Sure, the best marathon runners in the world aren’t bulking up for cameos in Marvel movies, but that doesn’t mean a weekend trot around the park’s going to strip away your precious, precious bulk. “If muscle is regularly stimulated to grow, it will remain as big as it needs to be to lift the weight,” says S&C coach Tom Wright. “Adding cardio doesn’t negatively affect that unless the weight training decreases too. Cardio can actually positively affect muscle gain as it improves muscular endurance as well as body fat utilisation.”
Got your shiny new plan, hmm? That’ll be escalating density reps with 83% of your predicted max, rotating your main move every three weeks and…hooo, stop, listen, breathe. It doesn’t need to be like this. “The basics work,” says trainer and part-time Thor impersonator (really) Ben Mudge. “Keeping things simple with linear progression is often your best weapon. Just try to perform better every session – one second, one rep more, one kilo heavier. Small progress over time can – wait, scratch that, will produce big results.”
“Somewhere along the line, the idea that a proper muscle-building workout takes at least an hour became part of the zeitgeist,” says seasoned log-lifter and serial T-shirt avoider Andrew Tracey. “Once you cut away the ‘fluff’, start focusing on compounds and specific conditioning work and trim the fat on your rest periods, you can probably get in and out of the gym in a little over 30 minutes.” Only got 15? Do 30 seconds of rowing, 30 seconds of press-ups, and repeat until the time runs out. Keep score.
“Having a six pack is no indication of a strong core – it’s one section of a muscular belt that provides trunk stability,” says S&C coach Andy ‘IronMac’ McKenzie. “You get great core strength from training compound lifts like the squat and deadlift, but also with direct core work that works your back and obliques.” To work the whole lot in one, grab an ab wheel from Argos and start with rollouts from your knees – aim for three sets of five and build up to something bigger.
“Depending on what you’re actually looking for, HIIT works fine,” says trainer Jess Wolny. “For instance, it can give your metabolism a quick jolt if you’re already eating well, especially if you haven’t got time for a longer workout.” But it’s not ideal. “Realistically, you’ll never make up for smashing an entire packet of miniature Battenburgs with a load of burpees,” says Wolny. “And by focusing entirely on fat loss, you’ll have no muscle to expose once that adipose tissue melts away. Eat less sugar, focus your workouts on muscle, and you’ll build a body worth showing off.” That’s you told.