I accept any challenge regarding exercise. World champion in physique told me, that his goal is aesthetic look. I accepted the challenge…
1, The guy with the best looking body does not have to be the most fit. Performance athlete cannot restrict his calories intake, because his muscles need energy. Whether he can maintain shredded look depends on the intensity of his training, genetics, nutrition and mindset.
1, For recreational athletes, mindset is everything. Movement itself fills several health related goals. For a performance athlete, the mindset must be met by the circumstances. In order to improve the numbers you need proper nutrition, regeneration, programming.
2, It is possible to work (out) with low energy intake, it is even possible to push yourself hard. However, you cannot expect improvement in power or strength.
3, Our body can work also on low carbohydrate intake. Over time, it learns to utilize the fats more effectively. But during strength and power training the carbs are a secret weapon, as well as for fuelling the mind in the morning at work.
4, Mind-set is often the decisive factor between success and failure. Physical training is a great way to develop it. Training forges the character.
5, Lack of energy decreases my performance in anaerobic workouts, when my body would like to use sugars, but there are none. Moderate speed swimming or running go well, because body has enough time to get energy from fat sources.
“No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training… what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”
I have always trained for fitness and work capacity, not aesthetic look and shredded abs. It was just a by-product of clever choice of exercises, methods, hard work, food and genetics. I prefer function of the muscles to size. In May 2016; however, I was in Spain at the European Championship in fitness – as a journalist. Saturday morning I went for a short workout in a park near my hotel. I put together a short CrossFit routine that I called poo man´s Fran: 21 – 15 – 9 burpees and pull-ups.
Two Spanish guys were training next to me. One of them was lowering himself from the top position of a pull-up and the other one was helping him to go slowly through the final phase.
One of them was Alexis Gonzalez, overall world champion in Men´s physique 2015.The other one was his trainee, a young competitor. We were doing the same exercise, but adjusted to different goals. I was trying to do the pull-ups with energy efficiency; they wanted to make it taxing on the energy and squeeze the muscle. Also, I realised that to look good and look good are two different things. A fit man might look good at the swimming pool but if you put him amongst physique competitors, he will get lost.
Men´s physique is sometimes reproached that it is just a beach body that hides the most important body part – the legs. Like in every professional sport, physique also needs special preparation. It does not last as long as in bodybuilding, when you have to build up and shape the muscle mass, or in other sports, where you must learn and master the skills. Nevertheless, physique competitors also mature and learn their body, if they want to move to another level. From the words of Alexis I felt that for him it is a lifestyle, not only a hobby or a profession. I decided that once the last CrossFit competition is over in the end of May, I will give it a try and try to work on my look. Anyway, sometimes you have to change up your routine and set yourself a challenge.
I point out that I already had good level of fitness and low body fat percentage, so one month was enough to get into shape. Guys who are “out of form” I recommend this article on swimwear edition I.
I trained in the morning 6 time a week. I did shorted interval training or went for a session to CrossFit gym. (I drunk protein and ate a banana or cereal bar before, because there is the demanding strength part) Combination of strength routine and metabolic conditioning depletes your glycogen stores in muscles and the body is forced to enter the reserves. Intensive workout is less time consuming than traditional, long-lasting, cardio, which I did only once a week (run or swim).
Sample workout in a park:
5 rounds with 60 s breaks in-between
50 double unders
300 m run
Thanks to weightlifting and different pull-ups, I have quite developed back. But I should work more on my chest.
Apart from that, I lifted weight 2 – 3 times a week in the evenings. I followed the old school, that included basic moves such as squats, deadlifts, presses and Olympic lifts (I attended sessions) with clean and snatch drills. Isolated exercises came up only as an addition. I included some exercises and methods used by physique competitors, focusing on shaping and toning the abdominal muscles. I did supersets of ab exercises, for example 4 super-sets of strict hanging leg raises and cable crunches, 10 reps of each. Occasionally I did high-rep sets of exercises or isolated work.
It was confirmed that basic exercises, intensity and nutrition are the key. Intensive works forces the body to adapt. Right choice and execution of exercises prevents injuries and good diet enhances the effect of the work – be it towards strength, endurance or shredded look.
For the last seven days, I started preparing like a fitness model or bodybuilder one week to the contest.
First, I had to deplete all the glycogen stored in the muscles. It makes the muscle cells “hungry” and when you increase the carb intake dramatically on the last two days, they will load up and get fuller look. Carbohydrates bond water, so they will take the water from under the skin into the cells, which means that body will look ripped = not water under the skin. All of this can be achieved by manipulation of carbohydrate intake, water and sodium intake. Sodium and potassium are the two minerals that maintain balance in every living cell. Positive sodium ions are on the outside, negative potassium ions are in the inside.
When the balance is interrupted (lack of any of the two minerals, the cell changes state – drains water in or out). When you increase the sodium intake and water consumption, it will store the water outside the cells. Combined with low-carb diet and regular workouts, your muscle cells will get rid of most of their content. From Sunday to Wednesday, I was reducing carbs gradually. On Sunday I ate about 120 grams (mostly in the morning), on Monday 100 (around the workout, because I did a heavy session). on Tuesday 50 g and on Wednesday I took zero. I was drinking about 6 litres of water a day (it was very hot weather indeed) and I added salt to almost every food. From Thursday, I increased carbs to 250, 350 on Friday, reduced water to 2 and 1 litres per day and avoided sodium. I ate only a few foods, where I was sure that there is no sodium. On Saturday, I ate breakfast with carbs and some proteins – no protein powder as it contains sodium and drunk half litre water during morning hours.
The last week was pretty demanding, physically and mentally. I was working, going to the gym and socializing with people on low-carb diet. My legs hurt, probably they had not resources for recovery. Sometimes I felt dizzy and I was nervous when I had too many things to do. In the gym, I felt certain loss of power. I could hardly deadlift 120 kg for 3 reps. On the other hand, gymnastics went OK. CrossFit workouts were the acid test for my energy – I had to slow down after the first round, feeling empty and with no motivation.
In sports, work and life I like to pick challenges. First, I evaluate my abilities and capabilities and make a decision whether to take the challenge or scale it down. From the beginning, I knew that I will hardly look like the world champion Alexis in two months. I do not have the genetics, I have been doing different type of training, I go to work and I have no means for the competitor diet. But I tried. I would not qualify as a physique competitor but I learnt a lot in the process and tackled the challenge.