Meet Dr. Jeffry Life. If you haven’t heard of him, you’ll want to get to know him now. He’s a 74-year-old doctor with the abs of, well, let’s not put an age on it. Because Dr. Life has proved that abs of steel are attainable at any age.
So how did the doctor get his enviable washboard stomach? At the age of 59 — the year was 1997 — Dr. Life was overweight. “My stomach was huge, my muscles and joints ached, and I was miserable,” he writes on his website.
His life-changing moment? An article he found on the Body-for-LIFE Challenge, which — quite literally — called out his name. What began as a personal challenge to make over his health with a low-glycemic/low-fat diet and an exercise regimen with help from a former Navy Seal personal trainer, became a literal win when he became the grand champion of the 1998 Body-for-LIFE Challenge.
Dr. Life, an author and senior partner with Cenegenics Elite Health, is now 74 years young, close to earning his Black Belt in Taekwondo and is training in Muay Thai.
And if there’s still any doubt that Dr. Life defines fitness, in 2012 he was selected as one of the top 25 fittest men of the year by Men’s Fitness Magazine. The other 24 honorees: all men in their 20s and 30s.
Wondering how a 74-year-old man got those enviable abs? So were we. HellaWella caught up with Dr. Life recently and got the skinny on what it takes to get in the best shape of your life.
The most important part of getting great abs is not so much the exercise component, but the eating component. I do crunches on a machine, and I do four sets of about 15 reps three times a week. And really that’s it.
I also do resistance training for other body parts. But I don’t spend a ton of time on my abs.
Learning how to just contract your abs [is really important]. Most people don’t do it right. It takes time to train your body to just isolate your abs and contract them. You don’t ordinarily do that in your daily activity.
You have to train them, and you can learn to do that with a crunch machine. But you need to use light weights. You need to train yourself to concentrate and focus on contracting your abs by simultaneously bringing your legs up toward your chest as you bring your chest down to your pelvis. You crunch forward like someone is hitting you in your stomach. In addition, when I bring my chest down to my pelvis, I do it rapidly and when I come up, I make it twice as long — you’ll get better results.
If you do this correctly, your abs will really burn after 10 or 15 reps.
It took me six months to really learn how to just work my abs and not use my back to pull myself down. You can practice doing that using lighter weights on a good ab machine. [Dr. Life uses the Nautilus.]
But I always have to think about it. I’m always engaging my abs no matter what I’m doing. I can [even] feel my core tighten when bike riding. You've got to think about it.
Cardio is also super important because it burns body fat. You should do it five times a week, up to 60 minutes each time. I use the exercise bike. People have to find what they like to do that will keep their heart rate up, and be consistent with it.
Eat foods that do not cause your blood sugar to go up. Typical Americans eat foods that keep spiking their blood sugars. This results in the pancreas pouring out a lot of insulin to handle that sugar. When you have insulin floating around in your blood stream, it’s impossible to burn body fat for energy. People who have insulin resistance or eat high sugar foods throughout the day will not get lean.
The key to getting lean is eating four to five small meals a day. You need to have protein with each meal and low-glycemic carbs that don’t spike blood sugars.
Avoid breads, potato, pasta, white rice, almost all breakfast cereal, tropical fruits, all fruit juices and many forms of alcohol.
I started 16 years ago for the Body-for-LIFE Challenge in 1998. Throughout this, it’s been a process of getting in really good shape and getting off track and gaining body fat and getting back on track. For a man to see his abs, he needs under 12% body fat. You can have the greatest abs, but if fat is covering them, they’re going to be hidden. Women need 15% to 17% body fat to see their abs.
For the average guy in his 30s, 40s or 50s, to go from 25% body fat to 10% or 12%, it can be done in four or five months if he really commits to it. The biggest deal-maker — or deal-breaker — is what you eat.