Pieter is the very epitome of the ethos of ‘practise what you preach’. So if he puts you through a workout that feels as if someone is pouring hellfire over your muscles, you know he's subjected himself to the same punishing routine. Only he probably worked harder than you. And he probably bloody loved it.
So when he mentioned that in week 8 we were going to do a mass-building session together, I steeled myself for a horrorshow of a routine. He didn’t disappoint. 'We're going to do a two 1-to-6 pull-up ladders as a warm-up, tagging in after each set,' he told me. 'Then five sets of ten bench presses and ten ten-calorie rows, and, finally, ten push presses and ten calories of pulling on a ski erg.' I was slightly scared – I could see the evil workout fire dancing in his eyes.
And while it proved just as bad I feared, it was also as effective as I hoped. The pull-ups (which I did with an increasingly pronounced kip) were tough in themselves, especially given that I now weighed almost 100kg, but it’s the rows that really got me. You have to treat each stroke like you're trying to pull a double bodyweight deadlift - that gets you a calorie in just over a second. Doing the 12-13 strokes I needed to pull to hit 10 calories in each set made me feel as if I was about to self-combust.
The push presses in the next superset weren't too bad but the ski-erg pulls were tough because it took me a while to work out how to use my whole body to power the movement, not just my arms. After a couple of sets of seriously burning triceps and very few calories to show for my strokes, I started to employ a jumping technique that brought my legs into play.
Still, I managed to get through it all, probably thanks in no small part to the 5,000 fuelling calories a day I was eating. It was the first time in a few weeks that I was actually glad of all that food – while also being grateful that none of it came back up. The next time you see me will be during the leaning phase, which meant fewer calories and some power endurance workouts so transformative they changed my worldview.
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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.