The ultimate Galactico, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, has earned Premier Leagues, Champions Leagues, Ballon d’Or awards and envious glares from team-mates, opponents and spectators alike throughout his stellar career. Now 30, he can squeeze the “Nobel Prize for Physical Perfection” into his buckling trophy cabinet.
In the February 2016 issue of US GQ magazine, the former Manchester United man stripped down to his own-brand briefs, draped Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio over his shoulders and power posed, appearing more than worthy of the award. It may leave you wondering: how do I get a six-pack like Ronnie’s?
We’ve reviewed the snaps and consulted the fitness experts at Men's Fitness magazine to provide this guide, which will help you get closer to his eyewatering washboard – or at least the core strength to fireman’s-lift a Victoria’s Secret stunner.
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Out-sprint Your Belly Fat
Genetics play a huge role in earning killer abs but Ronaldo undoubtedly works hard to keep them. With Real Madrid he exercises a minimum of five times a week at his club’s training camp Valdebebas. On average he trains for three to four hours a day, while following a ruthlessly strict diet plan compiled by an army of calorie-obsessed nutritionists.
We haven’t been perched in the treetops observing every session, but given the nature of the sport he plays, we’ve deduced that these sessions are dominated by sharp, high-intensity intervals with short rest periods and lots of explosive movements like sprints, jumps and bounds. This fat-scorching concoction would strip most people’s body fat levels under the 10% mark – and melt away the belly flat covering the majority of people’s set of rectus abdominis muscles.
Not everyone has the capacity or inclination to run recklessly around a park in the cold, but skipping is a skill you can easily adopt. Practise doing 15 minutes alternating 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off twice a week and progress to burpees and squat jumps when feeling confident.
Don’t Slack off After Exercise
Of course, not every professional footballer is blessed with Ronaldo’s shrink-wrapped six-pack. That’s because they don’t all forgo the lure of the millionaire’s playground and gallivant about the night glugging caviar and Crystal. “If you’re training an hour a day you’ve still got 23 hours to get right,” says body transformation specialist Daniel Wheeler of Life Changing Fitness. “That’s the focal point if you want real results. Eight hours will be sleeping, but that leaves 15 when you have to focus on food and hydration.”
It’s a rule Ronaldo follows closely. Since his formative days, when he was in and out of Manchester United’s first team, he’s been teetotal. He’s intensely serious about rest and recovery as much as his obsession with crushing goalscoring records. “Sometimes the best training is to rest,” he says in US GQ. “We have plenty of games, training every day. So that when we have a break, switch off everything, try to do other things, to relax. When I’m off, I’m often doing nothing, just relax.”
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Treat Carbohydrates Like Equals
Exercise is only half the battle. Actually it might be more accurate to say it’s as little as 20% of it, with the remaining 80% revolving around your diet. To win the war you need to be in a calorie deficit to chip away at belly fat covering your abs, but that doesn’t mean culling carbs from your plate. “Don’t be scared of carbs,” says Wheeler. Ronaldo needs them to recover after exercise or he’d never last 90 minutes on the pitch and you'd need them to support your fat burning HIIT workouts.
The secret is keeping on top of all the calories that pass your lips – and that includes protein shakes. Shakes are fine if you’re training hard enough, but if you’re trying to shift a spare tyre while downing a litre of milk and protein powder after every session, you’ll be fighting a losing battle. “Treat a protein shake like food,” says Wheeler. “People have a misconception that only carbs will make you fat but in reality there’s no single macronutrient (protein, fats, carbs) that will make you fat. It’s all about the quantity you consume versus the amount you burn throughout the day.”
Whatever you do, avoid crash diets, that’ll result in you rebounding into binges from denying yourself any release. “I never diet,” Ronaldo says in GQ. “I eat everything. I don’t eat pizza or McDonald’s every day. But sometimes I think it’s not bad, especially if you do the right things on the weekends. I take care of myself, train good, sleep good.”
Throw out your crunch contraption
In 2009 the Daily Star claimed the multi-Ballon d’Or winner knocks out 3,000 sit-ups a day, even quoting a close source who said, “He can spend well over an hour every day toning his abs, sometimes while watching TV”.
While it’s possible this is his party trick, infinite crunches will more likely give you stomach cramp and an alarmingly hunched posture if you attempted to follow suit. Instead, the trick is getting a set of abs that do the job they’re supposed to. “A strong core reduces your risk of injury, improves posture and allows your body to perform better,” Equinox trainer Martin Sutcliffe explains in Men’s Fitness magazine’s February 2016 issue. “But it takes more than sit-ups to get one. Instead of just lying on the floor, you need to train your abs in every plane of motion in which they can be engaged – this hits the deeper layers of muscle of the transverse abdominis, and creates balance by training your obliques and lower back.”
Translation: sit-ups are dead. Here’s your improved abs prescription that’ll help you look and move (within reason) like the Portuguese superstar.
Build a Working Six-Pack
Sutcliffe’s plan is designed to activate your entire core and then engage it with resistance. Do it once a week, upping the weights when you can
Sets: 4 | Time: 60sec | Rest: 45sec
Your core kick-starter. Start resting on your forearms, and add a gym ball under your feet when it gets too easy.
2 HANGING LEG RAISE
Sets: 3 | Reps: 12 | Rest: 60sec
Hanging from a bar, slowly raise your legs until they’re parallel to the floor, then lower. This creates constant tension throughout your core, especially your obliques.
3 LATERAL OVERHEAD MEDICINE BALL SLAM
Sets: 4 | Reps: 10 each side | Rest: 45sec
Raise a medicine ball overhead, then slam it down to one side and catch it. Alternate sides. This move incorporates different planes of motion, along with rotary stability and power.
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Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.