So how does he always seem to have abs when a movie or magazine cover calls for them? Answer: Because of a rigorous ab routine, and because of a step-by-step fitness process that he dubs the “80-20 plan.” Devised by Manganiello’s trainer, Ron Mathews, it’s a practical long-term approach to fitness that takes you through several stages. By the last stage, your body is beach-ready—and even if you lose that body, you always know how to get it back.
It’s a perfect plan for a busy guy who doesn’t want to live in the gym. Manganiello’s always close to shirtless shape, and he needs just six weeks to get his six-pack popping for a photo or movie shoot. He’s working hard year-round, Mathews says, but more flexibility built into his schedule to enjoy cheat meals and have family time than you may think. “We never do less than 80 percent of full capacity with the diet and the workouts,” Mathews says. “But that means he can still have a cheat meal and enjoy life the other 20 percent.”
If you’re over 40 and really want that six-pack, it’s a perfect way to chase that goal, because it still leaves time for family and cheat meals. Just follow each of the stages below, and start making time for Manganiello’s ab workout, too!
The 80-20 Plan: Maintenance Phase
Start by putting in work—but not too much work. This is when you get to enjoy life (well, sort of) while still working towards your goal of beach-ready, washboard abs.
Whip yourself into shape
“It’s easier to maintain than to get into great shape,” says Mathews. “So get into great shape. Really go for it. Make all the sacrifices, super-clean eating with extreme focus and intensity in the weight room.” Yes, Mathews says, this may take you months, or more than a year. Think about starting with a routine that’ll get your body tuned. But once you slog through this tough stage and start getting your body in good shape, things get easier.
Enjoy life 20 percent of the time
That means skipping a workout here and there, or eating cheesecake once a week. Mathews doesn’t care as long as you stick to the plan that got you in shape 80 percent of the time.
But never skip leg day
This is the one workout that’s locked into your weekly schedule, the one workout that you don’t skip. “Working the legs sparks the metabolism and growth factors,” Mathews says. Manganiello trains legs twice a week, deadlifting heavy at least once a week. He’ll miss workouts on other days, but not his leg days.
Be focused enough for curveballs
“Plan to train 5 to 6 days a week,” says Mathews. “Then if life throws you a curveball, you can take a day off. If you’re only training 4 days a week, then that’s just not enough training volume to be superhero-y.” So mentally, you’re still aiming to train very, very hard in the gym—that way when you only work hard, you’ve still put in plenty of training.
The Shred Phase
When it’s time to get ripped, you have to shift gears and adjust your training and diet. About six weeks out from whatever you’re focused on, whether it’s the beach, or a graduation, or a high school reunion, you ramp up your workouts and limit the fun in favor of a hardcore training approach.
Eat clean and precise
This means calculating your basal metabolic rate, says Mathews, so you know exactly how much to eat. To calculate your BMR, use this formula (height in centimetres x 6.25)+(weight in KG x 9.99) - (age x 4.92) +5. Eat 500 fewer calories than that number.“Hit this calorie intake exactly every day” Mathews says. “Dropping body fat is a game of fractions.”
You’ll think you can get shredded faster by eating less, but don’t let that happen, says Mathews. “You don’t want your body burning muscle.”
Do Fasted Cardio
When a shoot’s on the horizon, Manganiello starts his mornings with 45 minutes of jogging or cycling on an empty stomach. “Get your heart rate in that 110 to 130 beats per minute zone,” says Mathews. “You’re burning through liver glycogen and then into fat.”
Keep the Workouts Intense
You want to go hard and avoid distractions in the gym, so Mathews recommends supersets and giant sets, moving from exercise to exercise so you can’t take a break. “Don’t give yourself time to relax,” he says. Try this one for arms: Dumbbell biceps curls, then close-grip pushups, then dumbbell hammer curls, then dumbbell skullcrushers. Do 10 reps of each move without resting. Do 4 rounds.
The Six-Pack Workout
Year-round, both during the maintenance and shred phases of Manganiello’s 80-20 plan, you should aim to train your abs regularly. Every other day, Manganiello hammers his abs with 10 to 15 minutes of dedicated core work. Here’s his routine.
Set up with your legs in a Glute-Ham Developer, chest pointed toward the ceiling. Lower your torso as far as is comfortable then tighten your ab muscles until your torso sits up. Aim to touch your toes. That’s 1 rep; do 4 sets of 15.
Hanging Leg Raise
Hang from a pullup bar, arms straight, feet together, maintaining light tension in your back. Keeping your legs straight, contract your abs, raising your legs as high as possible, until they’re parallel with the ground. Slowly lower. That’s 1 rep; do 4 sets of 15.
Lie on your back, hands on your head and legs straight out. Lift your legs one inch from the ground, keeping them straight, toes together. Pull your left leg in toward your torso, contracting your abs, and touch your right elbow to your left leg. Return to the start and reverse the motion. That’s 1 rep; do 4 sets of 20.
Manganiello finishes each core workout by brutalising his abs with a basic exercise, doing hollow rocks in sets of 20 until he can do no more good-form rep
This article originally appeared on Men's Health