By Ben Kallen

Anyone who's seen those shirtless beach photos of President Barack Obama can see he's in remarkably good shape for a busy working father, not to mention the leader of the free world. But let's face it, he could still use some improvement. For someone who works out just about every morning, he has less lean muscle mass than he should—he calls himself "skinny"—and a relatively soft midsection. He's said that he exercises mainly to clear his head and get rid of stress (which are excellent reasons, to be sure), but he could be getting more from his efforts.

We've never worked out with the president (darn it!), but based on interviews and news accounts by those who've seen him in action, we have an idea of what he tends to do in the gym: a regular routine of isolated-muscle weight-lifting moves. And that's fine, as far as it goes. (We doubt we could concentrate on dumbbell flyes with the economy, foreign policy, and various other crises hanging over our heads.) But here are 5 tips to do it better.
  1. Learn a wide variety of moves and change things up frequently—the method that P90X®'s Tony Horton refers to as Muscle Confusion. When your muscles aren't allowed to get used to any particular set of exercises, they'll react to new challenges by growing faster.
  2. In addition to ab-specific exercises like crunches, do multiple-movement exercises that tax several areas at once, including your core. A strong midsection doesn't just look great; it also supports your whole body and helps prevent injury.
  3. President Obama told Men's Health magazine that he'll "lift one day and do cardio the next." While that's a decent plan, you'll get better fat-burning results by doing strength training and cardio during the same workout, at least sometimes. And while it's important to let your muscles recover between weight workouts, there's nothing wrong with lifting two days in a row, as long as you work on different muscle groups.
  4. The president was also quoted as saying that "there's always a tradeoff between sleep and working out." While we're happy to know that he spends as many hours as possible running the country, missing out on sleep is detrimental to your fitness plan. Sleep helps your muscles recover, and it also helps your body produce important substances like testosterone and the human growth hormone. So skimp on shut-eye only if you absolutely have to.
  5. Mr. Obama enjoys sports, including basketball and bicycling—you should also find athletic activities you enjoy. By turning exercise into play, you'll get plenty of extra cardio without it seeming like a chore.