December 2011

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Transform everyday gym equipment into ab-sculpting power tools Men’s Health

By Jill Yaworski, Photo Illustrations by Mitch Mandel

Infomercials are right about one thing: Exercise devices can put you on the fast track to a six-pack. But the best ones don’t go by names like Ab Rocket or Torso Tiger, and you won’t see them on late-night TV. They’re already in your gym, says David Jack, general manager of Competitive Athlete Training Zone in Acton, Massachusetts. Add these four to your ab routine to accelerate your gains.

1. Kettlebell

Kettlebell mountain climber

Lay a kettlebell flat side down with its handle facing away from you. Place both palms on the round part, and assume a pushup position. Slowly bring one knee as close to your chest as you can. Touch the floor with your toes, and quickly return to pushup position while maintaining good form. Repeat with the other knee. Alternate legs for 30 seconds.

The instability of the kettlebell forces your abs, lower back, and hips to work harder than they do in a traditional mountain climber.

2. Resistance band

Anti-rotation band speed fly

Anchor one end of a resistance band at hip level. Grip the handle with your right hand and cover that hand with your left. Kneel on your right knee (with the anchor point on your right) and press the handle in front of your chest. With your elbow slightly bent, let your right arm open toward the anchor point, and return explosively to the starting position. Do 10 to 12 reps on each side.

You’re not only strengthening your pecs but also carving your abs as they fight to prevent your torso from rotating.

3. Barbell

Overhead barbell walk

Grab the bar using an overhand grip that’s about twice shoulder width, and raise it directly overhead. (Add weight only when you can maintain proper form.) Keep your arms straight, your body tense, and your head back. Walk forward for 5 to 10 seconds, pause, and then walk backward for 5 to 10 seconds. That’s 1 rep. Do 2 sets of 2 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Balancing the bar targets your shoulders as well as your torso’s stabilizing muscles, including hips, obliques, and lower back.

4. Medicine ball

Windmill slam

Hold a medicine ball at waist height and assume a staggered stance, your left foot 2 to 3 feet in front of your right, knees slightly bent. In one smooth “windmill” movement, swing the ball counterclockwise, arc it above your head, and slam it to the floor outside your left leg. Then catch the bounce. Do this 10 times, switch legs, and repeat.

You’ll send your calorie furnace into overdrive while chiseling your rectus abdominis—better known as your six-pack.

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Joji Montelibano
Photo by Cathy-Louise Broda

The cauliflower ears caught our attention. It was April 1998 in the city of Mysore in Southern India. Phil Migliarese, a jiu-jitsublack belt under Relson Gracie, and I were sitting on the fence bordering the Mysore central market, taking a rest from the oppressive heat. Having been in India for a few weeks, we’d grown accustomed to the inordinate amount of attention we drew from the locals. Wherever we went, a small crowd was sure to follow.

So it was no surprise to have two men drive up and park their motorcycle close to where we were sitting. However, when they dismounted, they glanced at us not with awe or curiosity but with disdain. Furthermore, they gave us the scantiest of looks, as if we didn’t even merit their full attention. It was when they turned away that we noticed their ears. Cauliflower ears. Wrestlers.

Coming to India
Phil and I hadn’t come to India to find wrestlers. We’d come to study ashtanga yoga with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the then 88-year-old patriarch of this ancient art. Phil was a teacher of Brazilian jiu-jutsu at Maxercise, the first center in Philadelphia to offer classes in the Gracie system. I was one of his students. Both of us shared a passion for ashtanga yoga, and early in 1998, we decided to deepen our study of it with a visit to Pattabhi Jois. Before we left, we’d heard from various people that the roots of jujutsu lie in India, and we thought it would be interesting to go there and find some actual Indian wrestlers. Upon arriving in Mysore, we figured we’d just ask a taxi driver where the nearest wrestling school was.

