Anton Antipov—men’s physique star, social media sensation, and our April 2018 cover star—has never been one to take the easy road. He went from struggling model to pro bodybuilder thanks to sheer hard work and perseverance, and at the time of his cover shoot, he’d won eight IFBB shows and appeared in the Mr. Olympia lineup five times. With a record like that, we knew we didn’t have to take it easy on him when it came to the workout.
At noon on a Friday in February, Antipov—who’s just performed an exercise he’s never heard of—is having his shorts adjusted by a stylist while the photo shoot technician critiques his form. Once again, he’s out of his comfort zone. The challenge: his first-ever Muscle & Fitness cover shoot. Each of the 10 exercises he was asked to do was an unusual move. And for Antipov, the learning curve was steep.
It’ll be the same for you, as the four-week program on these pages includes those same 10 moves to help you carve out a beach-ready physique. (After all, summer is right around the corner.)
1. Battle-Rope Wave From Side Plank
- Why Do It: The side plank challenges your core, while the rope waves jack up your heart rate to torch extra calories. Bonus: Your shoulders will get a nice pump.
- Do It: Lying on your side, stack your feet and rest on your forearm so you’re in a side plank position. With the other arm, rapidly elevate and slam a battle rope to make waves.
- Expert: Matt Pudvah is the head strength coach at the Sports Performance Institute at the Manchester Athletic Club in Massachusetts.
2. Single-Arm Dumbbell Press From Single-Leg Bridge
- Why Do It: Your core is working to stabilize your body, and the single-arm press helps bring lacking pectorals back up to par.
- Do It: Lie on your back with a dumbbell in one hand and that same-side leg bent to 90 degrees, foot planted on the ground. Lift your other leg off the floor, brace your core, and press the dumbbell over your chest. Do all reps and then complete on the other side.
- Expert: Matt Pudvah
3. Tree Chopper
- Why Do It: The rotational movement translates to activities like wood chopping and golfing. Also, you’ll carve out a six-pack.
- Do It: Hold a kettlebell by the handle on one side of your hips. Rotate your body to the opposite side and pivot on your back foot, swinging the bell up to the outside of the opposite-side shoulder. Repeat in both directions.
- Expert: Gino Caccavale is a trainer in New York City with more than 25 years of experience.
4. Banded Pull-Down With Iso Hold
- Why Do It: It keeps tension on the nonworking lat for extra growth.
- Do It: Loop a superband and a band with a D-handle around a pullup bar and position a bench underneath it. Pull down on the superband and hold. Then row the other band with your free arm. Perform all the reps and then switch sides.
- Expert: Matt Mills is a professional strongman and the owner of Lightning Fitness in South Windsor, CT.
5. Iso Pin Pull
- Why Do It: Pulling a light bar as hard as you can into the rack places your body under immense tension. The result is an ability to pull harder for longer. This is a favorite move among strength athletes to improve the midpoint of the deadlift.
- Do It: Load a barbell with light weight (either 95 or 135 pounds) using full-size plates. Set the safety pins of a power rack to knee height. Deadlift the bar into the pins, pulling as hard as possible. Hold for five seconds. Slowly lower it back down.
- Expert: Brian Matthews, C.S.C.S., specializes in athletic development.
6. Kettlebell Side Snatch
- Why Do It: It’s like a lateral raise on steroids. The momentum you generate from the swing allows you to overload the shoulders with more weight to fry your delts.
- Do It: Hike two bells back between your legs. Extend your hips forward and swing the bells up and out. Catch the bells with arms extended. Hold this position for a second or two.
- Expert: Oliver Quinn is a former Royal Marine, a competitive strongman, and a Strong-First kettlebell leader
7. KB Anyhow
- Why Do It: It challenges your entire body’s stability. Doing this move from start to finish requires immense core strength and mobility.
- Do It: Press two kettlebells overhead. Bring one KB down into the rack position and descend into a squat. At the bottom position, do an eccentric curl with the racked bell and then curl it back up to rack position. Stand back up, press the racked KB overhead, and bring the KB that was previously overhead down to the racked position. Continue this back-and-forth cycle until all reps are complete.
- Expert: Michael Geremia is a personal trainer in New York City.
8. Reverse Burpee To Wall Ball
- Why Do It: Think burpees are hard? Wait until you try this variation, which has you roll back and then burn out your legs and shoulders with a wall-ball rep.
- Do It: Hold a medicine ball at chest height and roll back until you’re on your back with your feet in the air. Drive yourself back up to your feet, squat down, and toss the ball over- head against a wall. That’s one rep.
- Expert: Jeb Stuart Johnson is a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach in New York City.
9. Bootstrapper Squat
- Why Do It: It’s a great move to strengthen your hips and improve mobility. Above all else, it’s a new squat variation to challenge you.
- Do It: Hold a kettlebell by the handle and squat down. Extend your knees, raising yourself into a hip hinge, and extend your arms down until the bell is near your ankles. Reverse the motion until you’re back in the deep squat position.
- Expert: Matt Mills
10. Hang Clean to Stepup
- Why Do It: Cleaning the bar up as you step onto a box forces you to drive more explosively with your hips. This results in more power produced over time and more glute activation.
- Do It: Hold a barbell with a shoulder-width grip just below your knees, about a foot away from a small box. Drive your hips forward and use them to bump the bar up. As you’re doing that, drive one leg forward. You should end with your foot on the box and the bar in the front-rack position.
- Expert: Chris Gray is the senior performance specialist at Ignition APG in Cincinnati.
These exercises are unlike any we’ve prescribed in the past. Some tax your core, while others take you through multiple planes of movement—and they’re all demanding. But we urge you, like Antipov, to embrace the challenge. It worked for him. Now see what it can do for you.
Perform the following program for four weeks. Want to give yourself more time to get lean? Extend the program to your preferred length.