• winstonchaos7

The Transformation Program


I was tired of being the pretty fit fat guy. I've been the stocky guy for most of my life and been okay with it, but then I was the onscreen talent for SAIL Outdoors for some educational videos. I know the camera adds 10 pounds, but I looked chunky.




Seeing myself on camera was just the motivation I needed.


I’ve always trained in one way or another, but lately, I’ve decided to see how far I could take my fitness and reduce my fatness.


Over the last year, I’ve worked to be less fat, muscular, and stronger. The goal is to improve both health and performance. At 51, the health component is at least as necessary as the performance side, if not more so.


The result is dropping 25 lbs in body weight and increasing muscle mass. That translated to a much more noticeable change in my physique than the scale would indicate. I had to get a new belt and newly fitted t-shirts as my old extra large shirts looked like I was wearing a tent.


The program I'm covering below is what I did from June-August 2022, as much of my transformation came in that period.


While it was indeed gratifying for people to notice and compliment me on these changes, the most motivating thing was the ability to still improve at my age. I’m still getting stronger and fitter even though I’ve been training reasonably steadily since I was 12.


Unlike periods where I was focused on a singular athletic goal, such as being faster on my bike or being able to deadlift the most weight, I’m currently engaged in the process of General Physical Preparedness (GPP). This means I will have more endurance than a strength athlete or more strength than an endurance athlete, but I’m not trying to maximize either. I want to be pretty good at everything rather than the best at any one fitness quality.


GPP Vs. SPP


For those unfamiliar with the concept of General Physical Preparation Vs. Specific Physical Preparation idea comes from the former Soviet Union.


The idea with GPP is training that improves everything and will have a certain amount of carry-over to all athletic endeavors. Think lifting weights, dragging sleds, and jumping. They will help with overall fitness and give you a good jumping-off point for more specialized training for a specific sport. In the West, we refer to this as cross-training.


SPP is specific sports training. This is taking General Physical Preparation and specializing it in your sport. The cyclist will need to ride their bike, ideally in similar conditions to their events. Runners need to run. Rock climbers need to climb.


Goals of the Transformation Program

Build Muscle


As we age, our muscles will atrophy if we don’t do anything about it. Muscle mass is highly metabolically active tissue so a decrease will show a gain in body fat due to slower metabolism.


Additionally, muscle is what generates movement. The less muscle you have, the lower your contractile strength potential. This leads to overall weakness and increases the risk of long-term health problems from carrying too much body fat.


Decrease Bodyfat


While the visual appeal of having visible abs is cool, there is also a big health benefit that comes from having a lower level of body fat. Carrying too much fat is hard on your cardiovascular system, and the extra weight is hard on the joints.


When you build muscle and lose fat, your metabolic health improves, decreasing the risk of diabetes and insulin resistance.


Being lighter helps with bodyweight activities such as calisthenics and rock climbing.


Increase Work Capacity


Work capacity is a broad term for overall fitness. Improving work capacity means you can do more work in a given time and recover from more work overall.


By getting stronger, improving aerobic endurance, and building density in my workouts, my aim to be fitter in all aspects comes along.


Get Stronger


This is the ability to generate more force, usually represented by being able to lift more weight or do more reps. As we age, our strength will tend to decrease, so I aim to build mine to a high level so even when I’m old and more grey than I am now, I’ll still be able to do the activities I love.


Being stronger also helps protect the joints and builds bone, reducing the risk of injury. On top of all the practical benefits, being stronger is always cooler than being weaker.


Training Concepts


Regarding training progress, the underlying principles matter more than the specific program. If you diligently follow the principles for an extended period of time, you will reap the rewards. It takes time for your body to adapt, and most people don’t stick with things long enough to see the changes they are after.


Full Body Training


If you want to progress in athletic performance and aesthetics, then I highly recommend Full Body Training. This moves away from the idea that the body is a series of Frankenstein-like parts and treats it as one unit.


Bodybuilding-type training that splits the body up works well for people on anabolic steroids but isn’t the most effective way for most people to train. By focusing on compound movements that train the body to work efficiently together, you get better athletic performance and spend less time training.


Escalating Density Training


Charles Stahley created this training style, which emphasizes doing more work in a set amount of time.

For instance, take two exercises like the Clean and Press and Pullups. Pick a weight you can do six reps with. Do sets of 3 reps of each exercise. Set a timer for 30 minutes and get as many rounds of this as you can in that time. Write down how many total reps per movement you did.