We did just that, but the first rickshaw driver — taxis are rare in Mysore — told us there was no wrestling there. So did the second. And the third. Pretty soon, we’d resigned ourselves to the possibility that we might not encounter any Indian wrestlers. It wasn’t until the day we decided to go to the market that we found what we were looking for.

The Wrestlers
Phil and I immediately hurried after the two men. That was easier said than done in a crowded Indian market. Luckily, they were easy to spot, and not surprisingly, crowds readily made way for them. The wrestlers eventually disappeared into a banana stall in the heart of the market.

Almost out of breath, we reached the stall and saw the men seated in a circle with three others. All of them had large, impressive physiques — rare in Mysore — and they displayed the same cauliflower ears. Instinctively, the oldest man, who looked about 45, reached for the nearest bunch of bananas and asked, “How many?”

“No,” we replied, after which Phil and I simultaneously burst into an excited and incoherent explanation of why we’d come to India: “We study Brazilian jiu-jutsu with the Gracies. Do you know the Gracies? They’re famous! We heard that jujutsu has its roots in Indian wrestling. Are you wrestlers? I mean, those ears … there’s no other way you can get those ears.”

Blank stares. It struck me that our rambling explanation probably would have left a native English speaker dumbstruck. We decided a more graphic demonstration was necessary, so Phil wrapped his right arm around my neck and started choking me. I dutifully responded with the appropriate defense, and Phil transitioned to an armbar. I tapped. We looked eagerly at the wrestlers.

This time, a glimmer of comprehension shone in their eyes. The largest man laughed and yelled something in Kannada, the dialect of Mysore. Then another man, the original passenger on the motorcycle, retrieved two more stools, placed them in front of us and motioned us to sit. With a brilliant smile, he said in clear English: “My name is Punesh Urs. I am a gushti wrestler. Welcome to Mysore.”

Modern forms of wrestling, judo and jujutsu attribute their beginnings to India. Here is wrestling in its most primitive and pristine form. The rules of gushti have been preserved from its inception, which some historians have traced back to the time of the Buddha, around the fifth century B.C.

Gushti, although virtually unknown in the West, enjoys a wide following throughout India. Matches resemble boxing prizefights, drawing crowds of up to 10,000. The Mysore team is especially well-known, as it’s been the Karnataka state champion for many decades. A gushti match also resembles a Greco-Roman wrestling bout in that the objective is to put your opponent’s shoulders in contact with the ground.

Viewed as sacred events, matches take place in a ring of hallowed soil. Contests are always preceded by an elaborate ceremony in which priests bless the ground. Fighters don a thin strip of cloth around their waists and cover their bodies with coconut oil. Opponents fling mud at each other to facilitate any type of grip. Bouts have no time limits, no rounds and no draws.

Our new friend, Punesh, explained that the reason we were unable to find the famous Mysore wrestling team was that Phil and I had used the wrong words for wrestling — we’d tried Sanskrit and Hindi variations on the word “wrestling,” but they were apparently uncommon and virtually unknown. Gushti is the formal name for Indian wrestling. Unlike “wrestling” or “grappling,” which are broad terms that encompass a variety of contact sports, gushti is a specific term that refers to one particular form of Indian wrestling.

The men who initially caught our attention in the Mysore market happened to be two of the most prominent athletic figures in the city. Punesh was a former champion bodybuilder and worked as a physical trainer in the most prestigious hotels and sports clubs around Mysore. The driver of the motorcycle was Shankar Charavarthy, an imposing hulk of a man who, at 330 pounds, commanded attention and respect with his mere presence. He was the reigning Karnataka gushti champ, and his skill and strength were legendary.

The other men in the banana stall were also wrestlers, two of them former members of the Mysore gushti team. The oldest, who turned out to be 65, was Shankar’s father and the proud owner of the stall.

After an hour of gesticulating, demonstrating and, thankfully, translating by Punesh, Phil and I won ourselves an invitation to a practice session with the Mysore team the following day.

Stay tuned to read about the rest of Joji Montelibano’s journey “In Search of Grappling’s Roots in India, Part 2.”

