What Is Fit?

Ted Spiker

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As if all the hype about “natural male enhancement” weren’t enough of a challenge to men’s self-confidence, a recent study at the University of Central Florida found that ads featuring muscle-bound male models can distort men’s body images the same way rail-thin swimsuit models do women’s. Look, guys: “Fit” doesn’t mean huge. It means having the strength to rip over moguls, the power to pedal through mud, and the flexibility to avoid injury. “The wrong kind of muscle mass can get in the way in adventure sports,” says Brad Jordan, a National Strength and Conditioning Association–certified trainer. So don’t look to the mirror to tell you when you’re tuned for performance. Hit the gym until you can nail the following benchmarks.

CHEST: Do push-ups on a stability ball, feet on the floor. If you can bang out three sets of 20, you’ve got all the strength you need—and a reduced risk of man boobs.

SHOULDERS/UPPER BACK: For cyclists and cross-country skiers, a bulging back is dead weight going uphill and aerodynamic drag the rest of the time. Your back is all-around strong when you can do three sets of five pull-ups, with 10 percent of your body weight strapped to your waist.

ARMS: Your legs and core are your main power plants, but you do need some arm strength. (Climbers, we’re talking to you.) A good test: Using both arms, curl half your body weight with a barbell once.

ABS: Core strength keeps you stable and coordinated. Get in a push-up-like position—back straight, feet and elbows on the floor—and hold it as long as you can. Aim for three reps, 30 seconds each.

QUADS: They power you over, around, or through whatever’s in your way. Check ’em with a two-legged broad jump. You should be able to clear at least 120 percent of your height. If you fall short, add more squats to your workout, trying to explode up each time.

ANKLES AND CALVES: Keep them strong to guard against injury on uneven terrain. Stand on one leg, with the other foot held against your knee, then extend up onto your toes. Practice until you can stay upright for 50 seconds on each foot.

FOREARMS: If your hands can’t hold on to a ledge, it doesn’t matter how strong the rest of your body is. Grab a 45-pound weight plate and try to hold it at your side for 25 seconds, using just your fingers.