Full disclosure: I am an executive at Active Interest Media, the publisher of Muscle and Performance Magazine. This post is not a paid endorsement, it is an unbiased summary of my 3 month Fitter Faster Leaner workout program. It is meant to chronicle and possibly inspire anyone interested in starting an intense full body weight and cardio training routine based on only my personal experience.
I’m 35 years old, married to a beautiful wife and I have 2 wonderful children. I’m 6’4″, naturally athletic. I was a tall, skinny, active kid growing up. I played high school basketball on a nationally ranked basketball team. After high school, I took a break from working out and most physical activity. Throughout college and the years following, I was moderately overweight, but never obese. I weighed 240 lbs. at my heaviest. For the past 5-6 years, I have done intermittent exercising on and off, nothing too serious, just whenever I could do it. This would include basketball, running, etc. I have since maintained in the 225-230 lb. range, what I would consider a healthy weight for my height.
It was in the past couple of years that I got the fire in my belly, bitten by the fitness bug. I started with running, which I used to do with my dad growing up. He introduced me to the tortuous hills and trails of Elysian Park, in and around Dodger Stadium. Some of those courses separate the men from the boys. Fast forward to now, I have gotten into running on a somewhat regular basis and that only led to thoughts of getting back into the gym. It had been a long time since I lifted, high school I think. I wasn’t a spring chicken anymore but there was an inner will to work hard at something and see results. I began with perusing some of the workouts in Mens Health and it sort of snowballed from there.
It was around that time when I learned we had acquired a fitness magazine at work. It didn’t take long for Muscle and Performance to become my holy grail of fitness. Insightful articles, interesting and engaging content, and most of all, cutting edge workouts that actually looked like fun to do. I had already started a few programs recommended to me by M&Ps editor in chief. When the time came to take the next step, I came face to face with the January 2012 issue and realized, this was exactly what my body wanted to try next.
About the program:
Fitter Faster Leaner is a 90 day weight and cardio program that spans 3 Muscle and Performance issues:
It is an intense 90 day regimen that consists of high intensity weight and cardio training. It is broken down into 4 workouts working the entire body from head to toe. It’s split into low rep strength and higher rep supersets for each of the main muscle sets. And to get the heart rate up and lbs down, there are a variety of cardio exercises incorporated throughout the program.
How I did the program:
I mostly stuck to each letter of every word of Fitter Faster Leaner. I did however do some tweaks, mostly due to the realities of family and work. I skipped the leg workouts that involved weights. I have been managing tendinitis in my left knee for a couple of years now. After I completed physical therapy last year, I was advised to skip all weight training for now. That hasn’t been a huge concern since a life of basketball has given me legs that are proportioned to the rest of my body. No chicken legs here thankfully. I will talk a little more about how I managed my knee in conjunction with my runs in the cardio results section. I dutifully performed all other weight programs.
As far as cardio, I passed on the 40 yard sprints. I didn’t have an easy way to measure out 40 yards anywhere and since I’m not anticipating a football career at this stage in life, I waved past the NFL Combine section of Fitter Faster Leaner.
Like all workout regimens, diet is arguably equally important to the blood, sweat, and tears in the gym. I would advise anyone who is single and can control each and every part of every meal they eat, stick to the plan. I was pretty good, not perfect. My diet is decent, lots of protein throughout the day (chicken, fish, turkey, occasional red meat) supplemented by protein shakes, bars, even jello and pudding, all tasty ways to get your 1g per pound, which is what you should be shooting for under this program. As I mentioned, I wasn’t perfect. I mostly stayed disciplined with breakfasts and lunches and snacks throughout the day. However my dinners were what were mostly inconsistent. I’m a dad so I am the garbage disposal at home. When my daughter doesn’t finish her food, daddy scrapes up. Now it’s not terrible, but not ideal. Plus soda and fruit punch are huge vices for me, maybe 1-3 a day. So the message here, I wasn’t perfect in the food department, but I am still happy with the end product.
