T Nation

Beach in 4 Weeks: Is There Hope?!

TL;DR: Going to the Philippines soon. Wanna get lean. Keeping a log. Tips?

Living in Asia means that the opportunities to pursue competitive bodybuilding or power lifting are limited to me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t anchor physique goals to other events. In this case, I’m motivated to get as lean as possible for a tour to the Philippines next month. I don’t have a coach or even a gym buddy right now, so to keep myself honest and on-track, I’m going to log my progress here, and hopefully get some feedback from people wiser and more experienced. I realize 4 weeks is not REALLY long enough to transform, so I’m not expecting miracles, but I want to do the best I can.

-Look as lean and muscular as possible in 4 weeks
-Mission accomplished if I look as muscular as I do now, but lose the belly jiggle

Current Condition:
-BIA machine puts my BF% at 17.1% today (That jumps around alot though… Last week I measured as low as 11%. I include this number to give an idea of where I’m starting from, not to use as a metric of progress)
-Flabbiest skin fold (just over from my belly button) measures 23mm w/ calipers
-Band of fat between nipple and arm pit measures 15mm w/ calipers
-Rest of the body is pretty lean
-Weight is 83.8 kg
-Height is 172 cm

Now here’s where I might need help: Workouts and nutrition. I have almost all-day access to a gym, so I can do mornings, afternoons, 2-a-days, whatever.

Workout plan:
Gironda’s 8x8

Saturday - Chest
Sunday - Squats
Monday - Back
Tuesday - Shoulders
Wednesday - ? (Arms? Metcon? ZUMBA?)
Thurs/Fri - Off (That’s my weekend)

I don’t like cardio very much, but I’ll do it if it’ll get me to my goals. Should I suck it up and LISS myself to death on the treadmill every day, or is there a better way?

I’ve had good weight loss success (but wimpy workouts) on a ketogenic diet, and I"ve had good all-around body comp progress with carb cycling. I’m not opposed to going full-ketard, but if I can keep carbs in my life and still maximize leanness, that’d make me happier.

When I carb cycled before, I was eating 3300cal/day on high-carb days, 3000 on med-carb days and 2700 on low carb days. To maximize leanness in this 4-week period, would it be smart to further reduce calories? By how much?

Or am I taking the totally wrong approach here? I’d love somebody smarter than me to weigh in on nutrition, because I feel like that’s the hardest part to get right.

I tried posting pics of where I’m at now, but I got “Connection Reset,” several times, so that’ll have to wait.

Today being Wednesday, I did a “wild card” workout that was just 5 rounds of a simple complex:

RDL x 10
Bent over row x 10
Muscle clean x 10

I needed to put on straps by the second or third round, but other than that I managed to finish it with a little grit. Didn’t take more than 20 minutes.

Ate, did some work, then came back to do battle ropes for 6 sets of 30 second waves, followed by a round of as-fast-as-possible 100 pushups. I was surprised at how many sets it took me to finish the last 30… Even with 1:30 rests, I still struggled. I guess I’ve been neglecting endurance.

I designated this a “medium carb day,” so my food looked like so:

Muesli - 100g with 250mL 2% milk - (550 cal)
Blended protein shake - 2 scoops - (260 cal)
Couscous (300g) w/ Shrimp (100g) - (440 cal)
Avocado - (320 cal)
Vegetable soup, homemade - (No idea how many cals, maybe 100?)

Tonight is Chicken Parmesan with a big salad. Full disclosure: Beer may be had. Other than that, it should be basically starch/grain/sugarless.

I have the next two days off from work and therefore from the gym, so I’m gonna eat low-carb. My logic was to do glycogen-depleting workouts (the complexes and ropes) and then fuel up again on Friday night for my workout on Saturday morning. Over the next two days, I’ll work on getting a little more dietary focus cause it’s a little more on-the-fly than I’d like, and maybe go for a bike ride.

Great, it uploaded!

This is not a “Rate My Physique” photo set. I’m not pumped or flexing or posing or in that lighting “sweet spot,” just highlighting where the fat is clinging on. Taking a few purposely unflattering photos and putting them online reminds me that it’s gonna stay like that unless I do something about it.

Best case scenario: These will be the “Before” pictures that I show people in a year or so.

Been 4 days since the last update. It’s Monday morning in balmy Beijing. Because I had the first two days (Thurs/Fri) off from work (and therefore away from the gym), I consider the program to have started on Saturday. Here’s what I did:

Day -2 (Oct. 16th):
Day off. Food was low-carb, low calorie. Eggs with parmesan for breakfast, salad for lunch, and… I forget what I had for dinner. I guess that’s why I’m supposed to update every day. Girlfriend convinced me to do yoga with her, set a new PR on Downward Dog.

Day -1 (Oct. 17th):
Day off. The plan was low-carb, but I made a bunch of hummus for work the next day and accidentally “sampled” the whole damn thing. Yes, I have a self-control problem, but it’s mostly limited to hummus. Went rock climbing for a few hours, wasn’t super exerting.

