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The final reckoning

Running on empty

I started this programme in the wake of running my second marathon. After an arduous training plan, I had managed to finish in 2hrs 58 minutes – hitting my sub-3-hour goal by a whisker. So when I began the challenge, I was in decent cardio shape. But I wasn’t strong. Or big.

The basic idea was to see what happens when you completely stop semi-serious running, which I’d been doing for about 10 years, and focus entirely on gaining strength and size. I weighed just under 75kg at the outset – not a lithe gazelle by any means – and I’ve been a regular gym-goer for quite a few years. It was to be a case of beefing up my brawn quotient, rather than starting from scrawny scratch.


My training

My PT Andy Vincent put me through three stages of training:

• A conditioning and preparation phase (teaching me how to lift weights properly and adapting my body for the intense training to come).

• A Y3T phase (proper bodybuilding using techniques for maximum growth, involving extreme pain).

• A giant sets phase (two mini-circuits of three moves hitting the same muscle groups – combining muscle-building with endurance training).

The results

Steve WestlakeSteve Westlake

Before stats

Body fat11.5%
Arms32cm each
Legs54cm each

After stats

Body fat12.9%
Waist86cm (bigger glutes)
Arms34cm each
Legs56cm each

So, the above is what happens when you swear off cardio, hit the gym hard and pig out on a lot of protein and ahell of a lot ofcarbs. Unsurprisingly: you get stronger, you get bigger and you get heavier. Surprisingly: you don’t get (much) fatter and you have fewer physical niggles.

Let’s cover the obvious stuff first. With Andy, who is a biomechanics guru, constantly drumming the importance of correct form into me and pushing me 20% harder than I thought was physically possible, I made decent progress in terms of both weight and strength gains. I ended each of the week’s four, hour-long training sessions in pieces. But it worked. To highlight just a couple examples of my progression, my 6-rep-max dumbbell bench press increased from 32kg to 40kg and my final weigh in came in at 81.5kg: a gain of 6.6kg – almost all muscle tissue.

But it was the not-so-obvious stuff I found more interesting. After ceasing all cardio and gorging on a frankly ridiculous amount of calories, I expected to blob out. But it didn't happen: my body fat increased by only 1.4%. Clearly, when done right, hardcore weights workouts can be just as effective at burning calories as epic runs.

Perhaps the best – and most unexpected – benefit of all, however, was the injury-proofing effect of my regime. Having had tight calves throughout my running training, as well as intermittent hip flexor and achilles twinges, I began to feel more flexible and robust as the intensity of the workouts ratcheted up. I’m not saying running is bad for you – but it certainly take its repetitive toll.

In a nut(rition) shell

Without doubt the biggest lesson to take away from this programme – not groundbreaking, but always worth reiterating – is the importance of nutrition. My diet was good (for a gym-going runner) before I started and I’d naively assumed that a few more protein shakes per day would see me tearing T-shirts like Lou Ferrigno. Wrong. I had to meticulously flood my body with huge amounts of protein and carbs all day, every day to see significant growth.

To help me eat enough protein I used Athleat for fresh, top quality meat, and when I started to consume greater quantities of their lean beef, in particular, I could almost see the scales’ needle rising before my eyes. But in terms of lifestyle and logistics, eating enough was by far the hardest part of the challenge – far more difficult to do consistently than the gym training which, in spite of the agony, I loved.

Overall I’m happy with the results. I’ve gained a new passion for going to the gym and doing itproperly. Working with Andy has helped to balance my body, increase my flexibility and – contrary to some ideas about weight training or bodybuilding – made me healthier.

And stronger. And bigger. Job done.

Video: The Challenge Final Reckoning Reunion Part 1 (2018) | MTV

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Date: 29.11.2018, 03:45 / Views: 82473