Today I’d like to put the spotlight on perhaps the most important part of my business; mastering the art of the body transformation. First, let’s define what a body transformation is :
A body transformation is an intensive period in which an individual attempts to achieve the greatest change in body composition (loss of fat and increase in muscle) in a predefined time period, usually 12 weeks.
Why 12 weeks you ask? Because this just happens to be the traditional time-frame used for most physique transformations. This can certainly be set to a 6 week, 8 week or even 16 week body transformation depending on your goals and physical condition. I’ll elaborate on this later.
The popularity of transformations was established about 20 or so years ago when supplement companies enticed the public with expensive prizes in exchange for their dramatic before and after photos which were used in advertising to sell more supplements. Since then, the 12 week body transformation has been the standard in demonstrating what someone is capable of achieving if the proper motivation and work ethic is applied.
One factor that helps make these transformations so impressive is that they are usually carried out by absolute beginners or recreational intermediate trainees. Someone more advanced, who is already lean and closer to their genetic potential, has much less potential to make dramatic changes in their appearance. Beginners respond well in part because their muscles have atrophied from disuse. Their bodies overall have adapted to a sedentary lifestyle and when the muscles are “awoken” with exercise, the response is almost immediate.
If you have been training for a while let me ask you this question: when did you see the most dramatic results from your efforts in the gym? You’ll probably tell me that you got the best results near the beginning of the program. This is when your potential for change is greatest, when you are most sensitive to the benefits of exercise and nutrition.
You see, supplement companies aren’t stupid. They set up campaigns to draw in the untrained, sedentary population (who are more easily influenced by quick fix solutions) and consequently end up with the best results in the 12 week program. Was it the supplements that transformed their body? Of course not, although that is what the the supplement companies would like you to believe.
Ok, now that you know what a body transformation is, I’m going to set you up with a 12 week plan to help you achieve your best body. As I mentioned earlier, this is written for the raw beginner or for those who have been exercising for less than a year consecutively and without much compliance.
More advanced individuals require a different protocol and wouldn’t likely tolerate the demands of a 12 week program. These individuals tend to do better on 4, 6 or 8 week transformations. It’s also prudent that very obese individuals not expect miracles in this time frame. For these people, it make take a year or more to complete their transformation but they can still achieve great results from this approach.
Week 1- Starting Point
Before any journey begins you need a map. First, decide what your goals will be and establish realistic timelines for achieving them. Having unrealistic expectations of your transformation will only result in disappointment and early abandonment of the program itself.
In fact making sure you’re actually qualified to make such a dramatic change in your body can ensure that you’re not in over your head. If you don’t know how to set goals, see a personal trainer or consult with someone who has already acheived what you’d like too, and learn from them.
At this point you need to take some “before” pictures. Front, back and side profiles work best. Capture and store them in a safe place until after the transformation. Next, take measurements of the waist (at the narrowest part), hips (at the widest part) and thighs (at mid thigh). Why these sites? Because they are generally where you will see the most dramatic changes in girth. You can certainly measure other body parts if you desire. If you have access to a body composition scale or caliper, then you’ll want to determine your body fat levels as well.
The first week will be characterized by 3 components: skill practice, moderately intense aerobics and moderate calorie reduction. Let’s look at each component . . .
You may need to devote about an hour a day for the entire first week (4-5 days) learning to lift weight properly so that your movements are smooth and controlled and learn to isolate the targeted muscles more effectively. Make sure not to use more than 10 exercises per session to work the whole body while performing 3 sets of each for 8-10 repetitions. Your exertion level should only be moderate and your lifting speed slow. Use a cadence of 2 seconds as you raise the weight and 4 seconds as you lower it. This will ensure maximum concentration on your part. Your exercise choices are highly individual, but try to balance your pulling and pushing movements as well as the upper and lower body parts.
Moderately intense aerobics
This week you’ll be focusing on calorie burning through an increase in activity rather than extensive calorie restriction. It’s initially difficult to increase activity levels AND reduce your intake at the same time without being hungry. Include low impact aerobic activity for 30-40 minutes at a moderate effort level on a treadmill, bike, elliptical trainer or brisk walking. If you are really out of shape, you may need to start with 10-15 minutes. Your heart rate should be kept around 60% of your maximum heart rate (MHR).
You should also include low-effort activity as often as possible to enhance your metabolism and the fat burning process. This means using stairs instead of elevators, active stretches while watching T.V., flexing and tensing your muscles whenever it’s convenient and walking a little faster all add up to more calories burned at the end of the week. Just move!
Moderate calorie reduction
You must ensure that you eat enough food to get enough nutrients. So food quality must be high. Women should never go below 1200 calories and men should avoid less than 1600 in most cases. Too few calories will not permit proper recovery from and execution of your exercise. It is also very hard to obtain all the essential nutrients your body needs if food intake is excessively low and if exercise demand is high. So for this week we want only a 250 calorie deficit from your maintenance levels ( or BMR ).
This because we want the exercise to do most of the work in the first week. There are BMR calculators out there to help you find the number but you may have to experiment to find your true maintenance intake and subtract the 250 from that. Individuals with very poor nutritional habits need not be concerned with calories at this stage, but rather slowly changing their eating habits over time.
Week 1 expectations
Your fat loss should not exceed a 1/2 pound per day for the obese, 1.5-2 lbs per week in the overweight, and 1-1.5 lbs/week in the relatively fit and lean. Losing anymore weight than this is usually the result of excessive fluid and muscle loss. This is to be avoided at all costs if you are to be successful in the long run. If you are really out of shape or are struggling to learn the exercises, you may need to spend another week or more working on week 1. Always adjust things as needed along the way.
In my next post I’ll give you the rundown for Week 2