Joe Warner's cover model body blog 12

Joe Warner straining to complete a workout
(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

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

Today is the penultimate day of my 12-week body transformation programme for Men’s Fitness magazine under the guidance of Ultimate Performance founder Nick Mitchell. And today is a day of firsts. Let me explain. 

Firstly, I went to UP Mayfair for my final training session. Except I didn’t actually train. Mitchell had me remove my top and spend the best part of 20 minutes flexing and posing. Luckily I'm on first-name terms with most of their clients, all of whom have been extremely supportive of Operation Cover Model Body, so there was no sniggering – only praise and best wishes for the photoshoot tomorrow. Still, it was fairly excruciating. Mitchell has had me posing at home in front of the mirror every night so that I can get my posture as good as possible for the final shoot, but doing it in public isn’t something I’m comfortable with.

Mitchell had little sympathy. “You need to be able to control every muscle so you can make them look as good as possible in front of the camera,” he said. “It’s no good training so hard for three months then not be able to flex and tense your muscles in a way that makes them look as good as possible.”

Golden touch 

Once that was done I went to get a spray tan. There. I said it. I’d always scoffed at people who had fake tans – even though I’m from Essex. But Mitchell insisted upon this because the more tanned you are, the better the lights at the shoot will reflect off my new muscles to give the maximum amount of definition.

Desperate to not end up looking like the offspring of a Hollyoaks extra and a character from the Simpsons, I head over to the Agua Spa at The Sanderson hotel in central London to get bronzed by James Read. He’s one of the best in the business, whose number is the first call for A-listers who have 20 minutes to look like they’ve just spent two weeks on a Mediterranean yacht. Read revealed to me some of the stars he regularly sprays, but he’d go Gaga if I told you.

To avoid me appearing as though I’ve been Tangoed he applies the spray in layers, building them up to make my tan seem as natural as possible. As I’d hoped, he did a great job.

Final pizza the puzzle 

Finally, I ordered a takeaway pizza. The delivery man arrived, I paid him and took the box. This isn’t a first of course – I used to do this about once a week. But I’m not going to eat this delicious pizza for another 18 hours. Right now it’s sitting on my kitchen table cooling before I put it in the fridge. It’s going to be breakfast at 6am tomorrow morning, the day of the shoot. I’ll let Mitchell explain this madness.

“The last couple of days I’ve had Joe on a zero-carb diet which, coupled with a high-rep workout with little rest between sets, has depleted all the glycogen from his muscle cells,” he says. “So right now he looks a little tired and flat. But the day before, and the morning of, the shoot, he’s on a very high-carb diet, mainly coming from sweet potatoes, to flood his muscle cells with energy so they pump up and look big and lean. Pizza before the shoot will then supply more carbs, fat, protein and sodium which his muscles will soak up so he looks the biggest and leanest he ever has.”

Lights, camera, action

It’s been a fairly weird day so far and I’m hoping from now until tomorrow’s shoot there will be no more strange instructions from Mitchell. So I’m going to go eat some more sweet potato mash – I am never eating this orange mulch again after today - drink some water and take it easy so I’m full of energy tomorrow. Look out for next week’s final blog when I’ll fill you in on how the shoot went. 

Thanks for reading my blogs and for all the hugely positive comments on the Men’s Fitness Facebook page and my Twitter feed. They’ve spurred me on and made a huge difference in getting through what has been the toughest physical challenge I’ve ever undertaken. And finally, thank you to Nick Mitchell and his team at UP Fitness. By making me look more like a cover model than a skinny-fat journalist they have really proved that they are the best in the business.

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.