No Gimmicks: A Complete "Build the Body You Want" Blueprint

No Gimmicks: A Complete "Build the Body You Want" Blueprint

Here's the deal. If you're being honest, you've looked at a fitness magazine or scrolled through your Instagram and have admired someone with a superhero type physique. A wasp waist, well-developed shoulders and a back so wide it has a hard time getting through doorways.

Most women are after the ultimate bikini body. This includes toned glutes, jiggle-free arms and a flat stomach. They want to know how they can get toned, burn fat, add muscle definition, all without getting too "bulky." Men want to know how to get that tight waist, a huge chest, big pipes and a monster back.

And if you're anything like me (I'm just a normal dude who admires superhero type physiques too) then you've probably have said this to yourself before:
"They look great, I want to look like them. I'm going to be committed and do whatever it takes. I'm going to lose 20-40 pounds, pack on a ton of muscle and transform my body in 6 weeks."
But after that mental cheerleading session, a whisper creeps in and says, "C'mon. Really? 6 Weeks?" Then you deflate. Feeling hopeless, you don't even try.

If you had the same thoughts, this article is for you.
Superhero Physique

You Can Be A Superhero, I Promise

You get slapped around with all of the media hype about transformations, 90-day challenges and unbelievable results. Programs, diets and trainers promising results. Only two 20 minute workouts a week you'll look like a 300 hundred warrior,  or 4-minute tricks that will turn your flabby body into a bikini body.

it's sales copy at its finest.

They continue to hit you with it because YOU CONTINUALLY FALL FOR IT.

There's no superhero without a villain. In your quest to get in the best shape of your life and have a superhero-type physique, the villain in your life is the media. The stuff you see on infomercials, scam diet programs on sales pages, and "too good to be true" promises on magazines.

This article is going to give you the truth on what it takes to get the body you've always wanted. No gimmicks, no phony claims, no "revolutionary" weird crap.
You ready? let's do this.

First Thing First: Define What You Want

It's amazing how much frustration you can avoid if you do this first. Define what you really want. I have a strong feeling that you might have been influenced by everything, except your own mind and personal desire.

Since we're hyper-connected these days, you base your own goals on external influence. That guy on Instagram has a crazy chest, I want that! That gal on the cover of Women's Health has amazing glutes, I want that! The book I read by a diet coach says that taking a suppository laxative is the best way to get peeled, that's what I'm going to do!

You see the problem here? We've turned into robots and no longer think for ourselves. This is how I see it. You need to decide what you're really after when you're trying to transform your body. There are three levels:
  1. Healthy
  2. Lean
  3. Shredded
To give you an idea of what these look like in terms of body fat percentage, look at the chart below:
Leanness Chart
Body Fat Scaling Male Female
Shredded (Competition Shape) 4-7% 9-13%
Very Lean (Great) Below 10% Below 14%
Lean (Good) 10-14% 15-20%
Average (Par) 15-19 % 21-25%
Overweight (Poor) 20-25% 26-30%
Obese (Dangerous) 26% + 31% +

Six Pack Abs

If you're overweight or obese, your first goal should be to get healthy which would fall into the "average" range. If you're currently in the average range, your first goal should be to get into the lean range. If you're in the lean range, your first goal should be to get very lean. Once you're in the very lean stage, you can take things to the extreme level if you choose to and attempt what few will ever do and get shredded.

What if you want to put on muscle? If you're above the lean range, you're better off getting lean first, and then attempting to put on some quality muscle.

Take an honest assessment of your situation. Get your body fat tested and go back to the chart and decide what you really want. If you're ok with being healthy and hanging out in the average range. That's cool. I'm not one to argue if that's right or wrong. But I doubt you want to work hard in the gym and eat well only to be "average."

Most of you are gunning to get into the lean or very lean range, which is awesome. Why? Because it takes work to get there, and when you arrive it feels so damn good. A few of you, the freaks, are laser-focused on getting shredded. You are some of the most disciplined people on the planet, and I love it.

Assessing Progress: How Long Does it Take?

