Fitness Cover Model Training!


It’s probably a truism to state that we only ever become known for what amounts to the tip of the iceberg.  That aspect that sticks out above the water stands out far more than all the mass that goes beneath it.  In many ways I have built my reputation, and the reputation of the entire UP team, on startlingly quick, radical physical transformations, fitness cover model training, and the emphasis on “maximum results in minimum time”.  We are best known for this via such internationally publicised feats as Glenn Parker’s astonishing changes from fat beer belly blob to international fitness cover model in just 3 short, but excruciatingly tough, months.  This is because we are in a world of quick fixes and every single one of us is looking for swift gratification from their gym / fat loss / body recomposition exploits.  On top of that, I am acutely aware that hiring a personal trainer can be an expensive business, and my understanding is that we are certainly amongst the most expensive trainers in the industry, so I always stress to my team that a rapid return on a client’s investment is paramount.

However, there is a caveat that must be drawn when trying to emphasise the constant quest for rapid results.  The role of a great personal training business is not simply to be a one trick pony pushing transformations, we are here to help our clients to become the very best that they can be at a pace that suits their temperament, goals, enthusiasm, genetics, and commitment.  Our work at UP, despite us being acknowledged by the mainstream fitness press as the place that they themselves go to if they want to enact a rapid physical change (it occurred to me last night that to the best of my knowledge I’m the only person who has taken two very different out of shape individuals, and been asked coach intense fitness cover model training in tight, closed time frames, and put one each on the cover of Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness), can take a number of different speeds and approaches.  This is why I am delighted with the way the team has developed over the last 6 months with addition of a bunch of highly trained physique competitors complemented by the arrival of trainers such as James White, a PT / world champion medallist powerlifter / osteopathic student, Elaine Langdon, a therapist who is everything from a trained Poliquin PT to a fully qualified osteopath and ART practitioner, and Phil Learney, a vastly experienced and high profile Strength & Conditioning coach who is equally comfortable achieving rapid results or settling in for the long haul of rehab and physical “re-education”.

With this in mind, a substantial part of the “unseen iceberg” is our work in fixing clients’ health, habits, and bodies.  It is certainly less spectacular, and unlikely to be featured on the cover of a magazine, but it is also one of the most rewarding aspects of our overall personal training practice.  In keeping with taking a long-term approach, I want to feature today an example of what we do at UP that encapsulates the entirety of our practice.  An amazing physical transformation that has helped the individual to change his life, live completely different (and better) habits, fix his body, and achieve the “look” that most men only dream of.  Such a change cannot happen overnight, and this has been a 3 year journey with a number of false starts and a few mistakes made along the way.  And just look at the results this work has achieved!

fitness cover model training

 There are no quick fixes to changing the “quality” of your physique in the way that Sat has done. There is almost 3 years difference between the left and the right photographs.

The photograph on the far left is of Sat at 18 years of age, the one in the middle is him the day after he turned 20, and the far right is at the still tender age of 21.  He is not an aspiring bodybuilder in any way, and we have worked hard on creating a functional athletic physique that fits into the aesthetic that he is seeking.  I personally thinks he looks better than all the guys you see on the cover of magazines such as Men’s Health, without the unattainable bodybuilder look (that I myself might have when leaned right down) that is very often less pleasing to the eyes of the opposite sex.  He hasn’t worked so hard merely to impress girls, but cast your mind back to when you were 21 and it will most likely seem that having a physique like this must be a very nice bonus at certain times!

If I went into the specific detail of all that we have done with Sat over the years it would fill a very large book.  Suffice to say that the emphasis has always been on basic weight training, starting with very simple three times a week upper body / lower body splits, and graduating into 4-5 times a week sessions at certain points.  Some younger men can tolerate a lot of training volume (and as you will know from my posts on twice a day training, and the Poliquin Hypertrophy seminars, I am a huge fan of volume training for hypertrophy at certain specific times), but Sat isn’t one of them, and as ever with the coaching process we continuously learn about what is best for the individual as he develops and adapts.

There have even been times when I have been too busy and Sat has followed the wrong advice, overtraining and dieting so anally that he thought he had to neurotically weigh every ounce of his food as if he was a professional bodybuilder, even eating turkey as his exclusive protein source because everything else had too high a fat content!  This might have been appropriate advice for the so-called expert’s own body, but a one size fits all strategy does not work for anybody, and the danger for any personal trainer is that you can erroneously assume that what works for you will therefore work for everyone else.  Sat has been very busy working a full time job whilst also studying a Computer Science degree, so making nutrition simple and uncomplicated has helped enormously, as has recognising that he has a certain fragility in his body (caused in part by his relatively light bone structure) that means we need to carefully control the amount of training he does.  In fact we cut back to an absolute maximum of 4 weight training sessions a week in order to keep him healthy and to allow him to achieve the startling condition as you can see in the accompanying photographs.


