Do exactly the amount of exercise you need, and don’t go overboard
Many men think the only way to develop their abs is to hammer in the gym and to slash their calorie intake. But if you do too much too soon, you could burn muscle and burn out mentally. Yes, big goals require big measures. “But if you go extreme right away and then stop progressing, where do you go from there?” Roussell asks. So start by cutting 200 to 300 calories a day from your diet. Stick to it. Once you reach that plateau (usually in two to four weeks), cut out another 200 to 300 and repeat. Hartman, for example, launched his plan by dropping to 2,200 daily calories; then he cut his intake further to 2,000 and ended at 1,750. A typical training programme prescribes a specific number of sets, such as 3 or 5. But because your performance can vary from day to day based on influences such as sleep and stress, that prescription might be too rigorous or too easy on any given day. That’s why Hartman based his training program around “autoregulation” sets. In those, your reps stay the same but the sets can vary depending on your performance. You do as many as you can until your form breaks down or your strength gives out. This strategy accomplishes two things: it hits your body with a stimulus that’s enough for you to make progress, and it keeps the brakes on to prevent you from digging too deep and sustaining an injury. To try it, see “The Fast Track to a Six-Pack” on page 30. Every Saturday for the past decade, Hartman has taken his gym’s interns out for lunch at a local Mexican cantina to talk shop, decompress, and review the week. “Obviously the fajitas, margaritas, and all the chips I could eat didn’t fly anymore,” Hartman says. So Roussell helped him find a meal he enjoyed that also worked for his diet. The solution? A spicy chicken breast on a bed of greens. “Maintaining normal rituals during your diet is key to sustainability,” Roussell says. Midway through his transformation process, Hartman had to travel to China for 10 days. He stuck to his nutrition plan by packing 24 Epic protein bars, 10 packages of Chef’s Cut Buffalo Style Real Chicken Jerky, and four cans of cashews. “When you’re committed to a goal, your nutrition decisions need to be made beforehand,” Roussell says. At home, Hartman tacked his eating plan on his fridge so that he and his wife could easily shop and cook around it. “She also lost weight,” Hartman says.