So you work out religiously and eat right -- and the effort is paying off. You've slimmed down and toned up, and you're looking mighty fine, if you do say so yourself. But what if going from flab to fit isn't enough? If you're craving a sculpted physique, like the guys in the gym magazines, what's the best way to transition from fit to ripped?
Try shock therapy.
Before long, your muscles get bored with the same old routine. That's why, says Ross, "you must shock the body with a new routine now and then to keep it from getting too comfortable." Ross suggests a full body workout, in which you spend an hour doing 10 different exercises that focus on various regions of your entire body, two or three times a week.
Another way to break up your routine, says Ross, is to vary your reps. If you usually do 10 reps per set, for example, lower the weight for a few weeks and crank out 15 to 18 reps instead. And if you're really feeling energetic, jump rope for three to five minutes between sets. This high intensity training will help burn fat. "Your body won't know what hit it," says Ross. "And that's a good thing."
Get a workout partner.
The next best thing to a personal trainer is a workout partner. Besides providing extra motivation, your partner will spot you while you squeeze out those all-important extra reps. And if you're tempted to skip a workout, the guilt of leaving your partner in a lurch should keep you on track, big time. "A workout partner is one of the best ways to keep you focused and working hard," says Ross, who trains with a partner himself.
Do your homework.
How do you think personal trainers became experts in their field? They did their homework -- and so can you. Fitness magazines, books and Web sites can help you become your own fitness expert, or at least devise a solid workout routine. "I suggest clipping helpful articles and bringing them to the gym," says Ross. "Try new exercises and ask your workout partner to make sure you're doing them correctly."
Lifting heavy weights may look impressive, but if done incorrectly, it won't help to sculpt your body. If you want results, you need to have the right form. "Spend some time refocusing on the importance of form," says Ross. "Even reduce the amount of weight and change your focus to: 'Am I doing this exercise correctly?'"
Watch and learn.
One of the easiest ways to pick up exercise tips is to observe how other people work out. Check out the guys with the ripped bodies (as if you're not already doing this!) and pay attention to their form. You might even learn a new exercise, or a variation of an exercise already incorporated into your routine. "I watched and learned when I first started working out," says Ross. But beware: not every guy with a ripped body has good form. "A lot of people can have great bodies, but really bad form," Ross adds. "Form is the first priority. Watch others, but proceed with caution."
Hire a trainer once a month.
Forget about buying a gorgeous new outfit and book a session with a trainer once a month instead. A few sessions can help you perfect your routine, which will make every subsequent trip to the gym more effective. "Sometimes we forget why we're even doing an exercise, and we focus only on lifting a weight," says Ross. "A trainer could help you feel the muscles you're training, and refocus your mind on form and technique."