Want to turn heads this summer? Cover model and highly sought fitness coach Jen Jewell has you covered with her game plan for building a show-stopping physique! Rather than focusing on dropping weight—a common trend among the bikini-clad crowd—she suggest you focus on building muscle to achieve your dream physique.
Muscle adds attractive curves to all the right places, giving you the fit look you desire. The increased muscle mass also revs up your metabolic rate, helping to burn any excess fat you may have in the process. The end result? A complete summer makeover!
Get to work on your desired beach body with Jewell's top muscle-building tips and workouts!
1. Start With Your Diet
While you might think the first change you should make has to do with pumping iron in the gym, that's not the case. When it comes to putting on lean mass, nutrition is everything.
"Embrace carbs and protein!" Jen explains. "More often than not, I hear about women skimping on carbs because they think adding too many of them will cause a sudden surge in body fat." It's time to bust that myth. Sure, overdoing anything isn't good, but carbs in moderation are OK—heck, they're even essential.
A big believer in simple, sustainable steps, Jen recommends you focus on including sufficient carbs and protein in your post-workout meal, since it aids recovery and muscle building the most.
Carbs are important for performance, and protein is important for muscle growth. And no, supplementing with shakes won't make you bulky. So, how much should you aim for?
"As far as protein goes, I go for 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day," Jen says. Aim for roughly 25 grams of protein after your workout, and spread the balance across your other meals.
Your overall carbohydrate and dietary fat intake will vary based on your total energy needs, exercise intensity, and exercise duration, but it's safe to aim for 30-50 grams of carbohydrates after your workouts to replenish your energy and jump-start recovery.
What's the best thing to eat before a sweat session? For your pre-workout meal, Jen recommends sticking with foods that are low in fat and contain easily digestible carbs—meaning carbs low in fiber. They'll provide a fast source of energy for the session at hand.
Jen also opts for a high-glycemic carb post-workout to help quickly replenish muscle glycogen (stored energy) levels. Some options include rice, bread, potatoes, and fruit. Have a sweet tooth? Fat-free candy like pixie sticks and gummy bears are another great option! Pair your carbs with a fast-digesting protein for optimal results.
2. Ditch the Light Weights
"In order to build muscle, you're going to have to challenge your body and stimulate your muscle fibers in a new way," Jen says. "Kick those light weights to the curb, and get ready to really work it!"
Too many women coast through their workout routines and do the same thing over and over again, which leads to a lack of results. "In order to get results, you need to have a clear-cut plan of action each time you hit the gym," says Jen. "This means changing your weight, rep scheme, or exercises in order to keep stimulating the body."
One of Jen's favorite muscle-building techniques is the dropset, a technique where you choose a weight, do reps to failure, and then immediately continue with a lighter weight. You can drop multiple times for an increased effect. "Dropsets are my favorite way to build muscle or help bring up a lagging muscle group or body part," Jen adds.
As Jen explains, dropsets work so well because, in a given set, you are only recruiting a certain percentage of the muscle fibers. But when you do one full set at a higher weight, strip the weight down, and immediately pick up a lighter weight, you recruit untapped fibers. This creates more stimulus and encourages new growth. It also burns a lot of calories!
"Whatever rep range I'm using, I always focus on pushing my reps to failure," Jen emphasizes.
3. Take Recovery Seriously
Going hard in the gym seven days a week doesn't lead to exponential gains. To build maximum muscle, you must take rest seriously. You actually tear your muscles down while in the gym. In order for them to properly recover and build, they need to have weekly rest time.
"I always take at least one day of full rest from my workouts each week," Jen says. "This means no weights or cardio. Sometimes it'll be an active rest day and I'll do a yoga class, but I definitely make sure to allow my body enough time to recover from lifting."
Recovery can also be aided by what you eat. "Proper supplementation and nutrition are key as well," Jen says. "During or at the end of every workout, I take Cellucor Alpha Amino. The amino acids in this product help not only with recovery, but growth as well."
4. Add Cardio to the Picture
You may have a picturesque physique in mind, but your overall health is always important. "In an effort to achieve optimal health, cardio should be done year round," Jen says. "Including cardio as a key component to your workouts is essential in order to stay at a healthy, lean level while adding muscle."
All too often, Jen says she sees people make the mistake of cutting cardio out completely during a muscle-building cycle. Ultimately, she says, this means putting on too much fat mass and then having to "cut" that off. Over time, this cycle can lead to a repetitive loss of hard-earned muscle and very small net gains.
"Bulking/cutting is a vicious cycle that I see many competitors go through, and it's not the best way to make overall improvements to your physique," Jen states. "If you can maintain a healthy level of body fat the entire year, adding muscle—and being able to hold on to your muscle—is definitely doable."
Jewell recommends that you opt for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) rather than steady-state cardio training. HIIT workouts are based on alternating intervals of all-out work and slower, recovery work. For example, you can sprint on the treadmill or outdoors for 15-20 seconds, walk for 40-45 seconds, and then repeat.
"Adding these more intense bouts of exercise combined with brief stints of recovery can help aid fat loss while helping preserve hard-earned muscle," Jen says. For optimal benefits, she recommends 3-4 sessions of 20 minute each per week.
5. Keep Your Motivation Constant
Nearly everyone struggles with lagging motivation occasionally. As the summer weather starts to heat up, it's not abnormal at all to find yourself wanting to forgo the gym to soak in some sun.
Jen has an easy solution for this: "Skip the gym!" Staying out of the gym doesn't mean skipping out on your workout; it just means embracing the outdoors. "I take my workouts outdoors whenever I can," Jen says. "I'm all about having fun with fitness."
"Don't be afraid to take a day off from the weights and head out into the local park, track, or beach to mix up your usual routine," she adds.
While you might not be able to do quite everything outside that you'd do in a brick-and-mortar gym, you can certainly do a lot to keep your muscles stimulated. Bodyweight exercises, sprints, or resistance-band work in the park will all transform your body and keep your muscles stimulated sans weight-room equipment.
As with all fitness endeavors, variation is key with outdoor workouts in order to prevent a progress plateau. "Aside from bodyweight exercises, try doing cardio by running the stairs or sprinting on the track, or grab some friends for a game of volleyball or softball," Jen suggests.
Jen's Muscle-Building Workout
Now that you know Jewell's top tips for muscle-building success, it's time to dive into her workout. With this workout, you'll have two days off per week. Add them into the program wherever they fit best with your schedule—preferably one midweek and another on the weekend.
Note: the dropsets should only be implemented occassionally—not every workout. When you don't do a dropset, perform a regular set.