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.
“A change is as good as a rest.” I've spent the last 20 minutes trying to find out which moron decided that was a) true, and b) worth saying out loud. But I’ve given up: it seems no one was prepared to put his or her name to one of the most untrue sayings in the English language.
Think about it: when is a change ever anywhere close to being as good as a rest? Changing job? Huge amounts of stress and uncertainty until you find your feet. Moving house? Regularly reported to be one of the most stressful experiences we ever go through. Neither of these scenarios is in any way comparable to a two-week holiday in the Caribbean.
The same is true with exercise. After two weeks I was just beginning to get used to the low-rep, high-weight workouts that personal trainer and Ultimate Performance founder Nick Mitchell was putting me through, and feeling pretty confident I could handle it. Now he's shaken things up. After a full week of the new workouts I can confirm that this type of change is the other end of the spectrum to rest.
Burn, baby, burn
I'm now on a high-volume cycle of lighter weights, slower tempos and greater reps to stress my muscles so they keep growing. The increased volume also increases lactic acid levels which, although it makes my muscles burn like crazy, helps burn body fat.
“So many men always do three sets of eight reps for every exercise of every session,” says Mitchell. “But after a few weeks your muscles know exactly what's in store and can cope with the load. Even increasing the weight isn't always enough to keep them growing. You have to play with exercise selection, sets, reps, tempo and rest periods to keep progressing. We need to keep your body guessing what lies ahead so it never has the chance to stay in its comfort zone.”
Comfort is not something I've experienced much recently. The sets never have fewer than 12 reps and some even creep up nearer the 25 mark. The weight isn't heavy, but Mitchell is super-strict on form and tempo so every single rep has to count. If he's not happy then not only will it not count, he'll add on additional reps. Did I mention I hate him already.
I'm finding the diet easier to stick to, although eating quality meat for most meals is proving expensive. Buying in bulk and using the freezer to store the week's meals - rather than ice cream – is an effective, if slightly depressing, strategy.
But it’s working. My body fat percentage is now 10.6%, down from 16.5% when I started this challenge three weeks ago. It's been a good start but it's easier to make progress initially when your body is shocked by the sudden lifestyle change. The next few percentage points will be a lot harder to lose.
I have a little light halfway along this tunnel. Mitchell has said that as soon as I’m below 10% body fat I can have a night off the diet, take my girlfriend out for dinner and eat and drink anything I want. Just as long as anything I want doesn’t include beer, rum and coke, chips or any type of dessert. That doesn’t sound like much of a change either.
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 reasons behind a different one each week.
What? Omega 3 Liquid
Why? Omega 3, a type of fatty acid mainly found in oily, cold-water fish, is essential for good health - research has shown that it helps prevent a host of serious long-term ailments including cancer and heart disease. It’s especially beneficial when trying to lose weight because it promotes the utilisation of existing fat stores for fuel.
Find out more about Omega 3 fish oil supplements
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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.