When you're waiting for changes to happen, progress may seem super slow or non-existent. But if you have something to track your progress with and are able to document measurable results, it takes the anxiety away from guessing if you're making progress or not.

Now obviously everyone's rate of progress will be different due to numerous factors. But, over the years I've noticed that an average rate of progress is losing 1% body fat every four weeks. Remember, this is an average and doesn't represent the maximum range of acceptable results. It also doesn't represent a slower progression assuming your adherence to your training and diet isn't up to par.

Taking this average into account, let's plug it into all of the body fat ranges and see how long it takes to move up the ladder of leanness. For general purposes, I'll be starting at the high end of each level and forecasting into the next range. For example, if you're an overweight man, I'm basing it off of 25% and forecasting how long it will take to get to 19% which would put you into the average range.
Lean Couple
What if you want to put on muscle? If you're above the lean range, you're better off getting lean first, and then attempting to put on some quality muscle.
From Obese to Overweight

You need to lose 5% body fat to get into the overweight range. At an average of losing 1% of body fat every 4 weeks, it will take 20 weeks (5 months).

From Overweight to Average

You need to lose 5% body fat to get into the average range. At an average of losing 1% body fat every 4 weeks, it will take 20 weeks (5 months).

From Average to Lean

You need to lose 5% body fat to get into the average range. At an average of losing 1% body fat every 4 weeks, it will take 20 weeks (5 months).

From Lean to Very Lean

At this stage it gets a little harder to continue to lose fat and specific training adjustments, supplements and diet specificity may need to take place. However, the average rate of progression is still on par. You need to lose 5% body fat to get into the average range. At an average of losing 1% body fat every 4 weeks, it will take 20 weeks (5 months).

From Very Lean to Shredded
This is the extreme level. And if it's done properly doesn't mean it's unhealthy. It just takes discipline. Specific dieting strategies like carb cycling and re-feeds will be necessary. A higher volume of training will be needed and recovery protocol along with proper supplementation needs to be on point.

At this point, it doesn't make any sense to predict how long it takes to go from 10% to 4-7% because it varies so much from person to person. You're basically fighting against what the body wants to hold on to so badly. The very last bit of fat on your body. If I had to put an estimate on how long this takes, it would be anywhere from 6-12 weeks.

Based on where you're at and where you want to go, you know have an estimate of how long it can potentially take you.

Here's your game plan.
When your exercise is based on strength training and sprint intervals, a higher protein, sufficient carb and moderate fat intake is universal.

1. Get Your Diet On Point

Determine how many calories you should be eating every day
An accurate way to measure how much energy you're burning is to calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and multiply it as follows:
  • By 1.2 if you exercise 1-3 hours per week.
  • By 1.35 if you exercise 4-6 hours per week.
  • By 1.5 if you exercise 6+ hours per week.
This gives you a good approximation of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which is simply the total amount of calories you're burning each day.

Now, to create the mild calorie deficit, you're going to simply eat 20% LESS than that number every day.

For example, if your TDEE is 3,000 calories per day multiply it by 20%. Take that number (600) and subtract it from your TDEE which is 3,000. You get 2,400. That is your daily caloric intake at a 20% deficit.

The next step is to work out the ratios of your macronutrients (proteins, carbs and fats). This is important because the ratios will help maximize fat loss and help keep as much muscle on your frame as possible.
Food Scale
Determine Your Macronutrient Ratios
This breakdown is general but works well. When your exercise is based on strength training and sprint intervals, a higher protein, sufficient carb and moderate fat intake is universal. As you progress and start getting into the very lean stage, specificity will have to take place. However, for the majority, here is where you start:
  • 40% Protein (There are 4 calories per gram of protein)
  • 25% Carbs (There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate)
  • 35% Fat (There are 9 calories per gram of fat)
If you're intake is set at 2,400 per day, here is what it would look like:
  • 2,400 x 40%= 960 calories/4= 240g
    2,400 x 25%=600 calories/4=150g
    2,400 x 35%=840/9=93g
Daily Intake: 2,400 calories, which equates to:
  • Protein - 240g
  • Carbs - 150g
  • Fat - 93g

2. Get Your Training On Point

Stop Doing Thousands Of Crunches

Crunches will not burn belly fat. Spot reduction doesn't exist. Hate to kill your dreams like that, but you need the truth. Sure, crunches might help strengthen your midsection, but there are far better ways of doing it.

