This is how I changed my body in twelve weeks.
You’ve seen the banner image; the thing that brought you to this page to read this article. How I achieved this I am going to deliver in a way as straightforward and as detailed as I can manage. I can back up my body transformation with pinpoint accuracy; thanks to DEXA Scan technology, I can tell you that January 1st 2019 I was 92kg (202lb) with 16.2% bodyfat. Today (March 22nd 2019) I am 94kg with 10% bodyfat. I shed 6% fat and gained 3.1kg muscle (lean mass) in that time!
This has truly been the best cutting cycle of my life, and I am excited to share the how’s and what’s with you. But first, some things you should know, if you want to use some of this advice for your own body transformation.
Some Context to my Progress
First, I am not a gym newbie. I have been training since 2006, in my early 20s. Off and on for a few years, but certainly seriously in the past five years, especially 2016 and 2017 when I competed in IFBB bodybuilding competitions and picked up my first gold medals in the Nationals. I have years of experience and GREAT muscle memory backing me up! But as you can see I did take some time out from training. A lot of time out. In fact, after my last bodybuilding show in October 2017, I didn’t go to the gym at all for 14 months! Hence the lack of physique you can see in my Jan 1st photo. I moved countries, focused on home, family, all good important things. A break from the gym did me good, but this year I knew it was time to get back in the saddle, and I definitely did it all guns blazing.
Second thing, not to be glossed over. I won’t be one of those guys showing you something like this without mentioning: this is not a natural transformation. As a competing bodybuilder, I know how to use supplements you don’t buy off the shelf in the store. So I present these diet and training schemes with that information. *
However, I sincerely believe that I can present to you a sensible and straightforward plan that anyone – natural or not – will see results with.
So I’m going to break the plan into four parts;
- Training – Cardio
- Training – Weights
These are the four ways and areas I utilised to get shredded in record time. A few more weeks (and a better starting point), I would absolutely be ready to compete again. You can do it too. Let’s get stuck in!
Training – Cardio
This is where the real work of a cutting cycle happens, and more than anything the one area where you can make a difference to how quickly you burn the fat by sheer timing. I firmly believe nothing is as effective as FASTED cardio, and it is the only form I recommend. My plan, which I stuck to, was six days fasted cardio, in 40-50 minute sessions each.
What is Fasted Cardio?
Fasted cardio is cardio done while in a “fasted” state, wherein your stomach is empty; this state concerns how your body processes and absorbs the food you eat. But the long and short of it is, if you do your exercise when you haven’t eaten for awhile your body will have to find fuel, and it’ll go to fat for fuel. What’s more is over time, your body will get used to using fat for energy, and will learn to prioritize fat over other sources of fuel. So to really rip through that fat (and keep the muscle), I trained first thing in the morning. Up at 5am, in the gym for 6am before work. (I also am a strong advocate for training before a work day rather than afterwards, but that’s a whole different article!).
What Kind of Cardio?
For me, the treadmill is king. I would happily do 30min on the treadmill and then switch to a crosstrainer for another 15 – 20 minutes to finish. I find exercise bikes less effective and comfortable due to my legs being rather long (I am 6’3″). But any machine would do, the key thing to monitor is the duration and most importantly your BPM. Your heartrate BPM tells you if you are in the fat burning zone, or just sleepwalking through your cardio. I had the benefit of using a fitbit for constant feedback, but most modern gym machines have handles you can grab to give you an idea with a little patience. The zone I like to train in is 120 – 130 bpm. Any higher, I tend to tire out too quickly before the session is done. Too low, I know I’m not pushing myself to get the fat utilised. A happy medium.
Doing a five minute warmup and a five minute cooldown at the end of the session is also recommended, as is drinking lots of water during the session! But if you put your head down, cardio is over and done before you know it.
Training – Weights
After cardio, I would head home for my first meal, grab my things, and within the hour would be on the bus to my next gym appointment, stepping in the door for a weights session at 8am, not more than an hour and a half after finishing my first session! A tight, dedicated schedule, and not one I expect everyone can emulate. But as I said, morning training is a must for me.
That said, regardless of when you train, my schedule was a training split most people who frequent the gym will be familiar with. I varied it a bit over twelve weeks, but a general split and plan for me was:
- Monday: Chest
- Tuesday: Arms
- Wednesday: REST
- Thursday: Back
- Friday: Shoulders
- Saturday: Legs
- Sunday: REST
This followed for about six weeks, and then I began adding in some ab training either before cardio, or before the weights session, 3-4 times a week. As you can see, this is only what I would call an “intermediate” training split. I have certainly trained harder with periods of training bodyparts twice in a week before. But during a cut cycle, I prefer to do one part at a time. Due to the cardio element I have less time in the morning for weights so I would rather hammer one part hard than two parts poorly.
My sessions generally lasted for 45 minutes and in that time I would get through 4-5 exercises. An overview of some of my preferred routines are as follows, but again I would stress there was some variety in the routines. And as specified in my article about gym essentials I got max usage out of my training diary to ensure that every session saw some incremental improvement to my lifts and overall training progress.