Ready for his fitness cover shoot!

Bear in mind that my own preferred personal strategy for getting into photo shoot ready condition is to weight train up to 8 times a week and you can start to appreciate that individual variance is paramount.  Sat has even fallen prey to the “try my secret diet” foolishness.  There is no such thing as a “secret diet” by the way, and this massively screwed him up in terms of metabolic damage and, perhaps just as crucially, demotivation, until we reverted to a more sensible and sustainable (for him, it is always about the individual remember) approach.

You may think a tonne of cardio, a very common feature in standard fitness cover model training, is essential to achieve this level of conditioning, but even that isn’t the case (read a bit more on my thoughts on cardio and fat loss at these two very popular posts on “cardio training programme” and “common sense cardio training” .  Sat was far too busy building his own business and studying for his recent Final exams, so he followed my own preferred cardio route of early morning walks in the park to ramp up calorie expenditure and to clear the mind for a productive day ahead.  There was no twice a day cardio, no post workout cardio, in fact very little multiple sessions of anything in a day as the walks were limited to his days outside of the gym, other than for a few weeks in the final stages of the fat loss process in order to ensure that there was no way he wasn’t going to hit peak shape at the right time.

All in all, there was no one single “magic bullet” that has given Sat so much better results than all the other people who have joined gyms, yet tried and failed to build a similar physique over the same time period.  It is the accumulation of scores, maybe even hundreds, of small positive actions applied with intelligence, thought, imagination, desire, and consistency.  If you are struggling to achieve the results that you desire then I urge you to read the last sentence back to yourself.  Type it out and make it your screensaver and even print it and stick it on the fridge door, because that encapsulates the one overriding ingredient in creating a genuine physical transformation.


Lots of people have suggested that these two shots were photoshopped.  This shows how little they know about what can be achieved, even whilst living a “normal”, hard-working life!

As a bonus, because I know that a lot of you like “top ten” lists and nuggets of information that you can put to use with immediate effect, here are the top ten lessons learned from Sat’s brilliant transformation:

 Long-Term Fitness Cover Model Training Approaches

1) Consistency is vital.  That means eating and training properly without having extended time off for slacking.  You don’t have to always have the perfect workout, and many times you will be forced to cut time short, work around niggling injuries, or even skip the odd session because life will always get in the way.  The trick is not to let your head drop and do the all too common trick of procrastinating “starting my diet / new training” until the perfect time.  Because let me tell you this, the perfect time never comes around.  You just have to “do it”!

2) What works in real life is much better than what works on paper.  In theory a young, fit and healthy man who is full of drive and testosterone should be able to handle a high training volume.  We have found that more often than not this didn’t work for Sat.  Whether you coach yourself or someone else, constantly monitoring feedback is vital to long-term success.

However, don’t let laziness deceive you into some limited form of so-called “instinctive training”.  Lower volume for Sat means not training multiple sessions in a day, it does not mean the pseudo science of 1 set to failure every 10 days!  I see this all the time with trainers who are so wrapped up in flawed (and even vaild) theory and knowledge that they forget that training with the heart is much more important than training with the head.  Only yesterday I had this conversation with PICP instructor Derek Woodske, between us we have seen a hell of a lot of world class physique, strength, and track & field athletes, and whereas we both acknowledged that smart, hard training is always optimal, it is possible to succeed with only a “balls to the wall” mindset.

3) Don’t make things too complicated.  Sat was at one stage lured into a diet that was incredibly tedious and restrictive.  Going crazily low on fat intake and weighing all your food might work for drug assisted neurotics, although to be fair those are usually the guys who can’t ever get that big and it’s the ones who take it easier who in my long experience grow a lot more (look at Ronnie Coleman for example), but Sat falls into neither category.  Pick the dietary protocol that you can follow and that fits around your life.  The ONLY time to really be a mental head case and have everything measured down to the decimal point is in the final few days before a shoot or contest.  Other than that, unless you are a pro athlete, I’d suggest getting a life!  It certainly worked better in Sat’s case – he switched from something that was eating his muscle away and driving him crazy into a more relaxed, but still strict, regime that he could handle on a longer-term basis.

I’m not going into the details of this plan as what works perfectly for him will not be the same as for you.  The general principle is good clean food, establishing a maintenance calorie intake and then dropping regularly below that whilst aggressively cycling carbs and keeping protein and fat intake relatively constant.  I will be writing a full blog on carb cycling soon, so watch out for that.

