, copy editor
My workout routine was starting to feel a bit stagnant, so I decided to mix things up and try something new. Since I currently don't have access to a gym, and pretty much the only workout equipment at my house is a pull-up bar and yoga mats, the Jacked at Home workout plan was the perfect option. Most of the exercises in this program require no equipment at all, and the ones that do (pull-ups, inverted rows, dips, etc.) have suggestions on ways to do them at home—such as performing dips between two chairs.
The main thing I really like about this BodyFit Elite plan is how scalable it is. As most of the exercises are done "to failure" rather than a fixed rep scheme, it meets your level of fitness for every exercise, so you can follow it as written, whether you can do 2 or 200 pull-ups. The exercises you struggle with are still accessible, the ones you're stronger on are still challenging, and as you grow in strength, the program grows with you.
So far, Jacked at Home is kicking my ass—in a good way!
Bodybuilding.com Signature BCAA, White Peach
Recommended by Heather Eastman, senior content editor
I'll be the first to admit I've been out of the daily-BCAAs game for some time, and for good reason. As a two-decade veteran of the gym and supps life, my earliest recollection of this bodybuilder staple is a neon-colored, soapy concoction that always left a waxy film in my shaker cup. Yet like many of my physique brethren, adding flavorful BCAAs was the only way I could finish my required gallon of water to stay hydrated while competing.
My, how times have changed! Bodybuilding.com Signature BCAA in new White Peach flavor is a delightful departure from the BCAAs of old. Not only does it dissolve completely with the twirl of a spoon, but the taste is exactly the cool, refreshing white peach flavor advertised on the label, as well. If you've been lifting for a while, you know that finding a unique flavor with a pleasant taste in the endless stretch of green apple this and razzle dazzle that is a rare thing indeed. Try it and you'll see—it tastes so good, you may even forget you're helping your muscles grow and recover as you reach for this refreshing drink all summer long.
BOSU Pro Balance Trainer
Recommended by Nick Collias, executive editor
Judging from the comments on fitness social media, it's hip these days to trash the BOSU ball, but I'm here to defend the maligned half-circle, as I've found it to be particularly useful during lockdown. For one, it makes a fantastic seat for a low desk—like the one I have at my home office. Conversely, it's also great to stand on during the day at a standing desk. And when it's time to train, the BOSU makes a perfect incline bench for a home gym—especially the 350-pound limit Pro and 400-pound limit Elite models. I would argue that when adequately blown up (think firm, not squishy), the BOSU makes an even better platform for movements like incline presses and flyes than a bench because it allows the chest to open and stretch more than a flat surface does.
There, I said it. I've been doing this in secret for months but recently saw Bodybuilding.com contributor Nick Tumminello, creator of the True Muscle program, copping to doing the same thing on Instagram.
If it's good enough for that Nick—a smart coach whose fitness sniff test is light-years ahead of BOSU-hating social media commenters—it's good enough for this Nick.
Pro-Tec Athletics AcuBall Heatable Massage Ball
Recommended by Shoshanna Cohen, senior content editor
As a runner, I always have something wrong with my feet. The simplest solution would be to stop running, but since I'm not that smart, I keep an AcuBall around at all times. Because it's so small and firm, it's the best thing ever for massaging the soles of my feet, and the little spikes feel incredible after a long run. I once had what I was convinced was a stress fracture, but after I stretched the ball of my foot over an AcuBall for a few days, the pain magically disappeared, saving me from taking any dreaded time off from training.
The AcuBall isn't just for runners, though. It's also great for working into deep knots in the calves, back, shoulders, or forearms (if you're a climber, you need one of these, like, yesterday). If you've ever felt that a foam roller, or even a lacrosse ball, is unsatisfying, this is the solution. You can even heat it up if your muscles are into that. My only complaint is that it's easy to lose because it's so small, so keep a couple of spares on hand—or underfoot.