Among gym newbies, there is a common misconception that, in order to become ripped, you need to spend a lot of time in the gym – something like 5 days a week and 2 hours each time, or somewhere along those lines. This is a complete myth.
You do not need to spend that much time in the gym in order to become ripped and stay that way. In fact, for me personally, I only go to the gym 3 times a week for 45 min – 1 hour per session. I have been doing this for several years, and have even slacked off to just 1 or 2 times a week for some periods. For 3 hours per week at the gym, I am able to maintain a pretty fit/ripped body (see images below), without taking any supplements. The only “supplement” I take is your regular Whey protein post-workout, and I dabble with the occasional creatine cycle to get a little more volume for beach season.
Do not believe any of the “secret workout routine” or “secret nutrition plan” ads you see online with massive bodybuilder dudes – it is simply impossible to achieve that kind of physique without doping. However, you can have a very solid, lean, and ripped body within a reasonable range of your natural body type by simply working out 3 hours a week and eating properly.
There is a lot of information online, from different websites or bodybuilding forums, of people voicing all sorts of opinions. It can get a little hectic trying to figure out which advice is good and which is garbage. So here I am, a naturally skinny Asian guy like yourself, here to tell you what works for me, which would likely work for you as well. I have scoured the internet and been testing myself at the gym for years to reach my current conclusion – I’ve already done the hard work for you and condensed all that knowledge into a simple formula, and all you have to do is to follow what I’m about to tell you.
Like most Asian guys, I am an ectomorph (thin and lanky body type). I don’t have any freakish genetics and neither of my parents are athletic. I currently stand at 5’11’’ (181 cm) and 168 lbs (76.5 kg), which is where I am content. Before I started working out several years ago, I was the same height but only weighed 145 lbs (66 kg), probably looking like I could’ve been blown over by the wind. That was the low end of my weight spectrum. On the other hand, for a little while last year, when my diet was poor and I was unmotivated, my weight got up to 173 lbs (78.5 kg), with higher body fat. That was the high end.
Without too much more blabbering, here we go. I only do the following 8 (hah, Asian lucky number again!) exercises, spread out over the 3 sessions each week.
- Barbell bench press
- Barbell squat
- Barbell lunge
- Barbell deadlift
- Barbell overhead press
- Barbell bent-over row
- Box jumps (no weights required; optional for some extra fat burn)
You can mix and match them however you want, as long as you cover all the bases over your 3 sessions per week. If you got lazy one week and could only go twice, then do more during each session to cover all the exercises. I also like to do a couple of the exercises twice per week just to get the extra work in. Ideally, you want to mix your weighted exercises so that you don’t overwork the same muscles in one session – this way you can really go hard for each individual exercise (I’ll talk about “going hard” later). What do I mean by this? For example:
- Day 1: warm-up, 4 sets of squats, 3 sets of box jumps, 3 sets of overhead press, 3 sets of bent-over row
- Day 2: warm-up, 4 sets of bench press, 3 sets of pull-ups, 4 sets of deadlifts
- Day 3: warm-up, 3 sets of lunges, 3 sets of box jumps, 3 sets of overhead press, 3 sets of bent-over row
- Go Hard! Find out your one-rep max weight (use a spotter!), and then use roughly 75% of your max weight and do 5 reps for each set. For the 3 “big” exercises, the squat, bench, and deadlift, I recommend doing a 4th set using 90% of your max weight and push until failure (2-3 reps) or simply going for a new one-rep max – this is how you get stronger.
As you can see, it is quite simply really. Not so many pointless exercises requiring fancy but useless machines or medicine balls like you see on gym brochures. Each exercise should take you no more than 10 minutes, with a 1 to 2-minute break between sets so you can tackle the subsequent set at full throttle.
What we have here is the bread and butter to strength and a masculine physique. These exercises cover pretty much your entire body, and all you need is a barbell, some plates, a squat rack and bench, and 3 hours (or less) a week. The only extra exercise you might want to add for aesthetic purposes are some bicep curls – as you can see from my pictures my biceps aren’t much to salivate for, because I pretty much ignore them.
You can look up all the weighted exercises on the internet if you don’t know how to do them with proper form, etc. IMPORTANT NOTE: make sure you do every exercise with impeccable form! This is to prevent injury but also to give you the best bang for the buck – proper range of motion, etc. to give you the best workout. Also, please ask for a spotter if you are trying a weight that you are unsure of.
I will, however, further clarify a couple of things:
- The warm-up: I go on the treadmill (I hate treadmills) for a 5 minute interval run – 1 minute warm-up with fast walking, and then 2 minutes at a 60% jogging pace, followed by 1 minute sprinting at the maximum treadmill pace, and then back to fast walking for the last 1 minute, while swinging my arms about to stretch them out. The purpose of this 5-minute treadmill warm-up is to get your heart pumping so you are nice and warm and your muscles are loose enough to lift some heavy weights without injury.
- Box jumps: This one is hard to gauge since everyone has vastly different jumping ability. You could be a Nate Robinson or you could be a Yao Ming, I don’t know. Personally I do box jumps with 2 boxes stacked on top of one another so the overall height reaches just below my sternum. I alternate between a set of box jumps and a set of squats/lunges to keep my legs loose, and I do a set of 10 jumps. You must maintain your concentration for this exercise so you don’t miss a step and scrape your shin – that hurts, bad (so I’ve heard). You should feel the burn in your legs and in your lungs after a set of challenging box jumps, and your heart rate should be right up. Make sure you challenge yourself by using a height that will visually intimidate you, but is not outside of your abilities. If you are taking it easy by using a small box that a 220-pound lady can jump on, then you might as well skip this exercise.
One last thing to go along with my simple workout routine, of course, is diet. Yes, believe it or not, you do need to watch what you eat, at least a little bit. Luckily for us, most of us Asians do not put on extra body fat too easily as long as we maintain a somewhat active lifestyle, since our bodies tend to burn everything to heat and CO2 all the time. However, in order to put on more muscle, you must eat lots of protein and fats. This means red meats, chicken, eggs, milk (if you don’t have allergies like me), cheese, nuts, beans, etc. You should also either drink a protein shake or eat a hearty meal immediately after your workout, as your muscles will need to nutrients for recovery and growth. A good-quality, decent-tasting, and affordable whey protein product I can recommend is Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard. I usually just mix it with water for convenience, but I have found that mixing it with almond milk in a blender makes it taste incredible, like drinking vanilla ice cream.
As well, as you get into your late twenties, you will notice that it becomes harder to stay cut – baby fat will accumulate more easily in the abdomen. Therefore, to stay ripped, you must limit your intake of processed carbs to a minimum. Rice, vegetables, and fruits are okay, but any packaged snacks or things with processed sugars should be avoided. I have almost no processed carbs in my diet – I do not buy anything that comes in a packaged box (chips, cookies, desserts, crackers, etc.), nor do I drink pop or fruit juices (yes even fruit juices – they contain a lot of sugar). I still occasionally eat fast food or pizza, maybe once or twice a week, and at my current age my body can still handle that stuff without too many negative effects.
So there you go, gents. Go get ripped. But just remember one thing – all this will still require your commitment. If you slack off for a week or even two weeks, that’s fine, but just make sure that you keep returning to the gym in the long run. If you have not been working out before, you will be amazed by your progress and transformation should you follow my routine. If you are currently spending way too much time at the gym with the goal of just looking fit and not being a body builder, then I think you would also appreciate the time you will save by following my routine.
One last thing – keep your smartphone in your locker. We don’t need that thing in the weight room – go focus and go hard, like a rabid dog.
If you have any further questions, leave them in the comment section below. Good luck.