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By Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., Illustrations by Kagan McLeod, Photographs by Scott McDermott

IT TAKES MORE THAN A BIG BENCH PRESS to build a big chest. That’s because your chest muscles can do a lot more than push things away when you’re flat on your back. They can also pull things toward you when you’re standing up. In fact, your pectoral muscles perform more actions at more angles and in conjunction with more upper-body muscles than most of us ever consider. Sometimes they’re the stars, but on other exercises they’re more like bench players. Because of that, they respond to low reps, high reps, and everything in between. (For more ways to sculpt a bigger chest, pick up a copy of The New High Intensity Training today!)

The best chest-building program takes advantage of that versatility by working your pecs and all their buddies, using every angle and rep range. You can end up with more beef in your back, shoulders, and arms, and in the process develop bigger chest muscles than you’d ever see with a steady diet of benches, benches, and more benches.

(Find more exercises that can help any man to go from scrawny to brawny. Men’s Health Personal Trainer features workouts and videos demos that you can download and take with you to the gym. Find out more)

Do this workout twice a week, resting for at least 2 or 3 days in between. (Work your lower body on a separate day.) Alternate between exercises of the same number until you complete all the sets in that pairing. So you’ll do 1 set of exercise 1A, rest for 45 seconds, do 1 set of exercise 1B, and rest 45 seconds again. Repeat until you complete all sets, and then rest 2 minutes before moving to the next pair.

1A. Barbell bench press

Grab a barbell with an overhand grip that’s just beyond shoulder width, and hold it above your sternum with arms straight. Lower the bar, pause, and then press it back to the starting position. Do 1 set each of 15 reps, 10 reps, and 8 reps, increasing the weight each time. Immediately after the 8-rep set, reduce the weight by 20 percent and complete as many reps as you can.

1B. Pullup

Grab a pullup bar with a shoulderwidth overhand grip and hang at arm’s length. Pull your chest up to the bar. Lower back to the starting position and repeat. Perform 3 sets and complete as many reps as you can in each set.

2A. Incline dumbbell bench press

Lie faceup on an incline bench and hold a pair of dumbbells with your arms straight. Lower the dumbbells to your chest, and then press them back to the starting position. Do 1 set each of 15 reps, 10 reps, and 8 reps, increasing the weight each time. Immediately after the 8-rep set, reduce the weight by 20 percent and do as many reps as you can.

2B. Single-arm dumbbell row

Grab a dumbbell in your right hand, bend at your hips and knees, and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Let the dumbbell hang from your shoulder. Pull the dumbbell to the side of your torso, keeping your elbow tucked close to your side. Perform 1 set of 15 reps with each arm, followed by 2 sets of 10 reps with each arm, increasing the weight each time. Immediately after the last 10-rep set, reduce the weight by 20 percent and complete as many reps you can.

3A. Dip

Grab the bars of a dip station and lift yourself until your arms are completely straight. Slowly lower yourself by bending your elbows until your upper arms dip just below your elbows. Pause, and then push back up to the starting position. Do 2 sets of as many reps as you can.

3B. Pushup and row

Place a pair of hex dumbbells on the floor and grip them while you do a pushup. Once you’re back in the starting position, row the dumbbell in your right hand to the side of your chest. Lower the weight and repeat on your left side. That’s 1 rep. Do 2 sets of 10 reps.

4A. Overhead triceps extension and pushdown

Attach a rope to the high pulley of a cable station and face away from it. Grab an end of the rope in each hand and bend over. Without moving your upper arms, push your forearms forward, pause, and return. Do 15 reps, turn around, put your upper arms at your sides and your forearms at 90 degrees, and pull the rope down. Do 10 reps. That’s 1 set. Perform 2 or 3 sets.

4B. Dumbbell biceps curl

Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang next to your sides. Turn your arms so that your palms face forward. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can. Pause, and slowly lower the weights back to the starting position. Do 2 or 3 sets of 10 reps.

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