The 4-Hour Body Workout: Body Recomp Plan

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The 4-Hour Body" by Timothy Ferriss. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is The 4-Hour Body workout plan? How does it help with body recomp?

The 4-Hour Body workout plan focuses on exercises for your posterior chain and abs. These muscle groups are essential for body recomp.

Read more about The 4-Hour Body workout plan and learn the specific exercises you need to do.

Exercises on The 4-Hour Body Workout Plan

Exercise is the second of three ingredients of body recomp. Note that exercise is different from physical recreation (such as sports)—physical recreation is for fun. Exercise is goal-based and will be responsible for about 30% of your recomp results.

There are three recomp exercises on The 4-Hour Body workout plan: one that works the posterior chain (the muscles along the back of your body), and two that work your abs.

Posterior Chain Exercise: The Russian Kettlebell Swing

The Russian kettlebell swing works the posterior chain, which includes your calves, hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles. This exercise is highly effective for fat loss, posture improvement, strength gain, and increased sex appeal. (According to the author, men find women who have a waist-to-hip ratio of 7:10 most attractive because this ratio is associated with fertility, and women find men with a ratio of 8:10 or 9:10 for waist-to-hip most attractive. Kettlebell swings help achieve these ratios in The 4-Hour Body workout plan.)

  • Example #1: Tracy did kettlebell swings twice a week for 15-20 minutes and lost over 100 pounds. 
  • Example #2: The author spent only 10-20 minutes a week doing kettlebell swings with a 53-pound kettlebell (along with other exercises) and in six weeks, he’d significantly lowered his body fat percentage.

There are four steps to learning the kettlebell swing:

Step #1: Get into position. 

  • Pick up the kettlebell and place your feet half a foot to a foot wider than shoulder-width. 
  • Turn both feet 30 degrees outward. 
  • Keep your shoulders in the locked position, which means pulling your shoulder blades down and back, as if you were trying to put them in your opposite back pockets. This will protect your shoulder from injury. Don’t round your back.

Step #2: Learn the touch-and-go deadlift.

  • Put the kettlebell down in between your feet by hinging your hip and sitting back as if you were lowering yourself into a chair. 
  • Bend your ankles as little as possible, aiming to keep your shins perpendicular to the ground. Don’t let your shoulders go in front of your knees. 
  • Pick up the kettlebell (sitting instead of squatting, just like you did when you put it down) and straighten your legs to come to standing. 
  • Sit to put it down and straighten your legs to pick it up, increasing the speed. Eventually, pick it up as soon as it makes contact with the ground. It needs to touch the ground in the same spot, in the middle of your feet, every time.

Step #3: Progress the touch-and-go deadlift.

  • As you do the touch-and-go version, put the kettlebell down behind your feet, so the front of the bell is just behind your heels. 
  • On the pickups, pop your hips forward, imagining squeezing a dime between your butt cheeks. This movement will make the kettlebell swing up a little. 
  • Always touch the kettlebell to the ground in the same place, behind your heels, every time.

Step #4: Do the full swing.

  • Put the kettlebell between your feet as you did in step one. 
  • Pick up the kettlebell and sit back, but swing the kettlebell through your legs rather than touching it to the ground. It should end up behind your legs near your butt. 
  • Repeat.

Choosing Your Kettlebell

Kettlebells come in different weights. In general, men should start with a 20-24-kg bell and women with a 16-20-kg bell. You should be able to do 20 swings with good form with the weight you choose.

Ab Exercises on The 4-Hour Body Workout Plan

The kettlebell swing will make most of your body look better, but to get six-pack abs, you’ll need to do two additional exercises for The 4-Hour Body workout plan: the myotatic crunch and the cat vomit exercise. Until the author started doing these two exercises, he’d never had a visible six-pack, even when his body fat was lower than 12% (which is necessary for visible abs). This is because conventional ab exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups on the floor, don’t use the full range of motion of the abs. Using the two exercises, he had visible abs in three weeks.

Myotatic Crunch

The myotatic crunch is effective because it puts your body in a stretched position—when a muscle is stretched, the body automatically contracts to resist the stretch, and this contraction builds strength. Additionally, this crunch activates multiple abdominal muscles, not just the six-pack (rectus abdominis) muscles.

To do the myotatic crunch:

  • Place your low- and mid-back on a BOSU ball, swiss ball, or pile of cushions. Your bum should be no higher than half a foot off the ground and your shoulder blades shouldn’t be touching the ball.
  • Stretch your arms over your head like you’re about to dive into a pool. 
  • Lower your upper back slowly for 4 seconds. Maintain that diving position and push your hands away from the ball.
  • When your hands touch the floor, hold for 2 seconds.
  • Lift your back slowly until your arms are perpendicular to the ground. Hold this position for 2 seconds.

Do ten repetitions twice a week. When you can do ten, add weight by holding a book. (Note: If you’re a woman and you want to maintain an hourglass figure, don’t add more than ten pounds of weight. Using extra weight can give you a square-shaped waist.)

Cat Vomit Exercise

The cat vomit exercise is designed to pull your abs in. The six-pack muscles (rectus abdominis) run vertically, so they have no effect on how far your abs stick out. The muscles that do have an effect are the “corset muscles” (transverse abdominis), which are the muscles that run around your middle and work when you cough or laugh.

To do the cat vomit exercise:

  • Get into a crawling position and put your back and neck in a neutral position (look at the ground or slightly ahead).
  • Exhale through your mouth until you have no air left in your lungs. This will contract your abs.
  • Suck in your stomach (belly button towards spine) for 8-12 seconds. 
  • Breathe in through your nose.
  • Breathe out and in, and then repeat the exercise.

Do ten repetitions twice a week.

The 4-Hour Body Workout: Body Recomp Plan

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Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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