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How to Get Swole on Short Notice

Need a quick pump before the beach? Bodybuilder Kyle Wilkes shares some smart hacks.

a muscular conan the barbarian style action figurine in front of a vintage postcard tropical beach image
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It’s beach season. And you might, just now, be realizing that the “hibernation layer” hasn’t disappeared, and the enticingly balmy weather of spring has drawn you to rooftop beer taps more often than the weight racks. For shame. Despite what the late-night infomercials are trying to sell you on, there’s no quick fix for skipping on the gym. So you made the bed, and now you have to lie in it — but that doesn’t mean you can’t fluff up the pillows a bit.

Kyle Wilkes, a National Physique Committee bodybuilder and a trainer and coach, let us in on a little secret to get a quick muscle pump in a pinch. It doesn’t replace a dedicated and consistent exercise routine, but if you’re beach bound and it’s the day of, there’s an easy regime to follow to make it look like you’ve at least kept a light gym routine. Unfortunately, the pump wears off eventually, so don’t forget to beef up your charm as well.

Here are three key items to throw on when you're ready to hit the beach, followed by seven tips to look your best when you get there.

What to Wear

Ray-Ban Aviator Classic

One of the world's most iconic sunglasses was originally designed for American pilots in 1937. These shades feature a classic gold frame, a variety of lens colors and 100 percent UV protection to shield your peepers as you scan the sea for the best place to flex.

Outerknown Apex Hybrid Trunks by Kelly Slater

Some call Michael Jordan the Kelly Slater of basketball. No surprise that these boardies from the legendary surfer are high performance. Made from 100 percent recycled polyester, they wear light, dry fast and look fantastic half-covering that body part whose day you skipped.

Teva Hurricane XLT2

As hot as your bod is looking, the sand can be hotter. Stay cool with these throwback-looking Velcro sandals, which boast a thick, contoured footbed and a grippy outsole so you can glide over turf and surf like the Chosen One himself. Dude totally lifted.

How to Pump Up

Start early

For a decent swell, an hour and a half is ideal prep time — enough to digest a good meal and then get a fair pump. So if you’re going to the beach at noon, you’ll need to start your pump-up routine by eating at 10:30 a.m.

Eat smart

    Aim to eat about an hour before working out. Consume a clean, healthy meal with proper proteins (grilled chicken, fish), carbs (yams or sweet potatoes), and fats to maximize the pump. Healthy fats like avocados along with slow-digesting carbs will maximize a pump over a longer period of time. Just don’t eat as you’re heading out the door; the nutrients won’t be in your body in time. Give yourself time to let the nutrients settle.

    Push up your chest

    A half hour before the beach, it’s time to start pumping up the muscles. Forget lifting massive weights — all this will do is annihilate your muscle tissue and make you look even smaller in the short term. Instead, grab resistance bands (for Step 4) and find a flat surface. Start with 15 to 20 push-ups, take a minute breather, then crank out 15 to 20 more. Make sure to really squeeze your chest muscles in the up position. Then repeat with close-grip push-ups, emphasizing the squeeze on the triceps.

    Band your biceps

    Stand up and place the resistance bands under your feet, then use them to do biceps curls, squeezing your biceps as hard as you can while maintaining control of your movement. Start with 15 to 20 reps, take a quick breather, then do 15 to 20 more. In between the first and second set, flex your chest and triceps to make sure those muscles are still getting good blood flow.

    TheraBand Resistance Band Set
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    Skip the sit-ups

    Abdominals don’t pump up, so all you’ll get is a bloated-looking midsection. You either have the six-pack or you don’t. (And if you don't, maybe try one of these sun shirts.)

    Raise your shoulders

    Keep the resistance bands under your feet and raise your arms out in front of you (like Superman flying) and to the side. Do these front and lateral raises for the same reps as the push-ups and the curls. Keep your arms straight throughout the reps, and remember to do slow controlled lifts, squeezing the shoulders and lats throughout.

    Finish strong

    Round out the swole session with another set of any of the previous three workouts, and if any muscle group needs extra focus, hit that one up again to make sure it’s pumped proper. Oh, and if you don’t look significantly more jacked than you did 15 minutes ago, it’s probably time to accept the fact that you’re not just in the middle of a “bulking phase.” Do fewer 12-ounce curls and get back to putting up real iron at the gym.

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