The next time you do this workout, try to get an extra round in. Hence the density is escalating.


When you get up to a 20 percent increase over your first workout, add a rep per set or increase the weight. Since I trained with kettlebells, I added reps as the jumps in weight are almost 9 lbs.


Ballistics and Grinds


Kettlebell training is unique because you have explosive movements like the swing, referred to as ballistics, and slow movements like the press, referred to as grinds. Regular strength training tends to be almost exclusively slow, controlled grinds that miss out on the adaptations to power and conditioning that come from the ballistics.


By combining the two speeds to movements, you get a better overall training effect as the ballistics build power and explosiveness in a safe way compared to jumping. The cyclic nature of swings or snatches can also provide a conditioning benefit when programmed correctly.


EMOM


Every Minute On the Minute programming is a simple way to make any program good for strength and conditioning. Set a timer to beep each minute for 15-30 minutes. Do a set of an exercise and whatever is left in the minute is your recovery time.


You can repeat the same exercise, like doing repeated sets of swings or rotating thru exercises in a slow circuit format. The limited rest time adds a conditioning component to your strength training and increases the amount of work you do in a set period of time.


LISS


Low-Intensity Steady State training is cardio done relatively easily. My choices are cycling, walking, loaded ruck marches, and pulling a tire. They are all low impact on the joints but have a significant impact on my endurance.


When programming LISS training, I suggest using the Maffetone Method. To find the optimum range subtract your age from 180. This will be the top end of your LISS intensity. I’m 51, so the top end of the range is 129.


I use a 15-beat range, so my target with doing LISS training is to keep my heart rate between 114-129. Over time you get faster without going any harder. It is a slow process but worth it for performance and health.


I aim for a minimum of 30 minutes in the zone at least three days per week but will usually get one longer session on the weekend. If your goal is to maximize heart health and endurance, then you could do sessions of 60 minutes or more 4-6 days per week, as LISS training is easy to recover from.


High-Frequency Training


Most modern training programs have you training movement patterns and muscle groups 2-3 times per week. The idea is to allow enough time between sessions to recover.


With High-Frequency Training (HFT), you will train the whole body 4-5 times per week. To make this feasible and beneficial, the workload per session will have to be tuned so recovery is possible.


With frequent smaller training doses, the body adapts like a manual labor job. It is challenging for the first few weeks, but the body eventually gets used to the work. This is the increase in work capacity we are striving for.


Where I got the ideas for this program design


I like to give credit where it is deserved. I didn’t come up with this program out of thin air. I took ideas from Geoff Neupert’s Dry Fighting Weight Program and Pavel Tsatsulines Simple and Sinister. Charles Stahley created the escalating density training, which is the underpinning of the Dry Fighting Weight Program.


The Clean and Press and the front squat day is an adaptation of the Dry Fighting Weight program; only I made it two days a week instead of three. I also increased the number of reps of front squats over the original program as I find doing the same reps as presses is too easy for my legs. The Wednesday workout is clean and press, giving a lot more work for the posterior chain and shoulders.


The swing and getup day is the Simple and Sinister workout format but done with an EMOM timer. It makes for a very time-efficient workout while slightly straying from the goal of the original.


The Snatch workout is a straightforward EMOM aimed at power development and building work capacity.


The progressions are in the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday workouts, while the loading of Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday remain the same for the six weeks. I found this to be highly effective for managing recovery rather than trying to increase the workload of every session.


I’ve written down the weights I used. If you are going to follow this program, then I suggest using a weight that is your pressing 8 RM. This means a weight you can press eight times with good form.


If you use a slightly lighter weight, it will mean you will be able to get more rounds in. This will still get a good training effect.


The Training Program


I did this program in two six-week blocks. I used the same weight for both blocks, but on the days with clean & press and front squats, I increased the reps per set in the second 6-week block.


Movements


Double Kettlebell Clean and Press



Double Kettlebell Front Squat



Single Arm Kettlebell Swing



Turkish Get Up



Single Arm Kettlebell Snatch




The Warm-up


Each day before training, I would do a bit of mobility work for any tight areas and the following circuit to get warmed up for my main training.


3 Rounds


20 glute bridges

5 pushups

5 prying goblet squats

10 kettlebell halos

5 hanging knee raises


Monday


AM


30-minute Escalating Density Training


Rest as long between sets is needed to do the reps with good quality while trying to get as much work done as possible. The first workout establishes a baseline, and subsequent repeats of the same workout try to get a little more work done.