Focus On Strength Training
Strength training build muscle mass. More muscle equals more calories burned. There are a ton of great strength programs you can choose from, here a few:

Pick one and stick with it.

Train Like A Bodybuilder

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If want to transform your body, do what the people who have the best bodies in the world do. Even though bodybuilders may have physiques you may not want to have in terms of their size, the way they train can be leveraged to build your own body.

They train for hypertrophy (just means to grow the muscle). If you've got a little bird chest, or saggy glutes, you've got to hit them hard with direct training in order to improve those parts of your physique. Even powerlifters, who focus on absolute strength, understand that training like a bodybuilder to build muscle is imperative (but they don't do it for beach muscles they do it to increase leverage and improve weak points).

Below are some examples of hypertrophy work you can include after your strength work. After your strength work is done on bench press days, pick two to four movements listed below. On bench days your hypertrophy work should focus on your lats, delts, triceps and upper back (throw some curls in too). Abs should be trained 3-4 times a week.

  • 4 x 12-20 Lat pull-downs or pull ups
  • 4 x 12-20 Dumbbell shrugs
  • 4 x 12-15 Barbell row or dumbbell rows
  • 4 x 10-15 Skull crushers
  • 4 x 15 Barbell curls
  • 4 x 10-15 Front, lateral or rear raises
  • 4 x 15-20 rope push-downs or band pull downs
  • 3x20 Barbell rolls outs
  • 3x15 Standing cable crunch
  • 3x15 Oblique sit ups on a GHD bench
After your strength work is done on squat/deadlift days, pick two to four movements listed below. On squat/deadlift days your hypertrophy work should focus on your hamstrings, glutes, quads and abs.
  • 4x10 GHD raise
  • 4x10 Hanging leg raises
  • 4x12-15 leg curls
  • 3x20 Walking lunges
  • 3x20 Leg extensions
  • 3 sets of reverse sled pulling
  • 4x8 Weighted 45-degree back raises
  • 28 Method on the leg press
  • 3x20 Ab roll outs
  • 3x15 Standing cable crunch
  • 3x15 Oblique sit ups on a GHD bench

3. Supplement Properly

If you're training regularly and also live a normal life (have a job, social life, a girlfriend or a wife, maybe some kids etc.) you probably don't have time to spend several hours each day sourcing all of the required macronutrients and micronutrients from whole food. Supplements make things practical. And practicality leads to consistency. And consistency wins in the game of fitness. With that said there are a few supps that I recommend to everyone.
  • Multi-vitamin
  • Omega 3 fatty acid
  • BCAAs
  • Creatine
  • Green tea extract or pre-workout (if you handle caffeine well)
  • Protein powder

4. Cardio

The popular thing right now is to claim you don't need cardio. And it's true. But that doesn't mean it can't speed up fat loss.

If you're not depriving yourself by going below a 40% deficit with your daily intake, strength training 3-5 times a week, and supplementing properly, cardio can be a sound option for you. If you absolutely will not do any cardio at all, you'll just have to increase the intensity and volume of your strength training sessions.

HIIT (high intensity interval training) is the best bang for your buck with cardio. 15 minute bouts is all it takes. Perform 20 seconds of work, followed by 40 seconds of rest for 15 minutes. A variety of means will work here. Running, rowing, biking, swimming, kettlebell swings, and sled pushes.

Wrapping up

You're now equipped with an honest estimation of how long it can take to transform your body. It'll take some time and deliberate effort on your part. But that's what makes it worth it right? Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University puts it nicely:

"Effort is one of those things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you and you are willing to work for it. It would be an impoverished existent if you were not willing to value things and commit yourself to working toward them."

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