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The Last-Minute Guide to Looking Swole(ish)

Not feeling great about taking your shirt off in public? Cheat.

This one’s for the procrastinators out there. The ones who knew this spring-break vacation was coming up, who knew months ago that winter flab needed to be shed, but kept putting it off until it was too late. Because now, you’re just about out of time, and just like that 10th grade history test you forgot about, your remaining few hours are going to be dedicated to cramming like hell to try to prepare.

Luckily, there are a few last-minute tricks you can try to look just a little bit more toned before you take your shirt off. And while they can’t work miracles, they’ll at least help prop up your saggy ego a little.

Prepare with Protein

Begin preparing the night before. “One really good idea, if I wanted to show off, would be to eat about six to seven ounces of chicken breast the night before with a bunch of broccoli,” says high-intensity trainer Ben Bailey. The chicken’s dense protein and the nutrients in the broccoli will tighten your skin, he explains, making you look a bit more chiseled. Additionally, you’ll feel a little bit more pumped thanks to the protein boosting your nitric oxide levels, and as a result, getting your circulation flowing.

Bailey notes that you can enhance this effect even further by downing a nitric oxide supplement an hour before hitting the beach. This supplement, along with some push-ups (more on that later), will make you look all the more taut.

Shed Some Water Weight

While carbs are likely the reason why you’re not perfectly toned to begin with, if you want to shed a little water weight before you go to the beach, personal trainer and nutritionist Sean Salazar recommends that you cut out carbs and sugars completely for a day or so beforehand. Shedding that water weight will give you a little more muscle definition. However, you don’t want to get dehydrated if you’re going to be out in the sun, so refrain from sweating it all off in a sauna or anything like that.

Strike the Right Pose

Photographer Rob Kristian recommends that you should be aware of the way you’re sitting on your beach towel, as it can make a difference. “Unless you’re trying to hide your stomach with your legs,” says Kristian, “you should sit straight up, and make sure that you keep good posture.” He also says to keep your legs out and refrain from slouching or anything resembling the fetal position, as it will accentuate any rolls you may have.

Kristian adds that twisting your torso may stretch your flab and make you look a little better, but it’ll be pretty awkward to do this the entire time you’re on the beach.

Suck In Your Gut

Any guy with a gut knows this tried-and-true method, and the perfect time to make use of it is on the beach. Salazar, who encourages his clients to tighten up their stomachs while working out, recommends that you suck it in the right way, though: “Don’t hold your breath, just try bringing your belly button to your spine.” This will activate your ab muscles, and as long as you maintain your proper posture, is perfectly safe to do for short periods of time.

Refrain from Speedos

If you’ve got something to hide, Kristian recommends that you go with board shorts that are about knee-length. Make sure they fit you well, as tight shorts will accentuate your flab and overly baggy shorts will make you look like a mess.

Pump Some Iron

This is the biggest one — the reason why you see bodybuilders lifting backstage at a competition, and why people swear by pre-beach push-ups: Last-minute workouts definitely do work.

Salazar explains that these exercises provide blood flow to the targeted area because you’re activating those muscles. Whatever area you want to show off is the area you should focus on: Push-ups and pull-ups will accentuate your abs and arms respectively, and Salazar also recommends burpees, as they’re a great overall workout. He also notes that, if you’re lifting, it’s more about the amount of weight than the number of reps, so a quick, heavy workout (safely done), will provide you with a more swollen look for the next one to three hours.

As you can see, while you may have failed that history test years ago because you forgot who the second president was*, this last-minute cram session isn’t completely hopeless for you procrastinators out there.

Now drop and give me 20!

* It was John Adams. You really should’ve known that.