The advanced body transformation

After years of badgering the other members of the Men's Fitness editorial team to give up 12 weeks of their lives to do body transformations, I wouldn't be surprised if most of them had got fed up with me sitting on the side lines.

So this year I decided it was time to roll my sleeves and get stuck into one myself. Although l was actually training pretty hard (doing a mixture of powerlifting, CrossFit and endurance work every week), I had hit a bit of strength plateau and a few too many weekend cheat meals meant I had got a bit soft around the middle.

But in order to feel enthused about doing a body transformation, I'd need one that was innovative and challenging to the point where I felt as if I was pushing myself beyond my limits in every session. Basically, I wanted to do something that made me a better, mentally tougher athlete, not just better looking.

Pieter Vodden was the trainer I decided to turn to for the plan. He's a Gym Jones coach and hardcore gym rat who trains out of CrossFit Evolving in Kilburn, London. He suggested I should get on a programme called TH90, the protocol actor Henry Cavill used to get into shape for the role of Superman in Zack Synder's Man of Steel. I thought the movie was terrible but Cavill got into awesome shape – he looked great and got incredibly strong – so it sounded like an excellent idea.

 The programme comprised an eight-week mass gain phase with lots of heavy lifting and a whooping 5,000 calorie-a-day diet, and a four-week leaning out phase made-up of nasty power endurance sessions and 3,500 calories a day.

In this video you join me during week two of the plan. The mass-gain volume workout Vodden had me doing here was called a front squat ladder and entailed doing ascending sets of one to 20 reps with about 50% of your one-rep max. In between each set you were only allowed to take as many breaths as the last set had reps before getting back under the bar. That was all the rest you were allowed.

If you're wondering how that feels, watch on.

Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.