All movements are done with 2x24 Kg kettlebells.


First 6 Weeks


3 Double Kettlebell Clean and Press

5 Double Kettlebell Front Squats


Second 6 Weeks


5 Double Kettlebell Clean and Press

7 Double Kettlebell Front Squats


Write down how many sets of each movement you get in, so you have a target for the next workout.


Tuesday


AM


20 Minute EMOM


24 Kg Kettlebell


First 10 minutes

10 One arm Kettlebell Swings (alternate hands each minute)


Second 10 minutes

1 Turkish Getup per minute (alternate hands each minute)



PM


LISS Cardio


45-minute Ruck March (40 lb pack)


Wednesday


AM


30-minute Escalating Density Training


Rest as long between sets is needed to do the reps with good quality while trying to get as much work done as possible. The first workout establishes a baseline, and subsequent repeats of the same workout try to get a little more work done.


All movements are done with 2x24 Kg kettlebells.


First 6 Weeks


4 Double Kettlebell Clean and Press


Second 6 Weeks


6 Double Kettlebell Clean and Press


Write down how many sets you get in so you have a target for the next workout.


Thursday


AM


20 Minute EMOM


24 Kg Kettlebell


First 6 Weeks


5 Kettlebell Snatches (Alternate Arms Each Minute)


Second 6 Weeks


6 Kettlebell Snatches (Alternate Arms Each Minute)


Friday


AM


30-minute Escalating Density Training


Rest as long between sets is needed to do the reps with good quality while trying to get as much work done as possible. The first workout establishes a baseline, and subsequent repeats of the same workout try to get a little more work done.


This workout is the same as Monday; only the reps have increased per set, making each set harder. This will mean less total work is possible in the time allotted as it takes longer to recover from each set. This subtle approach of the same but different hits the body slightly differently and keeps the workouts from being monotonous.


All movements are done with 2x24 Kg kettlebells.


First 6 Weeks


5 Double Kettlebell Clean and Press

7 Double Kettlebell Front Squats


Second 6 Weeks


7 Double Kettlebell Clean and Press

10 Double Kettlebell Front Squats


Write down how many sets of each movement you get in, so you have a target for the next workout.


PM


LISS Cardio


45-Minute Ruck March or Bike Ride


Saturday


AM


20 Minute EMOM


24 Kg Kettlebell


First 10 minutes

10 One arm Kettlebell Swings (alternate hands each minute)


Second 10 minutes

1 Turkish Getup per minute (alternate hands each minute)


Sunday


Rest


Nutrition


I ate three meals a day and limited snacking.


My goal was to get 200 grams of protein daily, and I did that most days.


Breakfast was usually eggs, fruit, and a couple of slices of toast.


The most significant single change is to change my lunch to salads with protein. I would eat a bagged salad from Costco with chicken, tuna, or beef. Lots of protein, veggies, and volume to stay full til dinner.


Most dinners were protein with vegetables and salad as well. Only occasionally did we have carbs with dinner beyond what was in the vegetables.


I made a point of limiting alcohol intake to only once every couple of weeks if we were going out and then no more than two or three beers or glasses or wine.


Results


After a 12-week cycle of this program, I was 15 lbs lighter with noticeably more muscle. The shoulders, traps, and arms were where the increase in muscle mass was most apparent. My belt went down two holes, and I had to buy smaller shirts that were fitted as my old ones just hung off me.


While not ripped, I could see the lines of the top two rows of abs. My belly flattened, and I was noticeably leaner in the midsection.


As far as performance goes, I went from doing eight rounds of clean & presses and front squats in the first week to 15 rounds by week 12. I retested the max number of reps I could press with the pair of 24 Kg kettlebells and went from 8 to 16 reps.


The 28 Kg kettlebells were my new five-rep max, so I increased weight for my next cycle with clean and jerk as my variation. You don't need a ton of variation in your program to make good progress.


Conclusion

If you want to change your fitness and appearance, it takes consistent work, but as you can see from my personal program, it doesn’t take much time each day. Having a home gym that I can hit as soon as I wake up made my workouts much more manageable than if I had to go to the gym.


Treat fitness as a lifelong pursuit, and you will be amazed at how quickly you progress. Just do the work repeatedly over a long period of time.




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