Training and nutrition regimes can sometimes feel like an endless game of pass the parcel.
It’s a fairly bizarre analogy, I know, but just bare with me for a second or two.
At times, no matter how hard you push yourself in the gym or regardless of how stringent you are with your diet, it just doesn’t feel like you’re able to strip the layers off which hide the final prize.
It’s incredibly frustrating. In your mind you can always envisage the treasure hidden within but the wrapping paper – your body fat – appears to be providing an endless supply of protection.
You’re dedicating numerous hours per week in an attempt to hone your physique, yet every time you look in the mirror it feels like that ideal transformation is getting further and further away.
It can be achieved, though.
All you need is an education, that expert guidance from somebody who knows, first hand, what it takes to succeed.
In my moment of need I turned to Evan Parker, a level three personal trainer at Xercise4Less in Burnley, who has placed second in the NAC first-timers competition, finished runner-up in the “athletic short” category at Mr Pennine, came third in the NPA Yorkshire Championships and qualified for the IBFA British finals.
The first challenge – amending a lifestyle which was built on convenience. That meant scrapping the shop bought sandwiches, cutting out the pizzas and burgers, building a defensive barrier to keep out the chocolate, sweets and crisps, and deleting takeaway numbers from my phone book.
They were significant sacrifices, but they were necessary steps to take if I wanted to get the conditioning that would allow me to become acquainted with my abdominal muscles.
Instead I was introduced to a food plan whicht included red meat, fish, nuts, seeds, vegetables, sweet potato and a range of supplements such as protein shakes, BCAAs, creatine and glutamine.
“Firstly I try to prescribe a diet which will help lose body fat but keep the lean mass,” said Evan.
“I try to keep it high in protein, high in fats for the energy that you’ll need for your workouts, low in carbs because men and women usually have a sufficient amount of fat around the hips and back of the arms which are the main sugar sites, especially around the stomach.
“We get rid of those first and then with the diet we try to keep the meals regular – every three hours. It’s not just for metabolism; it’s to keep you fed and to keep your energy up throughout the day.”
Beforehand, I enjoyed working at a steady pace at the gym. I’d work through a few sets, nothing too strenuous, and then treat myself to a break where I could watch Countdown, Doctors, or whatever else was being screened on the TV at the time.
This was soon replaced. I would now be working with much more intensity with a regimented programme consisting of high repetitions and heavy-ish weights which covered legs, shoulders, chest, back, biceps and triceps.
I will shamefully add that I had neglected a collection of those parts in the past. But this was a wake up call. It opened up my eyes to the mechanics and the science behind training.
The plan, tailored to suit my needs, was formed on the concept of German Volume Training. Here I would complete 10 sets of 10 repetitions on dumbbell press, lateral raises, press ups, deadlifts, pull ups barbell bicep curls, incline bar skull crushers and squats with a whole host of other disciplines thrown in there for good measure.
“We started off with the heavy lifting, the German Volume Training, which in my opinion, when people start out, even if they think they’re lean, they need to initially lose body fat to gain lean muscle mass,” Evan said.
“Heavy weights and high reps will shock the central nervous system but it will also rest your fast switch muscle fibres, your strength fibre, and that’s why we moved on to the heavier weights afterwards to see how much strength you had gained.
“The two go hand in hand. The training plan changed more than the diet through specific things such as injuries because we didn’t know how far you could push your legs, if pull ups suited you.
“It’s tailored for the individual. The two work, it’s proven to work and that’s why I put the two together. There’s not much depth to it, it’s just something that I’ve seen work.”
And this is where the magic happens. This is the point where it’s beneficial to have a tutor alongside you. It really is advantageous, trust me.
While they’ll use their Jedi mind tricks to help you squeeze that extra few reps out, they’ll also help you to control your movements to achieve the optimum results.
This is the biomechanical side of fitness, the smaller details of working out that make a considerable difference.
“The little details are as important as the lifting itself,” said Evan. “I’m there to assist with the biomechanics. It’s all technique. It’s okay lifting a very heavy weight but if you’re not lifting it to a certain rep range, if your mobility is poor, your essentially only getting half the muscle fibres engaged during the lift.
“The biomechanics help flex the muscles a lot more and ensure that the correct ones are engaged. Even trainers need trainers. When you’re tiring, technique can go out of the window. It’s then we’ll tell you to drop the weight and concentrate more on form.
“It’s a fine balance between the weight that you’re lifting and the way that you’re lifting it. It’s really important so the science behind it is crucial.”
After nine weeks of discipline and dedication the results spoke for themselves. I was leaner, fuller and more muscular. It was, undoubtedly, the best shape that I’d ever been in.
“For nine weeks it’s amazing,” said Evan.
“You adapted to the training plan pretty well and followed it pretty much to a tee. Results like that are around the norm if you stick to the plan. Your results aren’t just average, they’re amazing.
“You were fairly lean, you didn’t hit 10% because we were limited to time, but your abs were visible and you were touching 12%. You lost around three per cent body fat throughout the process. You can see the difference.
“Your sugar sights dramatically dropped down and you gained a lot of muscle. The food that you had has been feeding you for the gym. You’ve got no muscle wastage so it’s been fuelling your muscle.
“You’re a lot fuller, that’s from when we started putting carbs in to your diet towards the end. It filled you out. You’re muscles were showing a lot more.” Evan added: “The client has to make a decision for themselves. They have to be 100% ready for us to get started. A 70% commitment is only going to get you 70% results. As long as the trainer and the client have an understanding about lifestyles it works a lot more. It helps with the progression.
“It’s all about team work and the support network that we offer. They’ll get the result. At the end of the day they can not fail if they don’t give up. We worked together and it worked fantastically. The results speak for themselves.
“If you don’t quit you can always win. If you don’t give up you can not fail.”