4) Change your training routine frequently, but not all the time unless you have a high training age.  The less time you have been training then the longer you can “milk” a given routine, and I prefer to stick with something until we stop seeing workout by workout improvements (in either load, reps, TUT, mechanical differences, or rest intervals) or the trainee becomes mentally unchallenged.  When Sat was younger we might follow a basic 3 times a week routine for 2 months as the focus was on strength training and he was adding a % or two every single time he trained.  I like to allow the neurological adaptations to “set in” in a younger trainer.  As he has become more experienced the routines have changed up much more frequently and he is now at the stage where no workout should be done more than three times in a row without some pretty significant overhaul.

5) Be patient.  Not only is a physique not built overnight, but nor is the ability to train intensely.  When he wants to he can now train pretty hard, but when he started I can well remember having to bark, drill, and bully any sort of performance out of him.  Especially with legs!!  I have always found that the ability to train “hard’ is a learned thing, and only those with extensive sporting backgrounds in intense training disciplines can step into a gym as a beginner and appreciate what they need to do to step up a gear or three.

6) Supplements are the icing on the cake, they are not the be all and end all.  Yes, we used a few different supplements depending upon the training cycle, but the core ones stayed the same throughout – BCCAs, omega 3s, zinc, D3, and magnesium.  It is possible to build an awesome physique with as little as these few (mostly) inexpensive products.

7) You can eat too much protein.  At one stage we figured that he was eating a too high 2.5 grams of protein for every lb of his bodyweight.  This was a waste of calories that could have better come from carbs / fat directly, as the excess protein is simply converted into glucose via a process called gluconeogenesis – where the body converts amino acids into glucose without any concurrent spike in insulin (this can be good at times for fat loss, but not necessarily ideal for most people when muscle building). Sticking to a better muscle-building macro nutrient goal of 1.5-2gms of protein / lb of bodyweight (this exact number is dependent upon carb and fat intake for the day) would have allowed him to eat the same amount of calories whilst consuming a ratio that was more skewed in favour of carbs.  The extra insulin production and more level blood sugar (from regular low glycemic index carbohydrate feedings) would have better served his muscle building potential.  When we tweaked things around he had a fresh new spurt of muscle growth, especially around his shoulders (which is random and there is no physiological reason for this, it is just that so-called ‘weaker” bodyparts on an individual often take a little while to catch up).


My favourite shot.  This should be on the cover of Men’s Fitness!!

8) The importance of regularly reviewing progress, habits, diets, and training logs.  Sat would pester me at all hours to discuss his progress.  There have been times in the last 3 years when I might have been a bit hard to pin down (2 kids and 2 gyms in that time will do that to a man!), so it was only when we reviewed the bad advice he’d been following that we identified he was simply eating too much protein.  As I said in the previous point, he ditched the crazily high amounts of protein and he added a few extra lbs of quality tissue, breaking a plateau he’d been stuck on for some time.  If we had not taken the time to go back over what he thought were good habits we might have missed this point.

9)  Give yourself time to get really lean.  If you rush the process of trying to get “ripped” you run the risk not just of losing muscle, which you probably knew already, but the chances get also get stacked against you having the dry, super-conditioned look that Sat sports in the pictures accompanying this blog.  It is always better to cruise into a shoot rather than trying to force things, because the body, which loves and clings on like a limpet to the concept of homeostasis, does not want to change.  The more gradually you can make the changes the fuller, harder, and more conditioned your body will be because you will have minimised adrenal fatigue, metabolic crashing, injuries, and have had the time and liberty to eat carbs at the right times to ensure that you don’t feel like a zombie once you dip under 6/7%, and have the energy to still enjoy your training and your life!


The shape is God given, the development is all his own hard work.

10)  Sat has fantastic abdominals.  The shape is purely genetic and there is nothing at all that any of us can do to improve that.  However, once upon a time he had no abdominal muscles to show through at all, so bearing in his specific goal of creating a more aesthetic body as opposed to a “bigger” body, thickening up the abdominals whilst keeping a small tight waist was essential.  The stomach muscles are an area that tend to respond quickly to the stimulus of weight training, so his abs showed considerable improvement from a few 4-6 week training cycles, with the indirect effect of basic compound movements serving to maintain the musculature at other times.  The following is an example of one  workout from a 4 week abdominal cycle:

A1: Hanging Leg Raises (bring legs up so that they are almost vertical to the floor): 8010: 6-8 reps

No rest

A2: Weighted Cable Crunches on a Swiss Ball: 3011: 12 reps

No rest

A3: Incline Plank with leg reach: 3010: 10-15 reps each leg.

60-90 secs rest depending upon how bad the abdominal cramping might be!

Repeat for 3-5 cycles.

As ever, if you have any comments / questions at all about the approaches I took with Sat for what amounts to his sustainable, “long term fitness cover model training” please let me know in the comments section below.  And if you appreciated this blog post please do use the “LIKE” and “SHARE” buttons to the left of this screen – the more feedback I can get then the more I can target this blog to what you want to read and learn about.