- 4 x Dumbbell Pullovers (8-12 reps)
- 5 x Dumbbell Bench Press (6-10 reps)
- 5 x Smith Machine Incline Press (10-12 reps)
- 4 x Converging Chest Press Machine (10-12 reps)
- 4 x Seated Machine Chest Fly (8-10 reps)
- 5 x EZ Bar Preacher Curl (8-10 reps)
- 5 x Dumbbell Concenration Curls (10-12 reps)
- 4 x Dumbbell Hammer Curls (10-12 reps)
- 5 x Tricep Cable Pushdown (14-16 reps)
- 4 x Dumbbell Kickbacks (8-10 reps)
- 4 x Wide Grip Pullups (unassisted!) (6-10 reps)
- 5 x Bent Over Barbell Rows (8-10 reps)
- 4 x Close Grip Machine Rows (10-12 reps)
- 4 x Machine Lat Pulldown (8-10 reps)
- 4 x T-Bar Rows (8-10 reps, 30 sec rest between sets)
- Superset A – 3 x Dumbell Lateral Fly (10-12 reps) & Shoulder Dumbbell Press (8-10 reps)
- Superset B – 3 x Arnold Press (8-10 reps) & Front Dumbbell Raise (8-10 reps)
- Superset C – 3 x Seated Machine Press (10-12 reps) & Reverse Dumbbell Fly (10-12 reps)
- 5 x Barbell Squat (10-12 reps)
- 5 x Leg Press (10-12 reps)
- 4 x Leg Extensions (8-10 reps)
- 4 x Lying Leg Curls (10-12 reps)
Now we finally get to the real engine behind the body transformation – the diet. This meal plan is a slightly tweaked version of the meal plans I followed when I was competing under the guidance of my IFBB Pro coach in New Zealand, Steve Orton. He was a great help to me building the foundations of my nutritional knowledge for a cut cycle, and now I’m passing that plan over to you. My modifications have been but to change his recommendation for a steak in the morning and night to slow-cooked Beef-brisket (so so so much cheaper… wish I’d discovered the wonders of the slow cooker + brisket combo in NZ, I would have saved a fortune!) and meal no. 5 is a shake because of my work duties but if you can you should look in to repeating meal 5 with another serve of chicken and veg.
Dinner (meal 8) in our house is a moveable feast; I only cook for three nights of the week and I don’t like to impose too many restrictions on my household, although Dion who does most of the other cooking was very kind and usually accommodated my primary rule for this meal – no carbs! So if it was a curry, I’d just have the meat and sauce, no rice. A BBQ would just be the proteins and salad (kinda ideal actually). I show some variety with this meal as it helps keep me sane. Some popular choices when I was cooking include:
- Thai Green Curry
- Homemade tuna protein cakes with salad (pictured below)
- Roast chicken and vegetables
- Pan-fried fresh fish and green veg.
The other thing about my diet was… cheat day! Sunday became my favorite day of the week as I allowed myself to have whatever I wanted the whole day. And boy did I go to town on those days! usually stuffed and groaning by 1pm… but I really think it made a world of difference. In previous cuts, I allowed Sunday to have one cheat ‘meal’ and tried to be strict at all other times. This led to more lapses in willpower and cheats during the week when I was supposed to stick to the plan. So I definitely recommend a release-valve if you are following a strict diet like this. You won’t fall behind ,trust me!
This is my cutting diet, nice and simple:
- MEAL 1 (after cardio): 110g cooked-weight beef brisket (or other red meat), half an avocado (about 70-80g). A few drops of hot sauce if you want to add some spice!
- MEAL 2 (preworkout before weights): 100g rolled oats, 40g WPI protein, 100g frozen blueberries, all blended together.
- MEAL 3: Post-workout shake: 40g WPI protein, 10g Creatine
- MEAL 4: 6 Cooked Egg Whites, 150g Green Veg
- MEAL 5: Shake: 40g WPI protein, 10g Creatine
- MEAL 6: Dinner – aim for around 200g cooked weight protein and 200g veg.
- MEAL 7 (before bed): 110g cooked weight beef brisket, 150g green veg.
A final word on the other aspect of work like this – lifestyle, or as I like to call it, “time management”. Because if you work full-time and you’re going to do work such as this, it’s going to be like having a second full-time job and it’s going to affect you.
First, you have to be organised. That means making meals in advance, packing your gym bag the day before, thinking strategically about your time. You have to make sacrifices; there’s going to be less time for video games, Netflix and socialising. But as so often is the case, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Before work at 9am, I’ve already had two gym sessions and three meals. That takes organisation. What I did in the evening before between 8pm and 9pm when I would go to bed made all the difference. You also need to get enough sleep. I can’t stress this enough. If your sleep cycle is broken and poor and you’re getting less than six hours sleep a night (seven or eight is ideal), this program won’t help you. Sleep always has to be fixed first or you are just going to be trying to walk up a down elevator with your results.
Comments? Questions? Write to me or leave a comment below. May your own journey give you the results you are looking for!