But I will focus on my positive meals. As I mentioned before, a lot of protein shakes in the morning. This included the Dymatize “Breakfast of Champions”…
This was a great pick me up in the morning, an awesome way to start my protein fix Besides that, a lot of lean protein (Chicken, turkey, fish are my faves) for lunch and snacks. Along with that, I also supplemented with a variety of protein variants like protein bars, pudding, Jell O, you name it. I was actually pretty amazed on how many different ways there are to take in the recommended 1 to 1.5g of protein throughout the day. And as your doctor says, plenty of fruits and vegetables don’t hurt either.
From a supplements standpoint, besides protein throughout the day including post workout, I am big on NOXplode before I hit the gym. This miracle powder gives me the pump and energy I need to go all out every day I hit the weights. A nice bonus is a dose of creatine in each serving for lean muscle growth. I have used a few other pre workout products and by far, I got the best results from NOXplode. One word of caution, it’s an intense formula so please figure out your tolerance for it. In my experience, I would get occasional tingles on my legs and ears. At first it was a weird, freaky feeling but once you settle on a tolerable dosage, it is a great way to maximize all the hard work you are putting in at the gym, which is the whole point in the 1st place right?
The 1 other product I would suggest is a good BCAA. Once again, BSN comes through with AminoX. I take BCAAs during my workouts and they help with muscle endurance and recovery. Again, a great thing to take if your goal is lean muscle. These are the products that worked for me. Your mileage of course may vary. While I do recommend and like BSNs products, what works for me might not work for you. As with any workout program, do your research and try different things and figure out what works best for you. If you are like me, you get easily overwhelmed by all the workout pills and powders out there. I read up a lot and asked lots of questions on the Internet and on Twitter. What I have outlined is what I would say are the essentials. Of course you can take other products for all kinds of goals and looks. But for natural gains and looking great, a pre workout drink, protein, and BCAAs are a solid foundation.
Now on to how it all played out!
What I have achieved in the past 3 months exceeded even my highest expectations. From a physical standpoint, I charted my measurements through the 3 months below. The key biggies here are bigger chest and smaller waist, all good things Since my waist got smaller, my waist to hip ratio actually improved from Good to Exceptional (self high 5!)
My not so perfect diet didn’t kill my progress, but of course if I could eat like a bodybuilder every meal, I’d be M&P cover material I’m sure
As far as the milestones from the program, I can now do 60 straight pushups thanks to doing my density push ups religiously. I’m very big on body weight exercises, and this program delivered on that. In addition to the push ups, I can now do 15 chin ups (overhand, wide grip) vs 10 pre program, and I can also crank out 50-60 crunches straight depending on the day. And while we’re on the subject of abs, I can plank for 2 minutes to 2 1/2, up from 15-20 secs. when I tried these for the very 1st time.
For weights, the intense rotation of strength training and supersets on each muscle group resulted in some very welcome physical changes. I was able to improve on my 10 rep max score. I was benching 205 for 10 reps and I am now able to press 225, making my 1 rep max score 1.32, placing me squarely in the Good category. I’ll take that.
I didn’t have the presence of mind to take before pictures, but I probably noticed the most significant visual gains on my chest and arms when all was said and done.
These biceps and delts were certainly not there when I started the program
Last but not least, what I would consider my proudest achievement is my new insane running times. Now, I am still considered Average according to Fitter Faster Leaner, but considering my pace before compared to now, it is like night and day. Here is what my average pace was back in December, right before I started the program:
And here is after I completed Fitter Faster Leaner:
I have shaved nearly 3 minutes off my 2 mile runs, which I wasn’t expecting, especially when I was not training legs due to my aforementioned tendinitis. On that topic, in conjunction with being in better shape, I have managed to keep my tendinitis at bay by also wearing compression pants during every running activity. This accomplishes many things including:
- Keeping muscles warm, I tend to run early in the morning. My tendinitis is in my patella tendon so having coverage on it has kept me pain free.
- Maintains form via constricted movement. This in turn makes it easier for me to focus on proper form.
- It’s aerodynamic. Don’t laugh, every micro second I can shave off counts
This workout was intense, and it will test your wills, endurance, and drive. But I enjoyed the journey especially now that I am indeed Fitter, Faster, and Leaner! Now that I have completed the program, I will take a few weeks off and go on to the next challenge, my body needs the rest, and so will yours if you decide to take the plunge.