Wednesday, 10 April 2013

6 Week Transformation Project

The past few posts have generally been about my training and what methods I'm using to reach my own personal goals. This might be useful for those of you out there who have similar goals to me or just want to change up your current training.
But what about all the 'regular' people out there?
I know lots of people with gym memberships that don't make any significant progress over time. Worse still, I see people with gym memberships who have no specific goals (?!) or don't really know what they should be doing at the gym (fortunately this doesn't last long at

With that in mind I picked one of the members at to use for a 6 week project.
This particular member is determined and trains hard but isn't very experienced in the gym, she also seems to lack confidence in the gym environment.
I've got a hard worker, with vague goals in need of some guidance, perfect client!

Who is the volunteer?
Female, 21yrs old, regular 9-5 office job, her main hobby is pole dancing.
Some gym experience but needs guidance.
Weight loss would be of benefit in pole dancing hobby and also to look and feel better.
Would like to increase upper body strength specific to pole dancing.

Start of the programme
Here's what she had to say about her goals:
"Well, as you know I pole dance and I've been doing it for over a year now. My strength has improved but what holds me back is my weight. I have started moving onto more advanced moves which involve a lot of holding positions. And by shifting the weight and gaining additional strength I will find the moves much easier. 
Dancing is my main goal for all of this. I'd like to get your advice on what would benefit me most for this as you already have an idea on what it involves from your circus and gymnastic experience. 
Exercises I really don't enjoy are running or cycling."

First things first, let's smarten up those goals:
SPECIFIC - Specific goal to work towards
MEASURABLE - Tangible results that we can measure
ACHIEVABLE - The goals should be possible for the individual to reach
REALISTIC - Make sure the goal is not only achievable, but also not too easy to reach.
TIMESCALE - Set a timescale for goals (can also set smaller goals with shorter timescales along the way)

S - Lose a significant and noticeable amount of body fat. Increase relative upper body strength for pole dancing manoeuvres. Increase confidence in the gym environment.
M - We'll measure upper arm, thigh and waist at the start and end of the programme. We'll also keep note of the weights and reps on the specific exercises given. We will also get feedback on performance in pole dancing and how she feels about herself.
A - Looking to lose at least 1" from each of the measured areas and see increased definition. Increase in time she is able to hold her body in a specific position (top of pull up) from 0 seconds currently to 5 seconds at the end of the programme.
R - Given that we will only have one hour per week together, with accessory work done without me present, I feel that these goals are realistic for the time we have.
T - Strictly 6 weeks for this project, 5th of April to the 17th of May 2013

For the record, I am deliberately not going to weigh this client. Weight and BMI are irrelevant here, we're looking for noticeable results in shape and size. Given that we are also training for strength gains, an increase in muscle could outweigh losses in body fat.

Where do we start?
We met on the 5th of April to discuss the programme and try out some exercises. I wanted to see how hard she worked when pushed, I was very impressed.

I put her through her paces with the following workout:

Skipping followed by some mobility drills to warm up.

Pulling exercises for pole dancing strength:
3 x 3reps pull ups (unable to pull up, so jumped up and performed a slow descent)
3 x 5reps 12kg ball slams
3 x 3reps Band lat pull
3 x 5reps Assisted high pull up

Heavy Lifts:
3 x 5reps Barbell squat @ 40kg
3 x 5reps Deadlift @ 50kg
3 x 5reps Kettlebell bent over row @ 24kg (2x 12kg)
3 x 5reps Lateral raise @ 5kg
3 x 5 reps Front raise, straight arms @ 10kg (2x 5kg plates)

Circuit to finish off
3 rounds of:
10 low bar pull ups (feet on floor in front)
10 press ups
10 Medicine ball squat & throw @ 6kg (Crossfit 'Wall Ball')
10 Kettlebell swings @ 16kg

As a starting point I was very happy with her performance.
Not only was she already able to correctly squat, deadlift and bent over row, she trained really hard.

We discussed basic diet changes, trying to make things as realistic and achievable as possible, I felt that drastic diet change would not be sustainable for her life, instead I wrote some rules and suggestions:

"- Above all else, cut down on consumption of processed sugars.

- Increase water intake. 5 litres over the course of the day would be of benefit.

- Don’t count calories.
- Don’t go out of your way to avoid fat.
- Don’t starve yourself.

- Diet should be higher in protein and fibre with fewer carbohydrates.

Where possible, avoid starchy or high sugar foods on non training days 
These foods include pasta, bread, white potatoes, pastry, sweets, chocolate & fizzy drinks
Eat as you like on training days, but try to stick to the suggestions below as best as possible

Alternatives to common starchy foods:
- Green veg, carrots and sweet potato instead of white potatoes.
- Mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potato

- Corn tortilla wraps as an alternative to bread
- Rice instead of pasta where possible

Fruit – Fruit is good for you, fruit is also packed full of fructose (natural fruit sugars).
Restrict fruit consumption to before lunch time. Avoid fruit in the evenings.

The feeling of hunger can often actually be thirst. A dehydrated body will cling to water therefore making you appear bloated. A dehydrated body will also no work as effectively and burn fewer calories.
When you feel like snacking, reach for a bottle of water.

If you drink caffeine in any form, increase your water intake to counter the diuretic effects of caffeine."

We may have some willpower obstacles to overcome.
The day after our first meeting, I spotted this on Instagram:
Caught red handed!
Next week we will be starting to train properly and take measurements. We'll also be looking at introducing some heavy complex movement patterns as she can already perform basic lifts adequately.

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