Joe Warner's cover model body blog 2

Joe Warner in gym
(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Joe Warner is the deputy editor of Men’s Fitness magazine. His mission is simple: to see how close he can get to being in cover model shape in just 12 weeks.

  Week two

There are three silver ventilation pipes that run in parallel down the middle. One of them has a small lick of white paint on it. In the corner is a small black box from which a thick black cable emerges. I assume this must power the lights.
It's fair to say that I'm getting to know the ceiling of Nick Mitchell's Ultimate Performance gym in London's Mayfair pretty well.
That's because at the end of each of the supersets he's putting me through, my only thought is to lie on my back immediately to try to stop my muscles from burning and to get some air back into my lungs.

I’ve now done two full weeks of workouts with Nick. I'm training Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, alternating between upper- and lower-body sessions. The exercises remain the same, but Nick is upping the weight every session, forcing my muscles to adapt to the added stimulus so they'll keep growing.
‘One of the more common mistakes when trying to build muscle is to lift the same weight week in, week out,’ Nick explains while I whinge - in between gasps for breath - about him constantly adding plates to the bar. ‘If you don't ask your muscles to do something they've not done before then they have no incentive to grow.’
It’s working. In two weeks I have dropped my body fat percentage from 16.5% to 12.8% while adding a couple of kilograms of lean muscle mass. It’s not been easy. Nick Mitchell is smashing me each and every session, while sticking to his nutrition plan is taking huge levels of organisation and willpower. Two qualities that would struggle to make the list of the 100 things I’m best at.
The annoying thing about Nick is that he isn’t just one of the best trainers in the UK, he’s also down-to-earth and a nice guy to boot, but for four hours a week I absolutely hate him. I loathe how he knows exactly to push my buttons to get an extra rep out of me, even when I think I’ve given all I’ve got. At times there’s nothing more I’d like to do but tell him to do one, but I can’t because I’m lying panting on the floor staring at his ceiling.

I have never trained this hard. Not even close. But I’m feeling good. Admittedly not when I’m actually training, but a couple of hours afterward. Here are the workouts I’ve been following for the first two weeks.

Upper Body (Monday And Friday)

1A Incline bench press Sets 4 Reps 8
1B Thick grip chin-up Sets 4 Reps 8 (or failure, whichever comes first – it’s failure)
2A Rack pull Sets 4 Reps 10
2B Triceps dip Sets 4 Reps 8 (or to failure)
3A High pull Sets 3 Reps 8
3B Trap raise Sets 3 Reps 12
4A Hanging leg raise Sets 4 Reps 25
4B Plank Sets 4 Time 30-45sec

Lower Body (Wednesday And Saturday)

1A Barbell squat Sets 6 Reps 8
1B Hamstring curl Sets 4 Reps 6
2A Sled pull (50kg) Sets 3 Distance 30m
2B Walking dumbbell lunge Sets 3 Distance 20m
2C Calf raise Sets 3 Reps 20

Cover Model Supplements

As part of my cover model transformation challenge, Nick Mitchell is making me take an assortment of supplements. I'll be explaining the benefits behind a different one each week.

BCAA Excellence 2.0
What? These BCAA, or branched-chain amino acids to give them their proper name, are taking during heavy weight training. Each capsule contains the ideal anabolic (muscle-building) ratio of the three amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine.
Why? Taking these during your workout have numerous benefits, including preventing muscle tissue breakdown and post-workout soreness and increasing post-workout muscle recovery and testosterone levels. Nick has me take three capsules with water after every set, which works out at between 50 and 60 per session.

Learn more about BCAAs

Joe Warner
Former editor of Men’s Fitness UK

Joe Warner is a highly experienced journalist and editor who began working in fitness media in 2008. He has featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness UK twice and has co-authored Amazon best-sellers including 12-Week Body Plan. He was the editor of Men’s Fitness UK magazine between 2016 and 2019, when that title shared a website with Coach.