Many men have no problems losing weight.
But are frustrated as hell, because they aren’t seeing the shape they want, despite working hard for it.
Mostly, their shoulders, arms, and chest just seem to look the same. But smaller.
If that’s you? I feel your pain.
I’ve been there plenty of times.
And I have some great solutions in this article.
Last week I was chatting with a reader who’s a dad of 2 daughters in his mid 40s.
He already makes time and prioritises exercise.
Mostly endurance road cycling, body pump, that kind of stuff.
So his weight training is low weight, very high reps.
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But still, he can’t get rid of soft midline, and like many a man of his age, his upper body is withering away.
It’s because of 2 things:
We lose muscle as we age, naturally.
But don’t panic, you can add more muscle (and age better) with the right exercise strategy (we’ll get to that in a sec).
2) Your exercise choices can make or break your physique.
Generally, endurance work – even weights, when done for very high reps, for long periods of time- makes you smaller, and weaker.
Not just fat mass smaller.
But total mass – including muscle.
There’s a myth that high reps and pump-type work is better for ‘toning’ your body.
Which is total BS.
It’s pretty much weighted cardio.
Some studies have shown equal amounts of weight loss from both muscle and fat stores in groups that only did cardio.
But this doesn’t mean you should stop cardio or endurance work.
There’s a place for those, depending on the person and his goal.
If you’re a busy dad in your 30s or 40s with limited time to exercise, who mostly wants to lose the belly, tone up, and ‘look like a guy who works out‘ when you wear a nice t-shirt (or with it off at the beach on holiday)?
You definitely should:
Obviously, food and the right nutrition principles are essential here, too.
But we’ll focus on the exercise side of it in this article.
In case you’re thinking: “But Dean, I don’t want to get all big and bulk up. I just want to be toned and look more athletic”
Great, this is what heavier weight training does for you.
You wont get massive unless you’re specifically eating and dedicating your whole life around workouts to do that.
I’ve been lifting for 10 years, and I’m only a little guy.
Building muscle HARD.
But, exercising in a way that builds muscle is the most efficient way to lose that belly, define your shoulders, chest, and arms, so you’ll look great in that t-shirt.
It raises you metabolism, because after a workout, your body’s rebuilding and repairing for days afterwards.
So you’re still using up energy now from a weights session you did 2-3 days ago.
But when you finish a cardio session, the energy burn stops there.
Plus, muscle costs more energy to maintain than fat.
So, the more muscle you have, the more energy you burn just sitting on your ass, reading this article.
In otherwords, you can eat more without getting fat.
Who doesn’t want that?
Focus your efforts on lifting weights in the 6-12 rep ranges.
(don’t forget bodyweight exercises in there, too).
If you’re a busy dad, like most of my inner circle members?
Don’t do lots of small exercises like bicep curls, triceps extensions, shoulder raises, etc.
One determining factor of the ‘shape’ and development of your shoulders, chest, and arms, is how much weight you can lift in that 6-12 rep range.
A bicep curl only trains your bicep.
And you won’t lift much.
But a 1 arm row, or a pull-up or lat pull-down, trains your biceps, rear shoulder, and upper back.
A triceps extension only trains your triceps.
But press-up and dumbbell bench press variations train your tricep, chest, and front shoulders.
You’ll lose more fat, shape your upper body, get better returns for your time invested.
This is my client and friend, Duncan, in his 40s:
He’s super busy with his forestry business and has a large family at home.
Some weeks he’s so busy he only gets 1-2 workouts in.
And his arms looking pretty good.
In fact, he’s looking cool AF in general, these days, because we’re getting down to business with the bigger pushing and pulling movements.
Here’s 1 of his 3 weekly full-body routines:
If you do this wrong, you’ll screw up your shoulders.
Most guys only train their ‘mirror’ muscles.
The ones you see on the front (chest, shoulders, biceps).
Which tend to get tight and pull you into a hunched, rounded shoulder type of posture.
Modern living already does this.
Sitting, driving, looking down at the phones has us all rounding at the shoulders.
So training this way enhancing the problem.
Before you know it, you’re suffering horrible shoulder pain and have to stop training altogether.
But it’s a simple fix.
Strengthen the upper back and rear shoulders to reverse the effects of sitting.
Dumbbell rows, bodyweight inverted rows, face-pulls, band pull-apart, prone cobra holds, etc.
These will reset your shoulders back, and open up you chest, making it look bigger anyway.
For every 2 sets of pushing movements you have per week,
Have 3 sets of horizontal pulling minimum.
Here are some great exercises for you:
It takes time to see visible ‘shape’ changing in your body.
One strong indicator of progress is lifing more in your workouts.
Anytime you repeat a workout, you want to do 1 more rep with the same weight as last time.
Or lift a little more weight.
Let’s say you have 3 sets of 6-10 dumbbell bech press.
Last week you hit 3 sets of 9, 9, and 7 with 15kg each hand.
This time, your target is is 9,9, 8.
And you stick with that weight until you hit 10 reps on all 3 sets.
Next time, jump up to the next (smallest available) weight increase.
Which will set your reps back down closer to 6.
And you start the process again.
Eventually, progress will slow right down.
But the main thing is that you’re lifing heaveier weights with your chosen exercises in 6, 12, 18 months from now than you’re lifing now.
That’s all I got today.
Thanks so much reading.
And if you have any questions at all.
Just reach out and let me know.
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Dean McMenamin is an Army veteran, father, dog-lover and online nutrition & exercise coach helping busy men transform their bodies, regain self-confidence and be healthier role models for their kids. He's also a big eater of ice-cream.