Day 0 (Oct. √(-1)th):
Day 0 doesn’t fit into my counting system.

Day 1 (Oct. 18th):
First official day of the program. I just made a big thing of chicken n’ rice with a smattering of seasoning and spices, and that was my food for the day. I biked to and from work for the first time in awhile, which works out to about 30km.

In the gym, I did chest. It looked like this:

Incline Press:
4 sets warmup, with band pull-aparts in between:
40kg x 10
50kg x 12 (Working weight)
80kg x 3 (This was actually hard, even though I can lift quite a bit more on flat)
80kg x 3 (Easier. Presumably my CNS was buzzing by now, which was the goal)

8x8 with 50kg, 30 seconds rest.
For the last 3 sets, I couldn’t complete 8 reps. I didn’t want to reduce weight or shorten the rest period, so I just did rest-pause for 10-15 seconds then finished the set.

Pec Deck:
120 lb x 12 x 3 sets, 30 second rest again. I did a 20 second isometric hold on the first 2 sets.

Single-arm Cable Crossovers:
This is a movement that I sort of made up, or at least haven’t read about anywhere. I stand with a high pulley to my side, and pull the handle down so my fist ends up just about in front of my belly button and I get a really deep squeeze in my lower pec. The final position looks much like a side chest pose. I like this one because it gives me a bonkers pump that I don’t get with other movements.

For this one, I did 3 sets x 35lb x 20 reps each arm.

As a finisher, I did 100 reps on the preacher curl machine with 20 lb. Got 60 reps on the first set, rest pause 30s, then 20, 20.

Day 2 (Oct. 19th):
This was a back day. I didn’t bike to work because:
a) The pollution index was at like 350
b) My legs were still jello

Food was just chicken (300g) n’ rice (300g) again during the day, plus 100g protein from shakes. In the evening, the girlfriend made some kind of eastern European pork thing and mashed potatoes, which was awesome but she got angry when I asked about the macro profile.

My workout was late in the day this time. Here’s how it looked:
Bent Over Barbell Rows:
Warmup: 4 sets, ramping to 80kg x 3
8x8 with 60kg. Strict 30s of rest between sets, but I was using alot of body English at the end.

Cable Pulldowns:
100lb x 12 for 3 sets
85lb x 14 for 2 sets
100lb felt really heavy and I could barely even move it during set 3, so I dropped the weight a bit.

Straight-Arm Cable Pulldowns:
80lb x 10 reps x 3 sets

Rear Delt Fly (Machine):
80lb x 10 reps x 3 sets with 15s isometric hold at the end of the last set

Victory Rows:
This is what I call single arm side-facing high pulley elbow-to-ribcage cable rows (because it looks like you’re going “Yesss!”). This is the only lat movement that gives me a really good squeeze so I like to do that last to really round out the pump.
30lb x 20, 40lb x 20, 50lb x 15

I felt like these were quality workouts, but I’m questioning whether or not they’re optimal for fat burning. Part of me still suspects that fat burning only occurs when when doing battle ropes and dumbbell swings and incline sprints.

I’m also concerned about introducing biking into my routine and working legs, both make my legs sore and I’m afraid that the biking might throttle my squat/deadlift, and vice-versa.

For what it’s worth, this morning I pulled out the calipers again and I got 21mm (-2mm) around the belly, and 14mm (-1mm) at the chest. I know that’s not much, and it can fluctuate based on water retention, etc. but it’s in the right direction, so… Data point.

Day 3 (Oct. 20th):

Took what I would call a light day. Have some pretty serious DOMS from the workouts of the last two days (especially in the biceps near the elbows). I biked to work (~50 mins) and home (~80 mins… Thanks, flat tire, for that extra resistance!) and did some deadlifts.

9 sets
60kg x 5
80kg x 5
120kg x 3
140kg x 3
150kg x 1 x 5 sets

That was it. They went up pretty easy, could have easily added more weight… But I’m purposely staying away from anything resembling a 1RM attempt for the next few weeks, although loading up relatively heavy singles for CNS activation is still fair game.

For food, I had about 300g of hummus and 500g of chicken. For dinner (6:00), I had an avocado. When I finally got home from work (10:30 pm thereabouts) I had some excellent meatloaf and a cool, hydrating beer.

have you checked out RFL?

Just looking at it for the first time… Looks like a ketogenic diet minus (most of) the fat, but sustained only for 2 weeks. I had good success in the beginning of the year eating keto for 2 months… Lost around 6 kg.

My issue though is that when I reintroduced carbs, it still took a long time for my muscles to start looking “full” again, and for my numbers to get back up. Ideally, I want to showcase the muscle I’ve built over the last 9 months, so stay lean AND muscular.

How would I time an RFL cycle to make sure I still looked “full” when I get to the beach? Would it make sense, for instance, to plan 2 weeks of RFL then 1 week of moderate carbs (still in a calorie deficit) to fill out again?

I’m willing to do something a little crazy, I just wanna look before I leap.