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Singer Matthew de Zoete finds fitness in the country

Singer/songwriter Matthew de Zoete stretches and does some exercises around his wife's family farm on July 12, 2012.

Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Singer-songwriter Matthew de Zoete has a new CD, Colour Film, out this year. The 30-year-old of Dutch descent spent the winter touring Europe and now he's rehearsing with his band, preparing to tour Canada in the fall.

Many of the songs are inspired by the pastoral farm life Mr. de Zoete leads in Dundas, Ont. There, his fitness regime has adapted through working the fields. But he's not about producing acres of abs; he wants a fitness routine that will beef up his arms.

My goal

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To keep muscles toned to help my wife on her farm for the rest of my life. I hear when you hit 30, you tend to put on weight, and so I want to head that off. I would like more mass in my upper body.

My workout

Every morning around 7 a.m., my three-year-old daughter wakes me up to work out in her room. She imitates me. I do two sets of 20 push-ups – she likes to sit on my back, which adds another 30 pounds – 20 sit-ups. I go outside to my favourite tree and do sets of pull-ups.

I do quads, hamstring, triceps, inner thighs stretches and spinal twists. I used to run track and cross-country in high school, so I do all those stretches.

We have a big pond that I swim in a couple times a week.

In winter, I set up the bike spinner to cycle three times a week. While I cycle, I read or listen to CBC radio or books on CDs. I play ice hockey with friends, so that's about two hours of sprinting.

My lifestyle

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When I married my wife in 2006, I came to this lifestyle. Twice a week I work on the farm. I'm herding cattle, feeding cows and putting hay in the feeder, taking care of the grounds. I'm chain-sawing things, lifting up a leg, or picking up a loader bucket that needs to be manhandled into place.

We have free-range organic cows and hens, so all the meat I eat is ethically raised. Eating healthful foods is something I've always done; it's not something I had to get into. We have a vegetable garden with lettuce, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, radish, and broccoli.

My anthem

Baba O'Riley by the Who.

My temptation

I like a good glass of Belgian beer or red wine or scotch. On tour in the Netherlands, I really like French fries with mayo, peanut sauce and onions – it's a dish called Patat Oorlog, which means potatoes at war; you get a big paper cone of fries with all that goo on top.

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My original motivation

Motivation was never an issue when I was younger because I was always active with my friends. In university, I did some gym classes, but after that I wasn't doing much and I didn't want to atrophy. When I started working on the farm, I wanted to be able on any given day to work and not be a wreck for days after.

My challenge

I pulled my back a few years ago and a doctor prescribed a few core exercises to strengthen my abs and back.

The critique

Jessica Zapata, who holds a bachelor's of science in kinesiology from the University of Alberta, prescribes a plan to boost upper-body size within 10 weeks.

Build lean body mass by weight training

"Matthew needs a set of dumbbells to begin a heavier weight-training routine three times a week. I recommend he perform three sets of six to eight reps of exercises at a weight that allows him to keep good form: Bent Over Row, Overhead Shoulder Press, Bench Press, Pullover, Lunge with Biceps Curl, and Triceps Dips."

Engage the core for stability

"Two core stability moves Matthew must include are Supermans (lie on stomach with arms extended overhead, raise arms, shoulders and legs off ground simultaneously) and Side Planks (plant forearm on mat under shoulder perpendicular to body; stack legs; raise hips off the floor). He should do three sets on each side for maximum hold time."

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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